Autumn weather is heralded by the first delicate blooms of Camellia sasanqua. Since their introduction to the west in the 19th Century these hardy natives of Japan and China have become one of the most popular of autumn flowering shrubs.
There are tall bushy and pillar types, short stocky and miniature varieties, weeping and trailing types in a variety of flower forms and shades.
These dense, tidy evergreens flower abundantly over a long period and some are delightfully fragrant. C. sasanqua is tolerant of poorer soils and deep shade but can also withstand full sun if kept moist and sheltered.
They enjoy the same conditions as azalea and rhododendron. Mulch to keep their roots cool and moist. Water regularly especially when young.
Dry summer conditions may result in poor flowering. Slow release fertilisers and those high in potash and phosphorous will promote flowering if spread around their base in late summer and autumn.
They also respond tø dolomite lime and epsom salts but avoid garden lime as they demand a neutral to slightly acid soil. Use a complete fertiliser high in nitrogen in spring and early summer to promote growth.
Alternatively, use a special acid fertiliser especially suited to camellias. C. sasanqua makes an excellent container plant. Because they are so easily pruned to any shape many varieties are trained as espaliers to cover a pergola, wall or fence.
They are sometimes transformed into topiaries and standards. For something really special try growing C. sasanqua as a lovely flowering hedge.
Plectranthus vertendahili, better known as the Burgundy Ivy or Brazilian Coleus is a trailing perennial of the mint family that should be grown more often in the sheltered or frost free garden. It is closely related to both coleus and salvias.
The bright, fragrant, velvety foliage is backed in purple or a port wine shade.
The plants are highlighted in autumn with delicate spikes of mauve or white flowers that resemble miniature snapdragons or linaria. Burgundy Ivy is a fast growing, dense groundcover suitable for semi shade where little else will grow and flower.
The sprawling stems will climb to 1m. in shade but will hug the ground in sunny, moist sites where the foliage turns almost chartreuse.
It can be used to hold banks and makes an excellent trailing plant for walls, baskets, window boxes, under trees, in the fernery, or indoors. Plectranthus makes a beautiful groundcover around Camellia sasanqua as the two often start flowering at the same time in autumn.
Regular watering and liquid feeding will keep Plectranthus growing strongly. Cuttings taken now will strike quickly in a mix of sand and potting soil.
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