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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Dark Skies

The rains threatened. Task of the day - trimming liriope with blunt secateurs.
It was my one year work anniversary. People kept asking if I was working in the rain, and I smiled and said I wear a raincoat. They pitied and disparaged me, with my dirty fingernails and unkempt hair but I didn't care. Better than being stuck inside breathing toxic fumes of people. I could hear birds singing, if I kept quiet enough. And if I was still enough, I could watch plants grow and make their way toward the light.

I had been abandoned, yet again, in the garden. Everyone else had decided they were busy doing other things, vastly more important things that I couldn't comprehend. I watched the old folk, comfortable in their retirement, playing bowls on the fake lawn. After years of hard scrabble, bringing up squabbling children, they could now have fun. They bought brand new apartments and giant shiny new SUVs. They kept the children and grandchildren from visiting behind the gated walls. They nagged the gardeners and teased us and abused us at times, but none came out to help. They had better things to do I suppose, and that didn't include gardening.

At home Mum had been quieter lately, because I was keeping out of trouble, and busy, and  after work I would go to my room and have a nap. She surprised me by doing some gardening the other week, putting in garlic chives in my raised plot herself and suggesting I plant garlic for winter. Dad picked up fallen wisteria leaves. He gathered them all up and put them in the rubbish bin, which I then emptied into the raised bed.

Auckland Transport contacted me and said I could plant groundcover flowers on the church roadside berms, and they would have no problem with it.  In times past churchyards were places the faithful were buried, because they all wanted to be raised together at the resurrection. And people would plant flowers on their graves. But to my dismay I found out that people were no longer burying their loved ones, but incinerating them like cigarettes and scattering their ashes to the winds, and the churchyards converted to asphalt parking lots. At first I was righteously indignant at this, but then I later learned to let it go. Maybe people just don't believe anymore, or they wish to become fertiliser, and disappear into the ether. I can't make people believe a miracle if they don't want to see.

There's a no smoking sign outside our church,  to stop people chucking butts into our garden but maybe it should say 'no rest for the wicked'. The rat race is to your right, stay out of the acid rain.

Friday, 15 June 2018

My trees don't count

Apparently the Trees that Count scheme is a bit of a scam. It's really a way for govt to count planting trees as part of their bean count process and get people to plant loads of trees for nothing, but only if they've already planted loads of trees which they will then have to source themselves and look after, I doubt that they actually will give people any trees to plant. And they say you need to plant a minimum of 50.

Why can't it be a voucher system whereby every New Zealander  is given a voucher to plant a native tree, that needs to be redeemed say this year. They can register their names and plant on behalf of other people. The thing is most people don't have access to land where they could plant 50 trees. Each park that is open to trees being planted can then pledge space for x amount of trees so you could match up a voucher to a park and go there to plant it. With the voucher there can be full instructions on how to care and look after your tree, and maybe a tree journal that goes with it so you could take a photo every year beside your tree and measure how big it's grown.

I don't know. I'm always the one with stupid grand ideas that everyone says won't work because other people have better, ideas that are much less easy to put into practice.
Like planting a roundabout with native flaxes after I pulled out a green bin load of cineraria, months later leaving empty space. The flaxes were already there, but needed dividing. So I just spread them around. Silly idea, we are buying brand new plants and why didn't you just tidy up the existing ones. Well excuse me for gardening. If we buy brand new plants, who's to say they won't be hacked back again like the cinerarias were. And what do I do with the extra flax that has kindly decided to grow more? Chuck them in the bin?

After that I decided I don't know anything about gardening except the people who are trying to make a buck from it. It's like when it's your birthday and you're told to buy your own gift and they will reimburse you. Or when someone invites you over to their party but says you must bring your own food. And on top of that, buy tupperware.

Bring on the cashless economy, where, if you want to plant a tree, you are actually given a tree to plant. And wouldn't be nice if, instead of buying stuff that's shipped and gassed from halfway around the world  you could just make things or grow things here instead.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Gardening 101

Saturday was the day, I managed to clear away the kikuyu infested garden at church, and so now there's a mountain of foliage taller than me sitting at St Giles waiting for the mulcher. A kowhai was revealed hidden under the growth of rampant coprosmas, which were planted too close by, and there was one privet that had grown up under next door's olives. A camellia is next to the kowhai looking a bit yellow, it probably needs some acid fertiliser.

