January 2022

On the flower farm the first flower of every crop is greeted with a little celebration and this simple act of pausing to appreciate a single bloom makes my heart sing every time. This week’s new arrivals are perennials so fingers crossed, we will be able to enjoy them for many years to come: 

  • Obedient Plant or Physostegia virginiana. So called because you can move the florets around the stem and they remain in position. Be warned, it is a member of the mint family so needs to be kept in check. It does however make an excellent cut flower.
  • Veronica. I planted both white and pink, and while the white is strong, beautiful and lush, the pink is short and stumpy. Thankfully the white is very useful at this time of the year and is a great wedding bouquet filler.
  • Echinacea ‘White Swan’. Whereas the species form of echinacea has the recognisable purple petals, this one has white petals making it an elegant addition to a white and green bouquet with ammi or Queen Anne’s lace, white cosmos and some white phlox. When the petals are passed their best, simply pluck them off to leave the spiky orange central ball, achingly stylish in a small ceramic vase. Or hang the stems upside down to dry.
Veronica Echinacea White Swan Obedient Plant

Taking the time to pause is a challenge for most gardeners as we juggle an ever-growing list of jobs. The temptation can be to work, work work, without stopping to smell the roses. As it happens, my roses have been delightful this year and I think others have had the same experience due to the long cool spring which meant that the first flush seemed to last forever. In addition to the beautifully scented David Austin roses, I have been growing several varieties expressly to fit the colour briefs of today’s brides. Think dusty pinks, coffee tones and mustards. Roses such as Honey Dijon, Soul Sister and Spiced Coffee are excellent for these designs although I am finding that the fashionable colours are not necessarily the toughest and most disease resistant plants so would encourage you to be mindful of this when choosing the next rose for your garden.

Now is an excellent time to select bare root roses for planting in winter. A great summer day out is to visit a rose grower such as Wagners in South Australia or Treloar in Victoria. Here you can see the roses when they are in bloom which makes colour selection much more engaging than looking at an image in a catalogue or on a computer screen. The only problem of course is that you might have a tough time narrowing down your selection. I do think that roses are making a comeback, particularly the garden roses (although Christine reminds me that for many of us, they have never gone out of fashion). Floret has written a series of blog posts on her roses which you can enjoy here:

The other January activity I enjoy when forced inside on scorching hot days like we have been having recently is to review my tulip order for Autumn planting. The big tulip growers (many based in Tasmania) released their 2022 catalogues a while ago and some bulbs remain but be quick, the tulip harvest this year has been disappointing and stocks are lower than normal. I have had the best experience over a number of years with VDQ (or Van Diemen). Their bulbs are large which results in longer stems and bigger flowers, and they always arrive in excellent condition. I know it takes a mental jump to think about spring blooms but the early bird does catch the worm! If this is too much for you to handle, I will be putting tulip bulbs for sale on my website later in the year. Wherever you source your bulbs, remember to check the expected stem length. You really want 50cm or more for cut flower use although I can never resist a parrot tulip regardless of its short stature.

No newsletter would be complete without a few words on the fashionable dahlia. In gardens and flower farms across the country, dahlias have been breaking ground, shooting up and unfurling those early flowers to the delight of their owners. On the flower farm, we left a patch of dahlia tubers undug and so have enjoyed a small but steady stream of flowers since early November. Our premise was that un-lifted tubers would flower earlier than lifted, divided and replanted tubers. This has proved to be the case and we will definitely repeat the experiment next year. As all our dahlia plants are getting bigger, it’s an almost daily job to tie them to their stakes and then corral the outer stems so they don’t break in the wind. This also helps ensure the flowers bloom on long straight stems which are good for cutting.

This week’s favourites have been:

  • Winkie Cinnamon
  • African sun
  • Cafe au lait
  • Bushfire
  • Cornflake


January Jobs

  • Choose bareroot roses
  • Order tulips
  • Tie up dahlias
  • Water in advance of hot spells
  • Stop to smell the roses

To read more about January at The Oaks, the home of Christine McCabe in the Adelaide Hills, click here

To learn more about our Summer / Autumn Workshop Schedule click here for Robe and here for The Oaks

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