Monday, 23 March 2020

Crazy times

Preparing for lockdown...

The Massey Garden Ramble has been cancelled but that wasn't before I had distributed the flyers. At least people that have them now know where the gardens are - Woodside Road, Jadewynn and Triangle Park.

I said to Mummy Cat she had better get to work now the humans are staying at home. Before the shops close except for essential services tomorrow, I stocked up a bit on things like seed raising mix, potting mix, seeds, cleaning products, more flower bulbs, books and food for the week. I have decongestant essential oil (eucalyptus, peppermint, camphor)  and oregano oil for immunity. And hyssop plants, because that was all that was left in the herb section. All the veges seedlings had sold out.

Garden Planet is still going to air as scheduled but the next four weeks will be broadcasting repeats, but I have picked up relevant shows  to air so keep tuning in if you missed them the first time.

With mum and dad both home I expect they may be driving each other nuts, but I am thankful I have my garden. Or our garden. Mum might have to stop deriding my kale and attempts at growing food. She learned that dandelions are good for her liver and Dad is mowing less lawn. So I am hoping some good will come of it while we ride out the worst of it. Martha will be fine as it's not bird flu this time.

 Am going to take a hot bath and go to bed early. I looked at my posts from last year and it was around this time that everyone was catching some virus (or is it just the same one that keeps coming back every year?)  But as I am still here to tell the tale I think I will be ok.

Stay home and garden everyone, and if you are locked up, you are in safest place. Hebrews 13:3

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Lightbulb moment

I had made it my mission to plant bulbs today, as the moon calendar indicates it's the right time.
So I've picked up Grape Muscari and two kinds of Dutch Iris.
I usually don't go shopping on Sunday, but I've had to after working on Saturday that I can't face doing a round of more shops after working in one for four hours. This has kind of thrown my schedule for a bit, but then, everything changes anyway thanks to Coronavirus. People are probably going to be predicting everyone's going to have the Mark of the Beast some time soon. (If someone asks me I'm just gonna say no thanks).

All I know is, when spring time comes around I need to have planted my spring bulbs in March!
My beds are now all mulched in seaweed, and I've taken cuttings of daisies and pelargonium in hope that something, anything will grow in Mary's bed.

I came home rather exhausted and I'd only just walked up the road. I have also been asked to be on a committee. A flower committee. They say they need someone younger but I'm wondering what I can contribute. In general people don't really like flowers I've found. Fruits and veges get the star treatment in the gardening world but flowers tend to be ignored. I had once suggested lets grow more flowers in the community garden but that kinda went down like a lead balloon. The last time I went there everything was weeded until an inch of it's life and I felt if I had planted some bulbs there it wouldn't go down well.

So I am just sticking to my own patch for now. I think it's safer. I read in the paper that people were voting for the best garden at MetLife care and you could win $5000 from Mitre 10. When I worked at MetLife care retirement villages the ladies were constantly having fights over who could pick the flowers.  Some of them HATED the flowers like euryops which were 'too yellow' and jasmine was called 'that smelly plant'. I haven't been back there to see what it's like now but I can imagine that that giant hydrangea is still there and the lady who lives next to it, if she's still alive, is still complaining about it.

I personally believe flowers can contribute to a better world, if they can inspire kids living in the Bronx concrete jungle possibly they could do the same thing here, but in my experience kids in NZ get more excited over slime than flowers. We possibly have too many flowers, and half of them are gorse.

Mum has given me a mushroom kit that someone at work has given away so I'm going to attempt to grow some mushrooms. The kit comes with 3 pages of dense instructions but the bags are not labelled so I can't tell what is spawn and what is compost mix and what bag is meant to go with what. If I were creating a mushroom kit I would just have 1 page of instructions, with 3 steps, and pictures, and everything clearly labelled. So I might just have to email the mushroom kit creator and admit my complete cluelessness and say um can you explain how to grow mushrooms again? In less than 100 words? Cos you have given me a thesis here and I'm mentally challenged. Thank you.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Trade and exchange

Well my garden didn't stay bare for long as Rose the school gardener offered me some purple irises which I have now planted in the place where the cabbage and ponga have been cleared. I will be adding more lambs ears and statice if I can source it, and mint. I moved the monstera slightly and tidied up the spider plants who were threatening to over run the place. The carex have been trimmed back to pom poms and their cuttings were used as mulch.

