Plant Guide

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Shrub

coprosma-kirkii-variegata

Coprosma x kirkii 'Variegata'

Variegated cultivar of the natural hybrid Coprosma x kirkii, a New Zealand native, ground covering plant. The tiny leaves are green with a cream margin, resulting in a grey overall appearance. Tough, mat-forming, woody plant.

Prefers a sunny or lightly shaded position in any well-draining soil. Drought-tolerant once established. Suitable for coastal or exposed conditions. Good for erosion control on banks. Frost hardy to about -12 deg Celsius. Requires very little attention other than an occasional trim to keep the plant low and dense.

In my city Coprosma x kirkii 'Variegata' is a popular ground covering plant in public spaces, such as gardens of car parks, where it is successfully used to form a dense, tidy looking, light grey mat that helps to keep the weeds down, thus reducing maintenance requirements.

daphne-odora-alba

Daphne odora 'Alba'

Compact evergreen shrub with deep green foliage and highly fragrant white flowers in late winter. Narrow, leathery leaves to 8 cm long. Waxy flowers in clusters of about 4 cm wide.

Prefers slightly-acid soil and a sheltered, partially shaded position with protection from hot afternoon sun. Copes with shade. The soil must be well-draining to prevent rootrot. You could raise the planting bed to improve drainage if necessary. No pruning required other than a light tip prune once a year.

Choose a position where you can enjoy the exquisite perfume, e.g. near the entrance to your house, next to paths, beneath the bathroom window, or grow in a container and move it when in flower to where you like. Great for woodland gardens.

Daphne odora is susceptible to non-treatable virus diseases that may cause yellowing, mottling and distortion of the leaves, so make sure to start with a healthy plant with deep green foliage. Avoid working the soil around the shrub as much as possible; daphnes don't like their roots disturbed. 

dodonaea-viscosa

Dodonaea viscosa

akeake, hopbush, hopseed, hopwood, soapwood, sticky hopbush

Variable, evergreen shrub or small tree, occurring naturally in coastal and lowland forests throughout the North Island, the northern part of the South Island of New Zealand, and the Chatham Islands. Also found in southern Africa, tropical America, the Pacific Islands, and throughout Australia. Alternate, linear to lanceolate, pale to mid-green, sticky leaves, 4-10 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. Tiny creamy yellow, usually unisexual flowers in spring, with male and female flowers borne mostly on separate trees. In summer, female flowers are followed by conspicuous, 1-2 cm wide, winged seed capsules. These capsules are pale yellow, gradually turning reddish brown, starting from the edges of the wings. Attractive red-brown bark, peeling in stringy flakes. Very tough wood, black with white streaks.

Prefers a sunny or semi-shaded position in well-draining soil. Tends to become leggy when light levels are too low. Tolerates light to moderate frosts (zone 9), coastal conditions, dry soils, and strong winds. Does not tolerate wet soils. Prune regularly and lightly to keep compact. Responds to trimming for hedging purposes.

Versatile, fast-growing plant. Dodonaea viscosa can be grown as a specimen tree by gradually removing the lower branches, showing off the bark and developing an interesting, irregular crown, shaped by the wind in exposed situations. Although predominantly used as a foliage plant, a tree laden with seed capsules is a sight to behold. Excellent choice for a hedge, in particular in coastal areas, and when alternated with other hedging plants. Also makes a good filler or backdrop for lower-growing shrubs with different textures and/or foliage colours. 

dodonaea-viscosa-purpurea

Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea'

purple akeake

Purple-bronze cultivar of Dodonaea viscosa, originally discovered in the early 1890s on a riverbank in Marlborough in New Zealand. Grows into a small bushy tree or shrub up to 4 m tall and 2 m wide. Narrow-obovate to narrow-elliptic leaves, 4-10 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. The purple leaf colour intensifies during the colder months. Flowers are arranged in terminal panicles to 4 cm long, purplish red, and mostly bisexual. (The species itself produces dull yellow unisexual flowers, usually on separate plants.) Flowers are followed by much larger, winged, purplish red seed capsules in summer. Red-brown, stringy bark. 

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in free-draining soil. Suitable for dry, exposed, and coastal sites. Tolerates light to moderate frosts (zone 9). Intolerant of very wet soils. Soft growth responds well to trimming, but avoid pruning old wood. Lower branches can be removed to create a clear-trunk. Leaf colour is better when planted in poor soil.

Makes an interesting specimen tree with attractive bark, beautiful purple foliage, reddish purple seed capsules and, in particular in very windy areas, an irregularly shaped canopy. Excellent choice for hedging purposes in coastal gardens. Cut stems with foliage and seed capsules add an unusual dimension to floral arrangements.

duranta-erecta-geisha-girl

Duranta erecta 'Geisha Girl'

geisha girl pigeon berry

Fast growing, evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves and cascading branches. Purple-blue flowers with wrinkly white edges, mainly during summer, followed by orange-yellow berries. Poisonous leaves and berries. Attracts birds and butterflies.

Duranta repens is a synonym for Duranta erecta. The species itself is native to Southern USA, Central America, the Carribean, and South America, and has become an environmental weed in several warmer parts of the world. The newer cultivars, such as 'Geisha Girl' are thought to be less invasive.

Prefers a sunny position in any well-draining soil. Water regularly until established. Fertilise in spring with an all-purpose fertiliser. Prune after flowering to keep the plant compact. Tolerates light frost (zones 9-12). Can be trained as a standard, grown as a shrub, or trimmed as a hedge.

