Friday, 30 December 2016

Boxing Day Sale (ends 4 Jan)

My shopping list...

Passionfruit vine - will it take this time???
Muelhenbeckia Complexa (am going to grow it along chain link fence)
Thyme - can't have enough, as I'm only a third the way to completing my walk on thyme bed
Arbour to grow the wisteria on. Somewhere there is an arbour and seat with my name on it.
Hebe - seem to do really well in my rocky bed.
Virginia Creeper
Dichondra falls for my wall planters

Something, anything to put under the maple tree. After the daffodils and bluebells die down, all thats left is one patch of liriope, everything else I've tried there shrivels and dies.

Some movers and shakers- muelhenbeckia astonii is now in front of the camellia. Agapanthus stump is now next to the rosemary. Begonias are now with the tree ferns along with more spider plants. Boronia (I think its one, I may be wrong)  is now next to the hydrangea.

Several melons have sprung up so am going to move some to Woodside. Jacqui is going to come with me to Kings Plant Barn and perhaps restrain me from buying too many plants. Honestly I don't think she needs to as Mitre 10 seems to have the better selection and their plants look healthier, they have more tools, and the always seem to be cheaper even when they aren't having a sale. But maybe we will just forgo plant buying and have a milkshake at their fancy cafe instead.

I always see ads asking for baristas to work in their busy cafe, and they always seem to crop up routinely online so I wonder if they have a revolving door of baristas or they just get worn out so quickly they constantly need replacing. Which is a pity, but I do think many people just go there for the cafe and don't bother with the (pricy) plants, having spent all their retirement funds already and are just taking advantage of their Gold Cards. Too bad I trained in horticulture and not hospitality, and can't make a cup of coffee to save anyone's life.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Do-nothing School of Gardening

I am thinking of enrolling.

Today I read about Helen Dillon's garden. Who is Helen Dillon? She is a world renowned garden writer  and gives her address as 45 Sandford Road, Dublin, Ireland.

It has been years since I've been to Ireland, of which I remember little but bare green hills and lots of castle ruins. Somewhere over the rainbow where the potato fields once were, there is a little island of green where fairies and leprechauns live. Helen Dillon's garden has a canal of which one side is a border of blue, and one side is a border of red. She does not write much about vegetables, nor fruit trees, but seems to be in love with phormiums (flaxes to you and I) and cordylines (cabbage trees) from our native shores. Isn't it funny how the Irish love our plants that we think of as a pesky nuisance. Flaxes grow humungous hummocks and cabbage trees ruin our lawns with their dead leaves.

Other plants that the Irish love are - trilliums, delphiniums, and clematis. Surprisingly, roses do not do well at all in Ireland either (no such thing as an Irish rose) because of the humidity. So I immediately warmed to Helen's descriptions of how roses are over-rated. After reading how Helen grows her tulips in rows of dustbins and how classical garden sculpture is just the aristocratic version of working class garden gnomes, ie. complete kitsch, and how she ends up using the bendy trowel after all the good ones have been lost..I am thinking wouldn't it be nice to invite Ms Dillon over to see our cabbage trees and flaxes in their native habitat, and in exchange I can go over to Ireland and check out the ex- potato fields again. I could enrol in the Do-nothing School Of Gardening while I am at it. It would be an adventure. Then I could write Selina C's Garden Book and rest on my laurels.

I still have some more things to do here before I go though - plant the third ponga fern, mulch the frangipani, and scrape in some more woolly thyme. Kings Plant Barn are having a 25% off all plants sale. (Which means, they are now normal prices). I walked around and around but didn't buy any, as Mitre 10 had the better stock.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Pukeko and a cup of tea

Forgot to mention my brother gave me a pukeko, I asked for Christmas to go with my ponga tree. Am going to head up to the Warehouse later as have a gift card to spend and may see if they have any more ponga trees, I have two, but would like a third (just to complete the trinity).

I also need a wall planner and new calendar, a teapot for one that I can make herbal tea in, and other sundry items. I have been getting into herbs more and finding out more about them, since I have been having trouble with mysterious ailment known as swelling ankles. Apparently, gotu kola is good for them, as is parsley, and herbs that I don't grow but can buy as a tea at the health food store - horsetail, goldenrod, gingseng, ginger.

Other herbs good for tea include peppermint, lemon balm, lemon grass, manuka (have plenty of that) and I do have a camellia sinesis which is the traditional chinese tea. The star jasmine climber that I have growing I'm not actually sure that tea can be made from it. Karyn who is our resident herb lady has been discussing herbs with me on the Book Chooks and I'm finding out all sorts of things. Did you know meadowsweet has similar properties to what we now use as aspirin?

