2019 Plants of the Month

Tibouchina urvilleana ‘Edwardsii’ - Jan/Feb 2019 Plant of the Month

This stunning shrub originates in southern Brazil. It is a slender-branched, compact species developing a short trunk topped by a bushy rounded crown and reaches 2 metres in height. The young stems are reddish and slightly hairy, turning brown later. The oval leaves are 5–10 cm long, dark green above and slightly hairy below. It produces rich purple to violet, silky flowers, 8 cm wide with purple stamens which are borne singly or in small groups. The flower buds are large, reddish and hairy.  Flowering time is late summer/autumn.  They prefer full sun or semi shade and do best in a moist/well drained soil with added organic matter and a slightly acidic to neutral ph.

The Growing Friends have plenty of stock of this spectacular, distinctive Tibouchina

Echinopsis atacamensis - March/April 2019 Plant of the Month 

The name Echinopsis - hedgehog appearance, and atacamesis - meaning from the Atacama desert region, this plant typifies the image of a cactus for many of us. A single or branched grey green columnar plant with many red spines along its' ribbed trunk, it may reach 8 metres tall over time. Creamy white and pink tipped flowers emerge along its trunk spines. Native to Bolivia and Argentina, it is used extensively there for its wood, and edible flowers and fruits. Originating from arid regions, E. atacamensis makes a statement planting in dry gardens of full sun and well drained soils. 

The Friends Nursery has just been supplied with small plants of E. atacamensis from the Botanic Gardens Melbourne, which features them in the Guilfoyle's Volcano bed. 

Camellia ‘Sophie Ducker’ - May 2019 Plant of the Month

An interesting garden addition to the japonicas and sasanquas from the camellia family is the lovely hybrid ‘Sophie Ducker’.  Originated by well-known camellian, Dr R Withers in 1998, it is named for an Australian renowned botanist and botanical historian, Dr Sophie Ducker of Melbourne University. It is a seedling of another beauty, c. pitardii ‘Our Melissa’.  The miniature elegans-form flower is 4-5 cm across, has 5-6 petals shading from pink to white and a large boss of pale pink petaloids in the centre. Leaves are dark green and matt with new growth sometimes tinged red.  It flowers in early to mid-winter. This miniature cultivar is a bushy, somewhat slow growing plant, height approx. 1.5m, suitable for pot cultivation or a semi-shaded spot in the garden.  A protected position on a balcony could also be considered.  

A number of these plants will be available at the Growing Friends Autumn Sale on 4-5 May 2019 near E Gate, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.

Stenocarpus sinuatus - June 2019 Plant of the Month

Stenocarpus sinuatus, commonly known as the Firewheel tree is a spectacular Australian rainforest tree in the Proteaceae Family. It has evergreen leaves and unusual and flamboyant circular orange and red flowers. These flowers are prized by florists and definitely have the wow factor!

It originates in tropical rainforests of Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales, but can grow in temperate zones of Melbourne. Under ideal conditions in the north it reaches 30 metres. Stenocarpus likes sunny conditions and light shade. Bees, nectar eating birds and butterflies are all drawn to it.

Some small specimens are available in the Nursery. Plant it now for future generations.

Winter Flowering Salvias - July 2019 Plants of the Month

Bringing a lovely splash of colour and much appreciated nectar for birds and lingering bees, winter flowering Salvias are just the thing to brighten up the wintery days in our gardens.

The Growing Friends sell several varieties of these Salvias, most with beautiful bright colours!  They are taller growing, around 1.5 to 2+ metres and all are from South America which means they will need protection from heavy frosts and prefer to be out of the hottest summer sun.

Salvia gesneriiflora ’Tequila’ is certainly a cheery sight, with bright orange/red flowers enclosed by black calyces.  It’s one of the taller growing varieties, as are the S. involucrata cultivars we grow.  There is S. i. ‘Pink Icicles’ with its pretty pale pink flowers and bracts, S. i. ’Timboon’ with deep magenta/wine flowers with darker calyces, S. i. ‘Mulberry Jam’ which had deep red/magenta flowers and smaller dark green leaves. 

Salvia involucrata x karwinskii ‘Romantic Rose’ has bright cerise/rose coloured flowers and is one of the taller ones, along with S. karwinskii which has salmony pink flowers and grey/green foliage.  One of the tallest is S. iodantha with light, limey green foliage and deep magenta flowers, which looks stunning planted among Camellias.

All these taller varieties make great plants for towards the back of garden beds and borders, or as part of a group of shrubs.  All appreciate good drainage and are best pruned after flowering, but not too hard!

Another interesting South American variety is Salvia dorisiana which has large, deepish pink flowers with leaves that have a delicious fruity fragrance!  This one needs protection from summer heat and hot winds.

For a complete colour change, try S. corrugata with royal blue flowers (yet another South American).  It needs, like the others, frost protection and can be used as a screening shrub or a hedge, having smaller, well veined leaves.  This Salvia can be more severely pruned, after flowering.

Salvias are interesting suggestions to brighten your garden this winter and for following years.  The nectar feeding birds and bees have been seen foraging among these flowers in our Nursery.

Osmanthus - 
August 2019 Plants of the Month


Wonderful fragrance, foliage and flowers are qualities of the Osmanthus genus of which there are about 30 species of flowering plants.  Their flowers form in generally white to cream panicles and produce wonderful, sweet fragrances which perfume the garden followed by a hard skinned dark blue/purple fruit.  Visually they offer glossy, deep green leaves some tinged with red, some holly shaped and some with a toothed edge.  Excellent as a backdrop to bulbs and perennial borders, as a tub plant on a balcony or patio, as hedging/screening and indispensable in a perfumed garden.  Their handsome evergreen foliage remains attractive in all seasons.  

