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Gardening with Gael - A colourful addition to the garden


IMG 8750-24-656The bright splashes of purple contrasting with the autumn foliage in many gardens at the moment belong to a group of plants called Tibouchina. This is the new name of a plant with sumptuous blooms that I remember from when I began gardening.

Often a leggy wild looking plant it was known then as a Lasiandra. The blooms were sumptuous and large and the shrub required constant pruning to keep it in shape. Since then many new cultivars have become available. The deeply veined leaves have retained their form but are a denser green and slightly smaller in size. The simple five petalled flowers are also smaller and I think more prolific. Flowers begin in March and can continue for several months.

The first one I planted was a bright purple called Tibouchina Carol Lyn. Recommended to grow to a height of 1.5m with a width of 1m, this plant, with its intense array of bright purple flowers, makes an excellent shrub at the back of an herbaceous border. Although their pruning requirements are not as demanding as with the old lasiandra, pruning once a year is a good idea. I left my first one and it exceeded its 1.5m and over a few years grew to twice that height. We had to give it a thorough chainsaw prune. We did half the tree at a time. I was nervous we might kill it. No. Back it came, thick, bushy and covered with bloom. Subsequent shrubs have had a light prune once a year.

Tibouchina are very easy to grow. In my experience I have found that they are relatively drought resistant. The ones I have grown in the beach garden have only needed watering a couple of times. They prefer a clay loam, which is exactly what I have at the Block hence the ability to grow like mad. Enriching the soil with organic matter helps. The two I have growing at the beach have been planted in the old grass clipping site where the remains of rotted down grass clippings provide them with constant food.

Native to Mexico, the Caribbean and South America where they are also known as glory bushes, they prefer warmer climates. Cool Baby, a compact variety with large pinkish white flowers is good for cooler climates.
Some of the newer varieties are more compact. Tibouchina dwarf can be grown in containers, Groovy Baby is one of the most compact forms and flowers for a greater part of the year.

I have the variety Blue Moon, which is a profusion of soft mauve flowers until the weather is particularly cold. I am looking out for a Tibouchina mutabilis. Mutabilis means a tendency to change. Think of the rose mutabilis with its many hued petals. The tibouchina variety has flowers ranging from white through to a dark purple on the one bush.

While I was checking out varieties on Google I came across a Tibouchina I have never seen before. The petals were white in the centre with half the petal a clear coral pink, the stamens a bright yellow. This looks a stunning plant. The name is tibouchina lepidata rosada or Colombia flower. They would be another lovely addition to the garden for this time of year.

Tibouchina blooms are generally simple, with sumptuous large petals.

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