Find beauty in drought

Find beauty in drought


Life & Style
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It's hot and dry but garden guru Fiona Ogilvie says it's a good chance to check out what’s hot and what’s not as far as plants are concerned.

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Parrot Gladiolus (G. dalenii) flowers in various shades of red and yellow and is happy in areas with winter rainfall.

Parrot Gladiolus (G. dalenii) flowers in various shades of red and yellow and is happy in areas with winter rainfall.

A drought is a good chance to check out what’s hot and what’s not as far as plants are concerned. Flowering beautifully in a dry corner of my garden right now are some South African Parrot Gladdies (Gladiolus dalenii, formerly G. alatus, G. psittacinus).

As well as being an amazing rich, deep burgundy red the flowers have a lovely velvety texture and last well when picked.

The Parrot Gladiolus is one of the parents of the ever popular modern hybrid gladdie immortalised by Edna, so I was pleased when I found mine showing variations in colour. Some flowers are plain red but others are a darker, slightly mottled red with bright yellow streaks.

Another plant that’s currently high in my favour is the so-called False Chinese...firstly, despite the season it is carrying its biggest crop ever of pale yellow, nobbly, quince-like fruit.

What’s even more intriguing is that I seem to have several quite different versions of this bulb, or corm I should say. The ones flowering now came from a friend who said they were Parrot Gladdies (G. dalenii) and would flower in autumn. 

So far so good, except the flower colour – as you can see – isn’t terribly like the plant normally described as G. dalenii.

I’ve had a clump of the latter for many years that are the right colours, orange and yellow, but flower in January (which is why I was delighted to be offered some autumn bloomers), alongside the similarly coloured, spotted red and yellow flowers of Jockey’s Cap Lily (Tigridia pavonia).  

To confuse the picture further, another friend gave me half a dozen corms of a gladdie whose name he didn’t know, with more or less identical flowers that appear in mid-winter. So I’m somewhat overwhelmed, or over gladdied as you might say. Never mind, anything that flowers in a drought, whether in midsummer, autumn or midwinter, has my vote.

Another plant that’s currently high in my favour is the so-called False Chinese Quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis). I’m loving it for two reasons: firstly, despite the season it is carrying its biggest crop ever of pale yellow, nobly, quince-like fruit. I’m looking forward to stewed quince and ice cream all winter.

Secondly, its botanical name has been changed and has actually become shorter and easier. Name changes are the bane of garden writers, it’s terrible if we recommend a plant and then people can’t find it in a nursery or worse yet, are sold the wrong thing.

My little tree has recently been upgraded and it is now a true quince, Cydonia sinensis. Hurrah. It’s the prettiest small tree, reaching around four metres, with mottled bark and oval shaped leaves that turn red and yellow in autumn. In spring it bears single, dark pink flowers. Unlike the traditional quince (C. oblonga) and the various flowering japonicas (Chaenomeles) it has no thorns.

My final drought-tolerant plant is a canna. Shoulder height C. ‘Wyoming’ has huge, greenish purple leaves and apricot flowers and I’m hoping will be safe till the first frost.

Heads up: Dubbo Autumn Gardens will open for Can Assist on April 29, 9.30am. to 4pm. Tickets, maps, talks by Reg Kidd, stalls, refreshments. $25 includes four gardens. Details email dubbocanassist@gmail.com/ 

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