Plant Guide

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Sunny

clianthus-maximus

Clianthus maximus

kaka beak, kowhai ngutu-kaka

Evergreen shrub, endemic to New Zealand, but rare in the wild. The pinnately compound, 15-25 cm long leaves resemble those of another New Zealand native plant, the kowhai (Sophora species). Drooping, 8 cm long, red flowers, shaped somewhat like the New Zealand native parrot's (kaka's) beak. May flower at any time during the year, but most  specimens flower during spring or summer. The photo was taken in early spring. Green, pea-like seed pods. 

Clianthus maximus is similar to Clianthus puniceus, and for a long time was treated as a variety of the latter. Also sold as Clianthus 'Kaka King'. Compared to Clianthus puniceus, Clianthus maximus has larger flowers and leaves, and its foliage is glossy and darker green.

Prefers an open sunny position in well-draining, fertile soil. Not tolerant of very wet, waterlogged conditions, but tolerates dry soils once established. When growing conditions are not ideal, Clianthus maximus is susceptible to a range of pests, including caterpillars, slugs, snails, leaf miners and thrips. The shrub tends to have an open habit, in particular when not grown in full fun, so prune regularly to keep the plant compact. Tolerates light to medium frosts. Suitable for coastal gardens and exposed sites. Can be short-lived, and may need to be replaced after 3-5 years. Easy to propagate from cuttings or seed.

Attractive, fast growing, New Zealand native plant with gorgeous flowers in large clusters. Can be trained as a climber or espaliered.

colchicum-autumnale

Colchicum autumnale

Autumn crocus, naked ladies, meadow saffron

Herbaceous perennial with narrow strap-shaped leaves, flowering in autumn with lilac crocus-like flowers (5-8 cm wide). The leaves appear in spring and die down before the flowers emerge. All parts are poisonous on ingestion and contact with the skin may cause irritations.

Originally from Central and South-East Europe, Colchicum autumnale is naturalised in many countries, including New Zealand. Although the flowers look very similar to those of the Crocus, Colchicum autumnale and Crocus belong to different plant families and are only distantly related in a genetic sense. Apart from a difference in flowering time, you can also tell them apart by the fact that a crocus has three stamens and an autumn crocus has six.

Prefers a sunny, sheltered position in well-draining soil. Poor drainage may result in corm rot. In hot climates, partial shade is best. Can be propagated by dividing the corms when they are dormant during winter. Frost hardy (zones 5-9).

Lovely for flower display in woodland gardens or in containers. When selecting a spot, consider the fact that the leaves will turn yellow and die in summer, so you may not wish to give it the prime position in your garden, but one to give you a sweet surprise when walking past in autumn. The flower stems tend to be somewhat floppy, and possibly surrounding ground-covering plants could offer support. 

convolvulus-cneorum

Convolvulus cneorum

silverbush, shrubby bindweed, silvery bindweed

Bun-shaped evergreen shrub with silvery appearance, native to the Mediterranean. Silky, grey-green leaves, covered with tiny hairs. White flower buds, flushed with pink, open to short trumpet-shaped, 4 cm wide, white flowers with yellow centers, often completely covering the plant. Flowers close at night and may only partially open on dull days. 

Convolvulus cneorum prefers a position in full sun and light, poor to moderately fertile, well draining soil. Tolerates coastal conditions, drought, and light to medium frosts. Usually free from pests and diseases. Lightly trim after flowering to keep compact. Suitable for containers.

Excellent choice for hot and dry areas. Suitable as a low, informal hedge or path edging. Combines beautifully with purples and blues. The silvery foliage looks great when planted en masse and used as a colour and shape contrast for more architectural shrubs such as dark--leafed flax cultivars, or as a shape contrast for grey, architectural plants like Astelia chathamica 'Silver spear'. 

convolvulus-sabatius-subsp-mauritanicus

Convolvulus sabatius subsp. mauritanicus

bindweed, ground morning glory, blue rock bindweed

Evergreen, trailing ground-covering plant belonging to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), native to North Africa, Spain, and Italy. Funnel-shaped blue to mauve flowers, 2.5 cm wide, appearing mainly during summer and early autumn. Flowers open and close in relation to the amount of sunlight they receive. Soft, fine-haired grey-green leaves, 1.5-3.5 cm long.

