Out & About

Apologies for the lack of regular posts recently but this year’s Tauranga Arts Festival absorbed a lot of my energy and intelligence – so much so that last week (the week after the festival finished) I found myself doing some odd things as my brain decided to have some R&R!

So it’s been nice to visit a couple of lovely Tauranga area gardens in the last fortnight and meet some new (to me) plants.

Lewisia cotyledon is a succulent native to southern Oregon and northern California. Photo: Sandra Simpson

First up is the very pretty succulent Lewisia cotyledon (also known as Siskiyou Lewisia) which grows in rocky, subalpine habitat in its native setting. Don’t feed it too much and give it a free-draining situation, particularly for winter, and it will do well in most situations. And because of where it’s found in the wild, it’s a good plant for rockeries or stone walls – see some lovely photos on the website of Ashwood Nurseries in the UK.

A member of the so-called bitterroot family, Lewisia cotyledon was among the 178 plant species collected by Meriwether Lewis in the early 19th century as he explored the western United States with his partner William Clark and a group of army volunteers. The bitterroot name came from the fact that although the root of L. rediviva is edible, it’s very bitter until it’s been cooked thoroughly. The plant gave its name to Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains, Bitterroot River, and Bitterroot Valley – and is the official state flower.

Throughout the more than 4,000-mile (6437km) journey, Lewis recorded, pressed and preserved some 240 different plant species and took them back to Washington DC, along with hundreds of animal and bird skins and skeletons. Read more about Lewis and his botany, and/or watch an interview here.

In New Zealand, Egmont Seeds stock Lewisia Elise, part of the same family.

Parochetus communis is also known as blue oxalis or shamrock pea. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This gardener has some very unusual oxalis plants (all potted) so although this isn’t strictly speaking an oxalis (it’s a creeper), its leaf form means it fits well with the collection. Parochetus communis is native to the mountains of Asia and tropical Africa and although this gardener has it in a pot, the plant has been naturalised in New Zealand since 1944.

In the second garden I was pointed in the direction of Podophyllum ‘Kaleidoscope’, a rare and unusual large-leafed plant with a secret underneath – crimson-black flowers!

Growing this plant in shade enriches its leaf markings. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Podophyllum is a deciduous woodland plant that prefers moist, free-draining soils rich in organic material (this gardener has it in a pot). Protect from frosts. There is one species from eastern North America and five from Asia.

The dramatic flowers hang underneath the equally dramatic leaves. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read a great blog entry about Padophyllums by Dan Heims, president and guiding spirit behind Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc, writing for the Pacific Horticulture Society (US).