I'd like to learn more like how to make a poultice, how to infuse and make decoctions, how to dry herbs and to make herbal rubs for meats.

I haven't heard back from Auckland Permaculture Workshops, only a generic email saying they got my email and will be in touch shortly. Well sure that was weeks ago. I'm thinking perhaps I will do a course on herbs instead. I better get going - I've shredded another lot of letters. I think there may be more, but they make good mulch, I must say. And much cheaper than pea straw.

If you'd like to come over I can offer a cup of herbal tea and we can sit under the tangelo tree and sip. Dad bought some sausages yesterday so am thinking time to bring out the bbq. But bbq for one doesn't sound like fun. I'm going to have to invite some friends over. Although its a pain having to host and cook at the same time, and Lord knows I can't ask my guests to cook their own food. Unless you want to? Anyway think about it cos I don't have all summer...


My paper shredder is doing overtime as its turning letters from my penpals I had from age 8-13 into mulch. So sorry Shelley, Helen, Rebecca, Rachel, Nicole, Karyn, and whoever else answered an ad in the Kid Kiwi or Garfield magazine all those years ago. It was fun reading your letters but as your names have changed and you've probably moved home, gone overseas, married or even become famous you may not remember me BUT if you still have any of my letters the address is still the same and if you do decide to write back to me I will most probably reply!

I still dislike maths and puberty was a terrible hassle, but I got through it. Oh and I gave up netball. My new hobby is gardening so please write and tell me what plants you are growing.
Who knows one day it may be published as a regular column in NZ House and Garden magazine. Two penpals, one from the burbs and one from the country, with two very different gardens... (apologies to Janice Marriot and Virginia Pawsey).

Now Ferndale has become Avondale - it is spider plant populated along with Monsterosa deliciosa or fruit salad plant, to go with my birds nest fern, - all 'sheet mulched' or 'lasagna mulch' with shredded paper,  twigs, hamper stuffing, and compost. I have even found cuttings of 'wandering willie' which is tradescantia by another name...the purple version. I know if it gets out into the bush it will take over, but I'm thinking it will make a pretty ground cover confined to this bed and will do well in the Auckland humidity. I was graciously given three cuttings by the plant in Devonport where it was growing in a tub.

This morning was round two of operation Myra's garden and managed to clear the pots so you can climb up the stairs. I gave her basil and sage to grow in pots and rescued her lime tree by giving it a good soak. I'm not too keen on her spiky yuccas though. I almost got in trouble by nearly discarding her freesia bulbs but Louise found them again and she's going to repot them so next spring they will come back better than ever. Myra surprised us by showing us there is such a thing as 'Figgy Pudding' which you can buy for yourself at Countdown Te Atatu. And so on that note I will wish you dear readers all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Toiling with lilies

Lilies of the field, they toil not neither do they spin..

However I did toil arranging them and spent about three hours getting them just right, thankfully someone had cut some and put some in a pitcher for me to arrange, and all the red canna lilies are cut from my garden five stems, plus all the white christmas lilies in bloom. Margaret offered her hydrangeas and the rest were white agapanthus, wisteria, alyssum and pansies.

So that's church flowers done.

Tomorrow I can have a rest in my deck chair.
Oh wait a minute, I can't. I've been dragged over to family christmas feasts. arrgh.

I have to have a ready answer for nosy relatives asking me what am I doing or am I working and I am just going to say I don't want to talk about work its a holiday. They can look at my CV online if they are so nosy. (Well actually they can't as I deleted it, but I would think the nosy people asking would have sneaked looks on Linkedin if they were really that interested).

However I am most excited at the prospect of working in jail. You see, they have libraries and gardens in jail. And the general public aren't allowed to visit. So if I worked in one, wouldn't have people being rude and obnoxious and asking stupid questions like what am I doing here? They could just look at me and feel sorry that I'm in jail.

Yes. And as for the criminals its much better they are inside than outside smashing up windows and stealing toilet paper when everything is basically provided. I just would need to smuggle in books and seeds. Mt Eden Garden Prison and Library here I come.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


Overgrown gardens...kikuyu, pots that had dried to a crust, a weed filled lawn, not a pretty site but that was what we were faced with as Louise and I tackled Myra's garden today nearly wilting from the hot sun. Louise had prayed for a cloudy day, but there was no obliging as it does rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike, so I suppose it suns as well. (Maybe someone else prayed for a sunny day, and that prayer was more important). No matter we donned our sunhats  and tools and be the end of the morning we had cleared a patch for the weed strimmer/mower to mow.

