Plant Guide

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lagunaria-patersonii

Lagunaria patersonii

Norfolk Island hibiscus, pyramid tree, Queensland white oak, itch tree, cow itch tree

Australian, evergreen tree or shrub with a columnar to pyramidal shape, endemic to Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and parts of Queensland. Oval, olive to grey green leaves, 5-10 cm long. Flowering in summer and early autumn with hibiscus-like, 4-8 cm wide flowers, pale pink, fading to white. Stamens are arranged in a single, central column, typical for members of the Malvaceae (mallow family). Flowers are followed by furry seed capsules, filled with tiny hairs which are like fiber-glass splinters and cause itching and skin inflammation. Lagunaria patersonii 'Royal Purple' has crimson flowers.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil. Does not like wet feet. Not suitable for heavy clay soils. Can handle considerable drought and copes well in poor soils. Ideal for coastal gardens and windy locations. Tolerates light frosts. 

Versatile plant for flower display during late summer. Suitable for screening and hedging purposes. Tends to have branches and foliage all the way along the stem from ground level, but can be grown as a clear-stemmed specimen by regularly removing new growth from the main trunk. The canopy is relatively narrow, so even though Lagunaria patersonii can grow quite tall, it is suitable for smaller spaces. Plant this tree in areas where the seed pods cannot pose problems (i.e. away from pools and public spaces, in particular those frequented by children). 

laurus-nobilis-standard

Laurus nobilis

bay laurel, bay tree, sweet bay, true laurel

Evergreen broadly conical tree or large shrub from the Mediterranean region. Glossy, leathery leaves, highly aromatic when crushed and useful in cooking. Small, star-shaped yellowish flowers in spring, followed on female plants by green egg-shaped fruits that ripen to purplish black in autumn.

Prefers a sunny or part-shady position in well-drained soil. Leaves are darker green when grown in the shade. Remove any suckers that may be formed at the base of the plant. Hardy to -12oC. 

Laurus nobilis lends itself perfectly for clipping and shaping. It is a popular hedge and topiary plant. You can create your own topiary specimen by selecting a plant with a good, straight central leader (as opposed to a bushy plant that has its tip removed to encourage branching).  Gradually remove side branches that are forming too low on the main stem, untill the plant has reached the height from which you wish the canopy to be formed. Now allow the side branches to grow, and, once or twice a year, trim the canopy to a ball-shape or any other shape that takes your fancy.

lavandula-dentata

Lavandula dentata

toothed lavender, French lavender, fringed lavender

Strongly aromatic evergreen shrub, woody at the base, with upright branches, grey-green leaves and lilac flowers for most of the year. Native to the Mediterranean region, the Cape Verde Islands and Madeira. Leaves are sticky, linear, 3-4 cm long, 0.5 cm wide. Easy to distinguish from other lavender species by the bluntly toothed leaf margins. Flowers are arranged in tight spikes, topped with pale purple bracts, to about 5 cm long on stems held above the foliage. Attracts bees and butterflies. Lavandula dentata does not have the typical lavender fragrance. Its smell is more aromatic than "flowery", rather like a blend of rosemary and lavender scents. 

Prefers a hot and sunny position in well-drained neutral to alkaline soil, not too fertile, but adapts well to a range of situations. It is tougher and less fussy in terms of growing conditions than most other lavender species. Susceptible to root rot in poorly drained soils. Very drought-tolerant once established. Tolerates light to medium frosts (to about -7oC). Prune after flowering to keep compact and remove spent flowers.

Mainly grown for its silvery grey foliage and subtle flowers. Suitable for topiary and hedging purposes. May also be grown in containers. Excellent choice for coastal gardens and for hot and dry areas.

lavandula-stoechas-patleigh

Lavandula stoechas 'Patleigh'

Vigorous, upright and compact, evergreen shrub with purple flowers and showy pale yellow bracts in spring. The flowers themselves are tiny, but are tightly arranged in a spike-like inflorescence to about 4 cm long, or to 6 cm long including the terminal bracts. Opposite pairs of linear, aromatic, yelow-green leaves (approximately 4 cm x 0.5 cm). May self-seed, but seedlings do not necessarily have the exactly same appearance as the parents. Flowers attract bees and butterflies.

