A Few PGA Triumphs

So I declare, straight up, that PGA (Plant Growers Australia) occasionally gives me plants to try out.  They’ve never asked me to write about them, and I’ve never offered to, let alone promised to.

I’ve killed an embarrassing number of them.  A substantial proportion of them aren’t sufficiently frost hardy to survive where I am.  PGA themselves rarely know exactly how frost tolerant their plants are, so it’s useful information for them, even if sobering for both them and me.  Drought tolerance, rather than frost tolerance, is rightly the focus of many of these plants.

Amongst them are some real performers, and some real survivors.

Very typical and recognisable daphne-form in the flowers

Very typical and recognisable daphne-form in the flowers

There’s been a lot written about Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’, but much of it comes from those with a vested interest in its success.  I have no such interest.  Furthermore, I admit that I was, at first, both sceptical, and critical.  From first sniff, I was in doubt about its value as a scented shrub, and particularly the honesty surrounding the reputation it borrows from its much, much more attractively scented cousin – the old and well-loved Daphne odora.  But three or so years down the track, I’ve had to rethink.

For a start, it’s incredibly tough.  Early last summer I planted two very young plants and one very pot-bound plant in close proximity, and in full sun.  Being pot-bound is a much bigger impediment than most realise, and I really didn’t expect the bigger plant to survive with the only very, very occasional watering I could give them.  All three survived.  The younger two thrived.  This summer they’ve had absolutely no supplementary water, and never even looked like they needed it.  Following a heavy spring flowering, they’ve hardly ever been without a reasonable smattering of flowers.  DSC_0156

In full sun they form a very dense dome of foliage.  You can clip them for further definition, but they have something of a clipped look anyway.

The other part of my reassessment regards the scent, which I’ve discovered is altogether more appealing on the air than when you stick your nose in the flower.  In truth, the scent is the same either way, but when it takes you by surprise on an evening wander around the garden, it’s delicious.

 

Agastache 'Candy Pink Fiesta'

Agastache ‘Candy Pink Fiesta’

Another plant that has really got my attention is the dodgily named Agastache ‘Candy Pink Fiesta’.  Nearly all the agastaches we’ve seen appearing on the market in the last few years are generous and determined flowerers, but with a fuzz of small flowers, to my mind they work best as back-up colour.  To me they’re co-stars, rather than A-listers.  A. ‘Candy Pink’ on the other hand has a distinct upright cat’s-tail form, which takes it to another place. Furthermore, once the flowers fall, you’re left with the cat’s tail of dark burgundy bracts.  It leaves me wondering whether I like it best during, or DSC_0182after flowering.  This makes for a very long show – the bracts of the old flowers carrying you through, almost until its subsequent flowering several weeks later.

And finally, there’s the unbelievably long flowering Tulbaghia ‘Fairy Star’.  Like all tulbaghias, severe dry will result in a diminution of flowering, but from my experience T. ‘Fairy Star’ will flower happily until the dry is unbearable.  The flowers are tiny, and all parts of the plant are small, so it’s not an easy plant to find a suitable context for.  It’d be great in pots, and is absolutely sensational when planted into a stone wall, as it is at my place.

DSC_0229

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8 thoughts on “A Few PGA Triumphs

  1. Michael,
    I read with interest your mention of PGA and your “declaration” at the beginning of your post. I am certainly not in the happy position of having to make a similar declaration but I have touched on the dilemma that feeling some obligation to suppliers/friends can pose in my latest post at hortitales.com
    Cheers
    Drew

  2. Is this Daphne the same as D Burkwoodii that I bought at Raywood Nusery, on Fleureau Peninsula South Australia? He said it is quite tough and would grow in shade.

  3. I didn’t have quite so much success with Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ but I think that the plants I put in had that ‘not-potted-up-well-in-early-life’ problem which sometimes happens. But Tulbaghia ‘Fairy Star’ is a also a winner in my humid Sydney garden, flowering for many weeks. I’d love to try that Agastache but based on others I’ve tried, it might not do so well here.

    • Wouldn’t you love to understand what plant problems we inherit due to mistreatment in early life? I always blamed myself for losses, but then, for instance, started to recognise that certain plants that would grow enthusiastically at first but would then collapse and die inexplicably (like Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii, Helleborus foetidus among others) rarely did when they were self-sown. I started to wonder if there was a transition problem with growing from the inevitably pine-based potting mixes through into my soil.
      Unforunately we’ll never know – there’s no commercial imperative to sorting this out..

  4. Thanks – I am tempted to try the Daphne Eternal Fragrance again. I once specified a row of the Spring Pink variety in a Sydney garden and watched them slowly die one by one. Keeping them on the dry side might be the key.

    • Given what Catherine says above, sounds like humidity might be the problem, rather than watering. But there I go, getting all unscientific again. Two experiences isn’t enough to build a case on!

      • I’ve had Daphne (non-eternal) on my covered, Sydney verandah for nearly two years. It hasn’t grown much but is green and reliably flowers. Given how infrequently I get round to watering it, I would definitely think ‘dry’ is worth a go. Interestingly, my Daphne was a cutting I took from a friend’s amazing shrub, and I did (on this occasion) pot it up each time it needed it, so its good start in life may have helped. I really should water it a little more though – it is definitely on the skinny side!

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