Sunday, 15 November 2020

Tauranga Covid-Buster tour

 The  Te Atatu Floral Circle escaped Auckland for the weekend on the Covid-Buster tour to Tauranga.

We saw many gardens over a the weekend from downsized ones to upsized ones, old established ones to new and trendy. The weather shone on us and was perfect.

The first three were in Pyes Pa and had staked out their new subdivision claims by going a bit crazy at the garden centre. Annuals galore, hanging baskets, and veges down the back were the order of the day. There's a lot you can do on former kiwifruit orchard on handkerchief size plots. Who needs a lawn when one can carve out  a koru water feature?

I liked the groundcover pansies, and fuschsias seemed to be the favoured foundation plant. 

In town, we visited Robbins Park Rose Gardens, which were all in bloom. But the real gem was the tropical house next door, complete with orchids in a glass case. Spectacular. 

In Papamoa, we visited a Jacobean tapestry and quilt lady. I bought some dutch iris bulbs. They had downsized to the surburbs but had bought all their favourite plants with them. Another riot of colourful flowers awaited us.

Then we upsized to a country style formal garden (big enough for a buxus edged phoenix palm driveway roundabout) that had the biggest lemon and lime roses you ever saw, the leaves super fed with fert that they were flogging to us in little baggies.  Yet another riotous bed of colour was in full bloom.

The last day we cruised on up the old Te Puna Quarry that had been transformed into a rambly garden - this one had an amazing heritage rose border with romantic favourites including stachys, sweet williams, lilies, iris and lobelias. Thanks to all the active Rose Society volunteer workers, it was heavenly to walk through.

Our final stop was the Mayward  Homestead Country Garden, which could easily qualify for the 5 star rating of National Gardens of Significance. This one had flowing waters and mystery dells, swamp cypress, azaleas, rhododendrons, wisterias, lily of the valleys, hostas and solomon's seal. The house was a romantic's dreamy backdrop, an ideal wedding venue. It all backed on to native bush and the owner was a dedicated and knowledgable gardener. We were gobsmacked that she did all this on her own.

I am sorry photos can't really do it justice, but you had to be there. 

Tauranga tropical house

Picture perfect - who needs a wedding give me a garden for life

Roses and more roses in bloom
One of many garden beds full of flowers

Bug hotel

Orchids under glass

When I got back to Auckland I was feeling a bit crowded after Tauranga's spacious suburbs and giant trees that would never be cut down for a parking lot or infill housing. They really have super giant trees there.

So I thought my solution was to convince people if they really want to live in Auckland they've got to start living in the trees instead of cutting them all down.  Thanks Tauranga for an amazing tour and the Floral Circle ladies had a great time as always! 

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Garden blooming

 Time is flying by. 

Karyn got's the evidence. It was a beautiful church ceremony that was simple yet sweet. Pierre waited patiently for half an hour past the appointed time. Some men don't. They are like - ten minutes late - missed your chance!

Is it better to be late than never? Perhaps. I know you can definitely marry too early. We showered her with flowers and she threw the bouquet. Don't worry, I did not catch it, I've got plenty of flowers in my own garden. 

This spring season has actually never been so spectacular for flowers in my garden.

I've got irises, roses, sweet peas, statice, ajugas, watsonias, lavender, daisies, pelargoniums, ivy geraniums, scabiosa, forget-me-not, salvia, nasturtiums, oxalis, abutilon, jasmine, plumbago, apple blossom, impatiens, daphne, camellia....

The Floral Circle are having the trip to Tauranga next week and this time Cenny and Marie are coming with me. When I get back I need to get into planting maybe some dwarf beans or capsicums. But I am sure I will find inspiration on my trip - as I have not been able to get out and about so much yet. Sometimes isolation and quarantine can make you quite insular and too sheltered.  Although I think doing your own thing can be very satisfying, something in me wants to reach out more and grow more and do more but where when why and how, I am not sure yet. 

Who knows what's around the corner? 

Friday, 23 October 2020

Karyn's big day

 Karyn and Pierre are getting married today. Covid-19 or not, today is the day! I have been picking flowers to take to the wedding so we can throw it as confetti. I'm not privy to the bridal party and possibly too old to be a flower-girl, but I can't let all those pelargoniums go to waste. She's marrying in church and there will be refreshments afterward.