Rose said she has space for a grapevine at her home as the school already have some. So we arranged a swap . I have cut down the gaura and have made cuttings of it so plonked them in the corner bed. Lucky the rain came, and it has now been wet overnight, hooray!

This is just a quick report as  I have some research to do on the history of gardening in New Zealand. This is a bit more ambitious than the history of my own garden which is now in it's sixth year so I have to pick my moments. I didn't realise that the Maori and European land wars affected so much of the land we see today but as I am neutral I won't take either side. It got me thinking that maybe God has a purpose and thought New Zealand/Aotearoa just needed more colour apart from green so He got people to live here and to bring all their plants too.

We ought to send more cabbage trees and pongas to other lands in exchange for potatoes and eggplants? I can lay claim to one plant success story from Chinese lands planted here, the humble kiwifruit aka Chinese Gooseberry, which made some kiwis very rich. It is a pity the PSA virus put a stop to much of that now, and what with this Coronavirus going round maybe we've had too much of a good thing. However I am sure the cure is waiting to be discovered, possibly made from all the privet we have, after all, some people have actually found a use for gorse. Makes a great mulch.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Goodbye Cabbage Tree and Ponga

The big dry meant some of my plants succumbed, so Mum got the spade and saw out and toppled the ponga, and the cabbage tree which was threatening to sway into the spouting of the house. I also saw she had her eye on my arch...

Nothing like a bit of death and destruction to satisfy her inner compulsion to lay waste my garden. While she was doing this she berated me on my plant choices. Those spider plants are ugly! Why did you plant that cabbage tree there? That plant pricks people!

Nothing I said would appease her so I just stayed out of her way.

Now there is a bare patch to be planted so everything has to be knee high to a grasshopper, so it seems it's going to be succulents, libertia, statice, and lambs ears. I thought of sneaking in a dwarf gardenia perhaps.

All is not lost however as Mum has been helping me gathering seaweed from the community garden. We've done two bucket load trips so far and my garden is now mulched and waiting for the rain for all the good minerals to soak into the soil.

I have one Albany grape vine to plant somewhere, just wondering if it will be allowed at the community garden, but I have to make it past bureaucracy and the silent majority first. If I risk planting it myself, I will then get irate texts questioning why there is a new plant in the garden. I can't just claim garden fairies planted it there, as they don't like to be questioned on their gardening decisions, otherwise they will stop helping.

My new job means I won't be able to make it to the garden on Saturdays. But who says Saturdays are sacred for spending time in the garden? I will just garden on Sundays instead.

I am rather sad that my pongas did not survive, I really wanted my garden to be iconic and kiwi-ish and what could be more so than ponga ferns and cabbage trees? Mum didn't believe me when I said the cabbage tree blew over from next door and started growing there. I pointed out some swan plants growing in the cracks and said they blew over too I did not plant them. I'm thinking she's starting to be a bit xenophobic about plants and I'm not sure I like the way she's insisting they all have official passports before they are allowed to take root here. But, that is the way it is with some people. I said if they don't grow here, weeds will just grow in their place so you better think hard of other plants that you want growing here instead.

Thursday, 13 February 2020


Talking with a seasoned gardener like Terri has me thinking I don't know if I can do what she does when I get to be her age. She's crazily gardening in this heat while I am kicking back and not even daring to put in any new plants in till at least April.

