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 –
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.
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.
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.
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 !!
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.
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) firstname.lastname@example.org
o418 161513 email@example.com