Friday, 8 February 2008

Friday 8th Fenruary 2008


One of the delights of this time of year – irrespective of weather – is the variety of foliage plants that I have around the garden. Among the brightest and biggest of these are the Cordylines and Phormiums.

Cordyline is a genus of about 15 species of woody monocotyledonous flowering plants classified in a wide variety of groups according to the authority one consults. The genus is native to the western Pacific Ocean region, from New Zealand, eastern Australia, southeastern Asia, Polynesia and Hawaii. The above is the Cabbage Palm (Cordyline australis purpurea). Cordyline trees are generally considered extremely delicate plants, but they flourish in the South of England and seem to be quite happy on the Wirral where there are specimens ten feet tall in neighbouring gardens. Established plants will tolerate a reasonable amount of frost, but the real killers are usually cold wet roots, or a cold damp head. The plant grows on a single trunk that over time, often develops a distinct lean. Cabbage palms are slow growing, but they do grow, and may attain a height of 5 or 6 metres within a reasonable time.

New Zealand flax describes common New Zealand perennial plants Phormium tenax and Phormium cookianum, known by the Maori names harakeke and wharariki respectively. They are quite distinct from the Northern Hemisphere plant known as flax (Linum sp.). New Zealand flax produces long leaf fibres that have played an important role in the culture, history, and economy of New Zealand. Phormium tenax occurs naturally in New Zealand and Norfolk Island, while Phormium cookianum is endemic to New Zealand. Both species have been widely distributed to temperate regions of the world as economic fibre and ornamental plants. There are hundreds of cultivated forms of Phormium - this was described on its label as Phormuim tricolor.

This is another Phormium, variety unknown.

These photos were taken from a gardening programme I saw the other day and show a New Zealand woman who makes clothes, rugs, etc from the Phormium plants. The family photo is just that - a photo of her family. She now teaches others the process.

By contrast with the harmless Phormiums I have a Yucca. This is one of the most vicious things in the garden. The leaves are stiff and so sharply pointed that they think nothing of spearing me through the thickest gardening gloves. Not a plant to have with children about – they could easily lose an eye to this so-and-so. The yuccas comprise the genus Yucca of 40-50 species of perennials, shrubs, and trees in the agave family Agavaceae, notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal clusters of white or whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry parts of North America, Central America, and the West Indies.

I mentioned the Black Grass the other day. While splitting it yesterday I found one lonely little fruit on it. These photos were all taken yesterday but I doubt they will have changed much overnight! (Though the large Cordyline did find itslef rolling round the other side of the patio on one windy night last week!)

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