Somehow she's ordered plants by mail order and they had arrived and they all needed to be planted or die in their pots. I'm sure she knows the all the tricks though, soak the roots, plant under cloud cover and mulch, but the desire to have everything looking good and green while the sun is drying plants to a crisp seems to me counter intuitive. I suspect it's Terri's green fingers that make the difference.

While I welcome the sun and this lovely non-humid heat it means the plants are now ripening and drying out, ready to  chop and drop to use as mulch to build up beds for winter and to prepare the ground for spring. The dried out plant matter will return carbon to the soil and provide enough bulk and air so that water can be retained in the cracks appearing in our clay ground.

Watering seems to be a dry sum game, if theres no water, well sorry plants, your roots had better be well established to cope by now. I did drop into Kings to buy some seaweed booster to water in the soil as a tonic though as sometimes I forget as well as water, plants need food and they love eating seaweed. Surprisingly it cost only $3 since I had earned lots of points on my Kings card.
Karyn had sent the council workers in to our community garden to provide us with seagrass they had gathered off the shores of Saint Heliers. I was given some tips on taro (divide and conquer, they like it damp) and when I shared news about our garden calamity, it was suggested that one of our rival community gardeners may have sabotaged our garden. After all, we are having an open day in March for eco fest where we join with the other Massey community gardeners for a garden ramble. Could it be...they don't want our garden to out-green theirs?? I don't know but then I don't want to think gardeners would do such criminal underhand things. Mike seemed to think they acted rather suspiciously when we all won the bronze at the NZ Flower and Garden Show like they wanted to claim all the glory for the win for the joint prize. Hmm

Shall I put it past them?

Anyhow, enough blather, after considering a long list of plants that cope really well in the sun and heat I decided our plant of the week is going to be Gazania. Good old gazania, stalwart tried and true. Never needs extra water and if you want to see a particularly gorgeous specimen of it, go down Alderman Drive past the Falls hotel on way to Henderson on the corner near the crossing it just covers the berm with a riot of yellow flowers year after year. Great groundcover and cheerfully brightening up roadsides wherever it is planted.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Garden Nanny

Mum would be happy as all last month I haven't done any planting. Aside from watering the garden,  and gathering flowers to dry, I have hardly done anything at all.

There are no new plants added and everything just looks the same only growing where it ought to be. Except the lemon tree. I think it's on last legs. I don't know if it will survive. Sorry lemon. Mum wanted you to be planted there but it seems like a dead spot where nothing grows. I suspect it may have something to do with Mary's grave.

However, my echinacea has survived and may even flower soon. Hooray.
It's back to school time so I am taking my hanging spider plants back to the library. Also the peace lily but I don't know about the parlour palm yet. It was looking a bit worse for wear so I cut it back and has grown some new fronds, but I'm not sure it will handle the onslaught of children yet.
Hoya seemed happy growing on the tallest shelf. I hadn't watered it in about 4 weeks.

I have started a new job at PaperPlus to earn some extra income since support staff are not paid during the school holidays (and also cos I love books) so I have had to give up the community garden this year. As this will be on Saturday mornings. Yes yes I know everyone wants me to live at their place and do all their hard work for them and garden and do all their sewing, cooking and pick them up and bake cookies and basically just BE THEIR MAID  cos they don't have the time but sorry. No.

I'm not moving anywhere, and I'm not gardening anyone else's place when my own plants cry out for attention.  The money is going to go toward Garden Planet anyway so it will be win-win for everyone who lives on the planet who listens to the show so they can be empowered to do their own gardening. Right?

One thing I did do was drop into Myra's new place at the retirement village where Louise is growing heirloom tomatoes for her. Both seemed happy with that arrangement but personally I am not sure I can handle oldies again. I don't know if she's forgiven me for her disappearing flower bulbs of which I have no idea where they would be. So I was a little wary, I guess its like parents who have children and when they turn 5 they just send them off to school  and don't have to be parents anymore from 9 till 3 and us poor teachers and librarians are then lumped with the task of needing to look after them for 6 hours every day...when they are most active. 

