Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bit players

While various garden plants are making a pleasing exhibition of themselves in a way that no visitor could ignore, others quietly go about the business of being beautiful in a more demure way. These are the plants that you might miss altogether if you're in a hurry, but in a backyard small as mine all you need to do is take your time as you wander around, explore a bit deeper when you spy a splash of colour, and even the shy guys & gals can't hide.

Take this wild creature, for example. It's a kind of poppy, a chance seedling that came up amid all the Iceland poppies which I've now posted about a few times. Short-lived, a darkly mysterious personality, there's only one of these in bloom.

This is an eminently missable flower, but it's a very pleasing sight nonetheless. These are the extremely tiny blooms of the NSW Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum). This is one of those plants, like the bougainvillea, whose 'insignificant' flowers are followed by colourful, dazzling bracts which most people in the street would describe as 'flowers'. Given its name, the bracts are at their best in December. This pleasing little display of flowers simply says "I'll be putting on a great show in a few months – stay tuned". But get up close to the supposedly 'insignificant' white flowers and you can see tinges of pink here and there, as well as a delicate prettiness that reminds me of some of my favourite herb flowers.

Above and below here are some helleborus blooms. These face down towards the ground, so you need to get down and dirty to photograph them. I'm surprised these flowers have appeared, as these poor plants have been transplanted three times in three years. I really ought to apologise to them for the maltreatment, but at least I've learned one thing. I've often read that helleborus 'sulk' for a year after transplanting and refuse to flower, so mine must be very thick-skinned and resilient personalities.

Helleborus photo number two. Even on the one plant flower colours and markings vary. Hopefully I won't be moving them anymore for the next 20 years, and they'll keep on doing their thing. Their common name here is 'winter rose' but mine always seem to be an early spring bloom, rather than a winter flowerer.

Another pair of photos of the same plant. This shrub is a new baby, just to the left of the all-singing, all-dancing poppy festival, and with just a few blooms on it this first spring, the grevillea tends to get overlooked. Its name is 'Peaches and Cream', due to its two-toned colouring that also changes as it ages.

There's a more mature 'Peaches and Cream' a few streets away, whose unopened flower buds are almost lime green. Mine are showing a more metallic green colour right now, so hopefully that will change as the shrub grows. It had a bit of a sick childhood (turned out to be an iron deficiency) but it's looking healthy now. It should grow to about 2m high and wide.

And finally, here's another so-called 'insignificant' flower, on a lemon-scented pelargonium. Yep, they're smallish blooms (about 2cm or one inch across) but they're very pretty if you bother to stop and admire them, as I like to do. However, I do admit that I didn't plant these for their flowers. The foliage is superbly fragrant, and I do love scented foliage plants every bit as much as I like scented flowers – maybe even a bit more sometimes, I suspect.

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