Friday 24 May 2024

Garden time

 Tangelos are ripening.

Climate change seems to be here...I had a break from the garden for a while and now things have caught up. Dad had arranged some tree chopping behind the house and I felt discouraged from posting again - I am not used to change. He cut the bottlebrush I planted without warning. We've had feijoa (small again) otherwise..Cyclone Gabrielle's was Auckland's watershed a year on. While we were not flooded last year, thankfully, the house is still standing..I just don't know the knock on effects of that much rain meaning for the rest of Auckland - we have a lot of wooden houses (and more density since the Unitary plan) and now less trees to soak up the water... and while most of the soil out west is clay, which may be good to build houses on (or rock) that means its much less space for gardens especially trying to garden veges productively. 

Though it has ever been thus. I think of my rusty arch which did not last a season, and all the wooden fences and decks  that were unpainted and had started to rot again, and the roofs plus all the blocked drains. Perhaps Auckland should revert back to swamp and silt because our poor harbour has absorbed the dregs.

This time of year the autumn leaves are falling. Garden Club had orchid repotting demos and I scored an alstromeria and a curly leaved succulent. I found my moon calendar again after it had been left as had other things on my mind ... with daylight savings I seem to have had a bout of SAD seasonal affective disorder. Being the daughter of a weatherman and named after the moon I can't seem to escape its influence. 

Change is never easy. I have spring onions and spinach in buckets as most of the gardening I can muster at the moment which should tide us over for winter. I don't want to make Dad angry again by gardening. Or being a 'messy'.  Things grow... 

On positive side, Dusty has made herself at home and catches the mice. Not sure why we have more mice now - never had any when we had chickens. I miss them.

I need an elixir of some sort, and for the garden to grow again --- 

Monday 11 March 2024


 I have had a lovely couple of days rest with Mum and sis at Mokoroa Valley retreat thanks to a TimeOut stay. Mokoroa means 'long lizard' which seemed apt, like we were staying in the midst of a tanwiha's lair. I don't know how I feel about, while it feels benign I am aware the land has been through a lot of upheaval being former volcano from the beginning and all the past history up to present day home to wealthy lifestyle blockers. 

There is bush all around the holiday home which was very luxe. The owner has a hobby deer farm where he grows deer velvet from their antlers for export to China. There's a very clever irrigation system powered by a water wheel on one of the streams. Sprinklers for the wide expanse of lawn go off in the morning keeping it green. 

We went for walks and did some exploring, although unfortunately the major bush tracks are still closed thanks to Rahui for Kauri Dieback and Cyclone Gabrielle slip damage. I was in a contemplative mood though thinking on the many things that had been lost when Auckland Council amalgamated to the Supercity. Waitakere as an entity is no more and felt the loss of territory swallowed up by powers that be. The dichotomy between Auckland and Tamaki Makaurau is never more stark when thinking about place names and their meanings and the things we do on this land.

At Bethells Beach/Te Henga we walked along the ironsands where jellyfish end up. The rock at the entrance of O'Neill's beach is named Waitakere meaning 'deep waters' and is the start of the stream that eventually becomes Waitakere and lends the name to the area. There is a township which lent its name to Henderson library and civic centre and other schools. The local iwi, Te Kawerau A Maki still have links to the land but many had to move further inland because the construction of dams meant estuaries and food gathering sites became silted up and the land was no longer fertile or able to support them. 

Every year Auckland becomes more congested and our Waitakere Range rain catchment area now seems unable to cope with the strain. There are a lot of slips and road repair to be done. It's hard to live so far away in the back country where everything you need for living now has to be imported in and everything of value exported out.  It's hard to know where we are headed when all governance decisions are now mostly made from Wellington concerning this isthmus. 

