Leucadendrons – stars of the foliage world

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The Leucadendron ‘Jenny Butler’ (pictured in the vase) has lived in my garden for the last three years; quietly establishing itself and putting down roots and largely being ignored. But recently it has mushroomed into a glorious resplendent vision complete with ruby red tipped stems that looked like flower petals. I felt compelled to pick some stems for a vase and marvelled that I could have overlooked this astonishing plant for so long. It’s just the kind of stem I love in a vase; architectural and a bit wilful. I love the way the stems bend carelessly this way and that yet they remain rigid and sit so well in a vase. Their vase life is extraordinarily long so you can recycle the stems week to week if you like.

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The Leucadendron is a member of the Proteaceae Family and it’s worth knowing that they have very delicate root systems. When watering make sure you give them a good drink once a week rather than a dribble every day. This will ensure deep root growth and a healthy, strong plant. When planting don’t feel compelled to tease out the roots. They will not appreciate you fiddling about so simply remove from the pot and plant out. Give them a light prune once a year to encourage new growth and extra blooms.

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Don’t be tempted to pamper these luscious lovlies as they won’t thank you for it. Fiercely independent they are happy in poor soil that’s slightly acidic and they loathe fertilisers. You may need to protect them from hard frosts (although my ‘Jenny Butler’ has been fending for itself quite happily uncovered) but there is no need to protect them from being nibbled by insects. It seems that insects turn their noses up at leucadendrons although they are attractive to bees.

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This is a Leucadendron ‘Floridum Pisa’ which I have positioned in the Cutting Garden. It’s tall and leggy with a finer leaf and a greener colour. They love to feel the wind through their hair – I mean leaves(!) – as they are coastal plants (originally from South Africa). The wind has been howling around that unprotected paddock so I can only imagine he has been in seventh heaven! As well as being a very tactile plant they are also available in a variety of colours which are really pronounced once the winter chill sets in.

I also chose Leucadendron ‘yellow tulip’ which is a large 2×1.5 metre bush with creamy yellow tulip shaped blooms in the winter months and Leucadendron ‘jack harre’ with flaming red star shape blooms with a cream throat. This is a more compact bush at 1×1 metre. I think they’ll be very happy here as foliage for my Cutting Garden.

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Flowers in a Vase – A Splash of Late Summer Colour

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It’s been a while since I’ve linked to Monday’s meme hosted by the lovely Cathy at Rambling in the garden. I’ve been very busy harvesting figs and I’ve also started another very exciting new job. So I’m really pleased to have found the time to contribute this week. In fact I just couldn’t resist. On my way round the garden Seed Spotting I just had to pick a bunch of colour for the house. This is what I saw…..

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Pink Cosmos is such a joy in the garden. It is the easiest flower to grow from seed and it goes on, and on and on. We are well into autumn here in NZ and I can still pick vases and vases full of bright pink Cosmos. A real pick and plonk flower and I love it for it’s simplicity.

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I decided to add some ‘Love Lies Bleeding’. I grew this from seed. In fact I grow it from seed every year because it’s so easy to grow and I am fascinated by this unusual plant. It’s heavy, lime green tendrils fall like dreadlocks and add an exotic touch to any vase.

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It’s such a tactile plant! Like a cat’s tail or a bird’s plumage.

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They say that every vase needs a ‘Star’ and there is no star like this Lily that grows like a weed in clumps around my garden every year in late summer. My Mother-in-Law calls them Naked Ladies because they have no leaves. They simply grow on long purple stems straight from the bulb. Did I mention the scent? The scent of these lilies is Out of This World. Absolutely exquisite without being sickly. I can’t bear those showy, ostentatious lilies that can knock you senseless with their cloying perfume at 20 paces and stain everything around them with their yellow pollen. These delicate little beauties are far too sophisticated and instead scent the air with a delicate perfume that delights rather than intoxicates.

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I love the contrast of the bold hot pink and the soft pink and the acid green.

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Enjoy my little splash of colour. A simple vase that brings a lot of joy as summer ebbs away to welcome the subtle charms of Autumn….. Pop over to Cathy’s meme at Rambling in the garden and see the other offerings from around the world.

Flowers in a vase – everything is rosey

The vase for this Monday’s meme hosted by the lovely Cathy at Rambling in the garden was an experiment with oasis. I don’t really use oasis because I’m not much of an “arranger”; I like to plonk and go so to speak. However, I saw some in a local shop and thought I’d try it out. I have been planning on cutting some roses so I can really enjoy their scented loveliness up close and I often struggle to make roses sit up straight and behave so perhaps the oasis will do the trick….

One of my favourite roses is a pale lavender colour and has the most rosey scent ever; it is aptly named ‘Heaven Scent’. I’ve only had this rose for a year but it is pickled in blooms. I managed to take some cuttings from it last year and one of the cuttings is now in bloom too.

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Isn’t it just gorgeous. I love yellow and lilac as a colour combination so chose to include another rose called ‘Casino’. This rose is a climber and is also scented and ideal as a cut flower. I chose it last winter and wanted it to grow over a trellis archway in my vege garden. Now it’s summer and it’s an absolute delight as I can enjoy it in all it’s scented, yellowy loveliness every time I walk through to the greenhouse.

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It’s a very pale lemony yellow; very subtle. For foliage I spotted a Pseudopanax Cyril Watson. Are you impressed I know the name?! I have to admit I kept the label on this one. I was attracted to the seed head which being a lime green colour really suited the lilac and yellow of the roses. The trifoliate leaf shape is also slightly unusual.

