Thursday, 30 July 2015

Land of hope and glory

I've been reading Monty Don. This time about his garden called Ivington, or Longmeadow, or the Jewel Garden. Or all three. I'm not sure, it's confusing. It's his own garden and he writes about it and I'm sure its as riveting to read for non-gardeners as my garden blog is for you. I mean, you don't really care that I garden do you? It's just something for me to do right?

You'd only care if...maybe you got something to eat out of it or could look at pretty pictures right?
I mean it's not as if YOU come here and garden with me, so how will you ever know the pleasure of walking in the garden each morning, seeing how the plants are growing, which ones are doing well, which ones aren't, where they came from, what they are doing here, how the flowers smell, and just to sit still and listen to birdsong, or maybe strum a guitar and dance down the steps, singing Do Re Mi.

I had someone suggest to me, for a job, that I grow vegetables and sell them. I have often wondered what the point of selling your plants would be. I have no idea why people suggest this, I am not a nursery or farmer and don't have nearly enough land.
I have also wondered why people would think I want to garden for them. What pleasure would I get from doing something you don't want to do? I don't think you could pay me to do it...and I'd probably muck it up anyway. And when they mean 'garden' I think they just mean 'weed'. No thanks.

Now Prince Charles might have other ideas. One thing he did was get some musicians in his garden to compose a symphony, and then he had people come and listen to a concert in the garden.
Brilliant idea!

Now, could he have a brilliant idea for me to write an ode to his garden. I would set up a glamping tent near his old treehouse, and while writing this blog, I would also, help him construct some insect hotels. Now, wouldn't that be a fun thing to do? Also, since I'm from the southern hemisphere, I could advise him on his upside down garden to make it a bit more authentic. For example, he doesn't seem to have any paua shells in his garden. That is totally a down under, kiwi thing to have. Aside from tree ferns. He could also, try growing some manuka trees next to his beehives, to make manuka honey. He could also, construct a little river stream sort of near his pond, and have a swinging bridge over it. That would be a kiwi thing also.

If biosecurity lets us, I will kidnap some giant weta from Peter Jacksons studio, and he could have a whole cave grotto full of creepy crawlies from New Zealand. It will surprise all the ladies from Chelsea. They would never expect it of Prince Charles. No..they thought he just wanted an Islamic garden paradise, which somehow survives the winter. But that's no fun for little George and Charlotte. Fountains. Meh. Colourful pots. Meh.

Giant wetas! Yea!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Green with Envy

Finished reading the book on Ayrlies.
My thoughts are as follows. I am really jealous. Or envious. Or maybe I'm just in the wrong class. Not having been to the manor born or married and become a rich chatelaine, I cannot relate to someone who just has three ponds dug in her garden just like that, and plants 500 trees. Of course, Prince Charles is royalty. He can do stuff like create seven different gardens and have a thyme walk and clipped hedges around a Country Estate. Alan Titchmarsh studied horticulture at Kew and taught and grew things for the local council in decorating their civic balls. He can have an English garden if he so desires.  Monty Don...well, I think he and his wife did gardening together and got themselves out of a financial hole, they had their own business. I am charmed by his love of plants and people and the healing effects gardening had on his soul.

But Bev McConnell seems to have done it all herself, bankrolled by her wealthy husband who didn't really have much say in it at all. But she did employ other people to help her. She brought them over from England plus had a nanny and housekeeper and all those sorts of things not many of us can dream of having. And she studied art, not botany or horticulture. And I don't even see any vegetables in her garden. There's no cottage flowers and hardly any herbs.  Maybe it's subversive, to have an ornamental garden instead of paddock. I don't know. But I'm a bit sad. I can't emulate her naturalistic planting because my section is just nearly dead flat. I can't look at my plants and just think in terms of colour and foliage and nothing else. Even if the magnolias 'paint the sky' I think of my one as the tree Iraena would have liked. I think of my daisies as the ones Myra gave me as cuttings. I think of the pear tree I grew accidentally from a seed in the wrong place that we can't get rid of. My rhubarb is from the community garden. The Chinese lantern, the Chinese Toon and the Heavenly Bamboo are my reminders of far away China. The bromeliads I got from the home show for $5. The sunflowers from seed Joanne gave me.

I wonder where Bev got all her plants from. Ordered them all from the nursery? There's tonnes of them..some rare ones nobody else has got mind you. At the back of the book are ones she thinks are really special, and of course, you would never find them at the run of the mill garden centres. I'd never heard of them anyway. After exhausting reading of latin plant names I had no clue about, I decided maybe I'm not that really kind of gardener even though truly, her garden looks wonderful and brings pleasure to all her friends and children and charities she supports. She put New Zealand on the world gardening map and is known far and wide as the Doyenne of New Zealand Gardening.

I may not be a doyenne of anything..but, in my own little world, I'm head gardener here.

Friday, 24 July 2015


Yesterday I opened the curtain and saw my next door neighbours camellia had been cut down.
I didn't even hear the chainsaw. She is now stumps, but the privet tree is still standing.
Dad says the neighbours told him that the privet will come down tomorrow. Hooray!

