One of my favourite groups of small plants
for shady areas with low water needs over summer is the Epimedium
family - the Bishop’s Mitre plant. This is a plant for
all seasons, starting in spring the new leaf stems resembling
shepherd’s crooks and the flowering stems appear. The
small, cupped downward facing long lasting flowers range in
colour from white, yellow, orange, pinks and pale purples and
combinations of some of these colours.
|SOME FAVOURITE SMALL
PLANTS (THAT AREN’T WATER GUZZLERS).
by Lyn Edwards
hardy garden cyclamen is a water miser’s dream
Flowers open in mid spring as the new leaves
are unfurling. There are newer varieties available with larger
more colorful spurred flowers than of old. New leaves are
bronze-pink in colour and mature to a soft green, some with
bronze tonings for the summer. The shape of the leaves is
roughly oval to heart shaped, a number to each wiry stem.
Some species are very small but larger varieties
grow to about 35 – 45 cm. The leaves remain fresh and
cool looking through summer into autumn when they change to
a good rusty red. These are retained through winter when they
are most welcome till the first signs of spring growth when
they are best removed to allow for the new growth to be seen.
Some, but not all, spread and make excellent
ground cover in shady areas. I haven’t grown any I would
classify as thugs, unwanted pieces are easily removed if required.
Once established they don’t require large quantities
of water to keep them happy and are low maintenance in that
they tend not to be damaged by pests and diseases. The following
is a short list of some I have found to grow well in Canberra.
Epimedium versicolour ‘Sulphureum’
15cm high with pretty light yellow flowers and autumn foliage.
Epimedium acuminatum-about 30 cm with the long
spurred purple-pink flowers.
Epimedium pinnatum 20-30 cm with bright yellow
flowers, leaves are deep green in summer.
Epimedium grandiflorum-30 cm -there are many
named cultivars in this group. The flowers are long spurred
and come in white, pink, yellow and purples.
Epimedium x warleyense - this grows taller
and spreads more than most, the flowers are yellow with orange
Epimedium x perralchicum, clumping to 30 cm
around, large leaves which colour well in autumn and bright
Epimedium x youngianum Niveum - a smaller grower
with white flowers.
The hardy garden cyclamen is a water miser’s
dream. Of course most bulbs don’t require watering during
dormancy but these rate very highly. As plants suited to shady
areas, they will carpet quite large areas in time as they
seed themselves around freely. The seeds are covered with
a sweet sticky exudate that the ants love and because ants
will spread them, new plants may appear elsewhere in the garden,
often in places that wouldn’t have been considered,
My favourites, and the easiest species to grow in the ground
in this climate are C. hederifolium, C coum and C. repandum.
The flowers are lovely in season but these would be worth
growing for their wonderful foliage alone. The soft green
and grey coloured leaves come with beautiful patterns and
some are pure silver or pewter. A combination of all three
species will give flowers from late summer through until late
C. hederifolium sends up its pale pink or white
flowers in late summer or early autumn generally after rain.
The flowering will be earlier in a garden with regular watering.
The leaves do not appear till flowering is almost finishing
and last through winter till about Christmas time when they
die down over summer. This species has ivy or arrow shaped
leaves with many patterns, there are named varieties depending
on the pattern or colour of the leaf. All are easy to grow.
C.coum In a very sheltered position this species
holds its round shaped leaves year round but will lose them
if they dry out. As well as solid deep green leaves there
are patterned and silver leaf forms. The flowering period
is through winter till early spring and may be white or pale
to deep pink with chocolate coloured “noses” and
rather dumpy in shape compared to C.hederifolium .
C.repandum The leaves on this species are quite
large, ivy shaped and heavily patterned in the usual cyclamen
manner, the flowers are a mid pink with long petals and flower
through spring and so extending the flowering period of cyclamen
in the garden.
There are certainly more cyclamen worth
growing in the garden, including the small C.persicum hybrids
available in punnets from the garden centers in autumn and
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