I contacted AT and they took away the iron railing fence that was sitting face down on the grass, smothered in kikuyu. AT have even completed the brick work surrounding the bus stop pohutakawa, the spare pallets have been taken away, actually, it's all looking pretty presentable if I say so myself. The only thing left to do is get the tree guys on to the rotting cherry, and plant a few specimen plants like protea and bird of paradise, coloured flaxes, a few hydrangeas in the shady corner and my twelve native trees. And perhaps a star jasmine covering the ugly railing, but that may have to be a guerilla planting...i.e. plant when nobody's looking. Also a compost bin for clippings and dead flowers is a must.

 Graeme has promised to show me the original planting plan for this church that was landscaped by the former city council, of which, only a few plants have survived. The church members really had no say in what was planted and no wonder everything died, it was probably all the wrong plants in the wrong situations.

I am thinking about going on to do more training in level 4 Amenity Horticulture with my company after all, I don't know everything. Sometimes it surprises me how much I have learned, because gardening is a skill that's taught by doing, yet with something so basic as growing a plant, I find myself sometimes surprised at how ignorant people can be.

I've had people remark wow plants do so much better after rain. What people don't seem to understand is that plants need water to survive. You can't just buy a plant from a garden centre, plonk it down, and expect it to keep growing without ever watering it if its not outside. Unless it's a cacti or a really tough succulent. Or it's plastic. All my plants die, why? I've heard some people remark. Um do you water them? No? Well there's your problem.

Pruning is also a skill that's learned, because I've seen some really BAD pruning jobs, or rather plants that have been butchered. A tree wants to grow upright, so why do people think they need to keep it short and chop the tops off? It will just sprout more from the base and look even worse.

Some people think they need to fertilise plants every single week. Well that would be like giving plants steroids and not giving them a chance to actually find nutrients naturally and adapt to the soil. Some plants don't want to be flowering all the time, those that flower more die more. Its like humans, if a mother keeps having baby after baby, she's going to exhaust herself pretty soon.

I think gardening or horticulture needs to be taught in schools as a subject, even from primary school. Because parents aren't teaching it to their children. If children can't understand what a living thing like a good plant needs nurturing and cultivation they may just follow their parents neglectful example and run wild like every noxious weed that is only fit to be pulled out and burned.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Digging deep

Yesterday I dug out all the roses I hadn't planted in the garden. They are now sitting outside my gate, so if anyone wants them they are welcome to take them. I confess I am not a rose fan. The flower, yes, but the plant, no. If you have the room and the patience to cultivate them, then by all means do so, put them in pots, or their own bed, but beware of the thorns!

As far as I know, one is Iceberg, (white) another is Mr Lincoln, (red) one is a pale pink flower carpet and the other three not sure, possibly Margaret Merril from memory of what my brother told me, but I could be wrong. They have not done particularly well for me and only give maybe two or three blooms at a time, but it could be they are just in the wrong place. However I decide I am over the bush type roses that aren't performing well and look like sticks in the winter. I don't want to plant them at church either even though if they flowered more the roses would smell lovely, I just don't like the thorns. And they are way too much maintenance, Always and forever you need to prune, deadhead and check for diseases which roses are prone to.

There are certainly other flowers that are just as colourful and perfumed that do not have thorns. So I've put in some cannas where some of the roses used to be, and cuttings of lavender.

Some favourite flowers, that are performing well in my garden currently are

Abutilon (red, yellow, white and pink)
Penstemon (pink and white)
Snapdragon (red, pink, white and yellow)
Salvia (blue and purple)
Canna lily (red)
Bromeliad (hot pink and blue)
Love-lies-bleeding (crimson red)

I am hoping at some stage to get to the church garden again to tidy up a messy patch but still now word on whether I can even get another flower bed going, endless wrangling with AT over what land we can use, and it seems like there's a planned deck area next to the church building - the sunniest, sheltered and most ideal place for a flower garden all I need to know is WHERE can I plant. I need a compost bin and a designated place where our flowers are NOT going to be mown over. Lord knows I do not intend to have to mow lawns at church just for the sake of keeping up appearances and doing AT's job. Maybe if they GAVE us a lawnmower or the tools and equipment? Or, better yet, the plants, like groundcovering plants that don't need to be mown? Flowers even?

