The leaves of this South African native are blue-grey in colour and deeply divided with a serrated margin. They flower with showy spikes of burnished red flowers, but it is that lovely, almost frilled leaf that is the real attraction for me. Prune the old leaves in summer - in fact the whole shrub can be cut down to encourage new growth from the base. It needs space - about 3m x 3m - deep, rich soil and plenty of water.
Melianthus. Photo - photolibrary.com
The popular oyster plant has impressive oyster-grey flower spikes that look good against its dark foliage, but my new love is a lime-coloured acanthus called ‘Hollard’s Gold’. Its broad glossy leaves fill a shady spot beneath a Californian Lilac (Ceonothus). All acanthus need protection from direct hot sunshine.
Swamp foxtail, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Black Lea’
Ornamental grasses that grow into soft billowy mounds that bring movement to a garden. Planted in shimmering swathes they give the garden a sense of liquidity. ‘Black Lea’ has black feathery flower plumes in summer and autumn well displayed above the foliage. They are easy to grow in a wide range of soil types, and are drought and frost hardy. They love the sun. After a few years their foliage looks tired, rejuvenate by pruning hard with a whipper snipper in late winter, feed then watch them grow.
Elephant Ear, Colocasia ‘Black Magic’
At the height of summer the huge heart-shaped elephant ear is my favourite plant! This is a cultivar of the taro root that's used as a food staple in tropical regions. It dies back in winter, but grows quickly to 1.5m once the temperature rises. It loves moisture, so a boggy garden or the edge of a pond is perfect, and makes a big impact in a pot: plug the hole to retain moisture.
Where to Buy
Riverside Gardens Emerald Bank, 7715 Goulburn Valley Hwy, Kialla (03) 58231515
Cloudehill Garden and Nursery, 89 Olinda-Monbulk Rd, Olinda (03) 97511009