Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fading to brown

Anyone who has grown the fussier Australian native plants knows how it goes. One week it's apparently healthy and green, defying the experts who said it'd never last. Then one morning you notice just a hint of brown here and there. Oh no! And few days later the browns have taken over, and then this morning, this...

After four years of loyal service, our Acacia cognata 'Limelight'
has lost its glow, and is on the way out. This is one of Pammy's
plants and so I'm under strict instructions to go get another one.
She loves this plant, so do I, and it's a bit of a mystery why it
has curled up its toes now. Maybe the long, hot summer and the
humid hot start to autumn was too much for it? 

Across the pathway is another picture in brown tones, but this
is exactly how Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is meant to look. It started
out pale pink several weeks ago and slowly but surely it has
faded to these rather pretty browns. In a garden full of greens,
grey-blues, reds and more greens, this patch of brown pom poms
has been an eye-catching delight for me every morning when I
look out from the house to the garden. I never thought I'd like
a bit of brown the way I do now.
Call me a glutton for punishment, but I'm off to buy our next Acacia cognata 'Limelight' this morning. The first one was planted back in April 2009, so for this notoriously fickle native, a career of four years is pretty good going. As for the Sedumn 'Autumn Joy', its next stop is to die off in all its deciduous glory, withering down to the ground for a winter sleep, then awaking to do it all again next spring. 

In a garden, life always goes on, even though beloved plants come and go.


Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

An interesting juxtaposition.

Chartreuse said...

That acacia reminds me of a tiny weeping casuarina I gave my daughter, with the common name 'Cousin It'! Have you tried it? It's doing beautifully up in her Brisbane garden and is a great pot specimen.

Jamie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie said...

Chartreuse, 'Cousin Itt' is a name which belongs to a weeping cultivar of Casuarina as well as a weeping Acacia cognata (just Googled them both, and they do both look very similar) – talk about confusing – I blame the Addams Family!

Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

As you know, I was in awe of your Cousin It, as I had no success with mine only 15 mins away. Funnily enough mine did this also. They were all OK for a couple of years (although nowhere near as lush and healthy as yours were) and then just went brown. Is it possible that they are just short lived plants like the other wattles?

Jamie said...

Lanie, the short answer is 'yes'! When I told Don Burke a few years ago that I had planted an Acacia cognata he just said "good luck". He though they'd be much happier in a less humid climate, but four years here worked out to be a fairly good run.

Today, the guy at Sydney Wildflower Nursery in Heathcote (I travel far to get good native plants) said the new plant I've bought, Acacia 'Mini Cog', seems to be lasting better in Sydney's humidity than the one which just carked it, Acacia cognata 'Limelight'. They're very similar, but slightly different...

That could just be salesman talk, but I'll be planting Mini Cog in the same pot, placed in the same spot as its predecessor, so it'll be a fair comparison.

I never wanted to risk repotting my Acacia - why muck around when you're on a good thing? – but I know that potting mixes do get progressively more acid as time goes by, and perhaps acidification of the potting mix played a dastardly behind the scenes role in its demise? I'm planning on pH testing the old mix tomorrow, just for curiosity's sake.

Alex Krasovskis said...

A common thing I seem to hear is people claiming you can just plant Australian natives and leave them be. Not always true. Especially when the natives are not from your area.

Jamie said...


Yes, I agree, that's the most commonly held myth about natives. Generally, they're one of the highest maintenance categories of plants around. Lots of pruning and trimming for starters.

Of course a lot of these troubles are due to the fact that natives have been under development as garden plants for just the last couple of decades at best, while so many other garden plants have centuries or more of time to develop the original wild species into hardier garden-friendly species.

dirtgirl said...

Oh Jamie, how I laughed when I read this post! I am on my 3rd Acacia Cognato!! I am determined not to give up on these as when they are growing well they look so stunning in the garden. My first was moved at 4 yrs of age due to our house being demolished. She lasted another 6 months in her new spot, then promptly kicked the bucket! Replaced her with yet another Limelight. She hung around for a year, growing beautifully, then departed suddenly.
Other half said not to bother with more as they obviously weren't happy here SW of Sydney. I resisted for a while until one day I saw a beautiful AC Fettucine and had to buy it. This one we have kept in large pot and at present she is looking just stunning, but I am prepared for the worst. It was quite reassuring to know it's not me that kills them off and others have the same problem. We are off the the Nursery at Heathcote this afternoon, so will check out the Mini Cog. Happy Gardening.

Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

I also go to Sydney Wildflower Nursery in Heathcote! Although it is near to where my parents live. I might wait and see how you go with your mini and try one myself. I also meant to say that I was pleased to read the special mention of you in the final Burke's Backyard mag. Well deserved.

Jamie said...

Thanks for that, Lanie.

By the way, I pH tested the potting mix for the old plant and it wasn't too bad, between 6 and 6.5. However the plant itself was terribly pot-bound, and so I think that was a major cause of its demise.

I had always been wary of repotting it on the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" principle, but if this next plant makes it to three years of age, I will repot it into a slightly larger pot at that point in time.

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