I am very tempted to say if you are going to have a garden (or children) you need to make sure you are going to look after them or just do what you are able to do and not rope in anyone else. Cos once you've done that you've handed it over and they are not really yours anymore. Because what happens is you will fall in love with the garden or the children you are looking after and you will never want to let them go.

Monday, 27 January 2020

There was an old lady who...

Imagine having an entire island to plant as a garden.

I got my bucket list ticked yesterday as I got to go with Mum and Rita to Tiritiri Matangi Island to see the birds. We saw rifleman, robins, kokakao, tui, giant wetas, fantails, hihi, bellbirds, saddlebacks, blue penguins and more. They were all living in a forest garden planted by volunteers which covered the entire island. A total of 283, 000 trees were planted between 1984-1994, regenerating 60% of the islands forest.
Predators such as rats and cats and stoats and dogs and rabbits were not allowed on the island, so the birds flourished. The birds were flying around (quite low, some weren't very good fliers) and congregating around the water troughs. It's been a hot summer and the ponds had all but dried up. I resolved to keep refilling my own birdbaths so the birds visiting my garden would have some respite from the heat.

We noted lots of native plants like pohutakawa, whiteywood, silver fern ponga, cabbage trees, nikau, flax, kawakawa, karaka and puriri trees. The initial plantings, said the guide were a little too close together and in rows, as nobody had ever replanted an island before and they weren't sure if they would survive.  Then the guide pointed out the wonders of the scrambling muehlenbeckia. Perfect hiding places for ground-dwelling birds and lizards.
"Mum, that's the plant you wanted me to get rid of!'" I said.
I just hope mum came away from the island with a greater appreciation of plants. When we got home I said, I know what's missing from the island - fruit trees! Mum concurred. The guide had said they needed to build feeding stations for the birds in winter because there weren't any nectar available. They filled these stations with sugar water thanks to the Chelsea Sugar factory, but it was like having McDonalds for birds.

I reckoned if they planted more flowering and fruiting trees the birds wouldn't have to fight so much over these fast food stations. They don't have to be native, the tuis would go for cherries (especially Taiwanese cherries) loquats, feijoas, figs,  plums and nectarines..and aside from that where are all the manuka trees? For the bees. But I didn't want to sound unappreciative of all  the volunteers hard work, and the Department of Conservations' pest management practices. But maybe they were a bit too cautious because aside from all the endangered birds they were intent on saving they also needed insects for the birds to eat as well. So now they are introducing more native insects onto the island, to complete the ecosystem.

It reminded me how I knew an old lady that swallowed a fly, and the whole story behind why she would swallow a fly, I don't know why, but then she had to swallow a spider, and a bird, then a rat, then a cat...

The rats had a hard time but I was thinking if the rats did survive being stowed away in a visitor's backpack, wouldn't they be eaten by moreporks? And if there are too many possums and rabbits and deer in the bush can't WE just eat them? We could bring Georgie Pie back for good permanently if they would make a good possum/rabbit/deer meat pie. And if we went back to eating these special edition Georgie Pies nobody would dare use 1080 poison anymore.

I don't know if Rita heard my grand idea. I'm always telling her some pie-in-the-sky idea that would save the planet, and she is a very encouraging friend who never knocks my ideas, which nobody seems to do anything about, but I figured she might have a direct line to someone important, if not God, who will then orchestrate things so that my grand ideas will be implemented and the earth will keep spinning on it's axis.

We don't really need to kill kikuyu with roundup, for example, because Takahe love eating it and  our native skinks like to live in it. And all those weedy flowering plants? Perfect habitat for bees. Slug problem? We just need more ducks. Duck problem? Mum can eat the ducks. Its her favourite dish. By the way - Happy Chinese New Year.  It's  the year of the Rat. Besides if there get to be too many humans on this planet, well, all we need is more tigers and lions and bears to eat the humans.