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Six on a Saturday, 19.5.18 Beth Chatto Special Edition.

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  1. Beth Chatto, who died this week, was the most influential gardener in my life, apart from my mum. When I discovered her books and then her garden, I was smitten. I loved her philosophy of “right plant, right place”, now such a cliche, but originally quite new. So, I have rather hurriedly put together six plants which I got from her or originally saw in her garden. The first, is a simple Nigella. So easy from seed and such a useful gap filler.

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2. Beth could do it all: dry, shade, bog, woodland. It is what makes her garden so special. Iris sibirica is such a ravishing plant in flower and sits best beside a pond, bog or damp area. It will grow in a moist border and leaves fine seed heads for winter.

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3. Epimedium youngianum nivium. Rubbish photo, but I first saw Epimediums in Beth’s woodland garden and had to have them. It took me a while to understand how much shade they need and how much humus, but I have got there in the end. Perhaps this is not quite, right plant, right place then!

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4. Gravel garden. This is the one right outside my house, on the Chelsea Fringe tour next Saturday(it’s free, 11-1pm in Walthamstow, why not come?) It is a homage to Beth Chatto. Following her principles of low/no watering and relying on plant choice, I am proud to say that this bed (in its second year) is starting to look really good. The plant to the right, Marrubium labanoticum, was purchased at Beth Chatto’s nursery.

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5. Another gravel garden. On a hot hillside round the corner, this garden for my neighbours was planted in March, but is already starting to look good. Again, low/no watering and very low maintenance, I have Beth Chatto to thank for it.

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6. Cambrian poppies. Didn’t plant them, didn’t have anything to do with them, just had the knowledge to know not to weed them out. Beth Chatto taught that plants will find their own perfect niches and our job is to let them get on with it, with only a bit of refereeing now and then. I am sad to see her go, but know that she will live on in countless gardens across the world.

Seeds on a Saturday, 12.5.18

Tempting as it is to revel in the glorious technicolour wonder of May, I have decided to bore you this week with a seedling update. I was excited to get  NGS and HPS seed deliveries early in the year. I sowed a lot in February. Quite a few did well, especially Eryngium and Matthiola incana. Yet, it is the ones that don’t or are slow or tricky which fascinate me. Why aren’t you growing? Hurry up! Come on! But they don’t, they take their own sweet time.

  1. Pulsatilla vulgaris. A lovely plant that I want a lot more of. You may remember that back in Feb when I got this seed, I sowed one tray “tails on” and one “tails off” as you are advised to do. Guess what? In this experiment the “tails off” tray won 5-1. They know what they are on about these experts with their advice.That is still a very poor germination rate though. The trays were inside throughout Feb and half of March, then outside.

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2. Seeds collected from Piet Oudolf’s garden at the Hauser and Wirth gallery in Somerset. I only collected seed which came from plants which looked like they seeded a bit anyway, had a few seedlings around them. Don’t know what they are, just threw them in some potting mix and left them outside. There are two small seedlings. If nothing else, it will be a nice reminder of my visit.

 

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3. See that little nubbin of green? That’s Baptisia australis, that is! And what a journey to get to this stage it has been! Sowed in Feb, indoors. Nothing. Read a bit more about them and found the seed should be soaked overnight before sowing. Resowed with the rest of the seed in March. Nothing. Took them outside and plonked them in a shady corner and left them to it. This week: seven little sprouts. I really really want to grow this in my churchyard bed, so I am going to give them full attention now.

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4. Common or garden Snapdragon, given to me by someone. Scattered in a tray (too thickly) a couple of weeks ago. They are up like a rash. Some seeds are just so easy and reliable and I should reign in my dismissive tone. They will fill a load of gaps soon.

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5. Never grown Cleome before. Apparently they like heat. They were behind the sofa next to the radiator for ages, doing nothing. I moved them above the radiator in the front room in full sun as soon as there was space. Five have germinated. Not a great return. Maybe it was still too cold or variable for them.