People say it's all down to education, though I don't know how much sinks in, sometimes I think the land is crying out for healing and redemption with wetland areas demarcated for conservation. I like to think we all can all do our bit to care, but humans being human we are greedy and seem to crowd out everyone in our path, destroying the very things that help us to live. I don't like to think too deep thoughts all the time, but as I thought how peaceful and secluded the valley was I was glad to be home in my own garden with fruit trees and vegetables and never minded that there were other people around me, doing our best to live our lives out of the clutches of the taniwha...

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Year of the Lizard

 February rolls around...we are having a glorious warm summer and the rain has stayed off, so our plants haven't been drowned.

Dad's been marking progress on my apple trees.  We've been eating tomatoes and apricots. And mum's been harvesting grapes. 

Dusty's still chasing lizards and grasses. I have now a push mower and pruning saw in my arsenal of tools. The rain lilies have come and gone, and the wisteria has it's sneaky tendrils cut back. 

The back of our house the cabbage trees been lopped, and the trees behind the fence so now there's a vista into the creek and the house on the other side can now see straight into ours (as we can see theirs).

I'm not use to that much change and can only say well that cabbage tree will grow back. But I mourn a little whenever there's treeicide. 

At Woodside I've grown a little wildflower patch with alyssum, snapdragons and phacelia. We've had a lazy summer so there's not much to harvest, because we sowed so sparingly last year. I think everyones feeling the crunch, since Cyclone Gabrielle last year had such an impact on everything, that planting had been delayed and everyone's crops were out of sync. I'm just thankful I still have a garden because things could be much worse. 

The little seedbomb has flourished into nigella and alyssum by the garage, along with helichrysum or strawflowers. 

I'm contemplating a move toward more indoor plants this year. My brother hasn't made any further plans for his Versaille orangerie yet but would be interested to see what he does with his patch of lawn that he claims is a 'waste of space'. It all has to go with his massive chandelier in the dining room. 

Our home isn't so fancy and dad wants to keep the lawn shade free for his daily weather temperature reading. My brother said he could live in a state house where they have no trees at all. But I don't think they have grass either. Most of the state houses are on gravel, ashphalt or maybe on broken up concrete and glass, where the temperature is off the charts. I don't know how people can live without any greenery, but I do see artificial grass sometimes that gets so hot it burns your feet, and while you don't have to mow it, apparently its just as much maintenance as a real grass lawn because you have to vacuum it. 

People don't seem to mind about artificial grass and plastic pot plants, but I do. Sis gave away her pilea plant to her friends to keep as she's now back in the country. So I may have to gift her a new one so she can continue to exercise her green thumbs. 

Tuesday 23 January 2024

The story of gardening

I am reading a big coffee table book called The story of Gardening. The book is very heavy and I've only managed to read a few chapters. Gardening can sometimes feel like an endless battle with nature or an all consuming passion that can never be quenched. Chapter 11 was about Gardens in China, under the various dynasties. It turns out the humble administrators garden was not that he liked gardening a small patch but that he just needed somewhere to escape the daily grind of work and write poetry. One of the Empresses constructed a huge pleasure garden, called a Summer Palace, the pinnacle of which was a stone ship, on a fake sea. It was so expensive that all the funds that were meant to go into maintaining a defence force or army (or REAL ships) for the kingdom all went into the Empress's garden instead. The dynasty then fell apart from typical govt overspending on luxury holiday junkets and foreign invaders, who might have been expected to gasp at the beautiful gardens but they were not exactly that type of well-heeled tourist. 

 I have had a real think about the wealth gap in this country and I wonder if I'm in danger of falling into the chasm where all failed gardens go. Although have they really failed? Well if they've been bulldozed and ripped out for houses maybe.

 It was a bright sunny day when garden club met up again at Thera's who had survived a flood and half her garden falling into the neighbouring gully. We all had a tour and I must say I'm impressed with what she's done, despite living next to a substation and having bambook creep into her property. There were so many plants (obviously garden club trades) and her trademark ceramics and everything looked lush (maybe thanks to a lot more water!) and cared for. She also didn't really have to contend with a non-gardener whacking her plants to submission, because he was always off at car rallies. The price to pay for having a boy-racer fiance? I noticed go-kart tires as planting pots, which we also have in the community garden even though now I'm a bit dubious of growing edible things in petroleum.

