Pete’s Leaves & Shoots … ’19 promising newcomer grower

Agave america, a hero plant for the largest statement maker
Agave americana, a hero plant for the largest statement maker

Young growers with ‘planty’ interest are great to find, so when I came across Pete Bowen at his 3 year old growing space at Sommersby on the Central Coast last month –  I stayed to have a good look around.. !

Now dear reader, I don’t want you thinking each grower covered on DGN Blog amounts to a random roll-out of kooky plants in no particular order or use. So if you’re reading this in the hopes of expanding an existing plant offering to clients for your designs, into interesting non-general line to give your work an edge – you’ve come to the right place !! To this end I’ve made humble suggestion in pairs (or more) of how you might do this. Of course, its entirely up to you how you might use Pete’s feisty current range but as follows to inspire –

Aloe variegata 'Gator' like a triangulate 'little stiff dress' for living sculpture high contrast
Aloe variegata ‘Gator’ like  triangulate ‘little stiff dresses’ for living sculpture high contrast
Lampranthus brownii, pillar box red year round Pigs Face
Lampranthus brownii, pillar box red year round Pigs Face

So if you had a sunny patch where height restrictions at the front of the planting space were limited to less than 200mm but focal requirements high at the front door, why not crowd Aloe variegata ‘Gator’ together at 250mm centres. Then bring gauzy relief to these little stiff triangulate peaks with a species Pig Face, Lampranthus brownii. These will wind their wiry way around each crisp alligator patterned mini Aloe, with matched low water requirements and a year round blast of pillar box red.

Carex buchanii - Brown Sedge a perfect ultra fine foil for rubbery textures
Carex buchanii – Brown Sedge a perfect ultra fine foil for rubbery textures
Senicio amaniensis, flushes bright cochineal in winter
Senicio amaniensis, flushes bright cochineal in winter

Next up in height at less than 400mm or so, and still in at least half day sun might be a tawny broom straw sweep of Brown Sedge, Carex buchanii. This plant often looks intriguingly ‘dead’ but isn’t and you can get year round contrast using a  rubbery cluster of Senicio amaniensis, that has the added feature of a cochineal flush where winter’s cool night air touches it in dry conditions.

Kniphofia 'Candlelight' grassy sword supporting chartreuse mini torches
Kniphofia ‘Candlelight’ makes a grassy sword supporting chartreuse mini torches
Senicio mandraliscae rug cover of soft blue fingers
Senicio mandraliscae rug cover of soft blue fingers

Succulent blue foliage can be difficult to reconcile with other planting into the garden. Somehow it often looks marooned in its blueness. Use of chartreuse flowers or gold foliage always looks fresh though. Dwarf Pokers in a sunny 350mm tall like Kniphofia ‘Candlelight’, against thick rugs of Chalk Sticks, will give your design ‘high pop’ just where you need it for extra feature on converging sight lines. Be sure to use Senicio madraliscae, avoiding S. serpens that tends to black over with rot by late February humidity.

Agave america, a hero plant for the largest statement maker
Agave america, a hero plant for the largest statement maker

These young plants haven’t developed their distinctive mid point white stripe on each leaf. Long before they do you’ll want to be sure to give plenty of elbow room to expand out into an impressive 3 m wide statement maker and about as high ! Super sharp spikes on each leaf apex and armed with sawfish-like teeth on the leaf margins, these are not so recommended for a pool surround or front door approach. If you’re looking for a hero plant however with gravitas, to anchor your design to a distant but featured corner in challengingly poor unirrigated soil , THIS is the plant for you !!

Euphorbia cotonifolia, a beautiful humidity loving alternative to Cotonis coggyria - Smoke Bush
Euphorbia cotonifolia, a beautiful humidity loving alternative to Cotonis coggyria – Smoke Bush

Requirement for small trees less than 5 meters with featured deciduous foliage is not something that’s going away any time soon. Increasingly limited available space for our designs and a tendency for most winter deciduous offerings to wildly exceed this height limit, can make responding successfully to this request challenging. Especially when most suggestions purportedly a fit for this requirement, come from a far cooler climate than the cool to warm sub-tropics in Sydney Metro.

