Thursday, 21 February 2013

Showy Sedums

From low maintenance, sun-drenched, inner-city balconies to rural plants-man's gardens the hardy Sedum genus is a group of Northern Hemisphere succulent plants that should be included in every Australian garden. Tough as old boots these plants - commonly known as stonecrops - can withstand frost, strong winds, and intense heat. Last month my Sedum's survived 45 degree plus conditions in Sydney, while last winter, in my mountain garden, they managed -10c without complaint.

An early advocate of the low growing sedum's was the influential 19th century Irish garden writer William Robinson who recommended them for use in rock gardens or grown under roses. While Robinson chose to ignore their use in Victorian carpet bedding schemes, these plants have maintained their popularity despite changing fashions in garden design. 

Sedum 'Bertram Anderson'

Thoughtful selection will find cultivars that will flower at different times of the year. My winter  flowering yellow Sedum (pictured at foot of page) reliably flowers from mid-winter until early spring. One of my favourite stonecrops is 'Ruby Glow'. In late summer this attractive low growing plant produces lovely reddish-purple flowers which last until early Autumn. A similar variety is  'Bertram Anderson'. This cultivar also flowers in late summer but has darker foliage. Both plants look great in large pots.

Sedum 'Ruby Glow'

Apart from a sunny position and good drainage stonecrops need little care, and there are few pest or disease problems. Propagation is done by dividing the plant during dormancy in late winter.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
For those looking for more drama in their planting schemes, consider the taller growing stonecrops such as 'Autumn Joy', a plant much admired by the late garden writer Christopher Lloyd who found it 'arresting at every stage from bud to seed'. This is a plant best grown in garden beds rather than in containers.

The winter flowering Sedum confusum
Sedums can be purchased from most nurseries, but the tall growing varieties are harder to find. One nursery which sells them is Lambley nursery in Ascot, Victoria.

There are many books on succulents that make passing mention to sedums. Specialist book mostly approach the subject from a botanical perspective. Readers besotted by this hardy genus may be interested in viewing the website of the UK based Sedum Society

Can you recommend some other Sedum varieties? If so what time of year do they flower?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

200 years of Australian botanical art

Currently on show at the National Trust's S H Erwin Gallery in Sydney is an exhibition of botanical art titled Capturing Flora: Passion for the Exotick. This show is a smaller version of a presentation first seen at the Art Gallery of Ballarat late last year. The works in Capturing Flora cover the first 200 years of botanical art inspired by Australian flora. Most of the images come from the Art Gallery of Ballarat collection but the Sydney 'pop-up' includes several works from the National Trust (NSW) collection.

Hand-coloured lithograph of Nymphaea gigantea c.1855

Work includes true botanical art from artists such as Margaret Flockton (NSW flora) and Robert D Fitzgerald (native orchids) to the more decorative images of Ellis Rowan and (the wonderfully named) Fanny de Mole. As ever, the works at the S H Erwin are beautifully hung and displayed. The highlight of the show was the wall of illustrations of different species of Banksia produced for Curtis's Botanical Magazine in the 19th century.

For those with even a passing interest in Australian plants and botanical art should make time to view this fine show curatored by Gordon Morrison

Capturing Flora 15 February - 17 March 2013
S H Erwin Gallery, Watson Road, Observatory Hill, The Rocks, Sydney
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11am - 5pm
Admission charge
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