GARDENING: The coveted Pigface a supreme succulent
Gardening with Neil Fisher
THE saying that everything old is new again could not be truer when referring to the colourful flowering ground cover called Pigface. This plant is widely regarded as having one of the most spectacular displays of bright flowers in the succulent world.
Most of us would clearly remember the mass floral displays of Pigface or Lampranthus that line the beach side gardens on the Capricorn Coast. As a child my family would spend a lot of time at Keppel Sands. I can still remember the colourful cascading plants that were a feature at this time of the year. Over the recent water wasteful years the very water-wise Pigface or Lampranthus struggled to survive in home gardens due to over watering.
This week I received a letter from a gardener in Mundubbera who asked why it is so hard to obtain Pigface from Queensland Hardware's and Nurseries. I think the problem is that the poor Pigface has fallen out of favour with the gardening community. But in saying that, Pigface would be one of the toughest plants for Queensland gardens.
Over the years gardeners have found Lampranthus relatively easy to grow in a sunny well-drained position. While these plants are frost tender many gardeners have successfully grown Lampranthus in a frosty areas if they are planted in a sheltered position. After the last few dry years many gardeners have started to look for plants that can withstand periods of drought. And Lampranthus is one of a few species that will withstand drought very well and do not require a lot of maintenance.
The vibrant flowers of the Lampranthus are in various colour shades of orange, pink, red, white, yellow as well some bicoloured varieties. The flowers of the Lampranthus open in the morning and close in the late afternoon. Their massed blooms are at the best at this time of the year but the plants will have some flowers during other times of the year. Remembering these plants require sunny areas to flower at their best.
The pale green to bluish succulent foliage on the Lampranthus is short and waxy and range from a cylindrical to triangular shapes.
Lampranthus will form a dense low growing mat that is perfect for rock gardens on steep slopes or embankments in mass plantings. For the best results use these plants either in small groups directly in the garden or in window boxes and small containers.
Lampranthus is a fairly large genus that consists of 227 species and 13 varieties are one of the largest genera in the Aizoaceae family. The genus name comes from the Greek words lampros, meaning bright, and anthos, meaning flower. They are native from South Africa's Eastern Cape to southern Namibia.
These are very hardy plants with very few pests' problems. I have only received a couple enquires of pest problems over the last decade. That pest problem was scale, which can be a problem with all dense foliage plants.
I have only grown Lampranthus by cuttings, which are best taken in either around the Easter weekend or during August and September. If you were to grow Lampranthus by seed the best time to sow them would be during the warmer months.
There is an Australian native Pigface called Carpobrotus glaucescens and this plant can be found in many coastal gardens.
It has large succulent leaves much larger than the Lampranthus.
It is one of the prettiest flowering native groundcovers, bearing pink to mauve-shaded flowers that can be 4 - 6cm in diameter during spring and summer. This Pigface is also perfect for positioning on dry well drained slopes and is also one of the easiest native groundcovers to propagate from cuttings.