Our widowed friend had been bed ridden for 9 months recovering from a snapped tendon and unable to garden except for some patio containers containing sweet peas and indoor plants. I found some interesting plants hidden amongst the weed growth - a lime tree, passionfruit vine, a plant that looks like papyrus reed, spring onions, polyanthus, and echeverias. There's a gorgeous Australian frangipani tree smothered in flowers, and the bright spot of the backyard is cerise geranium. Or pelargonium. I'm still not certain which ones are which. There's also raised beds with lettuce, and blueberry bushes.

It has potential. We filled two sacks of weeds. We are going to have to come back next week to tackle the pots on the deck. I will have to research how to get rid of kikuyu as I don't really have that problem in my garden, its more creeping buttercup. Louise's solution seemed to be weedmat, but something will have to be planted there so the kikuyu doesn't grow back. It's ok if it stays in the lawn but not in the garden beds. She had weeded in the shrub border and then it all just grew back, more lush this time. So that is why she's enlisted me to help.

I remember dad asking me to pull up all the kikuyu grass in the lawn and each time I pulled it up, whole strips of it, it would just grow back and I wondered if he just did that to give me something to do, like Sisyphus rolling a huge boulder up a hill that kept rolling back down on him for eternity. I'm so clever, I started a garden... what did I get myself into??? I've heard jaded gardeners give up and sigh I should never have started one so big...such a lot to maintain. I'm just going to pull all these plants out and put in a parking lot. I hear you can make a lot of money charging people to park on your lawn, especially in Auckland.

Monday, 19 December 2016

This is a garden blog. I repeat, a garden blog. Read at your peril.

Socks (and now Mary's) bed has had a makeover.
It is now populated with spider plants, and astelia around the pink cabbage tree. I was out last weekend and noticing other peoples gardens that had astelia in them and realised it actually grows really big, I should plant it somewhere it will have room to spread, because it looks not happy squashed up against a wall as I've seen it's beautiful silvery spear shaped leaves get all crushed.
So now it's in Sock's bed.

It was a bit of a mission to separate the spider plants as they had multiplied in my cane basket, along with potatoes (unusual companion planting, but it seemed to have worked because I got six potatoes from it) but once free I found I had enough to cover the wide area and it looks like it will work.
My spider plants were originally taken as a pup from one of the plants at Henderson Intermediate! When I was at school there. I took an interest in plants back then and it grew on to become more over the years, esp when I chucked it down the back beyond the fence and forgot about it. Its like the plant that never dies. It does get frost bitten an sun parched but in the right conditions it flourishes, and this is generally in a sheltered, semi shady position.

I don't really have indoor plants because I don't always remember to water them - when they are outside they get free my home isn't like a conservatory. Also I don't really have the room, preferring fresh cut flowers instead.

The spider plants are the stripy variegated variety but I also have a few plain green ones that grow more spiky than floppy or droopy. I have shifted these that were flowering to a better position and plan to extend my fernery now I've got more greenery as they were right beside the driveway and thats annoying if they grow big and you have to cut them back.

Also I have removed one of the chicken wires I had put up to stop chickens digging up beds down the back now my renga renga lilies have grown (and bloomed), along with the canna and now ginger lilies. It was looking a bit messy and overgrown where the grass hadn't been clipped back and the creeping buttercup had tried to take over. I will need to remedy this border with a plant that makes good edging but not sure what yet.

So there we go. I had shared the last two posts on Facebook and, one person liked it! Thanks Buffie for reading. Because I know other people will say to me if I send them rambling garden diary updates. Uh. I don't care about your garden. Stop. Or better yet don't garden at all. Its annoying. Even when they've asked me to blog about my garden to them. Huh. Is this a blog? Yes!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Working Snail

Jacqui called yet another working bee in the garden this Saturday but I was scratching my head didn't I come to one last week? Surely there can't be any more work to do! We are only meant to have one a month. I said can you please call it something different not working bee maybe working snail as..I'm a bit slow.

Well I'm glad I went because we harvested 200 potatoes. Swift and Rocket were the early potatoes which had flowered so we call got to take some home. Mum has now hidden them away where I can't find them. I knew I should have bought a potato bucket. I saw them at Kmart a set of three tins, one for potatoes, one for onions, and one for garlic. But I wasn't sure where I would put them and if mum would tut tut again at my sacrilege at disturbing the kitchen aesthetics. She does not like me tidying up or moving things around. Even though we share the kitchen, apparently its not even mine and I can't touch anything and if I move it I must tell her or ask permission. This is to avoid meltdowns like Christmas morning where, I am reprimanded for not helping out prepare lunch and sitting there kinda agog that it's actually Jesus birthday celebration that everyone is now having even if you don't believe in Him. I could always hide them in my wardrobe cupboard?