Ok, maybe am griping a bit but spring is not far away only a couple of months, if we miss the preparation now it will be too wet and sticky to dig.
In my own garden I have a not so endless task list of things that need to be done but I do need to get some sort of trellis up to train the passionfruit vine against the garage wall. So either wires around some stakes or plastic trellis, or better yet a metal grid climbing frame strong enough to stand up on it's own, as the metal hoops aren't really cutting it. I could use them somewhere else or in the community garden to hold up broad beans or other vines.

Well it's dark now hope someone will take the roses as free to a good home, maybe yours? I'm sure there are some people that love looking after roses and they could be worth all the trouble but remember they are high maintenance and need good rose parents who will lavish them with affection (or banana peels) and treat them with kid gloves.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Wealthy Gardener's Club

Have been reading a book about Hidcote Manor Garden, near the Cotswolds in England. I watched a dvd called 'The Quiet American' and it was about the creator of this garden, Lawrence Johnston, who apparently was a bit of a plant nerd. His wealthy american parents settled in England where he lived with his divorced and widowed mother, buying a huge tract of land in which he set out to make a garden. The result was about 20 garden compartments filled with different plants and styles. He had a brief army career and then set about making his life's work his garden. He was an aesthete at heart, and could be quite insufferable at times, as he sent out people to hunt plants for them, and labour in his garden doing the hard yards while he wined and dined and played tennis. Other than that not much is known about him as he never wrote about his garden nor opened it to the public.

After his health started failing he moved to sunnier pastures in the south of France, to while away his retirement years, gifting the garden to the National Trust to be maintained, he only went back once to see it. He died in France, never married with no children but he's buried at the church near the garden at Hidcote. He had one brother, but he died young, so no other family in England.

What of the garden though. Well, something on this grand scale of gardening I cannot hope to emulate, at this time the National Trust has 8 full time gardeners and 30 volunteers, and it is open to the public to visit. It has a looong walk, clipped yews and herbaceous borders - the quintessential English garden in the Arts and Crafts style.

What fascinates me is, what drove or inspired him to create this garden? Was it love of plants? Did he paint the garden like Monet did? Did he use the plants for anything? It was never open to the public during his lifetime so he didn't create it for other people. But it was such a huge garden for one person. And why did he have two residences, must have been fabulously wealthy to finance it all, yet it wasn't his money because he never worked ie. held down a real job. Was he more of a collector, someone who just gets the gardening bug and then spends all his inheritance on making a garden? And then just abandon it by leaving the country. I'm intrigued, or rather, mystified.

Aesthetes are strange people, giving up a real job to fluff about with colour and making things that are of no practical use to anybody but to look at. Or perhaps artists are just wealthy people wanting to show off the number of plants they can acquire and how big their estate is.  I don't know. Reading his story it makes me wonder if I am an aesthete but that can't be true as I don't have anyone to bankroll my garden. So sorry I cannot join the elite RHS or Wealthy Gardener's Club. But people say Lawrence Johnston would be rolling in his grave if he knew that his garden now has all these visitors  flocking to see it....

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Trees that count

Friday was very productive day with Les as we tackled the shady garden, adding spider plants, busy lizzies and pruning the camellias. We filled the hollow on the roadside flower beds. Also added a heart shaped planter which I filled with red bromeliads and love-lies-bleeding, near the Jesus rock.
My tree guys are going to come and have a look at the rotting cherry tree and we may POSSIBLY be planting new trees as replacements although I have come up against a bit of opposition there.
I had suggested to the elders we plant 12 trees -

3 kowhais
3 bottlebrushes
3 feijoas
3 olives

but that didn't seem to go down too well, with many fearing maintenance and costs. But I pointed out that it costs MORE to maintain a lawn, and lawns don't give us anything, like fruit and shade, or homes for birds, unless we bring in some sheep to graze it, we would need to pay someone to mow it. (Yes, if they want grass, might as well bring in some sheep, the original lawnmowers).