What a pity this shrub is so toxic! When flowering, it looks absolutely stunning.

echium-candicans

Echium candicans

pride of Madeira

Soft-wooded evergreen shrub with a sprawling habit, native to the Canary Islands and Madeira. Hairy, grey-green leaves to 20 cm long, arranged in whorls along the stems. Smaller leaves on flowering stems. Large 20-40 cm long spikes of sapphire to violet blue flowers with crimson stamens during late winter and early spring. Usually perennial, but may behave as a biennial, forming rosettes of leaves in the first year, producing flowers in the second year, and dying after flowering. Attracts bees and butterflies.

Synonym: Echium fastuosum

Prefers a sunny position in well-drained soil. Remove dead flowers and prune after flowering to keep compact. Tolerant of light frosts. Grows well in dry, exposed, and coastal conditions. 

Striking feature plant when in flower. Excellent choice for flower display in dry, sandy, seaside gardens.

escallonia-apple-blossom

Escallonia 'Apple Blossom'

Evergreen shrub with glossy, dark green, finely toothed foliage and pale pink with white, 1 cm wide flowers for 1-2 months from early summer. Attracts bees.

Escallonia 'Apple Blossom' prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in any well-draining soil. Prune to keep compact. Suitable for coastal gardens. Responds well to trimming. Frost hardy to about -12 deg. Celsius. Drought tolerant once established. Usually disease free, but may get brown scale.

Very pretty plant when in flower, but also a lovely foliage plant. Great choice for a fine-textured hedge. Not as vigorous as most other Escallonia hybrids, so requires less frequent pruning to maintain as a hedge. When intending to grow Escallonia 'Apple Blossom' as a single specimen, plant it towards the back of a border. The glossy dark green foliage is a beautiful foil for other flowering plants.

hebe-pretty-in-pink

Hebe 'Pretty in Pink"

Small, bun-shaped, evergreen shrub in the Hollywood series of hebes. Its main asset is the burgundy purple foliage during the colder months of the year. In the photo of the flowering specimen (taken mid-summer) you can see the foliage colour as it is during the rest of the year. The flower spikes are up to about 5cm long with tiny pink flowers, fading to white with age.

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in well-draining soil. Tolerates dry conditions once established. Lightly prune to maintain compactness, but avoid pruning beyond the foliage. Tolerates at least moderate frosts, and is hardy throughout New Zealand.

Looks beautiful in combination with Loropetalum chinense 'Burgundy', in particular when you add some lime green foliage to the mix. Happy in containers. Suitable for borders in front of taller growing plants. 

helichrysum-petiolare-limelight

Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight'

limelight licorice plant

Evergreen, trailing shrub in the daisy family. Behaves as a climber when given support. Woolly, lime-green, rounded to ovate leaves with entire margins, 3.5 x 3.5 cm, emitting a mild licorice scent when crushed. Rarely flowers with insignificant creamy white flowers in late summer. The South African species Helichrysum petiolare is more vigorous and has become an invasive weed in several areas of the world, including New Zealand. The cultivar 'Limelight' won the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1992.

Synonym: Helichrysum petiolare 'Aureum'.

Prefers partially shaded position in any well-drained soil. Will also grow in full sun or shade. Drought-tolerant once established. Usually pest-free, but may be affected by powdery mildew. OK for coastal gardens. Prune at any time of the year to keep tidy and compact. Tolerates light to moderate frosts of about -7 to -1 degrees Celsius (USDA zones 9-11).

Looks great when combined with dark green, bronze, or burgundy foliage. Also suitable for large containers.

iochroma-cyaneum

Iochroma cyaneum

Fast growing evergreen shrub with downy shoots and felted leaves, native to northwestern South America. Dark bluish purple tubular flowers, 6 cm long, in clusters, mainly during summer. Belongs to the nightshade family. All parts are poisonous.

Synonym: Iochroma tubulosum

Iochroma cyaneum prefers a sheltered position in full sun or partial shade. Prune in early spring. Tolerates frosts to about -7 oC once established.

Gorgeous, dark purple flowers contrasting beautifully with the mid green leaves. Plant in the back of borders for flower display during summer and as a filler or green backdrop for other plants during the rest of the year. 

kunzea-ericoides

Kunzea ericoides

kanuka, white tea tree, white manuka, burgan, tree manuka

Fast growing, evergreen shrub or small erect tree, occurring naturally in Australia and throughout New Zealand. Bright green, linear leaves, 1-2 cm long, releasing volatile oils when crushed. Small white flowers, 0.5-1 cm across, during summer. Similar to Leptospermum scoparium (manuka), but leaves are soft, whereas manuka leaves are prickly. Manuka flowers and seed capsules are larger, and the plant itself is smaller than kanuka. 

Synonyms: Leptospermum ericoides, Kunzea peduncularis.

Prefers a sunny position in any well-draining soil. Tolerates partial shade, drought, wind, poor soils, moderate frosts, and coastal conditions. Does not like wet feet. Frost-hardy throughout New Zealand. Usually free from pests and diseases. Difficult to transplant. Best planted in autumn with minimum root disturbance.

Used in revegetation projects as nurse plants, colonising open areas prior to the introduction of other plants. Under-utilised in gardens, but worth considering as a shelter tree or a specimen, planted as a solitary tree or in groups for its attractive branching pattern, vigorous growth, and profusion of flowers in summer.

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)