Tag Archive | allium

In Praise of Perennials

I love all plants, really, but the ones I love most of all are the herbaceous perennials.  They seem to be the plants that are best equipped to deal with the climate here on the western edge of the New South Wales Central Tablelands where the temperatures can reach forty  degrees plus in the summer, and descend to minus seven in the winter.  Many perennials are also quite drought hardy as well, so cope with our lengthy dry spells without demanding too much precious water.

As our long chilly winter comes to a close and slowly the sun creeps higher in the sky each day, something almost magical occurs in my rather dreary  frost-hammered garden.  Small sharp bulb leaves make their appearance followed quite quickly by buds and soon the first flowers of spring appear.

Not long afterwards other shoots emerge from dry uninteresting-looking clumps and become rather larger leaves, rapidly developing into loose shrubby plants . These are herbaceous perennials, those undemanding obliging plants that lie dormant during winter and suddenly come to life as the weather warms up, developing their flowers and putting on a show that lasts all the way through to the next autumn.  What amazing plants they are.  They will fill any corner of the garden in any kind of soil, and are often drought hardy as well.  I have seen them droop on a 36 degree day, but after a night's rest, they are sprightly and ready to face the new day. There are hundreds of different perennials.  A feature of many of the perennials is that they will grow from a cutting with the most amazing ease and so it's often only necessary to buy one plant which can then be made into many.  

I have stocked my garden with salvias, ranging in colour from pure white through yellow to pink and many shades of blue; the excellent agastache, a relative of mint; Russian sage (perovskia atriplicifolia), agapanthus, california tree poppy (romneya), echinops, day lilies, eryngium, Shasta daisies and society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). I’m also very fond of the allium species which multiply and appear year after year. These plants all grow happily here, flowering from October until at least the end of March, slowly dying back as the first frosts come.  I give them a vigorous trim in January as they have a tendency to become straggly, and in no time they are in full flower again.

In July, I cut my perennials right down to the ground, as the owners of Hillandale do, mentioned in an earlier post Hillandale, and this allows room for bulbs to emerge, and when the bulbs have finished, like magic, the perennials start their growing spell again, ready for another summer blooming.

I have some favourites:

Romneya Coulteri
Allium 'drumstick'
Agastche 'Sweet Lili' with Salvia 'Indigo Spires' in the background
DSCN9718 (2)

Left to right, from top to bottom:

Romneya Coulteri;  Allium 'Drumstick'; Agastache 'Sweet Lili' with Salvia 'Indigo Spires behind; Echinops; Russian sage with white salvia in foreground; Salvia 'Amistad' .


Driving anywhere from Mudgee (I'm including Gulgong and Rylstone in 'Mudgee')  is a reasonably lengthy business.  We're slightly isolated here and it's at least an hour and a half of driving before we reach anywhere else. This is nothing, I know, compared to the distances people all over Australia drive, but it sometimes seems a chore to have to do it. On this last day of 2017, however, it was a trip well worth making.  After a couple of tiffs with our GPS, and a pleasant diversion through Portland, we found ourselves at the gates of Hillandale Garden and Nursery in Yetholme, about 20km from Bathurst.

A long winding drive took us downhill to the property, which is so aptly named.  A short walk past a dam found us  at the start of a light-speckled path through stands of mature trees, natives and exotics, which then opens out onto a long vista over hummocky mounds and dales.


A short walk across the garden over handmade stone bridges and past the dam (rather low in this long dry period)  brings the visitor to the pièce de résistance: the herbaceous perennial border.

This border is 100 metres long, and 7 metres wide.  Yes, really!  It has a softly mulched path meandering though the centre, and meander we did, admiring a luxuriance of plants in an array of colours worthy of M. Monet's palette. It's an absolute explosion of colour, seemingly without plan, and yet the natural juxtaposition of colours, textures and shapes work together to create a decidedly pleasing pastiche.  Along the way we caught glimpses of the old farmhouse and its attractive outhouses (potting shed, glasshouse, ex-packing shed: the property was once an orchard) gently reposing amongst the flower beds and grassy knolls.  There are hundreds of different perennials in this border, and at this time of the year, they are resplendently abloom.   Adding interesting height in the border are shrubs and small trees such as buddleias in various colours, strappy grasses and smoke bushes.



At the top of the border we reached  the various outbuildings where we met Sarah and Andrew, the extremely hard-working owners of the property, and spent some time having a pleasant chat with them.  Sarah explained to me that each winter the border, with the exception of trees and shrubs, is mowed to the ground, the clippings left as mulch and straw laid on top.  All ready for next Spring when perennials, as they are wont to do, explode out of the ground ready for the next season.


A walk on the south side of the house led us through massed shade-loving plantings to a grassy glen where in rainier times there would be a streamlet running....not much more than a trickle now. I was surprised to see tree ferns growing happily here and looking outstandingly healthy in a climate that is perhaps a little outside their comfort zone. And there we reached the end of our visit.  What an inspiration it was to visit this beautiful place: I think another visit in a different season would be in order