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6. This came free from the HPS. Nicotiana mutabilis. Never heard of em. I put them in a tray and left them in the front room, next to the Cleome . About three weeks ago they started as minuscule sproutlings. Now there are hundreds of them. Intrigued, I read about them. They are Argentine, apparently and as an annual can get to five feet high! That is some impressive growth. I will be pleased with one or two feet. The mutabilis is because the flowers change colour from pink to white to mauve or some combination of those colours. They flower til the frosts profusely. I am now officially excited at the prospect. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we grow seeds.

Six, Late on a Saturday, 5.5.18

If you have about ten hours to kill in a very pleasant and informative way, get over to The Propagator’s website to read his and everyone else’s blogs from around the world:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/05/six-on-saturday-05-05-2018/

Unusually, these pictures all come from my own garden this week. I hope you enjoy them.

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  1. Molly the witch has opened. A day much anticipated for owners of this lovely Paeony. The blooms will only last a few days, so enjoy her while you can. This year I only have one bud, whereas last year there were three. Not quite sure why, but I love her all the same.

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2. So metallic you could take a brass rubbing off it, this is the new foliage of Rogersia podophylla. Really needs shade and moisture to thrive, especially in August, but very hardy and reliable. I might have to move this over Winter from the foot of a slowly creeping bamboo which will suck up all her moisture over the Summer.

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3. I am enjoying this new combination of Allium Purple Sensation and Geranium macrorrhizum. Sometimes I think alliums are better in bud than in flower.

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4. Aquilega were in this garden when we came here thirteen years ago. I love the way that each year they are different due to their promiscuity. The predominant theme is blue and purple, but this one is a new one: pink and burgundy.

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5. Isn’t he cute? Well no, actually, he is a box tree caterpillar with whom I have been waging a losing war over the last three years. Not fatal to a hedge or topiary, but very disfiguring. I tried some judiciously applied pesticide last year. They just laughed at me from inside their tightly spun cocoons. I will not plant any more box in East London as the whole area is riddled with them and I do not want to go down the pesticide drenching route. It is a shame, but there are alternatives: Lonicera nitida, Ilex crenata. Neither of which is quite the same as good old box, but neither of which are susceptible to blight or pest as far as I know. Bummer.

Six on Saturday, 28.4.18

If you do not yet follow The Propagator’s meme, what are you doing here? Get over there and check out worldwide gardening mania:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com

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  1. Still in love with tulips, like everyone else. This week, the turn of Queen of the Night, such a reliable and classy performer. Here in combination with Euphorbia polychroma, another great plant, in my opinion. I keep meaning to take cuttings from this and always forget. Maybe this year.

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2. The Queen again, this time in pots, just looking pretty good for one of my clients.

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3. I have been slow to recognise the virtues of deciduous Azalias. This was already in a client’s garden and is about to burst into a yellow/orange profusion of bloom. It is absolutely spectacular. The rest of the time, it needs little attention, minimal pruning and holds its space nicely. Underplanting with bulbs is a must, I reckon. It is a bit of a martyr to mildew in Summer, but that is all I can hold against it.

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4. Trachelospernum jasminoides. What a plant! Great for year-round foliage, which colours nicely in Winter. Lovely flowers and scent. Trouble free. Just needing a light prune around now if it is a well established one. This is one I put against a client’s new fence, with Hakonachloa macro Aureola to hide its feet.

I really hate those green plastic strips which bind up climbers in garden centres. So many people leave them on, it drives me mad. I take a particular pleasure in cutting them off and fanning a climber out.

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5. Burials in Bloom update. It has been very satisfying to see such an appetite among the citizens of Walthamstow for adopting graves. 23 are now taken, and there is some lovely progress being made all over the site. We are currently swamped by Cow Parsley and Cherry blossom, which is delightful in itself, but it is the mundane bits of grass cutting, weed pulling and tidying that pleases me most: less work for me, innit?

