Homes

Fair-weather friends

Every time I visit cool-climate gardens, I drool over all the treasures I can’t grow in the humid north. I’ve tried several of them: they usually grow and flower for the first year or two, then mysteriously disappear. Conversely, I’m guessing cool-climate gardeners would love to grow some of our exotic warmclimate treasures – so I’ve thrown in one of my favourites for good measure!

Trillium (Wake Robin) Known as Wake Robin due to its early flowering habit (the plant that wakes the robin in spring), trilliums are notoriously tricky. However, once they’re growing happily, you’ll never get rid of them! They hail from North American woodlands where the winters are very cold. Several types are available, from pure white to cream, pink and deep burgundy. They grow from a rather delicate rhizome that must never dry out, and are best bought and planted in their dormant state over winter. Prepare a moist, well-drained shady spot with heaps of compost. Plant your trillium gently, keep it moist and it should reward you in early spring.

**Uvularia Grandiflora (Large oerrybells)

**I came across this at Pukeiti (ot Taranaki) and was transfixed. Uvularia are related to lily-of-the-valley and like the same conditions as trillums. You’d think such a gorgeous flower would be difficult to grow – but apparently not. Uvularia grow from rhizomatous roots that spread easily to form a 30cm to 60cm clump. Slender stems hook over at the tips in late spring as dainty yellow flowers appear.

**Pulsatilla Vulgaris (Pasque Flower)

**The exquisite nodding bells of pulsatilla slowly turn their heads to the sun as flowers open in early spring. Colour is usually violet but several different forms are available, such as ‘Ruby’ (pictured). As flowers fade, they transform into decorative seed heads reminiscent of little balls of silken hair, which remain on the plant for several weeks. Pulsatilla prefers a temperate climate with obvious seasonal change. It prospers in sun or semi-shade in gritty, well-drained, yet moist and humus-rich soil.

**Dicentra Formosa (Wild Bleeding Heart)

**Beautiful ferny foliage appears fresh from its winter slumber in early spring. Soon after, flower stems carrying masses of dark pink drooping flowers rise above the foliage. Dicentra performs well in the same conditions as trilliums and, if kept moist, will flower into summer. It grows from robust rhizomes, spreading to form good sized clumps. Together with trilliums and uvularia, dicentra makes the perfect groundcover under flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias.

**oeconopsis Integrifolia (Himalayan Poppy)

**Blue (Himalayan) poppy is the most well known of the oeconopsis group. But there are several others, ranging in colour from red to palest lemon, which are said to be easier to grow. All are utterly charming, seed readily and revel in cool temperate climates with reliable rainfall. Like their woodland contemporaries, they also prefer a sheltered spot with moist, deep, wellcomposted and well-drained soil. All are biennial (flower in their second year then die) and most are winter dormant. But the lovely oeconopsis integrifolia (pictured) graces the garden all winter long with a handsome rosette of hairy foliage which catches and holds early morning dew.

**Pleione Formosana

**This delicious little orchid, native to China and Taiwan, is easy to grow in a cool climate if you follow a few simple rules. Fill a shallow container with orchid mix and plant several pleiones in the same pot. Place pots on the south side of the house or under evergreen trees where the frost can’t get them. Keep dry in winter, but start watering as buds appear in August. Remove spent flowers and keep well watered over summer to maintain vegetative growth. Reduce watering again as leaves begin to yellow in autumn. Repot annually once dormant.

**Haemanthus Coccinea (African Blood Lily)

**The enormous paint brush-like flowers of Haemanthus are absolutely stunning and grace many frost-free subtropical gardens in late summer or autumn. They are especially intriguing as the flowers appear out of bare soil. Soon after, odd-looking leaves like big green fleshy tongues emerge to lie across the soil. These die away again the following summer. Haemanthus require a warm, sheltered spot in sharply draining soil. Raised beds suit them well as the soil warms easily and drains freely. Cold climate gardeners can try growing these African beauties in a glasshouse.

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