Plant Guide

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Flower display


Salvia elegans

pineapple sage

Herbaceous perennial or evergreen sub-shrub in the Lamiaceae family, native to Mexico and Guatemala. Light to mid green, soft downy, toothed leaves, arranged in pairs, with a stong pineapple scent. Four-angled stems, often becoming woody at their base. Spikes to about 20 cm long, with whorls of bright scarlet red, tubular flowers 3 to 5 cm long, during late summer and autumn. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Flowers and leaves are edible, and are used for example in fruit salads and drinks.

Prefers a sheltered position in full sun and well-draining soil. Leaves may droop during dry periods, but the plant is reasonably drought-hardy and will usually recover after watering. Tolerates poor soils, partial shade, and moderate frosts (USDA zones 8-10). May require staking in exposed areas. Cut back to near ground level after flowering, and bring indoors to overwinter in cold climates, or, in warmer regions, wait for it to come back in spring. In frost-free zones, or areas with light to moderate frosts, you can treat this  as an evergreen shrub, pruning in winter to maintain a well-shaped, compact plant. 

Salvia elegans is a fast-growing plant with a brilliant flower colour and fresh green leaves. Great addition to herb gardens, but will quickly grow into quite a tall shrub, so plant behind smaller growing herbs. In flower borders, combine this with other bright colours, such as warm oranges, yellows and reds to create a dramatic scene of hot colours. In combination with plants that have bold flower shapes such as dahlias, sunflowers, and Echinacea, Salvia elegans flowers add a touch of daintiness.


Salvia farinacea

mealy sage, mealy cup sage

Herbaceous perennial, native to Mexico and parts of the USA, flowering profusely during summer and autumn. Erect, four-angled stems. Ovate to lance-shaped, mid to grey green leaves with entire or lobed margins. Two-lipped, five-lobed, blue flowers tightly packed in spikes. The common name refers to the powdery white felt on the stems and the calyx of the flowers. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Several cultivars available in shades of blue, purple, and white.

Prefers a position in full sun or part shade and any well-drained soil. Tolerates poor soils. Indoors it likes good light, but some protection from full sun during the hottest part of the day. Reasonably drought tolerant. May become leggy in wet soils. Cut back after flowering. Tolerates light frosts, and is often grown as an annual in cooler climates. Generally trouble-free, but is susceptible to downy and powdery mildew.

Salvia farinacea looks spectacular when planted in groups against a contrasting background. You can create striking colour combinations with yellow or orange flowering plants, or a more traditional look with pinks and whites. Taller cultivars are suitable for cutting and can also be dried.

Salvia leucantha

Salvia leucantha

Mexican bush sage; velvet sage

Shrub white, woolly stems and narrow, dull green, wrinkled leaves. Very free-flowering with spikes of violet purple flowers during summer and autumn. Cut back to near ground level in winter to keep the plant bushy. Native to Mexico and tropical America.


Salvia uliginosa

bog sage

Fast growing, herbaceous, evergreen perennial, native to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. Four-ribbed stems with somewhat sticky, lanceolate, toothed leaves. Azure blue with white, two-lipped flowers, 2 cm long, in whorls arranged in spikes, during summer and autumn.

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in any type of soil. Really likes moist soils, but tolerates, and usually spreads less vigorously in, dry conditions. Generally disease-free. Cut back to near ground level after flowering. Spreads by means of underground runners. Keep an eye on these and remove them where they are not wanted. Tolerates moderate frosts. Frost-hardy throughout New Zealand.

Reaches a height of about 1.8 m in one growing season, so plant in the back of borders for a gorgeous, long-lasting display of blue. Attracts butterflies.


Scabiosa columbaria

Evergreen clump-forming perennial with basal dull green to bluish green leaves. Pincushion-shaped buds on erect stems open to blue or lavender flower heads about 5-8 cm across during spring, summer and autumn.

Prefers a well-drained, sunny position, but also tolerates shady conditions. Copes with drought and occasional high moisture levels. Very easy to grow and divide. Gradually spreads by itself without becoming invasive.

Looks fantastic when in flower, and makes a great ground cover during the rest of the year. If you happen to have a Wisteria with lavender-coloured flowers in your garden, consider under-planting it with Scabiosa columbaria to create a gorgeous composition for very early spring when both begin to flower. Scabiosa will continue flowering for a long time after that.


Scilla peruviana

giant scilla, Peruvian lily, Cubian lily, Carribean lily, Portuguese squill, hyacinth of Peru, star of Peru

Bulbous plant with basal, linear leaves (20-60cm long and 2-4cm wide) flowering during spring with starry blue, 1.5 cm wide flowers arranged in dense racemes. Foliage dies down after flowering and a brief dormant period follows in summer. Is naturalised and regarded as a weed in some parts of Australia.