No more sneezing!

I wonder what they will grow in it's place?
I can make suggestions. Snowball tree? Magnolia? Chinese Toon?
Well, whatever they choose is fine as long as it's not privet. Maybe they can grow a tea hedge, camellia sinesis, so when they trim it they can also make cup of tea, and invite their us over, as good neighbours ought to. Or...rows of keep up appearances.

Am I crossing a boundary trying to influence my neighbours garden and landscape choices? Do they get the hint when I stuff their letterbox with NZ gardener booklets? I mean, their cat Sparky is more friendly than the humans. He's always wandering over.

I've heard that there are some people in NYC who seed bombed a place, they grew a garden in wasteland urban site next to the street, and the NYC mayor tried to shut it down, saying it was illegal. You can't stop the gardeners.

If you can make the desert bloom, you can do anything.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


I haven't posted here in a while.
It's too cold and muddy to be doing anything in the garden. But I did go out to Kings yesterday to buy some Sequestron, which they said was good for yellowing gardenias.

I've been watching Monty Don go round the world in 80 gardens. I have lot count of the ones that we went to, but I've so far been to ones in NZ, Australia, Cuba, Mexico, USA, India, Amazon, Argentina, Chile, China and Japan.

Virtually of course.

Ayrlies was first stop in NZ, and I do have the book which, I will get to later. I would quite like to go to Ayrlies for real, but haven't mustered up the courage to go ask Bev if I can come see it. Maybe just read her book first.
Monty talked about how the future of gardening in NZ was about appreciating our native plants. Of course. He seemed quite bemused over one of our native plants that you can bounce on like a trampoline. And tree ferns. He was like a kid in a candy store.

Huh. When do I get to go around the world looking at all these gardens?? It must have cost a bomb. I look up botanica world garden tours, and they are at least $7000. He went to Japan for a tea ceremony, but..actually the green tea there is rather awful. It seems like they mush it up to a powder instead of serving it freshly picked.

I now have his book on his garden at Longmeadow. It seems, looking up his wiki, that he suffers from SAD - seasonal affective disorder. Well, same here, a genuine mad keen gardener! Except here in NZ we get four seasons in one day, especially in Auckland, so, that means  we afflicted gardeners here are even more crazy.

The other book that I have been perusing, apart from my pile of NZ gardener magazines, is Alan Titchmarsh's Secret Garden. Yes his very own. I get to see his Georgian house which has a very english style garden surrounding it. It has buxus hedges, topiary, delphiniums, lavender, pear trees, a meadow, and a greenhouse full of geraniums. Strangely, he doesn't seem to have a vege patch, but maybe that was an oversight of the photographer. No photos of compost bins either.
His lawn is neatly mowed and hedges clipped very tidy, due to his parks and amenities horticulture background.

I'm sorry I'm not much of a photographer, and have been quite deliberately not showing you my garden. Well, it isn't complete yet, its a bit of an experiment. I haven't had my first showing of spring flowers yet and who knows what is going to appear. So..maybe the big reveal will come later. I will keep you posted.

The doctor gave me Vitamin D for my affliction.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


It's a gray day of nothing today and I can't figure out how to load these pics onto this blog.
So much for computer savvy. 

While everyone is sleeping I'm putting on some music since nothings going. 

Here are some songs.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Mr Frosty

We've had a few frosts so it was lucky I had bought that frost cloth earlier for my hibiscus. The other one is in it's pot indoors.

I did some winter sowing of perennials and scattered evening primrose, catnip, dianthus, sweet william and asceplias (butterfly bush). Apparently the frost and cold are good for the seed to crack them open. Others call this stratification, and do it by artificial means by putting seeds in the fridge before they sow them. But why not sow them at the right time (fall, or autumn when seeds ripen and fall to the ground) and leave them for mother nature to sort out.

I do have that potting bench but may just use it for pea seedlings to grow on for Woodside, since my others got munched. I still need to go there to collect comfrey to mulch my plants and make tea.

Other than that not much to report except they are showing a series on Prime TV called Great British Gardens and they had one last night about an estate called Nyman. The house got burned down and is now a ruin but the plants have taken over! Its almost like the story of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and the house at Manderley. It has rhododendrons too.

We have azaleas but not rhodos in our garden. I am thinking one might be nice as a bush down the back. We'll see.

I am thinking of creating a leafy book club up north if I do get that job...
Otherwise, if nothing pans out I will just have to go to the UK, turn up at Highgrove and ask Prince Charles (or Harry, or William) if I can work for him....

I'm sure he will pay me in organic vegetables and flowers.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Up North

I am back from Whangarei.
I saw some gardens up there, the first on was the fernery and conservatory that the district council own that was gifted to the people of Whangarei, and includes a park, a river, rose gardens, japanese style garden, cacti and succulents and lawn with picnic tables. I really like it. It is called Botanica and it's free to the public, and I even managed to snag a hibiscus plant they were giving away and some garden books and magazines!

I want to work there. I did see some gardeners working there trimming the edges of the rose garden. But I would prefer to work in the cool of the fernery, and when it's cold, to be nice and warm in the hothouse conservatory. I wonder if they have any situations vacant? I once applied to work in the Auckland Domain Wintergarden, as they were offering apprenticeships, but I think they only take men who can drive a forklift or something.

