Tibouchina Peace Baby.
Tibouchina Peace Baby.

GREEN THUMB: Peaceful floral display

I LIKE to trial new plants in my garden so that I can be confident that they will perform well in 'normal' conditions. Some new releases might be great when grown in the controlled environments of professional nurseries, but struggle when they enter the real world.

One of the great successes of the past few years has been tibouchina Peace Baby. Bred in Queensland by plant breed extraordinaire Terry Keogh, it was first released about three years ago. It is part of the Fantasy Flowers collection which includes a range of tibouchinas exhibiting different flower colours, habits and forms from dwarf varieties through to medium shrubs. They are long flowering and more cold-tolerant than their ancestors.

Breeding started in 1995. Terry experimented with a variety of pollination and propagation techniques. In Brazil, the home of the tibouchina, the pollen is released from the stamens by the frequency of vibrations of hummingbird wings. This took a bit of replicating, given the absence of hummingbirds in Australia.

The first of the collection to be released was Groovy Baby. It has proven to be immensely popular, with its huge, vibrant deep purple flowers borne in profusion on a compact plant growing about 60cm high and 80cm wide.

Another good one is Chameleon, which has been developed from Noelene, and grows to about 1.5m with large pink flowers that fade to white. But my favourite is Peace Baby, with its large white flowers with delicate pink stamens. Peace Baby has a similar habit to Groovy Baby, growing about 60cm x 80cm.

I planted a couple in my garden in autumn last year. They started blooming in September and have not stopped since. The flowers have not been so numerous in the past few months but there are some present and there are still plenty of buds. Perhaps this continuous flowering is due to the unusually warm winter we have experienced this year.

I did have a bit of trouble with grasshoppers chewing them when it got very hot and dry through summer, but a couple of applications of Eco-Neem fixed that.

Tibouchinas will grow happily in full sun or part shade. They are not particularly fussy about soil type, but will benefit from the addition of compost at planting time, and a good layer of mulch to conserve moisture during the hot weather.

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