However, Euphorbia cotonifolia (after Cotinis coggyrifolia – Smoke Bush that it looks quite like, sans the high humidity intolerance), is a great fit for this category. It ticks most boxes for feature foliage colour, height and regular shape. You may have to stake a young tree against lurching over during summer storm strength wind and reduce its tendency to multi-stem by removing all but the strongest leader while still less than a year old. Past these, it has no predator I know of and the pretty claret red high spring canopy usefully sheds by late July to prevent winter gloom for companion planting.

Synadenium grantii rubra, Red South African Milk Bush small tree for paces of limited space
Synadenium grantii f. rubra – Red South African Milk Bush small tree for places of limited space

Last but not least, another feature small tree coming from tropical eastern Africa remains an excellent red and or apple green splashed feature for the courtyard. Being warm sub-tropics, canopy with drop by end of August and its convincingly  combined with bromeliads, euphorbias, kalanchoe, hibiscus, phymosia, brugmansia, iochroma, solandra, ensetes/musa, heliconia, hedychium, dichorisandra, hoya, ruellia and many other cool to warm sub-tropics. Yes, don’t put your hand to your face while pruning it to shape as the white sap is irritating to eyes and some people also experience hive-like reaction. Short of these a more beautiful small tree with feature foliage would be hard to find.

Expand plant offering, support a grower with interesting alternatives to production grown lines while giving your work a distinctive edge !! Pete’s range is expanding, call him to discuss your requirements for a design made from plants.     

Pete’s Leaves & Shoots – Peter Bowen 0400 134 404‬

64 Ghilkes Road
Somersby (Central NSW Coast) 

Peter Nixon – Paradisus & Convenor Designer Growers Network Blog 0418 161513 Insta Facebook             

o418 161513







Paradox Pleasures …for your design

Puya chilensis alluring metallic turquoise flowers
Puya alpestris alluring metallic turquoise flowers

Allure in the garden, can be hard to find but never fails to intrigue. Bromeliad grower Ray Henderson from Paradox knows this and that’s why plants like Puya alpestris raise their early summer metallic turquoise torches. Nought degree winter overnight temps, spring hail and now the prospect of another fierce summer with some days exceeding 40 C are unusual for Ray’s Glenning Valley growing location. But as he says, ‘If its one day or twenty, they still have to be up for it.”

And so they are, like Billbergia vittata ‘Domingos Martins’

Billbergia vittata 'Domingos Martins' a good tough for seniors to full sun
Billbergia vittata ‘Domingos Martins’ a good tough for seniors to full sun

Contrary to popular belief, this bill is not a shade dweller like many of its cousins and will revert stubbornly to flowerless green in the gloom. In semi-shade to full sun, even facing harsh west, this densely crowded pup former makes a bright chocolate purple patch of excellent weed suppression. Jockey silk coloured flowers are a high spring bonus.

Neoregelia 'Persian Tiger'
Neoregelia ‘Persian Tiger’

Hybrid Neoregelia ‘Persian Tiger’, just one of many neo hybrids Ray has does show sun burn ‘patching’ but soon grows out of this and without this bit of scorch, won’t form its beautiful blush colours. Use in your designs wherever perennial interest is required to bring energy charged foliage colour against mid greens and or interesting textural contrasts using with ultra fines like grasses like Miscanthus transmorrisonensis.

Cotyledon compact hybrid
Cotyledon compact hybrid

Not all non-general line planting at Paradox are bromeliads. Many succulent plants combine most sympathetically with them though, like this rather nice compact form Cotyledon with chocolate margin. I’m never sure why combinations like this succeed but in countries like Brazil they often appear together in habitat and especially with rock.

Senicio amaniensis
Senicio amaniensis
Senicio amaniensis showing pendant thistle-like brushes
Senecio amaniensis showing pendant thistle-like brushes

Flowers from this senecio amaniensis, are one of the best butterfly attracting plants here in my home/work garden at ‘Sea-Changer’. Coming in over the November/December garden, its dainty orange brushes are also strangely alluring, not unlike the Puya alpestris … I bet this combination would be a super interesting in your clients design too.