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6. Chelsea Fringe walk on May 26th, 11-1pm. Along with two other community gardeners, I have been planning a guided walk around the street gardens of Walthamstow. The photo above is a bed we planted last year.It is a golden time in the area for community projects and little strips of improved land. We were much encouraged to be mentioned in Gardens Illustrated this month, P.22. The details are on the Chelsea Fringe website, if anyone is interested. You would receive a warm welcome and have an interesting two hours, I’m sure.

http://www.chelseafringe.com/event/walthamstow-street-gardeners-a-guided-stroll-around-some-buzzing-streets/

 

Six on a Saturday, 21.4.18

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  1. Blossom time. Having waited long,long,long time for Spring, it felt like we had fast-forwarded past it to high Summer this week. Suddenly everything is flowering, growing and blossoming all at once and we don’t know where to look or what to sniff first. This is Pear blossom on one of my espaliers at the allotment. Don’t really care if there are no pears, this is beautiful.

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2. Even though I say it myself, the allotment has been looking good this week, with tulips, wallflowers (Blood Red) and Iris unguicularis putting on a display.

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3. I put a few of these Ipeion into a client’s hedge bottom in November, not really expecting a lot. They said it might take a few years to settle in. Not a bit of it. They have popped up all fresh and clear. A new one on me, but I can recommend them. Maybe some Muscari next to them next year, eh?

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4. In the churchyard there are both English and Spanish bluebells. It is a cliche, but the English ones are so much finer. Puts me in mind of the best play of the 21st Century so far, Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth, set on St George’s Day, which is this week, in a Bluebell wood. In that play the lovable rogue, Johnny Rooster Byron, squats in a wood and scandalises the local village. Part of my duties this week were to trim down a hedge in the churchyard where three homeless people had been sleeping and carrying on. It was a tough one. I am sympathetic to them, in a borough where the housing crisis is reaching absurd levels, but also recognise that they cannot really sleep there and trash the place.

 

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5. Lunaria. Not the best picture, but an indication of how this has shot up in semi-shaded, woodland edge all over the country this week. This is a white form, but I keep seeing the pure, clear purple lurking in hedges and shady cracks this week. Very lovely and needing no input from gardeners at all.

6. You didn’t think there’d be a week without Tulips, did you? At this time of year? Abu Hasan, Clearwater and an unidentified survivor in the churchyard.

 

Check out The Propagator’s blog for lots of lovely gardens, plants, people and tips.

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/six-on-saturday-21-04-2018/

 

 

Six on Saturday. The Tulip One. 14.4.18

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1.It is the right moment to celebrate the Tulip. After all the dark waiting, their burst of colour  is the quintessential signal that warmer days are round the corner. They are such a luxurious plant. A part of me can understand the Dutch Tulip mania which saw one bulb worth ten times the salary of an average worker, the price of a smart house. I would have been there, no doubt, my wife arching her eyebrows as I sold Hewitt mansions for an organ of perennation, Jack, with his beanstalk. And no, I don’t have any Bitcoin. Yet. IMG_3031

2. They are so mysterious and strange in their folds and contours. This Purple Prince looks like a trio of fingers to me. Other interpretations are possible. They hold raindrops nicely too, which was useful this week.

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3. I think part of why we love them so much, is that they combine endlessly with other Spring plants. I find Euphorbia characias such good value in this respect. You could put any coloured Tulip in front of it and they would shine . It is the backdrop to the leading actors, if you want to use a cheesy theatrical metaphor about it.

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4. In a crowded, cottage style border, it is the clean yellow tulips which rise gracefully above the melee. Mrs W tells me they were bought 20 years ago on a visit to Keukenhof, the Dutch mecca for Tulips. I am amazed,quite frankly, that they survive, let alone thrive, in her solid clay borders. A lot of bulbs rot and decay on heavy soils and even on free draining gravel you can’t expect the same show from one year to the next. Tulips homelands are the near east, gentle mountain slopes and alkaline soil. They shouldn’t be happy in sodden clay.

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5. These little wisps are Tulip sprengeri. The contrarian of the family, they flower late and like moist shade. It is a long term project as I just sunk a seed tray under my Lilac bush last Autumn and left them alone (well, I removed a few leaves and Bluebells which grew over them and generally acted like a mother hen). They reckon, “they will make a flowering sized bulb within five years”. Not sure I can mother hen it up for that long, but we will see!

