Perennials

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The perennials in my garden have all been selected to withstand a fair amount of shade. Now that the 'woodland/rainforest' effect is fully developed, some of the understory is in shade for most of the day and year, while under the deciduous trees, plants receive only winter sunshine.
Plants have also been selected to be fairly drought tolerant, or to withstand severe cutting back at the beginning of the heat of summer.
I am still investigating indigenous shrubs which will tolerate heavy summer shade, (previous selections & plantings have not been successful) and hope to develop a largely indigenous understory in time.

ACANTHUS MOLLIS
Large, tolerant of deep shade, and highly ornamental, this plant, it's leaves often depicted in ancient Greek frescos, is easy to grow. In spite of wilting severely in hot weather, Acanthus is a survivor, coming back from even the smallest section of root. I usually cut it right to the ground once the hot weather starts - it always returns in the winter.
This plant is a really good decoy for Woolly Bear Caterpillars - actually the larvae of the Native Glatygni's Tiger Moth. They prefer it to almost anything else in the garden, so grow an Acanthus or two rather than destroying the larva of this indigenous species.
According to the Botanic Garden label, Acanthus Mollis is used internally for diarrheoa, and the crushed leaves to cool burns and scalds. A closely related variety, Acanthus Spinosus is listed as Astringent and Diuretic.
I have experimentally used the large soft leaves of Acanthus as spinach, without ill effect, though I have never found any evidence of it's use in culinary literature. If anyone has any further information I would like to have it.
The tall spiny flower spikes make a dramatic cut flower. They dry well, and so are useful for dried arrangements.

AGAPANTHUS
Unlike many other drought resistant bulbs, the bright green strap-like leaves of this heat and drought resistant summer flowering bulb last all year round.
They also thrive in the shade, resist pollution damage & neglect.
They make excellent snail traps - just collect the snails each morning from their hiding places at the base of the leaves.
The lovely blue flowers last for a long while on the plant, and the seed-heads look good in both fresh and dried flower arrangements. There are also white variety, & miniature vaieties.

ALOES
I always try to keep an aloe plant or two, although the sunny spots they require for best results are hard to find in my garden.
I have used a slice of fresh aloe leaf on burns, rashes, and skin infections since first learning about it's virtues in the Pilbara in 1963 - but I use the common variety, which I have found just as effective as the expensive and less robust 'Aloe Vera'.

ARTHROPODIUMS - Grass-like flowering plants, commonly called "lilies"
Native to Australia & New Zealand, all these plants form tubererous roots which are more or less edible. They were certainly used by First Nations peoples as food. They have panicles of small delicate flowers on long slender stems which give them a most attractive appearance.
Dianella revoluta, an indigenous variety of the Flax Lily, has lilac/blue flowers with a bright yellow centre. The blue berries are also edible.
Dichopogon ssp. Known as the Chocolate Lily, the flowers are pink/lilac, and the plant is more delicate than the Dianella.
Arthropodium Candida - New Zealand Lily - this seems to be a cultivar of the RENGARENGA Arthropodium cirratum, a well-known Maori bush food. Much larger than Australian varieties, the Cultivar self-seeds prolifically, and in spite of it's apparent succulence, seems pretty drought-resistant. However the roots are very small compared with the top growth, and I haven't yet tried eating them.

AURACACIAS aka taro
This kind of taro, also known as 'elephant's ears', requires extensive leaching before being used as food. I don't anticipate using it unless in a real emergency!
The leaves are highly decorative, it tolerates heavy shade, and the perfume of the fairly insignificant flowers is richly sensual, especially on warm evenings!
It strikes readily from cuttings, & once established it is fairly drought tolerant as long as it is in the shade.

BASIL - PERENNIAL
This requires a sunny but sheltered spot with deep soil, to become established.
All the small plants I have put in previously died during the winter. In fact it wasn't until I 'rescued' a huge plant from a friend's garden while he was moving house that I had any success with it. The plant flowers prolifically over a long period, and the bees love it.
Like the annual variety, the leaves actually intensify in flavour when cooked, and make a delicious stimulating tea. I now have one plant, grown in a large pot, which can be moved throughout the year so the plant gets sufficient sunshine. It is now many years old, and has continued to flower throughout the year.

CANNA EDULIS aka Queensland arrowroot
This tall member of the Canna family has small red flowers when grown in full sun, but tolerates a fair degree of shade while still producing the starch-rich tubers from which it derived it's name. Easily grown, it produces plenty of foliage for quick screening, and is good shredded in compost. The mature tubers can be roasted and eaten like potatoes. The starch is accessed most easily by grating the tubers into a bowl of water. Leave to soak for a while, then squeeze and wring; repeat until the starch has been extracted. Strain into another bowl and leave the starch to settle. You can then cook it just like ordinary arrowroot. It has no flavour, but thickens fruit sauces and puddings, or can be used as laundry starch.
The young stems can be used as a vegetaable, the flowers too, and the leaves can be used to wrap foods for steaming or barbecueing.