 On the following Sunday checked out the Sunflower Farm in Waikmauku. Its open Fridays to Sundays to the public when the sunflowers are in bloom, and you can cut them for $3 a stem. There's also a cover charge to enter, as I'm supposing they don't want hordes decimating their crop as has what's happened to the blueberry growers. There was a sort of maze you could enter, but otherwise its masses of sunflowers and bees in one big block of land. Monoculture of course. Behind the bamboo hedge, row open row of celery was growing with sprinklers, and another field beyond lay fallow, the brown earth ready for a late summer sowing of something. Not like sunflowers just growing by the fence, these were in their thousands as far as the eye could see. As we'd had the ride in the middle of the day of course it was super sunny, and my friend/driver Shar was wilting in the heat. 

I'm a suburbanite and not used to mass farms, and get a bit antsy when driving out to the countryside and seeing fields upon fields of grassland and haybales and no trees. I keep thinking wow to have so much land is a gift, but I'm under no illusion that horticultural and agricultural production is a cut-throat business, hard work, noisy and often monotonous. Strawberry fields present the same, another friend said she'd hated picking strawberries as it was endless picking picking picking, bending down and picking, then weighing and packing, but that's only because some capitalist has decided that to sell them and make some money for a supermarket contract is better than to have them in growers hands. Consequently trays and trays of unripe strawberries for sale in said supermarkets.

 It should be more fun going to a supermarket and seeing the array of vegetables and fruit from all around the world shipped and stored and already picked for you and waiting to be plastic bagged (or finally, paper bagged) and then taken home to sit in your fruit bowl but I've become a bit desensistised to it all. You aren't allowed to taste them there, and who knows what sprays have got them to that point. After you've grown your own, it's all a bit disconcerting to see them all wrapped and barcoded and on shelves under florescent lights. Fruit picking, like fishing is just not the same when it's  done in a supermarket.

Friday 5 January 2024

Garden Sabbath

 No rant today. Dad does take photos of my flowers (and not of me anymore, as I hate having photos taken) and Dusty, and also buses and trains. 

The gardenia has blossomed and I'm picking fresh ones everyday. I have a Judith Hindel Sarracena - a carnivorous pitcher plant that eats flies. Sometimes I catch them by my fly swat in the kitchen,  and stick them inside the pitchers. This plant resides in a glazed pot behind this computer. 

Gardenias trinity
Dad also a bit obsessed with my apples which are looking very fruitful this year. Well our street was a former apple orchard, so they should do well anyway. They are crimson spire.

At least they have been spared the chop. One Manuka was not so lucky. It's just trees can take a long time to grow, and then be cut down in a minute. I suppose that's a metaphor for life.

Today has been wet, it poured down, then  suddenly weather has changed and the sun is out. It's not really been much summer - haven't heard any cicadas yet, though I've managed to thwart a few wasps nests. 

I met a fellow gardener who came from Christchurch who had taken time out to pot up natives for the Christchurch Botanic gardens. Gardening for the Council is labour intensive for sure and pays minimum wage but it's a job that doesn't require too much brainpower apparently. I think to take away the tediousness of it gardening bosses come up with little games like who can weed the most in the fastest time so they can pay someone less. At least thats what its like gardening full time and then the rest of the time you can just have smoko for hours. 

I don't really garden that way though its different when its someone else's garden but I have put that behind me now. This year is precious time to spend with mum and time to appreciate New Gardenland because it's been what, more than 7 years and I feel I deserve a Sabbath break. My brother is back from Australia and has hinted big plans for his place (Grand Orangerie, Palace of Versailles replica) and Sis is bringing back her Pilea plant from London, and *gulp* may be coming back to stay....permanently! 