It's Labour Weekend and I've just had a message from the govt to stay safe. Other than  the wedding, I'm not planning on going anywhere, recovering from school by having peace and quiet time is my thing. I've been reading a book called 'Frensham' a New Zealand country garden, down in Canterbury. The owner, Margaret has produced a book about a year in her garden. I wonder how it is gardening in the South Island, when it's at it's best only for 2-3 months of the year from September to November. They get beautiful autumn foliage, but then it's snow and ice in winter and the garden looks bare. They can't grow tropical plants or succulents. No bananas, feijoas, taro, or pohutuakawas! 

The only thing about reading 'high class' gardening books I find is a bit of garden envy. I can't just plant a row of trees in my 600 metre square section of New Gardenland. No drifts of daffodils or hornbeam hedges. I can't divide the garden into 'rooms' because there's no room for rooms! I have to scale it down to the cracks in the driveway - parsley is growing out of those. 

Speaking of books, sister has sent me a book called 'Kew's Global Kitchen Cookbook' 101 recipes using edible plants from around the world. Mum was of course immediately derisive. "You can't cook, you never do any cooking". She is constantly saying I 'always' or 'never' do anything. Sometimes in the same sentence. 

I have strong suspicion that Kew Garden really wants world domination over all the plants around the globe. It's like some botanical maniacs were obssessively collecting every single specimen, classifying and labelling it, to become the institution that it is, and then trying to stop everyone else from growing their own plants in case they get a bigger collection. I mean what have they done to the cycads in Madagascar, now one botanical collector has it, displayed in their million pound heated glass cabinet house,  everyone else wants one, so that in Madagascar there are hardly any left that people haven't dug up to show off in their Grand Designs home.

Personally I find it's pompousness a bit hypocritical, thinking its should be the world's authority on the entire planet's plant life, saying 9 billion people need to be fed and it's the one to do it, because, supposedly, it's got the monopoly on 'global food markets'. Still acting like the imperial tyrant that it is, naming and shaming plants and trying to grow and breed them to fit in with their economy - it's indirectly responsible for all the plastic covered strawberry fields and tomato hot houses in Almeria Spain. Just because some Brits need a tomato in their Jamie Oliver inspired mediterraenean style salad, out of season because tomatoes won't grow there. Or more strawberries with their Pimms. 

I won't let it spoil things though, the sun is shining and it's a good day to be marrying (for Karyn) and a good day to be free (for me). 

Saturday, 17 October 2020

The Secret of Waitakere Gardens

 This season has been an exceptional one for flowers, my cuttings - lavenders, pelargoniums, geraniums have taken off. The oxalis is actually prettily flowering. Ajugas are pushing up their purple bugles. I've got a blue lily like flower that is stunning that I can't to come, possibly a native weed, but gorgeous. Pink watsonia has bloomed. Mustard is flowering like mini sunflowers. The nasturtium brings oranges and yellows into the mix with lily pad like leaves. 

Loquats are ripening. The apricot may fruit this year. And my citrus I've repotted have now recovered from their scale outbreak. Was it all the lockdown gardening that made the difference? 

Last week I took a stroll down memory lane and went to visit Raewyn in the Waitakere Gardens. I notice many new developments since I gardened there two years ago, some trees had been removed, and others planted, the roses now have a few companion plants (phacelia?) and there's a row of espalier pears and apples where the climbing roses used to be. There is a lot more colour (and I must admit, a lot more garish than any garden has a right to be) but that's what the oldies wanted. They weren't keen on restful/funereal white flowers and green foliage. 

Dozens of azaleas in pots lay in wait to be planted in the new garden where I recall was a sloping lawn. The spider plants I sneaked in have multiplied. But the iresine I killed didn't come back. That's what got the chop from me. "Oh no I'm not a gardener" says Raewyn who cuts the flowers for koha donations. I don't know what, in her mind, a gardener is. Someone who sows and plants? Does maintaining or pruning not count as gardening? Or picking flowers? Giles said the same thing. 'I don't do any gardening at the community garden' he claims. Then what does he do, just look pretty? "I  just maintain it'. Maybe the very act of planting and sowing makes one a gardener after all.

Perhaps I was being way too radical being a gardener, planting plants where they weren't allowed. People get miffed to see something growing that they hadn't authorised. I guess that's what gets cannabis growers up in arms, wanting it to be legal. But if you make things legal, doesn't it take all the forbidden fun out of it all? Maybe they want to fight for respectablity too, well they could now join the gardening club, and don't have to hide their growing credentials. No more secrets, no more mysteries. 

