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  • Dianthus

    (Pink, Sweet william, Carnation)
    Caryophyllaceae

    The commonly encountered garden varieties are European plants of garden antiquity grown for their attractive, often perfumed, flowers which pick well. They are on the whole easily grown but demand excellent drainage and plenty of sun and are ideally suited to poor, dryer, well drained, alkaline soils. They are often encountered overgrown and root bound, tucked away in the shade, to which they are intolerant, and once purchased are good naturedly smothered with too much "good" garden practice.


    Pinks are known to all by name, which they lent to the colour, if not in person. Classic perennials of English cottage gardens. They have extensive root systems and most varieties offered are quite hardy in Perth with a good drink once a week over summer. They invariably have narrow, glaucous foliage resistant to dry air and high light intensity.

    Sweet williams (Dianthus barbatus) are biennials that will often persist for several years and typically have tall stems bearing clusters of small fringed flowers. They have broader leaves and require a bit softer conditions than the Pinks. The Nigrescens group seem the hardiest of the bunch and can become quite shrubby, potted colour varieties, often sold by the punnet, are worth growing but usually amount to little more than tender annuals.

    Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus). Those developed for the cut flower market are mostly ugly plants needing support and are best left to the dedicated enthusiast or florist. Better garden plants are the seldom seen border carnations, they have the same beautiful flowers of the florist types but are less gawky, don't need staking, are often perfumed and are almost as hardy as the pinks.
    • freynii   CAG03049
      Height15cm
      Width30cm
      Flowering SeasonSpring
      WaterM - L
      LightFull Sun
      Dianthus freynii
      for $7.00earn 35 points

      The best of the bun forming Pinks here (Perth), making a mound of short, waxy, blue-green leaves held in tightly packed rosettes each producing a candy pink flower larger than itself (1.5cm) to obscure the entire plant in spring.

      Amazing as a specimen or planted through rocks, cracks in paving or retaining walls. Some other alpine types would make suitable companions, as long as they don't touch, along with diminutive Oenothera perennis and Scutellaria indica var. parvifolia. It's tempting to make an entire bun garden but it is a growth habit that is just too rare at this point, being largely restricted to cooler climates, though the dark Limonium minutum is another exception, most of the succulent candidates either can't handle our light intensity or fall apart too quickly, there are quite a few native plants with potential that are almost unobtanium.

      From the Dinaric Alps an so strictly for well drained sunny soil but also for a deep pot. Trim off the spent flowers as needed to maintain perfection.

    • freynii ‘Quark’   CAG03177
      Height15cm
      Width30cm
      Flowering SeasonSpring
      WaterM - L
      LightFull Sun
      Dianthus freynii ‘Quark’
      for $7.00earn 35 points

      A white flowered cultivar of this Croatian species with tightly packed rosettes of pointed, blue-green waxy leaves make a ground hugging mound that smothers itself in spring with 1.5cm pure white, lightly fringed, five petalled flowers. Very popular with succulent collectors.

      Allow it to mould itself around rocks in the garden or path, or let it spill from a wall crevice for best effect. Of course there is nothing stopping you mass planting a selection of Pinks for a stunning carpet garden.

      Strictly for well drained sunny soil though it'll make a fine specimen for the show bench if grown in a deep pot.

  • Habranthus
    • tubispathus ‘Cupreus’   CAG02137
      Height20cm
      Width5cm
      Flowering SeasonAll
      WaterM
      LightSun - L. Sh.
      Habranthus tubispathus ‘Cupreus’
      for $7.00earn 35 points

      A diminutive, albeit charming, bulb whose coppery goblets pop up randomly through the year, with or without their accompanying grassy leaves, most often just a few days after rain.

      Exceedingly easy to grow it has adapted to be predominantly winter growing here though in habitat around the Gulf of Mexico as well Argentina and Uruguay I would expect it to grow more in summer to coincide with rainfall. It should perform well, at least in a pot, from Albany to Townsville.

      Tolerant, maybe even fond, of short periods of drought and flood though freezing is likely bad. An excellent pot subject small and demure enough to be a companion to larger potted celebrities.

      Slow to vegatively increase but self sowing in good conditions and then after a few years can make quite a spectacle in mass flower.