Thursday 4 January 2024

Am gardening..Do not disturb

 Dad pulled out my pumpkins that were just about to flower. I went out for a day and then came back and found they disappeared and all the plants under the tangelo tree which included catmint, tomatoes, coriander, onions and other special herbs.

I was mad because they were all growing so healthy. Now theres nothing but bare compost but at least the grass around the tree is one centimetre. I don't care about the grass, the way people hack it and scalp it and it just grows back more and I don't know why dad is so obsessed with it. I can't eat grass. 

I also hate landscapers and weedmat and not being able to garden through a pile of matted plastic. I hate that I can't garden and grow things in my own home, because of the lawn taking up everything and I hate that I can't grow anything anywhere else without people getting upset and angry with me for wanting to grow things. I hate that people want me to pull out GOOD plants and leave dead useless plants that are leggy and need cutting back. I hate that people grow roses and want me to prune them and I get poked or they leave dead roses stalks unpruned with black scaly spot on them and a tangle of thorns. Why do people plant roses. They are ugly things when not in flower. 

Otherwise I'm ok. Maybe its the shock of it and I'll just get over it but there will be no giant pumpkins this year. My wildflower plot is growing...but who knows if it will just get ripped out again by someone else. But we need flowers for the bees to pollinate the orchard.

I remember when one of the gardening bosses told my supervisor to prune all the plumbago that was just about to flower beautiful blue flowers down to knee height when he had been growing it for years and it had never flowered. My supevisor cried. It was a crime against the plumbago. 

I also recall when weeds were growing all through a bush and trying to weed underneath a bushy leggy perennial meant cutting it right back so it could grow again but leaving it left a gap and so it wasn't 'tidy' and my boss did  not speak to me for days. Because he did want it TIDY. I can't tidy without moving things around. 

Anyway its all a work in progress and nothing will be perfect but I am just a bit over it cos everything I do just seems to make things worse for everyone else like I can't even make an omelette without breaking eggs or do something without telling someone else. But this is what you do because otherwise how would you live? I sometimes wish I could just do my own garden without having to run around tidying other peoples, but then  I shouldn't have taken anything on and said I could do it when most people don't really want a garden at all. Trying to convince a non gardener that weedmat and suffocating soil and plants is NOT a good idea won't wash. 

My dad would just be happy with bare square of grass and nothing else for his weather station which records the temperature and rainfall. But why then can't that be done near a rugby field? My brother clicked his tongue and said Dad should just live in an apartment. 

Sunday 31 December 2023

Happy New Gardenland Year 2024

 It's a Leap Year, so we have extra days in Feb this year. The rain fell and the sun rose...another day in paradise aka Riverpark, or a little rectangular section of it. 

Dusty, the new resident cat, has given the birdlife a run for its money, and scared the living daylights out of numerous lizards/skinks. She originally came with a bell but, she shrugged those (both of them) including her engraved name tag with my phone number on it. Dusty, you supposed to catch rodents! Instead she follows me round when I trail grasses and flowers. I'm training her for the cat circus. I figure once she gets good enough she can go on Shortland Street as the clinic cat. 

I am considering also auditioning, as palliative care nurse (sorry there's nothing more we can do for you) or florist since my handwriting isn't bad enough to be a doctor and my latin only extends to plant names. Having a herbalist on Shortland Street would not do, they only use synthetic chemical drugs and 3M products. Well actually they use placebos and the blood is just watered down strawberry jam. In an ideal world there would be an acupuncturist at the clinic sticking pins into people. When you have acupuncture, all the secrets and traumas come out, it's almost as good as having a confessional/lie detector test. 

Sorry. I am rambling again. Plants! Yes they are now decorated in solar lights. Thank you Warehouse sale. My tomatoes are bearing fruit and pumpkins are flowering. I put in dusty miller which should be able to cope with the summer sun. Lobelia and helichrysum for edging.  Kings Plants Barn are bombarding me with emails nearly everyday saying I must come in and spend lots of money and take home all their plants. I think its nice they think their customers have endless streams of money to spend all on plants.