The context for this choice is that I’ve become a bit obsessed about gardens that don’t need irrigation – ‘Rainfed’ gardens, if I can borrow a term from broad-acre cropping. Up here in Kyneton, the last few summers (although not the one just passed) have been pretty dry and under my rainfed regime, by early autumn things can be starting to look a bit dried out. ‘Sere’ is the word, I think. So plants that deliver some floral delight under those conditions, at that time of the year, are worth talking about.
The California fuchsias (Epilobium spp. but used to be Zauschneria spp.) all do this, but my favourite is ‘Catalina’.
To be honest, until I started growing “Catalina” I’d been a bit underwhelmed by these plants. ‘Catalina’ grows to about a metre tall, with fine silver foliage. It tends to hide in its surrounds until the appearance of the tomato-red tubular flowers that start in late February and keep going till the first real frost.
I cut my plants back to about 100 mm during my winter clean up and that’s about it in terms of care. The only vice I can think of (unless you aren’t a fan of red flowers) is that the plants are fragile and not really self-supporting, but plant them where their neighbours can support them, and I think they are a winner!
After finishing his PhD in agricultural science, Peter taught at the University of Melbourne – Burnley Campus for many years and finished his time there as Head of Campus. He ran a very small consulting business for a number of years after that and is now reasonably close to being fully retired.
Peter has lived and gardened in Kyneton in Central Victoria since the early 1980s, firstly in an old rambling Victorian house and garden and more recently in a new, and better insulated, house with a smaller garden, the ornamental part of which was designed with the intent of relying solely on rainfall for irrigation. It is still a work in progress.
His musings on various things horticultural and edible can be found at Instagram account @mayhorticulture