Synonym: Convolvulus mauritanicus.

Prefers a sunny position in any well-draining soil. Drought tolerant once established. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 8-10).  Trim in late winter to prevent the plant from becoming too woody. Suitable for coastal areas.

Undemanding, easy care plant that flowers profusely in summer. Looks great, trailing over walls. Not invasive (unlike the common morning glory).

coprosma-acerosa

Coprosma acerosa

sand coprosma

Low mound-forming, New Zealand native ground-cover with intertwining, brown-orange branches and very small, needle-like, olive green leaves. Blue berries are formed when plants of both sexes are present. Occurs naturally in coastal areas throughout New Zealand.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil.

Excellent ground-covering, low-maintenance plant with an unusual wiry texture that contrasts beautifully with large, shiny, and/or smooth foliage (e.g. flaxes, Astelia, Arthropodium). Great for coastal gardens and hot, dry areas.

coprosma-repens

Coprosma repens

taupata, mirror plant

Variable evergreen shrub or tree to 4-6 m tall, with oblong, thick, very shiny leaves. Leaf size varies from 6-9 cm long and 4-7 cm wide in shade to 2-3 cm long and 1.5-2 cm wide in full sun. Leaf margins may be wavy or somewhat curled under.  Like many coprosma species, the leaves have small pits (domatia) between the midvein and one or more lateral veins of the undersides. Inconspicuous female and male flowers on separate plants. On female plants, flowers are followed by bird-attracting orange-red drupes.

Occurs naturally throughout the North Island and parts of the South Island of New Zealand. Has give rise to a number of variegated cultivars.

Extremely tough plant, tolerant of very exposed coastal situations where it may become prostrate or assume gnarled and twisted shapes. Prefers full sun, but tolerates partial shade well. Copes with deep shade, but is more stretched and less compact. Intolerant of wet or waterlogged soil. Suitable for dry areas. Tolerates light frosts.

Responds well to clipping and is often used as a hedge, in particular in coastal areas.

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.

cordyline-australis

Cordyline australis

ti-kouka, cabbage tree

Tall, evergreen tree, endemic to New Zealand, with a rounded canopy consisting of large clusters of long, narrow leaves. Common throughout New Zealand in open ground, around swamps and damp places, and along forest margins. The leaves are linear with an entire margin, and up to 1 m long by 6 cm wide. They turn brown with age and remain hanging on the tree for a long time before falling, forming a skirt beneath the young green leaves. Large panicles of small, 0.5 cm wide, creamy white, strongly scented flowers are produced on mature trees in summer, attracting bees. Birds like the blue-white berries that are formed subsequently. Cordyline australis grows to about 15 m high, with an unbranched trunk when young (and undamaged), and forming side-branches in the upper part later.

The Maoris used the leaves of Cordyline australis for medicinal purposes, and the roots of young trees as a source of food. Early settlers hollowed out the trunks of large specimens to make chimneys, since the timber (unlike the foliage) is fire-resistant. They used to boil and eat young shoots as a substitute for cabbage, hence the common name. 

Prefers a position in full sun or partial shade. Likes moist soil, but can cope with considerable drought once established. Grows in just about any soil type, including clay soils as long as they are not too impermeable. Tolerates moderate frosts (to zone 8) and is hardy throughout New Zealand. Suitable for coastal and exposed sites. Caterpillars may cause some leaf damage. Stressed trees are susceptible to rust. In warm, humid areas root rot (Phytophtora) may become a problem, but can be avoided by growing other plants beneath the trees to keep their root-zones cool.

