One stinking hot day in February I went to see Keith White’s sunflower breeding field. In a leased paddock on a farm only a few kilometres from Lambley the world’s best sunflower hybridiser plies his trade. Keith, a qualified geneticist, has spent much of his working life breeding new strains of agricultural crops such as canola.
It pays to read the description carefully when ordering and planting seeds. I wanted to plant a lot of Cosmos ‘Sensation’ white in a new flower border in the vegetable garden. ‘Sensation’ strain grows a metre or more tall with handsome fresh green fern-like leaves topped with 30cm long wands carrying large flowers well clear of the foliage.
It was the Californian Humming Bird Trumpets that stood up best to the last heat wave, five days in a row of 40C. Their flowers were barely touched by the searing sun and desiccating wind. I’ve written about them before I know but their virtues bear repeating. They aren’t grown nearly enough in dry Australian gardens.
Criss Canning lives and paints in an 1860s blue stone farmhouse north of Ballarat where she and her husband, David Glenn owner of Lambley Nursery, have created an internationally renowned garden. Flowers from the garden are a major inspiration in her paintings.
I lived in Carlton close to the Melbourne CBD when I arrived in Victoria fifty years ago. My flat was above an Italian restaurant in Lygon Street. On the opposite side of the street was a small park which had a garden bed about two metres wide and thirty metre long. This bed, which faced Lygon Street, was planted twice a year with annuals.
I first saw Ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithen Blue’ growing in Pirianda Gardens, twenty acres filled with wonderful trees and shrubs. Mr and Mrs Harvey Ansell started this Dandenong’s garden in 1959 and planted it with the best species and cultivars, many of which they imported themselves, more often than not from the famous British nursery, Hilliers.
Grasses need maintenance to look their best. They need dividing, soil replenishing and cutting back at the right time. They also need feeding every year. The vast majority of ornamental grasses look at their best when they are relatively young as flowering is more beautiful and the flowering period is longer.