Lavandula stoechas 'Patleigh' originated in New Zealand from a cross between two unnamed Lavandula stoechas parents.

Grows best in full sun and any soil type as long as it is well-draining. Tolerates wind, drought, and coastal conditions. Remove spent flowers to encourage additional flower production. Lightly prune in autumn to keep the plant compact. Tolerates moderate frosts only (zones 8-9).

I love the colour combination of the flowers. Lavandula stoechas 'Patleigh' seems a particular tough plant. This would make a gorgeous low hedge. The leaves are aromatic (a rosemary-like scent rather than the fragrance of English lavender flowers)

leonotis-leonurus

Leonotis leonurus

lion's ear, lion's tail, wild dagga, red dagga, wild hemp, cape hemp, minaret flower

Evergreen shrub in the mint family (Lamiaceae), native to southern Africa. Flowering in late summer and autumn with bright orange, tubular flowers arranged in whorls along upright, four-angled stems. Becomes woody at the base and herbaceous elsewhere, so is more accurately specified as a sub-shrub. Opposite, densely hairy, linear leaves to 10 cm long by 2 cm wide. Is reported to have hallucinogenic and medicinal properties. Naturalised in various parts of the world, including Western Australia and New South Wales in Australia, Hawaii and California.

Prefers a position in full sun, but tolerates semi-shade. Can be grown in any soil type as long as it is well-draining. Drought-tolerant once established. Cut back to near ground level in winter to maintain a tidy habit. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 9-11). Suitable for coastal gardens.

Striking plant when flowering with brilliant orange flowers. Good for the back of borders or sunny hot banks.

liatris-spicata

Liatris spicata

(dense or marsh) blazing star, (Kansas, prairie, or spike) gay feather, button snake root, button snakewort

Clump-forming herbaceous perennial, native to moist habitats in eastern USA and parts of Canada. Long flower spikes with rosy purple, fluffy flower heads. From early summer, flowers open gradually from the top of the spike downwards. Grass-like leaves, mid green, 10-30 cm long, becoming progressively shorter along the flowering stems. Several cultivars are available, including white flowering, and dwarf forms. Attracts butterflies, bees, moths and hummingbirds.

Liatris spicata has numerous synonyms, including Kuhnia spicata, Lacinaria spicata, Suprago spicata, and Serratula spicata.

Prefers a sunny position in any moist, but well-drained soil. Also grows well in partial shade, and, except in sandy soils, is able to cope with some drought. Cut back to near ground level after flowering. Can be propagated by dividing the tuberous roots in early spring. Frost hardy.

Looks best when planted in groups in the middle of borders, in particular when combined with plants that have different flower shapes, such as daisies, Echinacea, and dahlias. Suitable for coastal gardens. Long-lasting cut flower, and can be dried too.

libertia-peregrinans

Libertia peregrinans

mikoikoi; New Zealand iris; creeping iris

Evergreen herbaceous perennial, endemic to New Zealand, named after Dutch botanist Madame Libert. The specific epithet 'peregrinans' is derived from the Latin word for 'to wander', and alludes to the fact that Libertia peregrinans spreads via rhizomes from which new leaves emerge. Stiff, upright foliage, arranged in fans. In full sun, the leaves are predominantly orange in colour, intensifying during the colder months. In partial shade they are olive green with shades of orange or copper, and in full shade the foliage is green. Flowering in spring with panicles of white flowers, 1-3 cm across, followed by green barrel-shaped capsules, gradually turning orange, yellow or black.

Libertia peregrinans used to be widespread in New Zealand along the coast and margins of swamps, but has declined due to changes in (and/or loss of) its natural habitat. Is is however very common in cultivation.