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6. Foliage. You have to say that Tulip foliage can be a bit annoying. Big and slow to die down and shading neighbours. It is the price you pay and a reason not to plant to thickly in a mixed border. I wanted to show the red-edged foliage of this minature Tulip linifolia, but the leaves are a bit marked by Winter and out of focus. Still, it would be great if more tulips had this kind of thin, pretty, fine foliage. Or is that just asking too much?

Six. On Saturday. The Way it Should Be. 7.4.18

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  1. The big skies and wide open spaces of Northumberland. After a very successful Burials in Bloom starter morning (19 people, 22 graves, gentle arguments over who should get the prime sites), me and the dog high-tailed it up to the coast around Embleton. Absolutely beautiful up there. You might just be able to see a pond which I have helped to plant with marginals. I am hoping to extend this with Iris sibirica and candelabra Primula.

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2.We visited the amazing gardens at Howick Hall (seat of Earl Grey, the tea man and much else besides). If you haven’t been, I can highly recommend it. The woodland is amazing there. To be honest, it was a bit early and nothing much was out, but I was liking this lichen on a crab apple.

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3. Came home to the first of my Thalia Narcissi. Such a clean, light, beautiful bloom. I have about ten clumps now which have slowly increased and am a big fan. Incidentally, I also scored a bargain 36 bulbs of gone over Tete-a-tete for £1.50 from Bunnings Warehouse on Thursday and thought to naturalise them in grass next year.

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4. Don’t be Scilla about it, thats a Chinodoxa! I always got those two confused, as they are both blue and out together. Basically the Chinodoxa is shorter, with finer foliage and with fewer blooms. Lovely in drifts under trees and shrubs though.

5. I need some support. I noticed at Howick Hall that they have got their perennial plant supports in early-doors, as you can see in that extremely boring first photo. The metal grill will disappear in a few weeks I imagine. Inspired by the Lord Chief Propagator’s post on supports, I tried my own crap dream-catcher look-a-like efforts, made from Wisteria prunings. The client came and looked at them, made a few polite noises and went inside to quietly bang her head against the wall.

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6. What the……is that? Any guesses? It is in fact only tangentially connected to horticulture in that it became part of my high energy, vegan, tasty packed lunch. It is a breakfast bar, made by a local start-up baker, called The Depressed Baker. He lost his job due to depression and stress and is starting up a bakery supplying cafes in East London. He has a strong message about mental health and donates part of his profits to mental health charities. Anyway, he was kind enough to drop over some samples and I like them very much.

Six on a Saturday 31.3.18

If you haven’t yet, have a casual glance at the instigator of all this madness, The Propagator’s website. You will soon be tangled in his evil web:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com

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  1. You gotta have faith. Sometimes with new clients you just have to ask them to trust you. This sunny little front garden on a hill doesn’t look much now, but come June or July I can see it looking great, after all those dots of green grow into magnificent grasses and Salvias and Eryngiums and Stachys.

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2. Nature is so full and abundant. Lesser celandine, with Allium trinquetum in the background, just looking lush and vigorous and fresh.

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3. Muscari are everywhere this week and very beautiful they are too. However, their foliage is a dull eyesore the rest of the year. Are they worth it? Yes, but only in certain wilder areas of gardens for me. Or in pots to use with daffodils and primulas.

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4. I have the pleasure of working in several very well established gardens. They may be a bit overgrown and unruly, but what you gain is an immense fullness to the planting. Not one or two Pulmonarias but scores. Not a patch of Cyclamen but a quilted bedspread. Very satisfying and a great mine of propagating material. Thanks, Mrs W!

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5. On Tuesday, in the pelting rain, I drove out to Essex to meet Margot Grice. She is the distributor for the HPS’s conservation plant programme. I had begged for plants to help with my St Mary’s long bed project. I expected a few. What I got was this lot. Loads. All rare and hard-to-get but considered very worthy garden plants. What treasure, what booty! Thanks a lot, Margot, and big up the HPS. If you haven’t joined yet, then do so, it is the subscription which keeps on paying dividends. I will be spreading the word about their excellent work to anyone who will listen.