In despair - how will we ever get this garden started if we aren't allowed trees? I came across this project called 'Trees that Count' that is pledging and funding native tree plantings across the nation, to offset carbon emissions and restore our land, so we could possibly have our trees without having to pay for them and people will come and plant them.

I might have to revise my planting plan to for strictly natives, so it may be

3 Kowhais
3 Cabbage Trees
2 Pohutakawas
1 Puriri
3 Manukas

for the strip of land owned by AT, (Auckland Transport) which they are SUPPOSED to look after but Lord knows they don't. I know because the contractors looking after our parks and reserves say that AT doesn't have anyone at the moment and not paying anyone to do this. This is all the land that is our verges and berms. They will do the bare minimum, but they aren't even mowing or planting anything except by the new motorways.

I also need a compost bin, some upcycle raised beds and more benches for near our bus stop, and some help on Monday to trim and tidy the coprosma. There is a kowhai hiding in that bush, and found there were some olive trees behind it belonging to next door's property.

I thought of olive trees (the cultivated kind) for fruit and feijoas because they are so easy to grow. Although they are not native, we need fruiting trees, plus how can we teach the bible if children have no idea what an olive tree is or that you can pick fruit from a tree. It doesn't come from a shop in a plastic bag! How can I tell them where anointing oil comes from or that Jesus prayed at the Mount of Olives, or show them how Gentiles are grafted into the Jewish wild olive trees. How can I explain what Jesus means when he says I am the vine, you are the branches if we aren't even allowed to grow any vines at church. How can we enact Palm Sunday if we don't have any palm fronds to wave? Or fern fronds, I can imagine those huge mamakus or silver ferns would make a fantastic flag.

How can we explain these leaves are for our healing and there are fruits of the holy spirit if we have no fruit bearing trees. Oh but the maintenance and costs! I keep hearing from grumbling elders. I don't understand why people seem to hate trees so much. You can demolish a building and build it again, but a tree is one of God's creations that gives life, please respect them and look after them, and they will look after you. All flesh is grass, and flowers fade away, but a righteous tree planted by living water endures forever.

Thursday, 31 May 2018


Les didn't forget. In fact he was waiting for me for nearly an hour at the church because I must have told him 9am. But I thought I told him around 10. Or maybe he heard 9. I had to get the funcargo loaded with tools and buy plants and then ran into an old schoolmate at Kings Plant Barn, who told me our high school was having a 50th reunion. I tried not to be distracted then went to pick Les up at his place but nobody answered the door. I should have more faith, he took the bus to church. I'm still not sure whether he wants me to pick him up or if he can get there himself since his place is not on the way. But it was cold that morning and I didn't want to get stuck in rush hour traffic at 9.

After an admonishing and forgiveness we got stuck into the triangle garden, weeding and removing canna lily. Then we planted hollyhocks, statice, valerian and pink alyssum. We filled a big sack with cannas which I then took home and plonked in my garden, as Graham the elder had given the ok to remove them. Did you want them planted elsewhere at church? Nope! Get rid of them. So that took the rest of the afternoon.

I'm going back there again today plus picking up Les from home this time and he may have a cappucino for his trouble this time, as yesterday I had run out of money, had spent it all on plants so with my spare change we ended up sharing a sausage roll at the corner cafe.

We still have to fill that hollow and weed the shady bed and tidy up the other bed. And take photos, and sort out trees. I don't like the shady bed because it's got too many bushes in it right next to the church building and they are just too big. I've added clivias and busy lizzies and begonias but it certainly could do with more colour than dreary castor oil plants and camellias, griselinia and cocrosmias and pseuudopanax that's already there, before it was weeded nightshade and oxalis grew all over. I want to take them all out and start again, but it's a permanent fixture, plus covered with scoria and indestructible tarpaulin weedmat (the weeds just grow right on top).

On my list of items to buy -

heart shaped pot for entry bed
pea straw mulch to stop weeds in new flowerbed
something colourful for the pot
trees - although haven't staked out where to plant yet.

However, I must get dressed, have breakfast and get going otherwise my forgiveness quota may run out. At least Les is forgiving not like my boss if I am minutes late gives me the third degree. The gate doesn't open till seven and it takes time to walk to the other side of the village I don't have the swipe unlike some people who can park right at the entrance! Auckland, what a rat race.