A position in full sun is best for the brightest foliage colour, but will also grow happily in partial shade. Any well-draining soil. Tolerates wind and dry conditions. Suitable for coastal gardens. Very easy to propagate by means of division. Frost-hardy to about -12 deg Celsius (Zones 8-10).

Looks great when planted in groups, making a bold, bright statement, in particular during winter. Libertia peregrinans spreads easily by itself, so if you wish to contain it in a particular area in your garden, make sure you remove the new tufts of leaves (including their roots)  that spring up at various distances from the mother plant.

ligularia-japonicum-aureo-maculata

Ligularia japonicum 'Aureo-maculata'

leopard plant, spotted leopard plant

Evergreen mound-forming perennial to 60 cm tall and wide. Large, 15-25 cm wide, glossy dark green, rounded, undulating leaves with yellow spots. Yellow daisy-like flowers in clusters during autumn, rising above the foliage.

Synonyms: Farfugium japonicum 'Aureo-maculata', Ligularia tussilaginea 'Aureomaculata'.

Best in a partially shaded position where it receives some morning sunlight, but also grows well in deep shade.

 

ligularia-japonicum-giganteum-leaves

Ligularia japonicum 'Giganteum'

tractor seat plant

Clump forming plant with large, leathery, glossy leaves on long stalks. Often referred to as tractor seat plant in New Zealand because the leaves have the same shape and nearly the same size as the metal seats of vintage tractors. Long flowering stems with panicles of yellow daisy-like flowers during late summer or autumn. All parts are poisonous. Hardy to -18oC. Tolerates drier conditions than many other Ligularia species, but even with adequate moisture leaves may wilt if the position is too sunny.

Synonyms: Ligularia reniformis, Ligularia tussilaginea, Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum, Farfugium reniforme.

liquidambar-styraciflua

Liquidambar styraciflua

(American) sweetgum, sweet gum, sweet-gum, (American) redgum, hazel pine, sapgum, bilsted, satin walnut, starleaf-gum

Large deciduous tree with a broadly conical outline. Native to southeastern United Sates, Mexico and Central America. Maple-like leaves, 7-13 cm wide, with 5 to 7 lobes and toothed margins. Spectacular autumn foliage display in shades of burgundy, red, orange and yellow. Inconspicuous greenish flowers in spring. Pendent, spiny, spherical fruits are produced by mature trees. These are green initially, turning dark brown later, and persist on the tree well after the leaves have fallen. Commercial hardwood in the US. The genus name refers to the resin exuding from the tree when wounded. Several cultivars are available with various growth habits and autumn colours.

Suitable for a sunny or partially shady, and reasonably sheltered position in any, preferably neutral to acidic soil. Copes well with less than ideal drainage. The photograph of the tree-outline in winter was taken near a stream in an area that occasionally floods. Leaves turning yellow between the veins may be an indication that the soil is too alkaline (in particular when it is also lacking in organic matter).

Striking shade tree with brilliant autumn foliage. Attractive when in fruit, especially after the leaves have fallen, but fruit litter may be a problem where Liquidambar styraciflua is planted on the lawn, next to foot paths or near gutters. There are non-fruiting cultivars, such as 'Rotundiloba'.

liquidambar-styraciflua

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Gumball'

Cultivar of Liquidambar styraciflua, growing into a dense, multi-stemmed shrub, but is usually grafted on a .6-1.8 m long standard, forming a small 'lollipop' tree with a dense, rounded canopy. Mid green, maple-like leaves to about 12 cm long. Leaves persist for a long time and turn shades of yellow, orange, red and burgundy before falling in winter. Inconspicuous greenish flowers in spring. On the species itself these flowers develop into spiny, spherical, green fruit during autumn. 

Prefers a sunny position, but tolerates partial shade. Suitable for a wide range of soil types, including sand and clay soils. Performs best in well-draining soil, but tolerates wet conditions. Usually forms a ball-shaped canopy with little or no pruning, but can be pruned in winter. Frost-hardy (zones 5-11).