Great choice for a stunning architectural statement. Imagine a group of cabbage trees with a simple, contrasting under-planting of Muehlenbeckia astonii. You may want to plant Cordyline australis at some distance from your lawn....the lawnmower doesn't like the tough old leaves! Useful as a primary coloniser and good for erosion control on steep banks and along streambanks.

cornus-capitata

Cornus capitata

Himalayan strawberry tree, Himalayan flowering dogwood, evergreen dogwood, Bentham's cornel

Evergreen tree in the dogwood family (Cornaceae), native to the Himalayas. Dull green, ovate to lanceolate leaves with grey-green undersides, 8-12 cm long, arranged in opposite pairs. Some of the leaves may turn reddish in autumn. In areas with cold winters, Cornus capitata may behave as a deciduous or semi-deciduous tree. Flowers in late spring or early summer with insignificant central clusters, surrounded by four showy, creamy white to pale yellow bracts, 7-14 cm wide. Flowers are followed by bird-attracting, strawberry-like berries, about 3-5 cm wide. Fruit may be bitter, but is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked, or used in preserves. Naturalised in parts of Australia and new Zealand, and regarded as an environmental weed in some of these areas.

Synonyms: Benthamida capitata, Benthamia capitata, Benthamida fragifera, Benthamia fragifera, Dendrobenthamia capitata.

Prefers a sheltered, sunny or partially shaded position in well-draining, sandy soil, but can cope with other soil types, including clay soils. Likes moist conditions, but tolerates drought. Moderately frost-hardy (-5 to -10oC).

Lovely ornamental tree for flower and fruit display. The perfect tree to attract birds in your garden.

cosmos-bipinnatus

Cosmos bipinnatus

garden cosmos, Mexican aster, cosmea, Spanish needles

Tall growing, annual plant with delicate, finely divided foliage. Native to Mexico and southern USA, but naturalised in many parts of the world. Summer flowering with white, pink, or crimson, daisy-like, 8 cm wide flowers with a yellow centre. Attracts butterflies. Many cultivars have been introduced, including dwarf ones (Sonata series) that grow 30-50 cm tall.

Cosmos bipinnatus prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil.  Self-seeds and easy to propagate from seed. Pinch out the tip once the plant is about 15-20 cm tall, to encourage branching. When it reaches flowering size, the plant usually becomes somewhat top-heavy, so will need staking. Deadhead to prolong the flowering season. May suffer from grey mould, aphids, and slugs.

Cosmos is an annual plant, so it flowers, seeds set, and then dies within one year. Once you have planted this in your garden, new seedlings will appear in subsequent years (as long as you give the plants a chance to form seeds before cutting off the spent flowers). Lovely flowering plant for the middle or back of borders. Flowers last a bit more than a week on water.

cotinus-grace

Cotinus 'Grace'

smoke tree

Small deciduous, round-headed tree or large shrub with burgundy-coloured foliage and large pink 'clouds' of tiny flowers in summer. The leaves emerge wine red in spring, gradually darken during summer and finally turn scarlet red in autumn. The sap may cause skin/eye irritations.

Raised in the UK during the late 1970s, 'Grace' is a hybrid between the cultivar 'Velvet Cloak' of Cotinus coggygria (European smoke bush) and Cotinus obovatus (American smoke tree). 

Prefers a sunny position for best foliage colour. Grows in any soil-type as long as it is well-drained. Tolerates poor soil. Can withstand periods of drought once established. Vigorous when young. Responds to pruning. Frost-hardy (zones 5-10).

Beautiful plant with striking foliage colours throughout the growing season, and tiny flowers in large panicles that resemble smoke-like plumes. Use as a focal point, and repeat the foliage colour in lower-growing shrubs elsewhere in the garden.

crataegus-paul-s-scarlet

Crataegus laevigata 'Paul's Scarlet

Paul's Scarlet hawthorn

Small, deciduous tree in the rose family (Rosaceae) with thorny branches. Very showy, crimson, double flowers in spring. Alternate, glossy leaves with three-five lobes and toothed margins. Yellow and bronze autumn foliage. Discovered more than 150 years ago as a sport on a Crataegus laevigata 'Rosea Flore Pleno' plant, and introduced to the trade in 1866 by the plantsman William Paul (England).

Synonym: Crataegus laevigata 'Coccinea Plena'. Also sold as Crataegus x media 'Paul's Scarlet'.