Although 'peruviana' means 'from Peru', Scilla peruviana originates from South-West Europe to North-West Africa. Bulbs collected in 17th century Spain were shipped to England on a ship named 'Peru'. Carolus Clusius named the plant Hyacynthus stellatus peruanus, thinking that it came from Peru. Linnaeus continued the confusion by renaming the plant Scilla peruviana.

Scilla peruviana is still the most widely used name, but this species has been renamed Oncostema peruviana.

Prefers a sunny or lightly shaded spot in well-draining soil. Drought tolerant once established. Best planted during the dormant period in summer with the neck of the bulb just above soil level. Can be lifted, divided, and replanted, but may not produce flowers until after a year or two. Suitable for coastal gardens. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 8-10).

Stunning spring colour. In areas where heavy frosts occur, Scilla peruviana can be grown in containers and placed outside once the spring frosts are over.


Sedum spectabile

stonecrop, butterfly stonecrop, ice plant

Herbaceous perennial in the family of the Crassulaceae, native to China and Korea. Thick, fleshy, toothed leaves, 5-10 cm long, arranged in pairs or whorls. Large, 10-15 wide,   branched heads of tiny pink to rose flowers in late summer and autumn on erect, thickened, succulent stems. Several hybrids are available, such as 'Herbstfreude'='Autumn Joy' with blue-green leaves and pink flowers, darkening to bronze with age. 'Vera Jameson' has pale pink flowers and dark brown-purple foliage.

Synonym: Hylotelephium spectabile.

Requires a sunny position in well-drained soil. Intolerant of wet soils, but copes well with dry conditions. Suitable for poor soils and coastal gardens. Flowering stems may need staking later in the season. Cut stems back to ground level after flowering. By that time you can usually see the tiny rosettes of new leaves at the base of the stems. If the plant becomes too large for where it is and you would like some more elsewhere in your garden, divide it in early spring and replant the separated portions.

Sedum spectabile looks lovely when it comes back into growth during spring with a tidy clump of grey green leaves, and later on with a magnificent display of colourful flowers, opening from green buds. Combine for example with white or pale pink, late summer flowering perennials.


Solanum jasminoides

potato vine

Vigorous, fast-growing climber native to Brazil. Flowers from late spring to late autumn with clusters of small star-shaped flowers. The latter are white with yellow stamens and resemble potato plant flowers, hence the name.

May be pruned back hard, but that should not be required if pruned twice a year.

The perfect plant to quickly cover a wall, fence, or trellis, and flowers for most of the year.


Sophora molloyi 'Dragons Gold'

Stephens Island kowhai

Evergreen, low-growing, spreading shrub to 1.5-2 m with golden yellow flowers during winter. Attracts nectra-feeding birds.Tubular flowers, 3-5 cm long, appear well before flowers of other commmonly grown kowhais. Pinnately compound leaves with small leaflets.

The common name for New Zealand Sophora species is kowhai. Sophora molloyi occurs naturally in dry, exposed headlands around the southern part of the North Island of New Zealand. 'Dragons Gold' is a selection developed by Terry Hatch of Joy Plants, Pukekohe, New Zealand, and originated from seedlings grown from seed obtained from Sophora molloyi on Stephens Island. The selection was named 'Dragons Gold' in reference to the tuatara population on Stephens Island.

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in any free-draining soil. Grows somewhat slower in poor soils. Tolerates exposed sites, coastal conditions and medium frosts (hardy throughout New Zealand). Drought tolerant once established. Trim after flowering to maintain a tidy habit. Can be trained as a standard. Suitable for hedging purposes, but fewer flowers will be produced with regular trimming. Keep an eye out for caterpillars. Insecticide applications may be necessary to prevent the Kowhai moth caterpillar from defoliating the plant.



Tagetes lemmonii

Mexican marigold, mountain marigold, perennial marigold, Copper Canyon daisy

Evergreen plant in the daisy family with finely divided, pinnately compound foliage and orange-yellow flowers during most of the year, but in particular during autumn and winter. The leaves have a strong fragrance, somewhat like the scent of passionfruit (according to some the foliage smells like a combination of marigold, lemon, and mint). Oils in the plant may cause skin irritation in some people. Attracts bees and butterflies.

Discovered in Arizona by plant collectors John and Sara Lemmon in the late 1800s. Its natural habitat stretches south from Arizona down to norther Mexico. 

Tagetes lemmonii does best in a sunny position in well-draining soil. Becomes leggy when it doesn't receive enough sunlight. In very hot climates, a partially shaded position is best. Drought-tolerant, but prefers some regular irrigation. Avoid over-watering. Easy to propagate from cuttings, and can also be divided or propagated from seed. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 8-11). Although some frost damage may occur in zone 8, the plant will bounce back in spring. Trim once a year to keep the plant compact.

Tagetes lemmonii is supposed to flower in response to short days, but in my garden it has been in flower since it was large enough in spring and now, mid-summer, it is still covered with flowers. Each time I photograph this plant I am disappointed to find that the flower colour in the photo appears more yellow than orange, whereas in reality the flowers look more orange than yellow to me. The plant has a lovely, somewhat whimsical appearance.