Gorgeous focal point tree for small spaces. Makes a good container specimen for your patio. Lush spring and summer foliage, and lovely autumn colours.

liriope-muscari

Liriope muscari

lilyturf, big blue lilyturf, border grass, monkey grass

Evergreen, clump-forming, herbaceous perennial, native to East Asia, where it occurs as an under-story plant in forests. Glossy, dark green, grass-like, arching leaves. Flowering in summer and autumn with small purple flowers, tightly packed in erect spikes. They resemble the flowers of the grape hyacinth, Muscari, hence the specific epithet. Fibrous roots, often with small tubers. Several cultivars are available, including a white flowering form and a variegated cultivar.

Liriope muscari prefers a sheltered position in partial or full shade, and any well-draining soil. Tolerates sun, drought, and coastal conditions. If leaves turn brown in winter, they can be cut back (or mowed) before the new foliage appears. To propagate, divide the plant and replant straight away. Generally disease-free. Hardy to about -15 deg C.

Excellent choice for under-planting en masse. Neat edging and ground cover plant. Suitable for containers. Combine e.g. with lime-green foliage plants, ferns, spring-flowering bulbs, or hostas.

lobelia-erinus-lucia-dark-blue

Lobelia erinus

edging lobelia, garden lobelia, trailing lobelia, bedding lobelia, annual lobelia

Dainty herbaceous perennial, native to South Africa, flowering from spring to autumn with small blue to violet, pale-centered flowers in loose panicles, fine stems and tiny leaves.  Flowers are 1-2 cm across, and have five-lobed corollas with three larger and two smaller lobes. Lower leaves are oval in shape, 1-3 cm long, often flushed with a reddish-purple tinge, and have toothed margins. Leaves on flowering stems are linear, and usually have an entire margin. Many cultivars are available, with a trailing or upright habit, and flower colours ranging from shades of purple and blue, to pink, cerise, and white. Pictured here is Lobelia erinus 'Lucia Dark Blue', a trailing variety with gorgeous sky-blue flowers.

Prefers a sunny position (partially shaded in areas with hot summers) in well-draining soil. Looks best when the weather is cool, but usually stops flowering during summer when temperatures become too high. If that happens to your plants, you can cut them back to encourage another flush of flowers later in the season. Lobelia erinus 'Lucia Dark Blue' is more heat tolerant than many other varieties. For best performance, apply compost and fertiliser once a year. Fertilise container plants once a month. Suitable for coastal areas. Tolerates light frosts, and in colder climates Lobelia erinus is generally grown as an annual.

Trailing varieties are particularly attractive when allowed to spill over the edges of containers, window boxes and hanging baskets. Upright varieties make great edging plants and colourful additions to rock gardens.

lophomyrtus-ralphii-kathryn

Lophomyrtus x ralphii 'Kathryn'

'Kathryn' is one of several cultivars of Lophomyrtus x ralphii, a hybrid of the New Zealand native species Lophomyrtus bullata (ramarama) and Lophomyrtus obcordata (rohutu). Leaves are oval, 1-2 cm long, puckered, deep purplish red with green. Creamy white flowers during summer, 1 cm across, followed by reddish purple berries.

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in well-drained soil. Tolerates moderate frosts. Responds well to clipping.

Attractive contrasting plant. Widely used for hedging purposes. Foliage suitable for floral art.

lophomyrtus-ralphii-red-dragon

Lophomyrtus x ralphii 'Red Dragon'

Evergreen shrub with small pointed, textured leaves, pinkish red when young, maturing to burgundy red, intensifying to blackish red in winter. White flowers in summer, to 1 cm across, followed by dark red berries. 'Red dragon' is one of several cultivars of Lophomyrtus x ralphii, a hybrid of the New Zealand native species Lophomyrtus bullata (ramarama) and Lophomyrtus obcordata (rohutu).

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in any well-drained, fertile soil. Avoid very dry or exposed sites. Tolerates moderate frosts, but may need some frost protection when young. Responds well to clipping.

Brilliant, fine-textured foliage plant. Excellent for hedging purposes. Cut stems are suitable for floral art.