CAPE GOOSEBERRY aka Golden Berry
These soft-leaved plants with attractive flowers are as happy in shade as in sun, scrambling up a fence, over the lower limbs of trees, or trailing on the ground.
The berries, inside their papery 'chinese lanterns', ripen for about 9 months of the year, and are a welcome addition to the winter fruit supply.
Rich in vitamins A and C, the fruit also dries very well - leave it inside its wrapping - sweeter and more richly flavoured than a raisin.
Children love to forage for the fruit, and sometimes you find a perfect golden berry inside a 'lantern' which has become completely skeletonised. These are kept carefully as a very special 'fairy gift' for the children.
If you can save enough fruit, it makes a really delicious jam, but take care - it sets quickly! and if over-cooked can be too stiff to get out of the jar! A few handsful give a wonderful flavour to other jams, or use as flavouring with stewed apples, pears, or chokos.
Grow from seed sown where you want the plants, and cultivate like tomatoes. In frost free areas they will develop a tuberous root and last for several years. They also self-seed rapidly.
Once you have established a plant or two, you need never sow them again!

DAISIES
What a woeful description! However, I don't have the botanical information for all of them at my fingertips, and they tend to come and go, being cut back or pulled up, according to the season, and how rampant they become.
I like to have the more drought-resistant types in the garden both as cut flowers, and as butterfly fodder. "Daisies" from South Africa

DANDELIONS
Dandelions grow as well in half-shade as in full sun, and are extraordinarily drought-resistant. Grown in semi-shade, they have larger, lusher leaves, which do not need blanching before you use them in salad. They are easier to grow than lettuce, require much less water, and in Adelaide provide delicious salad greens all year round. I never bother with lettuce any more.
If you have a field of dandelions - less common in these days of herbicides - you can use the flowers to make dandelion wine. (A peck of flowers is a heck of a lot!).
The buds can be pickled, & the roots scrubbed, roasted and ground for a beverage known as dandelion 'coffee', which is pleasant tasting and good for the kidneys and liver. But it doesn't taste much like coffee. You can also make a tea from the leaves.
For me, the 'lion' signifies courage, for Dandelions will grow in the most adverse circumstances, and regrow from the smallest piece of root. I love to see them colonising and beautifying dark crevices in our cities. Here is a beautiful, brave such specimen. Please don't spray dandelions - if you don't want then to spread, just remove the flowers before they seed. They are not weeds, but a true survival food, and one day we may be grateful for them.

FEVERFEW
This attractive herb is like a miniature chrysanthemum, having daisy-like white flowers with a bright gold centre. It cuts well, and in recent years the herb has been found to have a preventative effect on migraine headaches. I use it as a companion plant, for its insect repellant properties.
It is drought resistant and self-seeds freely.

FLAME FLOWER Photos Talinum Paniculatum
I discovered this tough little plant soon after we arrived in Australia. No-one was able to tell me it's name, in spite of the fact that it is a common garden plant, and very attractive. I nick-named it 'The Jewels of the Madonna', because of the brilliance and delicacy of the cluster of tiny rose pink and gold flowers on hair thin stems, nodding at the top of a long graceful main stem. The flowers are followed by tiny golden berries, much loved by mice and birds, and self-seeds prolifically, often popping up in odd corners and cracks.
The leaves are succulent and make an excellent addition to salads and sandwiches. They are especially valuable since they are available in hot dry weather when little other salading is to be had.
The seeds are tiny but nutritious, and could be a good source of Omega3 oils, as seeds of other Portulacca ssp. are avidly collected by indigenous peoples, and have recently been compared favourably with flaxseed.
After a long search, I finally identified it with the help of people through the internet.
This is another Survival Food.

GERANIUMS
Those who live in the UK, Northern Europe and America, or Canada, will think of these as summer flowering annuals, or greenhouse specimens. Here, as in the Mediterranean, they grow like weeds! and are extraordinarily drought resistant.
I no longer grow the scented varieties - rose, peppermint, nutmeg, and lemon - as I need the few sunny spaces in my garden for more productive crops, but many 'zonals', which I grow as much for the colourful foliage as for the brilliance of the flowers, fill up odd corners, while others are in pots, so I can move them around according to the season. I also use climbing (or rather sprawling!) varieties outside my street fences, where they make a brave show of winter colour. (See vines.html) I never water them.