Teucrium fruticans 'Azureum'

Evergreen shrub with grey-green foliage and blue flowers. Stems and undersides of leaves are covered with dense white hairs, giving the plant a silvery grey overall appearance. Leaves are ovate to lance-shaped, 2-3 cm long. Azure blue, two-lipped flowers, 2.5 cm long, mainly during summer. Teucrium fruticans (shrubby germander, bush germander) itself is native to Spain, Portugal, Italy and North Africa, and has pale lilac flowers.

Prefers a sunny position in well-drained soil. Tolerates poor soils, dry conditions and medium frosts. Suitable for coastal plantings. 

Mainly grown for its attractive silvery colour, which forms a beautiful contrast with the deep blue flowers. Can be pruned to any shape. A regular prune is a good idea since otherwise growth is somewhat lax, and its young foliage looks better than the older leaves.



Teucrium hircanicum 'Purple Tails'

Cultivar of the Iranian wood sage or Caucasian germander, a clump-forming sub-shrub with soft, downy stems and leaves, native to western Asia and the Caucasus region.Teucrium hircanicum 'Purple Tails' has oblong to ovate leaves in opposite pairs, 5-10 cm long, with rounded teeth along the margins, and a somewhat wrinkly upper surface. Reddish purple flowers appear during early summer, tightly packed in long spikes, 15-30 cm long, gradually opening and colouring up from the base of the inflorescence. 

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in any well-draining soil. Does not like wet feet. Cut back after flowering to keep compact. The stems can become relatively floppy and get blown about in the wind, so unless planted in a sheltered position, some support may be required. Self-seeds.

Dramatic display of vertical spikes in stunning colours set off beautifully by the mid green foliage. Looks great in groups in the middle or the back of borders. Makes a lovely combination with the dark reddish purple young foliage of Hebe 'Pretty in Pink'. Alternatively, combine with other purple-flowering plants and an occasional yellow highlight. Select plants with contrasting flower shapes.

Tibouchina urvilleana

Tibouchina urvilleana

glory bush, princess flower

Bushy shrub or small tree with rounded crown, reaching 3-5m tall. Rich purple flowers 5 to 7 cm across, emerging from reddish, hairy buds during late summer and autumn. Slightly hairy, oblong to ovate leaves, 5 to 10 cm long, with conspicuous veins. Reddish and hairy young stems. Native to Brazil. Frost tender when young. Tolerates light to medium frosts when established. Needs protection from strong winds. Synonyms: Tibouchina semidecandra and Lasiandra semidecandra.


Trachelium caeruleum

thoatwort, blue throatwort

Herbaceous perennial originating from the Mediterranean region with toothed, oval leaves, and small purple, slightly scented flowers in domed clusters (8-15 cm wide) during summer. The common name alludes to the fact that the plant was thought to have medicinal powers and used as a gargle for sore throats.

Prefers a sunny position in any well-draining, fertile soil. Although Trachelium caeruleum prefers an average supply of moisture, it can handle quite dry conditions. Cut back after flowering. Self-seeds readily and flowers in its first year from seed. Usually pest and disease free. Lasts for about 2 weeks as a cut flower. Flowers are ready for picking when 1/4 to 1/3 of the florets are open. Tolerates light-medium frosts (to about -7 deg Celsius, zones 9-11). Often grown as an annual in colder climates. Suitable for coastal gardens.

In the photo Trachelium caeruleum is growing in a pot together with Agapanthus, resulting in a beautiful colour combination when both are flowering at the same time. Trachelium is also suitable for the flower border, and looks great in combination with either yellow (e.g. dahlias and yarrow) or red flowering plants (e.g. Rosa 'Flowercarpet red'). Great for bees and butterflies!


Trachelospermum jasminoides

star jasmine, confederate jasmine, trader's compass

Evergreen, self-twining climber, native to eastern and southeastern Asia. Oval to lanceolate, glossy dark green leaves, 4-10 cm long, 2-4 cm wide, arranged in pairs. Some of the leaves turn bronze or dark to bright red in winter.  Flowering during late spring and summer with clusters of very fragrant, white, pinwheel-shaped flowers to 2 cm across.

Synonym: Rynchospermum jasminoides.

Plant in any well-drained soil. Flowers best in full sun, but copes well with partial or even deep shade.Tolerates relatively dry conditions once established. Suitable for exposed, coastal areas. Generally free from serious pests and diseases.Tolerates moderate frosts to about -120C. 

Versatile plant with intensely perfumed flowers that smother the plant from late spring. Climbs happily against support structures, and can be espaliered. Will not cling to masonry walls. Suitable as a ground cover, but may need regular pruning to maintain a tidy look. Also when growing Trachelospermum jasminoides as a climber, a yearly prune is recommended to keep the plant bushy. Also suitable as an indoor plant.