I watched the Secret Garden movie in the school holidays. Bad idea, because my well loved children's classic book was totally massacred in this movie. There was a dog in it! Mary didn't do any actual gardening whatsoever!  And  Misselwhaite Manor burned down! Talk about a spoiler, THAT wasn't in the book. The garden wasn't even really kept secret. 

I found myself missing the regular Wednesday morning garden group at Waitakere. The oldies, invigorated by fresh air, sunshine, and digging would find themselves less prone to temper tantrums like Colin, and treating people like servants like spoiled, disagreeable Mary. They would miraculously ditch their walkers and habit of wandering aimlessly round indoors in circles, and rib each other while poking fun at how old fashioned they were because they believed in the magic of growing things. 

Now how horrible would it have been if they didn't do any gardening, and just romped around with stray dogs and then let Waitakere Gardens fall into disrepair and potential fire hazard like in the movie. 


Saturday, 10 October 2020

Do's and Don'ts of gardening


Have I gardened long enough to pass on some eternal wisdom in my 7 years or so of gardening? These are some of the gems I've learned. 

Don't ever buy garden ornaments - they look good for the first year, then quickly rust and decay. Unless you are a fan of the scrapyard look, resist the temptation. 'Rustic' can give you bouts of tetanus.

Don't tell people who are not gardeners you like gardening. They will just burden you with job offers and hint or bribe you to do their garden for them. And by 'doing their garden' they actually mean weed and dig plants out so there's nothing there.

Don't enter garden shows. If you more want stress and drama in your life, by all means do so, but the rest of us want to enjoy our gardens without the pressure.

Don't take cuttings without asking owners first. I have heard this terrible garden faux pas of people visiting other gardens and thinking it's a free for all. Coveting what isn't yours is not cool. If an apple falls on your head, then sure, but the tree isn't going to break it's branch for you.

Don't garden for money. It ruins the experience, and turns it into farming.

Do plant what you like. You are going to live with it, so, you must like it. Thankfully, I like most plants.

Do plant in the right place. Every plant has a certain place they like --that's why they have roots, not legs. 

Do pick flowers regularly. They will produce more and that way you don't have to 'deadhead'.

Do compost and mulch.

Don't dig too deep, unless you want to unearth some skeletons. Build up the soil instead.

Don't use chemicals. If you are into spraying you are better off being a graffiti artist. 

Do plant and sow after the new moon.

Do cultivate  and weed, prune and harvest on the waning moon.

Do plant as many different kinds of plants as you can. For biodiversity. 

Do join a garden club. One word...RAFFLES. 

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Grow your own...

I love purple flowers - something about them.  So lovely this time of year. 

Karyn and Pierre are getting married on October 24th. It's official! Another friend June is getting married in November. It also looks like our Te Atatu Floral and Garden Circle trip to Tauranga is going ahead. 

Am so looking forward because I haven't been out of my little bubble in ages. If things go well we might even be visiting each others gardens in the Floral Circle. 

On the gardening front I haven't had to do much aside from pick flowers! This time I'm going to have a go drying them and pressing them in wax paper. Flowers are so fleeting that you need to be observant when they do arrive. Surprisingly mum did notice there were more flowers than usual that even my Aunties remarked on them when they came over. She grudgingly said 'oh its just Selina's planting them really there are too many'  (I won't translate what she actually says in Chinese but you can be sure it's a backhanded compliment. ) My garden has been attracting the cats next door and my cousin who comes when she want to pick fennel or rosemary or lavender. 

I'm hoping that people will get the message to try and do their own garden if they want to see the fruits (and flowers) of their labour rather than at present assume that all gardeners are dying to work on other peoples gardens for cash. It is really not fun if you spend all your time weeding and looking after a garden and you don't even get to pick the produce. Which is amazingly still what people think to do the world over, like all the people who are practically forced to grow coffee in Indonesia and then don't have enough land or time to grow food to feed themselves...the coffee just gets exported to some richer country so they can have it as a luxury good. 

Oh but we can't grow coffee in England or Holland or New Zealand it's too cold. Well tough.You can drink dandelion tea instead. I am ready to give up chocolate or rice if it can't be grown here so I can have my lamb and potatoes and crayfish and pipis. And chokos and feijoas. And possibly now its warmer..bananas. I'm sure nobody else in the world really wants our exports which is fine with me. Don't we have people living in poverty here that don't have enough to eat, so why feed those that already do? 


Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Evidence of Spring

Of course if you don't believe is evidence


Monarch butterfly on echium

The echium in glorious bloom

Even the aeoniums are putting on a show