Popular Flower Types
When you walk through the plant nursery, it can feel overwhelming. But learning the different types of flowers will help you plan and grow a beautiful garden.
Focal flowers draw the eye, filler flowers add color and height, and greenery supports the arrangement.
Now that we’ve experienced the autumnal equinox (Sept. 23), the summer has ended, the days are shrinking in time, and the fall planting season has arrived.
According to weatherspark.com, the Monterey area’s wetter season extends for 5.1 months, from Nov. 6 to April 10. It could begin by mid-October. This period is the preferred time of the year to install new plants because they will have nature’s irrigation and time to establish and build their roots before spring.
I have begun the fall planting season by focusing on my irregularly shaped Australian garden bed, which is about 625 square feet. It’s one of five beds in my garden that represent the world’s dry-climate (or Mediterranean) climate areas.
The Australian bed has needed attention for two reasons: a few plants have failed, leaving gaps in the design, and other plants have flourished, creating a muddled appearance.
My first response is to add plants to fill the gaps. The follow-up response, during the dormant season, will be to prune the overgrown plants to improve their access to light and air and to separate them from adjacent plants.
A visit to the UCSC Arboretum’s offering of Australian plants, which is available at Norrie’s Gift & Garden Shop. Its website (https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/shop) includes links to UCSC’s current plant availability list and brief plant descriptions, both of which are helpful for planning garden development.
Today’s column includes photos and descriptions of the drought-tolerant plants I have added to my Australian garden bed. The photos are close-ups of the immature plants, and the descriptions are drawn from various websites.
Adding five plants to my Australian garden.
Orange Banksia (Banksia ashbyi). This plant will be a prominent element within this bed. It will grow to 12 feet in height and 12 feet in width. We have placed this plant near the center of the bed, next to a Dracaena Palm (Cordyline australis ‘Burgundy Spire’), which is already close to 12 feet high. In time, the Orange Banksia could require shaping to keep it from intruding on the palm and other plants. Online advice (Australianplants.com) warns against pruning on old wood, which “could kill the plant” so seasonal shaping should be limited to new wood.
It has serrated grey-green leaves and will produce brush-like bright orange spikes from winter to spring (probably next year).
The specific name refers to Edwin Ashby, one of the early collectors of the plant, in the 1930s.
Australian Fuchsia (Correa reflexa ‘Red Roo’). This shrub grows to 3-4 feet high and wide, will heart-shaped green leaves. It had bright red bell-shaped flowers tipped with light green tips, blooming from fall to spring. The flower form resembles that of fuchsias, but this plant is a member of the Rue plant family (Rutaceae), while Fuchsias are in the Evening Primrose family (Onagraceae). This plant has been added to a small, tear-drop-shaped bed next to the Australian bed, where it will compare with another Correa, “Ray’s Tangerine,” named for Ray Collett, the Arboretum’s original director.
Roundleaf Grevillea (Grevillea miqueliana var. Moroka). This is a fairly large shrub, expected to be 8 feet tall and wide within about five years, given its current growth. It has elliptic to egg-shaped leaves and clusters of red and orange or yellow flowers. The Australian bed already has two other Grevilleas: “King’s Celebration,” a hybrid plant about the same size as the addition, with red and white flowers; and G. lanigera “Coastal Gem,” a 1-foot tall plant with an abundance of pinkish-red and cream spidery flowers, appealing to nectar-feeding hummingbirds. The Grevillea genus, like the Banksia genus, includes a great range of plant sizes. We have placed this plant 4 feet back from the bed’s border, to provide room for it to grow without intruding on the pathway. According to xeraplants.com, this plant is from the highest elevations in the mountains of SE Australia, and is a “very rare Grevillea that is truly alpine in nature.”
Wooly Grevillea (Grevillea lanigera ‘Flora Gem’). Yet another addition of a Grevillea to this bed. The varied forms of this genus enable the gardener to include various options without creating redundancy while stopping short of building a collection. This plant might have been mislabeled by the nursery. The name is close to G. lanigera ‘Coastal Gem’ already in the garden, but the new plant doesn’t have the same low-growing form as ‘Coastal Gem.” A search of the internet does not find a Grevillea named ‘Flora Gem.’ It might be ‘Flora Mason’, with apricot-yellow-pink flowers, but we will need to see the blossoms before confirming. We have installed this ‘mystery plant’ in an open area and will continue to clarify its botanic name.
Velvet Mintbush (Prostanthera incana). Another fairly large shrub that is expected to exceed 6 feet in height and 6 feet in width. It has long, oval-shaped dull-green-to-gray leaves with a velvety appearance. It is a member of the Sage plant family (Lamiaceae) and its leaves have an aromatic scent, which is a typical feature of this plant family. It produces copious purple-to-lilac flowers in late spring and summer. We have placed this plant in an open area within the bed and might be able to prune it annually in the spring, as we have done for Salvias, also in the Sage family.
We will irrigate these newly installed plants by hand until the seasonal rains take over that duty, and anticipate their developing over the winter and blossoming in the spring. Meanwhile, as noted, we will be shaping the other plants in the Australian bed during the colder months.
We will turn our attention to other parts of the garden that could use development during the fall planting season. We will look for plants that haven’t been doing well and should be replaced and for gaps in the landscape.
Enjoy the fall planting season!
Mark your garden calendar
The California Native Plant Society, Santa Cruz County Chapter, has announced its fall plant sale, to be held at the UCSC Arboretum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14. As is frequently true, arrive early to have access to the widest variety of plants. This year, the sale will be open to all — there will be no early entry for CNPS members only. Details to follow.
The American Horticultural Society has announced its AHS Lifelong Learning Program for the Fall of 2023 and the Winter of 2024. The program consists of virtual presentations by notable garden specialists. The next programs upcoming in this series include the following:
Land Development and Landscape Stewardship, with Scott Plein, Principal, Equinox Investments, Thursday, Oct. 12, 10-11 a.m.
Designing with Nature, with Marie Chieppo, EcoPlantPlans, Wednesday, Oc. 18, 7-8 p.m.
This program has fees posted at $15 per presentation. To review information on these and future programs, and to register, visit ahsgardening.org/lifelong-learning.
Tom Karwin is a past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and the Monterey Bay Iris Society, a past president and Lifetime Member of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). He is now a board member of the Santa Cruz Hostel Society, and active with the Pacific Horticultural Society. To view photos from his garden, https://www.facebook.com/ongardeningcom-566511763375123/ . For garden coaching info and an archive of On Gardening columns, visit ongardening.com for earlier columns or visit www.santacruzsentinel.com/ and search for “Karwin” for more recent columns. Email comments or questions to email@example.com.