Ray Henderson Horticulture 0490 263 416 and  

Glenning Valley on the NSW Central Coast

Peter Nixon 0418 161513 and for Paradisus and      Convenor Designer Growers Network Blog,

 …bridging the gap from Designers to Growers ! 









Empire Wholesale …much more than the usual cac & succ’s


Senicio talinoides ssp. cylindrica - Ice Sticks
Senicio talinoides ssp. cylindrica – Ice Sticks

Few other plant groups bring dynamic charge to a garden space more, than the super textural and foliage colour contrasts of plants with water storing succulence. 

Succulence, because of their water holding adaptions to places of semi arid climates and generally low humidity.  There’s just a few basic but important growing conditions that must be met, IF  the predominant climate in Sydney’s cool sub-tropics is to support them. That patch of converging sight lines for knock out year round interest can met using these very cool combinations.

Euphorbia caput-medusae - Medusa's Head
Euphorbia caput-medusae – Medusa’s Head (well excuse the weeds… no-one’s perfect)

These are very site specific plants and their weakest link is the perfect storm of winter shade combined with rain at that time of year or excessive irrigation that will prematurely rot them. So these beauties will only come between the cross hairs of your selection criteria, if the spot you’re considering receives full sun all day during the short June- August period. Add to this a fast draining sandy top soil, of only average fertility and a Texture Plot of hardy succ’s is tantalisingly close for your client’s delight …   

Aonium '
Aeonium ‘Ruby Lace’ dwarf compact habit
Aeonium - dwarf ground covering form
Aeonium – dwarf ground covering form

There is also an enduring approach to keeping your patch full …  as related to habitat in places like the Canary Islands, the Sth African Eastern Cape and arid and semi arid Mexico from which these plants come. Many like aeonium, crassula, sedum and senicio have ultra brittle leaves and or branchlets that can strike root systems where they fall from the mother plant.

Graptopetalum mendozae
Graptopetalum mendozae for tight, bunchy drifts between feature rocks

So you bumped your fave Grapto dragging the hose across the garden and a big bunch has just busted off ….just scratch the surface of a nearby vacant growing space and settle your snapped off ‘baby plant’ into the soil surface. An expanded repeat of that plant for a ‘louder’ textural impact will soon establish, to contrast with others adjacent. To be avoided, is a ‘donut’ regime will begin to develop, as your original plant expands ever further from it’s original planting location, making a ring surrounding a vacant centre.

Troy Southwood at Imperial Wholesale with many new spring babies
Troy Southwood at Imperial Wholesale with many new spring babies

The visionary talent behind Empire Wholesale’s vast expansion of offering is Master Propagator, Troy Southwood (formerly of Garden Gate Nursery with Wendy & Graham Twaddell) and the location is rear,  7 Moores Rd, Glenorie. Troy has planned some very tasty offerings for the new season including new alocasia, Dischidia ruscifolia and Pilea peperomioides  

Instagram Imperial Wholesale 

Troy Southwood  

0403 970 398














Modern day plant hunter, horticulturist and nursery & plantsman Bruce Dunstan's epiphytic encrusted from gate in Nundah, Brisbane

Epiphytes…. the new frontier

Epiphytes 'mother trees'
Epiphytic ‘mother tree’

Interior-scapes are making a resurgence …. so for sustainable interest and designer ‘pop’, what could you be looking for far beyond the humble pot plant .. ?

Modern day plant hunter, horticulturist and nursery & plantsman Bruce Dunstan's epiphytic encrusted from gate in Nundah, Brisbane
Modern day plant hunter, horticulturist, nursery & plantsman Bruce Dunstan’s epiphytic encrusted from gate in Nundah, Brisbane

The exciting truth Peeps is found among many planting outcomes now required for a realistic match to growing conditions, of inside/outside interfaces in commercial and residential settings. Head and shoulders above most options is the diverse epiphytic genus Rhipsalis or Mistletoe Cactus mostly from Brazil.   

Rhipsalis ewaldiana a texture like thick seaweed
Rhipsalis ewaldiana a texture like course seaweed

Textural wreaths, greenwalls, eco pillows, horizontal green-bands, vertical green-blades, green-roofs & pseudo-greenwalls have all exceeded the basic hanging basket, as a catch-all destination for these fascinating plants.

