Skimmia

Skimmia
Skimmia japonica

I was in Christchurch recently for a family event and saw this plant – well I smelled it first. It is Skimmia japonica, a very attractive shrub with these fragrant flowers and handsome foliage. Sounds as though it might grow in the north so I will try some cuttings. I have never seen it for sale up here. This plant might have bright red berries in the autumn. Although some skimmias are hermaphrodite others are dioecious – separate male and female – and need both present to set berries.

Perfume
Skimmia japonica

Abutilons

The Abutilons are making a great show of colour in the garden right now.

Abutilons
Eight Abutilon varieties

The selection of varieties and different colours available has greatly increased in recent years. I haven’t grown them before but along with the bees am really appreciating their glamour in the winter garden. They are quite vigorous growers so I can see some judicious pruning will have be done once they finish flowering in early summer.

Vireya Rhododendrons

Vireya Rhododendron
Marshall Pierson Madison

I grow a lot of Vireyas. They are temperamental plants, prone to sudden death. Generally this is caused by Phytophthora soil born diseases which is helped in its destructive action by excess moisture which is a bit hard to avoid in Northland. However many varieties seem to be much less susceptible than others and I have many growing well and flowering brilliantly. Here is “Marshal Pierce Madison”, grown from cutting, flowering for the first time – you can see two more fat buds ready to take the place of this huge scented flower when it falls. It makes persevering with these tricky plants worthwhile.

French Vanilla

Although I do feel very sad when I see this good sized “French Vanilla” dying. As soon as the leaves start drooping slightly you know there is no going back. This plant has flowered several times in the last three years and has made considerable growth – how dare it die! Covered in buds too!

Spraying with Foscheck is said to help stop the spread of phytophthora root rots. Perhaps I left my spraying a little late this autumn.

Justicia aurea

Justicia aurea
Justicia aurea

Also known as Yellow Jacobinia, this plant shines a golden glow in the late autumn early winter. Grows in sun or shade and unless cut back can reach up to 2-3 meters but becomes straggly and untidy unless growing through other plants. Given a hard cut back after flowering the foliage on the regrowth remains attractive all year. Easily propagated from cuttings or rooted off shoots.

These young plants are probably not doing as well as they should—too wet perhaps.

Yellow
Justicia aurea