Suitable for a sunny or partially shaded position in any well-drained soil. Crataegus laevigata 'Paul's Scarlet can handle dry conditions reasonably well once established, and is suitable for coastal gardens and windy sites. Does not require much pruning other than the removal of dead, damaged, or crossing branches in autumn or winter. Susceptible to rust, leaf spot, and blight. Frost hardy (to USDA zone 4).

Crataegus laevigata 'Paul's Scarlet' looks absolutely magnificent when smothered with frilly, rosy pink blossoms in mid spring. I just wish it would flower for a longer time! 

crocosmia-crocosmiiflora

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora

Montbretia

Perennial in the Iris family with light green, long and narrow leaves (90 x 2 cm) that spreads with underground rhizomes. Sprays of bright orange flowers held on long, thin, zig-zag stems, arising from the foliage clumps during late summer. Can become invasive in mild, wet climates as it tolerates many adverse conditions including grazing. The seeds are not a problem, since not many are produced, but the plants can multiply and spread rapidly via their corms and rhizomes. In New Zealand and some other parts of the world Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora is regarded as an environmental weed, competing with ground covering shrubs and native seedlings.

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora is a hybrid bred in France in 1880 by crossing two African species Crocosmia aurea and Crocosmia pottsii.

Prefers a sunny, sheltered spot in well-draining soil, but will adapt to most soils and tolerates partial shade, heat, and moist soils. Quite drought tolerant, but benefits from an occasional watering during exceptionally dry weather. Frost hardy (zones 5-9). In cold climates, the corms can be lifted and stored in a cool, dry place until spring. 

Easy to grow and consistently produces lots of flowers. Divide the clump after a few years to maintain vigour. Suitable for containers and cut flowers. Beautiful bright colours.

cydonia-oblonga

Cydonia oblonga

quince

Deciduous tree in the Rosaceae family, probably originating from to South-west Asia, and cultivated in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. Dull green, oval to elliptical leaves, 5-11 cm long, covered with very fine hairs. Foliage turns yellow in autumn. Flowers in spring with 5 cm wide blossoms, white and usually flushed with pink, emerging from pink flower buds in spring. Round or pear-shaped, fragrant, 9-13 cm long fruits, ripening to golden yellow in autumn. Quinces are used, among other things, to make jellies, jams, puddings, wine and cider. A number of improved cultivars have been developed, including 'Van Deman', 'Smyrna', 'Vrajna' and 'Champion', differing in growth habit, leaf size, fruit production, fruit shape, and hardiness.

Cydonia oblonga has a long history in the Middle East, and was also revered by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The 'Apple of Discord' Paris gave to Aphrodite when he was asked by Zeus to select the most beautiful woman, was a quince. He chose Aphrodite because she offered him in return the love of the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen of Sparta.

Prefers full sun and light soils. Tolerates most soil types as long as they are well-draining. Copes with less than all-day sun, but doesn't fruit well in a shady position. Requires a cold period (like apple trees, but shorter) to encourage flowering, and a warm summer for the fruits to ripen. Protect from strong winds. Self-fertile, so you only need one tree for fruit production. Prune in winter to open up the center of the tree, and train to a central leader with secondary leaders fanning out.  Without pruning and training, Cydonia oblonga tends to form an irregular tree with somewhat crooked branches from quite low to the ground. Frost hardy (zone 6).

An interesting specimen tree with gorgeous spring blossoms, and unusual, bright (but not glossy) yellow fruits weighing down the branches in autumn. For a lovely colour combination later in the growing season, plant Cydonia oblonga near shrubs with deep purple flowers in late summer and autumn, such as Salvia 'Black Knight', or blue flowers, such as Dichroa versicolor.

Delphinum (hybrid)

Delphinum (hybrid)

Clump-forming perennial with mid-green, divided foliage. Upright flower spikes in blue, purple, white and pink shades. Dormant in winter. New leaves appear in spring. Cut back the first flower stems after flowering (late spring-early summer) for a second flush of flowers during late summer-autumn. Will require staking in windy areas.