Rhipsalis platycarpa
Rhipsalis platycarpa brings foliage colour
Weberocereus imitans
Weberocereus imitans one of the ric-rac Jungle Cactus
Disocactus amazonicus looks like lime green kelp
Disocactus amazonicus looks like lime green kelp
Disocactus chiapis nelsonii with quill like stems forming  a 'birds nest'
Disocactus chiapis nelsonii with quill like stems forms
a kind of  ‘birds nest’ habit
Rhipsalis capilliformis like  foliar ultra-fine gauze
Rhipsalis capilliformis a gauze of foliar ultra-fine
Codananthe 'Lime Delight' a pendulous  gesneriad
Codananthe ‘Lime Delight’ a pendulous gesneriad

Leading among an enthusiastic band of visionary growers, is Justine Smith  at Peats Ridge on NSW Central Coast. While there will be an impressive stall space at Plant Lovers Fair Kariong come 22nd & 23rd September, contract growing is preferred.

'Sea-Changer' Mirror Deck with epiphyte loaded greenwalls
‘Sea-Changer’ Mirror Deck with epiphyte loaded greenwalls

Among many garden making outcomes for these plants are more sheltered growing spaces like courtyards. Fast draining medium levels can be raised as ‘planting humps’ to separate wet sensitive root fibre from the cold winter ground. Lush sense of arrival is assured for the front door and epiphytes combine very convincingly with small palms, aroids, ferns and bromeliads.  

Justine Smith 0408 741 336 Kawana Nursery        

Cac & Succ relly’s can set your design apart ..

Kalanchoe beharensis - shrub form
Kalanchoe beharensis – shrub form

Long gone are the days when anything succulent was relegated to  ‘that corner’ at most nurseries and disregarded collectively as weirdo cactus. Go to any decent Plant Fair and you are spoilt for choice with plants possessing some of the most ornamental characteristics imaginable. And why choose them ? Because they set your design apart like few others can AND offer huge advantages in low water use.

Kalanchoe beharensis – Madagascan Felt Plant is very often encountered in its larger leafed form as a kind of living sculpture. Did you know there are smaller oak leafed forms that make rather impressive texture hedges or can be used to anchor otherwise ‘fly away’,  leafy combinations that run a risk of looking all the same when seasonal flowers have gone over.  

Kalanchoe somaliensis a perky choice for texture rug ground covers
Kalanchoe somaliensis a perky choice for texture rug ground covers

Kalanchoe somaliensis excels for unirrigated garden spaces, beneath an open sky aspect with much valued ground-covering & weed suppression qualities. Also has high ornamental appeal as a ‘textural rug’ that brightens with winter night air. Contrasts with just about anything but especially appealing with an ultra-fine like Lomandra fluviatilis ‘Shara’.

Cyanotis foecunda gives excellent weed suppression
Cyanotis foecunda gives excellent weed suppression

Cyanotis foecunda an equally drought resisting, stoloniferous sheet cover and unsurpassed as a turf replacement, where weed suppression is important and low maintenance a part of the design brief. Providing its a ‘no go’ look to surface only, that’s NOT  expected to withstand even light foot traffic due to its snappy stems that would crush under foot. I’ve used this one many times with the benefit of its self striking stolons that also grip surface soil to help prevent erosion across slight falls.          

Orders are best contract grown to be ready for designs you may have planned for Autumn ’19 from Peter & Ruth Donnelly at Coachwood Nursery Sommersby on the NSW Central Coast ‭0432 590 754 

‘Planty Fierce ’18 was great and a sunny brom grower for you too.. !

Coachwood sales tables loaded with 'planty' treasures
Coachwood sales tables loaded with ‘planty’ treasures
Ros Andrews myself and friend getting ‘planty’
Brendan Lewis, Peter Nixon & Graeme Greenhalge, past fierce but still ‘planty’

Late last month on Sat 28th April, brought a fresh Autumn day for ‘Planty Fierce’  after a much needed morning shower to both my ‘Sea-Changer’ and Ray Henderson’s ‘Paradox’ and plenty of interest from visitors looking for inspiration and a few new treasures from Peter & Ruth Donnelly’s Coachwood sales tables for their own gardens.