6. Space, the final frontier. Unlike Captain Kirk et al, I am not boldly going, I am nervously tip toeing. Running out of room, at this stage. There are plants on windowsill, plants on walls, on pallets, in cold frames, behind the sofa, next to my daughter’s bed, on top of propagators and on the decking. Many haven’t germinated and been pricked out yet. What am I going to do for April, before they can go outside to harden off? Nice problem to have though.

Not Six on a Saturday 25.3.18

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We visited our holiday-let flat in Broadstairs, Kent, this weekend. It is a tiny, subterranean garden with little light, which has to look after itself for most of the year. I was dreading the marks of the beast, but was pleasantly surprised. The Cyclamen coum were still going, joined by a very healthy white Aquilega and the soon-to-be-rampant Galium odoratum.

 

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This Ivy is one I grew from cuttings as I really loved the foliage. When it is under control, it makes fine patterns on the wall. When it is out of control…

 

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This container is proving very hard to grow things in. It is bright, but shady, exposed to sea and wind, dry because rarely watered and in a rain shadow. Two Anemanthele lessoniana have just died here and been replaced by Carex morrowii. Let’s see, but I fear for them.

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Back home, I was very excited to see the return of my seedling Smyrnium perfoliatum. This is year two from seed, proof that they are in the right place. Apparently, they will put on a bit of foliage this year, disappear in the Summer and then come back again to flower next year. I have wanted them for about ten years, since seeing them at Beth Chatto’s woodland garden. In a few years time, if all goes well, I will be pulling them out like weeds.

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Vinca gets a bad press, and rightly so. The whole tribe of them are bullying, smothering, ground covering invaders. However, if you want a wilder look and ground covered then they are great. This one, Vinca major oxyloba, is especially pretty and not especially invasive. I took this as a cutting from a St Ives’ garden about five years ago and it is only lightly spreading now. I’ll be keeping an eye on it mind, I know it’s cousins.

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The annual fuss about Molly, begins. Like a beautiful cripple, she rises from the earth in purple contorted splendour. Soon she will put on her neat green foliage, before the all-too-brief flower show lasting about three or four days. Paeony mlokosewitschii, is a diva, is high maintenance, but is worth it.

Six on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 17.3.18.

No doubt The Propagator will have sown himself into a sweaty mess on the floor of his greenhouse this week. If you haven’t already (and let’s face it, you have, haven’t you?),check out his awe-inspiring blog at: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com

Meanwhile, here is my week in six photos:

  1. “A host of golden daffodils”, as Wordsworth had it, tramping round the Lake District. My host was in the more prosaic surrounds of Woodford Green, in the middle of a large roundabout. To be honest, a lot of daffs leave me cold: too big, too coarse, too common, dying loudly. However, in huge drifts, and in this case, in well-behaved short form, they can be stunning. I nearly got run over getting this shot, so they must have something to them. IMG_28672. Blossom time is just so uplifting. I love the constellations of flower in this Cherry up the street from my house. Gorgeous. neither my daff nor my cherry photo can do the real things any kind of justice. Lost in rapture.

 

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3. Helleborus foetidus* Sometimes you see plants growing that are in the prime of health, at the peak of perfection and just loving life. Such a plant was this Hellebore, in a shady spot near the bins, in the front garden of a new client. Green is such a great colour. Simple and classy. *Correction, argutifolius, with thanks to Ali.

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4. Same garden, a few metres away, was a group of Crocus (“King of the Striped”?). Now, regular readers will know that I am prejudiced against blowsy, bright and bold colours generally. I wouldn’t plant it in my garden, but it is certainly putting on a show.

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5. I returned to one of my original little gardens this week. A tiny courtyard in Bethnal Green. Everything has to be in a pot and look after itself. It amazed and pleased me to see how much had come through the Winter snows looking good. Pelargonium sidoides was in rude good health in the middle top  there. Particularly handy given that I killed my two cuttings roasting them by the radiator. Amazing what a warm microclimate can do.

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6. Anigozanthos flavidus. Which is a mouthful in anyone’s language. In Aussie terms, Roo Paw, because they look like them. Against my better judgement I bought this packet of seed in Australia at Christmas and sowed them because I just fell in love with the plant and simply had to try growing them. In a pot, if they reach maturity. Well, stage one of the process is underway, as there are tiny signs of life. Come on!