I might have better chance at working at the public library up there...but.. I don't know. I'm kind of over it. There is a vacancy though.

The second garden is the volunteer run Quarry Subtropical Garden and it is very impressive. It's only been there since 1997 but already looking well established. There are many walkways through the rocks and a lake up the top that was the old excavated rock. Orchids do really well there, there's a giant dinner plate fig, there are masses of poinsettias, really, it's quite amazing. And to think it was just bare rock only 17 years ago. I had a chat with one of the guys working there and he said people just brought their plants to plant there, or nurseries would donate, and the only challenge was the rock, but mostly plants that enjoy good drainage don't mind there's hardly any soil.

I'm inspired, and also, thanks Whangarei for all the garden magazines, the op shops also sell them for 20 cents..and I'm thinking of where to put my hibiscus.

Saturday, 4 July 2015


I pay a visit to the Wintergarden at the Auckland Domain.
It's much warmer in the hothouses and I enjoy looking at all the plant displays. The stinking arum lily is no longer in bloom, but everything else looks magnificent. There are hanging baskets full of plants trailing to the ground. There are giant palms. Pitcher plants, water lilies. Coffee and cacao trees. Bromeliads by the dozen. Spotty and striped leaved plants with unusual patterns.
A luxuriant tropical paradise.

In the other hothouse are flowers, hyacinth, chinese lanterns, ornamental peppers. Rows and rows of cyclamen. Unusually for hyacinth, the scent is cloying. I think the blooms are off. I'm not sure I'm a big fan of hyacinth after all. They seem rather forced in this climate. Cyclamen enjoy the auckland weather.

The fernery is a cool haven and even in winter you feel it alive and green. It's enchanting the way the lacy fronds engulf you, grow out of rocks, looking like green angels wings. I think I definitely want more ferns for my garden.

The Wintergarden commemorates 100 years of ANZAC day, in a clipped hedge. I like this little hedge art. It reminds me of the floral clock in Albert Park. Plants can look like pictures too, and be made into words and numbers.

I think it's one of my most favourite places in Auckland to hang out, especially in winter.
The pond in the centre never gets frozen, but It might be cool if they did put an ice rink there. Or maybe outside the museum. Imagine Auckland having snow. We could ski and toboggan down Auckland domain, one tree hill and Mount Eden. We could make snowmen and ice sculptures. I'm sure I've seen some in China and they make ice sculptures of the Auckland Ferry Building?! The only place that gets snow up in Auckland is Snowplanet near Albany and you have to pay about $35 just to go there.

My friend and I had a hot chocolate at the kiosk and sat overlooking the little palm grove pond area with the birds chattering away and it was very nice.

Thursday, 2 July 2015


The jonquils appear. So crocus and snowdrops are not the first spring flower at all. That only applies in colder climates. So either jonquils timing is wrong place does not follow the rules of the seasons.

To day for example, is cool, but yesterday was balmy and warm, I didn't need to wear an extra layer. So much for consistency. And in England, the news reports it's cooler to be in the hothouse of Kew Gardens than outside.

Rather than worry about it, I thank God we don't have to plough any snow. Otherwise our tangelos which are ripening now would be frozen.

The latest issue of Get Growing is sent to my inbox, and  Ms Hallinan admitted she was lax at getting her garlic in the ground. Well, she does have two boys to care for now. She can be forgiven (or distracted). I have lately been distracted by other things going on. I'm preparing to go up to the winterless north aka Whangarei, and perhaps check out the gardens there. There's a quarry garden that sounds intriguing. Auckland too has a quarry garden in Mt Eden. Whangarei also has a fernery. And kiwihouse. Also, a guy up there grows magnolia hybrids. I've been reading the book on Magnolias, or rather, looking at the pictures. Cleopatra is not listed.

After that book I start on Ayrlies, My garden, my story. I immediately warm to Mrs McConnell, or Bev, as she is known. Her husband just let her garden. Apparently some husbands are not so supportive, and then I think that sounds like my mum. She doesn't like my hobby and thinks it's a waste of time. She scoffs that I would ever find a job at a garden centre. You can't lift compost, she says.

When I look on the Kings Plant Barn website, it says they offer short term sabbaticals to overseas travellers under 30. Great. So that's why so many Poms work there. I'm wondering if there's a similar scheme in England where nzers get to work in an English Country Garden as part of their working holiday. Surely they need kiwis to stake their delphiniums and deadhead their roses. I don't want to work in a pub. I had enough of that, although, the pub I worked at in NZ was the Public Library. In England they don't have those, they've removed all the books and replaced them with cider and beer.
Same kind of clientele though. The great unwashed asking where the toilets are.

You might have the odd conversation about great literature, but, I can't recall ever having one of those in all the time I worked at the public library. It was more 'can we make this into a video parlour' kind of working environment. I might as well have been working the slot machines at Timeout.

Anyway...Prince Charles, if you are hiring..I do have National Certificate in Horticulture Level 3.