LANTANA
Yes! I know it's an environmental weed in some areas. But this is the prostrate lilac variety, beloved of butterflies, and very resistant to drought and insect attack. Nor does this variety set seed.
It grows outside the gate where the Rue used to be. I try to keep the entrance as covered with plants as I can, although the actual flowerbed is very narrow. The remainder is concrete covered only with the dirt & mulch swept up from the street.
Now only a narrow path to the gate is visible, which means what used to be regarded as fair game by manoevering vehicles now looks like what is is, a part of the garden, even though it is not protected by a fence.

LEEKS
I have a perennial variety of leek, which does well in some years, less well in others. The plants produce numerous offshoots or 'sets', which are planted out to form new clumps. Again, like garlic, they really require much more sunshine than is available in my garden, but still supply me with plenty of flavouring for winter soups.
The 'sets' supply plenty of material for potting up as gifts, goods for barter, or to sell on stalls.

MINT
Since the tightening of water restrictions, I now keep only one variety of Mint, common or Horse Mint, grown in a large pot with the perennial Basil. A sprig cooked with greens of any variety will improve the flavour, and it's handy when a guest requests a herb tea.

OREGANO
This useful herb needs no introduction, and is an essential ingredient of soups, stews, and pasta sauces.
Like many herbs, it needs full sun to grow successfully, and I have just one spot where it thrives throughout the year.

TRADESCANTIA aka wandering jew
This fresh-looking groundcover is at once a curse and a blessing. Once established, it is hard to get rid of, as the brittle stems break off at the joints, and the tiniest piece will grow to form a new plant. Given the right conditions, you can almost see the most common varieties grow!
But they are a useful groundcover, and don't need a great deal of water.
Less invasive are the variegated kinds, which come in a range of variations on a theme of purple, green, cream and crimson.
Some people find handling the leaves causes a contact dermatitis, and if you are one of these, I certainly wouldn't try using it, lightly steamed, as a green vegetable - a suggestion made by JACKIE FRENCH in her A - Z of Useful Plants. (1993 Aird Books) It is one of the commonest causes of dermatitis in dogs, who tend to lay on it's cool leaves in hot weather.
When I lived in a larger place and had ducks, they ate every scrap of the blue-flowered variety, which has small green leaves, but didn't touch the most common and invasive sort, with larger green leaves and white flowers.
I now have a variety with leaves striped in deep purple, green and silver, in the street flower beds. It grew quickly from some pieces thrown out by a neighbour, survives heat and drought, and keeps the entrance cool and attractive.

VIOLETS
I have clumps of both purple and white violets scattered through the garden. They pretty well look after themselves, dying out where there is too much shade and re-locating to sunnier spots. Many people are not aware that the violet has two types of flower - the coloured ones on long stems, and tiny green ones hidden under the foliage. Both are heavily scented.
Purple violets are prefered for herb jelly, or to candy in order to decorate cakes. But all violet flowers can be used to make violet cordial, or added to savoury or fruit salads. Less well-known is that the fresh leaves are high in vitamin C, and a few can be added to any green salad mix. Too many may act as a laxative!
In the past a strong tea of violet leaves was reputed to cure cancer if persevered with, but although tests have been carried out in the search for answers to this malady, no evidence has been found to support the belief.

INDOOR & CONTAINER PLANTS - in addition to the plants growing in the soil, I have a large selection of indoor and indoor/outdoor pot plants. Most of these were gifts, or "rescued" plants. Research shows that indoor plants are effective in keeping a room healthy. A NASA STUDY shows common plants help reduce indoor air pollution....
Five climbing Philodendrons in various colours sprawl over the ceilings and parts of the walls in my living areas and passage, these and a Spathiphylum, are the permanent indoor residents. Aspidistras, Tillisandras, a large leaved Philodendron, and a Hoya are among the plants outside, while most of my herbs, and some of my vegetables, are now grown in pots.
Since what is virtually a glass wall, overlooking the back garden, forms one wall of my living area, that portion of the garden is very much 'in your face.' This is where I originally placed a water feature, and although some of the trees and shrubs have changed, the area has always been shaded by lush greenery. What I see when I look due West is still pretty much what appears in the lower photo on the garden description page.
Containers of various ferns and other shade-loving ornamentals are grouped around the blue ceramic globe which has replaced the water garden, and I keep this area fresh and green using the absolute minimum of water.
A large Ficus is useful to screen the outdoor bath.



Plant List - Trees ....... Vines & Shrubs.......Perennials .......Biennials and Annuals
Plants Grown in the past

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