Many plants at ‘Sea-Changer’ are grown by Ruth & Peter,       

Rhipsalis grandiflora, part of the mirror surround at 'Sea-Changer'
Rhipsalis grandiflora from Coachwood, part of the mirror surround at ‘Sea-Changer’

If sun adaptable bromeliads would get you out of a lot of trouble, for that elevated N/W aspect you’re wrestling with for your client’s design…. look no further than Ray Henderson Horticulture to see his heroic ‘Paradox’ plantings at  Central Coast’s Glenning Valley.

Aechmea blanchetiana hybrid at 'Paradox' in full northern aspect
Aechmea blanchetiana hybrid at ‘Paradox’ in full northern aspect
Portia petropolitana extensa hybrid with amethyst berries with Hohenbergia at ‘Paradox’
Rich textural contrasts at ‘Paradox’ by Ray Henderson

 Ray is your ‘go to guy’ for a myriad of sun adaptable aechmea, billbergia, hohenbergia and even neoregelia that will LOVE your western aspect, even growing as lithophytes over rock with limited or no irrigation. This is the best time of year to plant too,  going into cooler weather to give your plants time to adjust into the increasing heat of next season sans scorch and with dazzling ‘stained glass’ colours.   

Ray Henderson Hotriculture – 25 Curringa Close, Glenning Valley 0490 263 416‬  

Ruth & Peter Donnally – Coachwood Nursery 0432 590 754 and by appointment 

‘Planty Fierce’ Saturday week, 28th April 2018 ‘Sea-Changer’ & ‘Paradox’

Rich textures & foliage colours at Ray Henderson’s ‘Paradox’

Cool sub-tropics gardens ‘Paradox’ and ‘Sea-Changer’ open for ‘Planty Fierce’ on the Central Coast (maps on links) … less than two weeks away !! Inspiration for your home garden or your client’s design and many plants from both gardens available for sale on the day. At ‘Paradox’ learn from Ray Henderson, the huge range of sun adaptable bromeliads that can be grown north facing when you plant them at the right time of year … Find out more about the kind of medium he uses, when to fertilise and how far apart your plants should be for best results.

Bruce Buddha on Peter Nixon’s Mirror Deck in greenwall surround at ‘Sea-Changer’

So many beautiful sub-tropical offerings for your garden from Peter & Ruth Donnally’s Coachwood sales tables at ‘Sea-Changer’.

Bellaperone – big red
Opuntia ‘Burbank’s Spineless’
Ipomea quamoclit – Cypress Vine
Ruellia elegans – Brazilian Petunia

At ‘Sea-Changer’ Peter will give a 2pm designer’s ‘walk & talk’ on how easily new plants could grow for your exciting new home garden or for your designs. So get your gardening buddy, colleague horticulturist, landscaper or garden designer friend together by sharing the ‘Planty Fierce’ link. Be on the Motorway on ramp at Wahroonga by 9am for the hour or so jaunt up to the Central Coast for a fun day of garden visits either side of lunch in Holgate at Bamboo Buddha !!   

Peter’s 2pm ‘walk & talk’ at ‘Sea-Changer’ 

‘Planty Fierce’ Saturday, 28th April 10am – 4pm, $10 gate each garden, children under 12 free, no dogs, easy parking.

‘Paradox’ 25 Curringa Close, Glenning ValleyRay Henderson Horticulture 0490 263 416‬

‘Sea-Changer’ 21 Lavinia Street, Forresters Beach – Peter Nixon, Paradisus Garden Design     

0418 161513         

‘Planty Fierce’ Sat 28th April ‘Sea-Changer’ & ‘Paradox’

Manettia cordifolia – Brazilian Firecracker Vine at ‘Sea-Changer’ shade hut, a thick, high summer rug of tiny scarlet bells

Garden Lovers, see Facebook Event page for Planty Fierce details this year, bringing you two Central Coast gardens. Visit Ray Henderson’s iconic ‘Paradox’ at Glenning Valley in the morning and my ‘Sea-Changer’  after lunch at nearby Forresters Beach. Its a lovely day out of the city, to see a pair of exciting designer gardens as inspiration for your own, just an hour’s drive north on the Pacific Motorway from the on ramp at Wahroonga. 

