Thursday, 14 November 2013

A family worth knowing

I recently came across a cheaply priced booklet at a book sale about the large and diverse Acanthus family. For those who like informative books about ornamental gardening without the bells and whistles this little reference will certainly delight. The author extols the charms of the many ornamental plants of the Acanthaceae family, a large tribe best known by the well-known cool climate Acanthus or oyster plant.

Apart from Acanthus, this family includes many brassy sub-shrubs, such as Justicia and Megaskepasma, that love frost-free warm temperate climates. While this booklet is aimed at a Sydney audience it will also appeal to gardeners in similar climatic locations around Australia. My only criticism of the recommendations was the lack of warning of the weed potential of some members of the Ruellia genus in this family.

With the exception of Acanthus most of Mowat's recommendations are generally not available at most plant nurseries as when young these plants lack flowering charm. The author suggests sourcing plants at the excellent Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens plant nursery in Sydney. It would have been helpful that other specialist nurseries selling these plants were listed. Despite a couple of minor gripes I highly recommend this booklet.

Meet the family Acanthaceae: easy going plants for Sydney gardens
By Deirdre Mowat [2012]
Self published
31 pages, softback, RRP $12 (including delivery) from authors website

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