Osmanthus are slow growing members of the Oleaceae or olive family and valued for being adaptable to either sun or shade, reliable and drought resistant. Most species are native to eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Indochina, the Himalayas).  They require a rich well-drained soil in a sheltered position.  Osmanthus flower on old wood and produce more flowers if unpruned, however, clipping after flowering will maintain a compact shape.

The Growing Friends have three species:
Osmanthus delavayi grows to 2.5 m high by 3 m wide.  Finely toothed, leathery, dark green ovate leaves to 3 cms.  Masses of small, sweetly scented white flowers in Spring.  Good for hedging and topiary.
Osmanthus fragrans is known by the common names Fragrant Olive or Sweet Tea.  It grows to 6 m high by 4 m wide with an upright habit.  Oblong/lanceolate leaves to 10 cms either entire or finely toothed.  Exquisitely scented tubular white flowers - the most fragrant of the Osmanthus family.  Ideal hedge, screen or tub plant.  Flowers in Summer. It has been cultivated in China for 2,500 years where the flowers are used to to flavour tea, wine and sweets as well as an ingredient in herbal medicine.
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpureus’ is known by the common names Holly Olive or Chinese Holly.  It grows to  3 m high by 2 m wide in a dense upright rounded shrub.  Leaves are holly like and grow to 6 cm.  ‘Purpureus’ is the most hardy cultivar with new growth purple/red.  It produces white fragrant flowers in Autumn.

Plants may be purchased at the Friday morning sales from the Growing Friends nursery.

Hippeastrum psittacinum ‘Papillo’ - September 2019  Plant of the Month

This is a beautiful bulb from the Amaryllidacea family, native to Brazil, and perfect for pots. It was thought to be extinct in its native habitat, but in the 1990’s a Californian plant breeder discovered it growing in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande del Sol. It is among the most vigorous of the Hippeastrum species, and is easily propagated from seed, flowering reliably in three years. The leaves are strap like and mid green, and the buds appear from the side of the bulb neck, opening into large creamy green trumpet shaped flowers with maroon striations. They like a warm sunny position with plenty of water and fertiliser during the growing period, then leave them dry during the winter dormancy.  They are happy to be left in the pot for a few years then repotted with the neck of the bulb above the surface.

These should be flowering in Growing Friends Nursery in late September to October, and well worth a look.

Thank you to Jan Cheyne from the Growing Friends for words and images.

Satureja montana - October 2019 Plant of the Month

Winter Savoury (Satureja montana) is an indestructible, garden-worthy, perennial herb. It is a small spreading shrub which has pretty white flowers in the late Autumn. At Growing Friends we grow Satureja montana and Satureja montana ‘Procumbens’. Satureja montana is more upright, has small white flowers along the stems at the leaf axils and small dark green oval leaves. Satureja montana ‘Procumbens’ is very similar, with coarser and lighter green leaves, larger flowers, and a low more spreading habit. Saturejas are related to thyme and rosemary, and can be used in their stead, sparingly, as they have a strong peppery flavour. They are mostly used in hearty Winter dishes - cassoulet, bean dishes, stews, roasted meats, and tomatoes. 

First described in Carl Linnaeus’ book ‘Species Plantarum’, Saturejas are native to warm temperate regions of Southern Europe, The Mediterranean, Africa, Middle East and Central Asia. They all grow well in walls, dry banks, rocks, hillsides, and rocky mountain slopes, preferring alkaline soils in a sunny well drained position. All Saturejas can be propagated by seeds, cuttings and layering. Both Saturejas are dormant in Winter, but will grow back from the woody stems. They are companion plants for beans - said to discourage bean weevils, and with roses, said to reduce mildew and aphids. Before Dettol, an infusion of Satureja leaves was used as an antiseptic, to calm one, as a digestive, an expectorant, for bee stings and insect bites, as well, a poultice of the leaves was used for sore throats!

Thank you to Pam Smith from the Growing Friends for words and images.

Grevillea thelemanniana - November 2019 Plant of the Month


Grevillea thelemanniana - ‘Gilt Dragon’. (Also known as Grevillea preissi). This Grevillea is native to Western Australia.


It is known by common names of the Rock Grevillea and the Spider-net Grevillea, and is a low growing and drought tolerant native.  It is excellent as a hedge or for spreading over rockeries, although probably better as a group of plants than a single specimen.

Like most Grevilleas, it prefers a sunny well-drained position. Height is generally less than one metre, but it spreads up to two metres.
Foliage of this cultivar is an attractive light grey feathery leaf. Gilt Dragon flowers all year ‘round but seems best in late winter to spring when it is covered with masses of yellow-tipped red flowers. Attracts birds.

Thanks to Ken Barelli of the Growing Friends for the photo and words.

Goodenia albiflora - December 2019 Plant of the Month

Commonly known as the White Goodenia. A small perennial shrub, native to the Adelaide area, it grows best in a sunny position with well-drained soils.
It has lovely silver foliage, which alone justifies its place in the garden, plus masses of white flowers from late Winter to early Summer.

It is best used in massed plantings. It tolerates alkaline soils and is especially useful to bind soils at risk of erosion such as on banks and slopes. It seems to enjoy seaside conditions too. It is equally happy in the garden or in a container, and it is an important food source for butterflies.

Supplies of this plant are available at the Growing Friends Nursery which is open to the public most Friday mornings.

Article and photo provided by Ken Barelli.