Lambley's New Mediterranean Garden
The New Mediterranean Garden at Lambley is taking shape. We started making it just before the drought broke two years ago. An incredibly wet spring followed by 300ml of rain in a few days during January and 100ml in a few hours during early February nearly washed the garden away. As it was 20 metres of spent mushroom compost, which we had just spread on the beds, was washed away and could well have ended up in the Murray. There was a torrent of water tearing through the garden. It was so bad that my eight years old grandson, whilst inspecting the damage with me, said “Oh grandpa it looks like Viagara Falls’. (My grandson loves words and watches The Simpsons.)
|New Mediterranean Garden|
Our main stock beds were under water for six weeks in all and a lot of plants drowned. We lost half a dozen trees which we had nurtured safely through the drought years. Two of the trees, a stone pine and an elm, were 140 years old and the other four were flowering cherries which were part of the entrance avenue.
After doing some major drainage works and reworking the beds we started replanting this area, which is between the vegetable garden and the road, about 18 months ago. I wanted it to have a different feel to the Dry Garden and have used a lot of new plants, many of which were imported a couple of years back from Olivier Filippi’s nursery in the south of France.
Santolina magonica from the Balearic Islands makes a tight, round, silver mound which during early summer is studded with egg yolk yellow buttons. It is a superb plant, the best of its kind and deserves a spot in every dry climate garden.
I’m always on the lookout for garden worthy, drought and heat tolerant evergreen grasses. Most of the Australian grass species I’ve grown seeded so ferociously in my trial beds that I had to weed them out. I don’t find the widely planted Lomandra species particularly attractive especially after a year or two when their foliage becomes very drab. As Lomandras don’t like being cut back hard it takes too many hours of painstaking labour to cut or pull out each tatty leaf one at a time to keep the plant from being embarrassingly scruffy.
Two years ago a friend gave me a plant of Chionochloa flavicans which is a native of the North Island of New Zealand where it grows in rocky outcrops from the Coromandel Peninsula to Hawkes Bay. An evergreen with attractive foliage it makes a telling clump of arching deep green leaves. It made a nice contrast with a neighbouring silver leaved Phlomis platystegia last winter. From mid-spring until well into summer the lime-green, dangling flower tassels are extraordinarily beautiful, as beautiful as any grass I’ve ever grown. The flower heads are held symmetrically around the clump on one metre tall stems. This grass does need a bit of space as it will grow 120cm wide by 100 cm tall.
Chionochloa frigida is a fine Australian species which forty years ago I saw growing around Blue Lake in the Kosciuszko National Park. In flower in its steep habitat it looked like a silky golden-green waterfall. Sadly at the time I didn’t have a permit to collect seed and I’ve never been able to source a plant.
Dennis Norgate gave me a seedling of Eryngium planum which he had selected that, he told me, didn’t fall over when in flower as most plants of this species do. I was a sceptical at first but this year a substantial grouping is flowering in the New Mediterranean Garden. Each metre tall stem is bolt upright and each carries a hundred or more metallic blue thimbles surrounded by a metallic blue ruff. There are four stems to each plant and all have stood up to the shocking winds we’ve had these last few months.
I’ve grown the northern Californian bulb, Brodiaea californica, for many years and it’s a really good plant. I was interested to see that the Dutch had selected one variety for their cut flower trade and decided to import some. Brodiaea californica ‘Babylon’ has up to thirty flowers to a head. These flowers are larger than the type and are carried on stronger and taller flower stems. Each bulb produces three or more stems. The amethyst upward facing flowers have the texture of the native Wax Lip Orchid, Glossodia major. Brodiaea ‘Babylon’ started flowering early in November and still has flowers, as I write, at the end of December.