I've a soft spot for correas, those small Australian shrubs which do so well in coastal gardens. It began when I was a teenager.
Julian Matthews is enchanted by new forms of favourite old plants
Iworked winter, Wellingtonians in a garden centre with and baches every on the Kapiti Coast would come looking for Correa alba to plant as a neat, low, bullet-proof hedge. Some of those hedges are still flourishing today and I enjoy seeing their close-clipped yet not overly formal outlines as I head to the beach.
Correa alba is an outstanding plant in many ways, but while the flowers have an enchanting bell shape, they are far from colourful – their pale greenish-yellow tones make them almost disappear among the foliage.
Recently, a new form of correa has burst onto the garden centre scene.
Correa ‘Canberra Bells’, bred for and released to coincide with the Australian capital’s centenary in 2013, has red and yellow bell-shaped flowers which make quite a show during autumn and early winter. It’s a compact little shrub, made all the more so by a little tip pruning after flowering. Give it plenty of sun and well-drained soil, and it will become a talking point.
Speaking of distinctive Aussie plants, I was pleased to see that Eugenie at Te Horo Garden Centre was stocking the New South Wales Christmas bush,
Ceratopetalum gummiferum, a tall and slender evergreen tree which has white flowers in mid-summer, followed by red bracts in late summer.
Another delightful, small Australian-bred
(although not Australian native) shrub is Tibouchina ‘Peace Baby’. I wrote about this some time ago, but then it seemed to disappear from garden centres. Now it’s back and I feel is worth giving a mention again as it has proved to be such a good performer in the garden here and has remained bushy and little more than a metre high. Such a compact habit means that there is no wind damage, whereas the taller-growing tibouchinas such as the very pretty and aptly named ‘Blue Moon’ are often missing a branch or two after a storm. The flowering performance prolonged and the foliage again in spells is autumn. always is astonishing, in spring attractive In between and having summer, and times, the two bronze-coloured buds are a subtle feature to enjoy too.
‘Peace Baby’ is regarded as droughttolerant once established, but I noticed that my plant did suffer in the summer a bit and now has signs of silvery thrips on the leaves, a sure indicator that a few deep waterings would have been preferable to my neglect. By contrast, a newer plant I’d added to another part of the garden that received regular summer watering is pristine and was flowering its socks off again at the start of winter.
I started planting abutilons more than 30 years ago.
I did it as much for their ability to lure tu¯ to the garden as for their year round displays of colourful flowers. But as I grow older and look to a more practical style of gardening, the abutilons’ need for frequent pruning has seen them become less prominent.
One that remains in favour, however, despite a decidedly wayward, wandering growth habit, is the climbing form of Abutilon insigne. It should be treated as a climber as it is a little difficult to control as a shrub. It’s regarded as a collector’s curiosity, and is definitely a source of year round interest with its rough-textured, deep green foliage and the flowers which are a deep, sumptuous maroon colour, like something out of an old tapestry. It’s available from Woodleigh Nurseries (woodleigh.co.nz).
There are some great little art galleries on the Kapiti Coast.
It was while browsing in one of them, the gorgeous Tutere Gallery at Waikanae Beach, that I noticed some large and shapely jugs which took my fancy. They had been made by Otaihanga potter Rebecca Neal.
Gallery owner Kate Hartmann mentioned that Rebecca was good at doing commissioned works, and the upshot of this was that Rebecca visited our garden, went away with a bunch of our favourite foliage and flowers, and produced a magnificent, big glazed jug decorated with their images.
It now sits on our blue deck, along with two more of her colourful and shapely jugs… how quickly obsessions take hold!
I feel that the jug will remain a memento of the garden long after we have moved on. Rebecca can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
Correa ‘Canberra Bells’.
Tibouchina ‘Peace Baby’.
Rebecca Neal jug.