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Finally I found a little clump of flowers in a bed I’m clearing. Of course I don’t know what it is or what it’s called but it must be a bulb of some sort and it has leaves like thick blades of grass. Anyway, I thought it’d look great stuck randomly throughout the display. See, I always revert back to randomness even when using oasis!

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It’s very sweet isn’t it. Looks a lot like lavender but there is no scent at all. It’s also got a really sturdy little stem so an absolute breeze pushing into the oasis.

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It was a nice sunny day so I accessorised with props that I was planning on using after writing this post! The oasis made arranging these blooms an absolute breeze! They were so well behaved; not a twist or a turn out of place. I suppose I should also mention that I used a gravy boat for the vase! I love it’s little feet!

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Here’s a bird’s eye view…..

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….and one from the back.

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So this is my offering for this Monday’s Flowers in a Vase, as part of  Cathy’s inspiring and wonderful meme at Rambling in the garden. Pop along and have a look and perhaps be inspired to join in.

Flowers in a Vase – is it a bird? Is it a plane?

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The vase for this Monday’s meme hosted by the lovely Cathy at Rambling in the garden received immediate reactions from The Figs. Mr Fig said “Does it fly?” (cheeky monkey) and eldest Figlet said “It looks like a Big Hug!” It all started with a few stems of Eucomis that were on their way out or a Bit Wonky. I thought I could easily sacrifice them from the garden bed without leaving a gap. These flowers are my favourite kind of flower; architectural, interesting from bud to flower to seed head and…… a bit eccentric.

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I love the little green pineapple hat that it wears at the top of the flower (probably why they’re nicknamed Pineapple Lily). I then picked three dahlias that sprouted up amongst the sunflowers in the vege garden. Two of the stems were Very Short but I thought I could get away with it.

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Dahlias are also some of my favourite flowers for their showiness and the variety. I wasn’t sure at this point what kind of foliage to use. However, as I left the vege garden it jumped out at me. I have a big clump of Cinnamon Basil that has seeded with beautiful purple flowers. It had got quite substantial so I thought I’d try it out in a vase. Mmmmm….a nice basil-y scented vase.

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I have a wonderful white hydrangea that turns a gorgeous lime green over time. I added a few of these to lighten the overall effect.

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The last addition is my Knatia ‘Red Cherries’ that grows pretty much all year round and flowers endlessly. I even like the seed heads too.

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So there you have it. A plane……

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or a Hug in A Vase! Eldest Figlet helped me accessorise the table…..

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and very cute it turned out to be too!

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So this is my offering for this Monday’s Flowers in a Vase, as part of  Cathy’s inspiring and wonderful meme at Rambling in the garden. Pop along and have a look and perhaps be inspired to join in.

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The Magic of Calendula flowers

Just picked calendular

If you only grow one flower in your vege garden or allotment then make it Calendula Officinalis. It is garish and perhaps even a little bit tacky but it will reward you in so many ways. As well as being an excellent companion plant for your Veges (it will deter many pests that would otherwise attack your edibles) it is also a medicinal wonder drug. I want to persuade you to grow this cheerful little flower and show you how to extract it’s wholesome goodness and turn it into an indispensable medicine that you’ll reach for again and again.

So what kind of benefits can be derived from Calendula? Well, Quite A few actually. If made into a lotion or balm it can be applied to a number of skin ailments like mild burns, stings, inflammation, nappy rash, cuts and bruises, eczema, athlete’s foot and acne. It has the magic qualities of being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and also anti-fungla. Quite a little trouper really.

It’s one of the easiest seeds to grow that I know of so a great one for children. Just sprinkle the seeds into trays of compost and cover lightly. They’ll start sending out little shoots within a week or two. Then transplant them to a sunny spot in your garden. They cope with most soil types and semi shade and will also be very happy in a little pot on a balcony or patio. Keep them well watered.  If you want to be really clever and keep a continuous supply throughout summer for harvesting then sow another batch a few weeks after your first batch and again a few weeks later. I did two sowings this year and my first lot are still merrily flowering while my later batch are about two weeks away so I should have enough.

Harvesting is so easy and you can’t harvest too often. They will send out more buds the more you harvest (just like sweet peas) so get picking. Pick once all the morning dew has dried out and snip just above a leaf node.

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Make sure you select the most perfect, pristine flowers.

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Here’s a good specimen….

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…..this one is a little past it. To dry the petals I like to dry the whole flower head.

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Lay them out on a piece of muslin and turn every day or so.

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They are a very sticky flower and you want a dry crisp flower so drying takes a little while. You’ll know they’re ready when you can pull away the petals with ease. Any resistance means they’re Not Quite Ready.

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See how crispy they get? Then fill up a clean jar with the petals.

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Now we can make a Calendula infused oil. Making an infused oil is so easy but you do need to have  a little patience (as Gary Barlow was right to point out). Take a clean, sterilised jar and fill three quarters full with dried calendula petals. Then fill the jar to the top with olive or sunflower oil. Make sure the petals are completely covered with the oil to prevent them from going mouldy.

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Looks very pretty doesn’t it.

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Label the jar with the date and leave it in a sunny spot for 3-4 weeks to work it’s magic. Give it a little smile and a gentle shake when you pass by. I’m going to leave mine for 4 weeks to extract every last drop of goodness. You can find recipes that say you can heat the oil with the petals very gently for a few hours to create an infused oil. However, I prefer to wait. Speeding things up can be a bit spooky for my liking; a bit like microwaves really (double spooky). Just be patient and you will be rewarded with a beautiful ingredient. I’ll show you how to make a balm for general ouchies and one for putting on itchy bites (as we call them over here) or general insect bites.

Row of Calendular