  • Teucrium
    • marum   CAG01680

      (Cat thyme)
      Height25cm
      Width40cm
      Flowering SeasonSp - Su
      WaterL
      LightFull Sun
      Teucrium marum
      for $7.00earn 35 points

      A small, very silver, pungently aromatic sub-shrub from the western Mediterranean, happiest in exposed dry soil and perfect for edging or parterre. Many short wands of soft magenta, two lipped flowers lend the stiffly twigged mounds, clothed in tiny, silver, rhomboidal leaves, a dreamy quality during late spring.

      Easily grown in any well drained sunny site. Summer irrigation unnecessary.
      A quick annual tidy up after flowering, to remove the spent stems, keeps it looking attractive over summer. Older plants can be cut back to the point of new basal growth in late winter to rejuvenate them.

      As its common name infers it is often adored by feline denizens of the garden, boon or bane depending on you point of view, and their wallowing and mauling can leave it a little worse for wear but seldom proves fatal.

  • Limonium
    • minutum   CAG01351
      Height15cm
      Width30cm
      Flowering SeasonSummer
      WaterL
      LightSun
      Limonium minutum
      CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE

      A bun forming species from the Iberian peninsula with tightly packed rosettes of small, dark green, spoon shaped leaves and producing a thicket of finely branched flower stems bearing many tiny, pale lavender, starry flowers all summer long.

      A quick hair cut in autumn to remove the flowering stems returns the plant to its sculpted form and makes sure new winter growth will receive plenty of sunlight.

      Almost indestructible, it is at home in any well drained sunny site and is perfect for planting between loose paving or wall cracks where it will self seed gently for that cottage garden look and be content with the reflected heat.

      Unfortunately deeply penetrating roots make it completely useless for pots.

  • Oenothera
    • perennis   CAG00504

      (Little evening primrose)
      Height20cm
      Width15cm
      Flowering SeasonSpring
      WaterM
      LightSun
      CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE

      A diminutive species widespread throughout eastern North America and forming a tight clump of deep green, lance shaped leaves in neat rosettes which elongate in spring to branching scapes bearing many, small, four petalled, citric yellow flowers.
      Stuff it in cracks or plant it in a trough and pretend it's an alpine. Adorable.

      Easily grown in any well drained sunny soil though it is not as drought tolerant as some.

  • Salvia

    (Sage)
    Lamiaceae

    A genus whose popularity has risen exponentially in recent times. Offering a diverse range of form and colour there is a Salvia for nearly every garden situation with more and more being discovered and described all the time. The count now stands somewhere in excess of 1000, including subspecies, according to The Plant List. They are found on every continent except Antarctica.

    From a gardeners perspective they can not all be treated the same, they come from many different climates after all, but as a rule of thumb can be grouped into winter rainfall and summer rainfall species and with few exceptions they all prefer well drained soil.

    Soft leaved species from Central and South America are usually autumn and winter flowering. Coming from summer rainfall areas they typically need protection from dry heat and the accompanying high light intensity and they vary in their tolerance of winter damp. As with most plants the larger the leaves the more water they require, this also dictates how fast they grow with many growing several metres in a single season.

    Species from south western North America, South Africa, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands are all winter growers and are tolerant or demanding of dry heat and summer drought. Slower growing but usually longer lived these all tend to have small, densely haired, silver or grey leaves or a combination of these traits which help them conserve moisture. Most of these require no additional water in Perth and are well adapted to our climate. They tend tend to flower from spring into summer.


    Prune back to where vigorous new basal growth is seen, never to dead wood, they appear to store little food in their stems and without leaves stand a chance of starving to death or at least struggle to regenerate. The exception is those few that are tuberous or clump forming, these can be cut to ground level once the stems start dying back in late autumn.
    • namaensis   CAG02290
      Height50cm
      Width40cm
      Flowering SeasonSp - Su
      WaterM - L
      LightSun
      CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE

      A curious little southern African species forming a scantily clad shrublet with fine dark stems and small, crinkled, pale green, dissected leaves and short spikes of tubular, palest blue, two lipped flowers.

      Little drought tolerance but easy and quick growing in any well drained soil and still relatively hardy given its bright and dainty appearance. An appropriate companion, both geographically and culture-wise, for some of the karoid Pelargonium, P. ionidiflorum, P. reniforme, P. sidoides etc., perhaps on a bank with large boulders to compliment foliage and form.

  • Scutellaria
  • Thymus
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