‘Paradox’ vibrant textures and exciting plants sales

Looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible, I’ll be giving a ‘ Q & A walk & talk’ at 2pm 

Peter Nixon’s ‘Sea-Changer’ – 21 Lavinia Street, Forresters Beach plant sales by Coachwood’s Ruth & Peter Donnally  

Ray Henderson’s ‘Paradox’ – 25 Curringa Close, Glenning Valley plants sales featuring sun tolerant bromeliads with designer companion plantings

NOTE: many of the plants you see at each garden will be for sale on the day !!  

Best wishes, Peter 

Peter Nixon – Convenor, Designer Growers Network

‘Planty Fierce’ is almost here THIS Sat 29th April … !

This Saturday, 29th April ‘Planty Fierce’ opens 10am – 4pm $5 entry each garden, across three wildly exciting and horticulturally driven spaces made from plants. 

‘Living Edge Garden’ – Frogs Foot Coleus (Solonostemon), Lomandra ‘Little Con’, Justicea betonica backed in Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ by David Fripp & Blake Jolley at 1483 Peats Ridge Rd, Peats Ridge

Living Edge Garden by David Fripp & Blake Jolley at 1483 Peats Ridge Rd, Peats Ridge

Ray Henderson’s ‘Paradox’ Billbergia fasciata ‘Sangria’, Aechmea sp. backed with Ensetes ventricosum – Abyssinian Banana &
Furcraea foetida mediopicta variegata

‘Paradox’ by Ray Henderson at 25 Curringa Close, Glenning Valley

‘Sea-Changer’s … Sea Monkey garden of rich contrasts

‘Sea-Changer’ by Peter Nixon at 21 Lavinia Street, Forresters Beach


See all event details, map & lunch suggestions at Facebook’s event page ‘Planty Fierce’  Expert horticultural and design ideas for your gardens, with exciting designer plants sales at each garden – bring plenty of boxes, you’ll need them!

Kalanchoe humilis – Pen Wiper Plant for the sunny plot
Begonia textures perfect for shady groundcovers
Tradescantia sp. for sun or shade as pretty wed suppresser
Keen interest from last year’s ‘Planty Fierce’ ..

Peter Nixon’s 2pm designer “walk & talk” at ‘Sea-Changer’ and weather forecast is Good !!!   

Robin Powell’s feature on ‘Sea-Changer’ for ‘Planty Fierce’ in last Saturday’s SMH Spectrum .. see you there !!!

‘Planty Fierce’ Sat week on 29th April … !

Peter Nixon’s ‘Sea-Changer’ for Paradisus at Forresters Beach – Dichorisandra’s Blue Ginger heads popping with Alocasia mafafa ‘Lime Zinger’ against pink puffs of Calliandra haematocephala

So much ‘Planty Fierce’ for you on Saturday week 29th April … 10am – 4pm

Start at any of these three fabulous Central Coast gardens only 20 mins apart, bursting with designer inspiration made by industry horticulturists. These are their own home gardens, where they have really been able to let it rip in mining the rich vein of warm temperate coastal plant selection.

As featured on Easter Sat’s SMH in Robin Powell’s gardening page for Spectrum 


David Fripp & Blake Jolley’s ‘Living Edge’ at Peats Ridge,  with sculptural Agave sp. with A. gypsophila & Achmea bracteata
Belle guarding the ‘Paradox’ welcome garden by sun bromeliad specialist Ray Henderson with Portmea ‘Joe’ flushing into spike

Address details & lunch suggestions from the ‘Planty Fierce’ FB Event page  Its a great garden day out of Sydney with exciting plant sales for your own garden at every destination,so bring plenty of boxes as you’ll be sorely tempted ! Designer Peter Nixon with give a “walk & talk” at ‘Sea-Changer’ at 2pm and $5 entry at each garden, (no doggies please). Event map shown at.. Sea Changer Map – 2017