Instead of Secret Santa do secret potatoes? I wonder what this gift is, hmm suspiciously wrapped in foil and looking potato-like in a sack. It couldn't be easter eggs could it??

In other news my collapsed hugelkultur bed is now a flat lasagna sheet no dig bed since melons and pumpkins are coming up of their own accord anyway, and I have put climbing frames up so that they don't sprawl all over the lawn. The lasagna layers are..wet paper mulch fettucine, courtesy of electric paper shredder of documents past their use by date, like old university assignments from fifteen years ago. Or even..expired library registrations. Then on top of that, grass clippings mulch that has been moldering in the compost bin. And finally a layer of comfrey leaves. Repeat the layers and until you run out and then put cheese on top to melt. Oh sorry I must be thinking something different.

Flowers at church tomorrow, which might just be agapanthus, flax, fern leaves and licorice plant as my sweet peas have nearly all finished and now have powdery mildew. I know, poinsettia is meant to be plant de jour but at $20 -$40 a pot I think not. I was reading this American gardening book called 'right size garden' about downsizing a garden and the author suggested if you can't get hydrangeas blue, just spray paint them with floral spray. Tip - don't read american gardening books they will drive you nuts with their naivete. This lady just collected all these plants and put them all over the place and then they grew and she couldn't maintain them. This is what she learned..plants are not children or pets. I repeat plants are not children or pets. You are allowed to pull them out if they die! If I recall astroturf was an american invention, as I suspect are fake christmas trees and artificial flowers.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

More work!

Lo and behold, more work to do in the garden, this time planted three thymes, one silver to go with my silver spear astelia, a pizza thyme and a variegated lemon thyme. Another native fuchsia to go on my fernery as a ground cover after mulched with Living Earth mulch mix. It said on the packet 'be the envy of your neighbours, when they see you and your awesome garden just smile and wave'.
My neighbours do not smile and wave at me on that side of the fence, they seem to be caught up lifting weights I hear them grunting in their makeshift garage gym.

I had one neighbour across the road smirk at me and say 'alone in the garden again' she's only nine but I will just ignore her judging, because  I don't see any garden where she is just bare lawn which her mother has to mow.

The neighbours who's dog mauled Mary are keeping a pretty low profile.
But on the other side I have two neighbours who do smile and wave at me so something must be working.

I have decided to put more herbs in my garden and have bought a gotu kola as heard it's good for curries and general health. It says to plant near a pond and keep moist so will keep near my birdbath as got no pond.
Found what appears to be juniper or it might be native coprosma groundcover at Countdown growing luxuriantly so pulled a cutting to plant in my rockery area. Thank you Countdown.

I have now joined Facebook (again) and see that I could share this post on Facebook if I wanted to but not sure anyone would really be interested because half the time I don't even look at all the cat videos posted there let alone blogs about gardens. (Nobody has any, perhaps I will be the first in my circle of friends), although I do notice Woodside Garden has been putting up pictures of me all the time on their blog and probably talking about me and tagging me on Facebook and I have no idea.
So...if you are bored and have nothing to do please read Rambling Garden Diary and be amused or inspired or possibly horrified at what I've been up to. I will add some emoticons for good measure. πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜ΌπŸ˜½πŸ˜ΎπŸ˜»

Monday, 12 December 2016

Pohutakawa trees in bloom

Feels like summer is here at last and time to get my bbq out.
Church flowers this week were yellow lilies, bird of paradise, gunnera, pohutakawa, bearded iris, lavender, wisteria and sweet pea.  Next week I am sure my lillies will be in bloom so it will be nice to have them. I did pop into Kings just to spy out what they offered in terms of christmas blooms but poinsettia was selling for $20 a pot! Or $40 for a large one. They also had tahiti metrosideros (or dwarf pohutakawa) for $20 as well. All nicely wrapped with a ribbon and basket but...I was thinking they just don't last. Both those plants were forced blooms and you can't plant them out in your garden as they just seem to rot and die.

Am not sure what the deal is with red blooms and bracts as I think bougainvillea is just as pretty in magenta. Anyway. I still see this obsession with pine trees indoors in summer and I really think it's got to be a joke. Pine trees belong in the forest not in your living room! And once they die well they don't make good bbq kindling and its too warm to light a fire in summer indoors. Please people have some common sense?!

If you want a tree for christmas plant a kowhai or a ponga!

Yesterday I planted astelia 'silver spear' in the rock garden kitchen side, and also bought another Breath of Heaven as was only $5 to go where rosemary seems to have died. Its just a bare patch underneath my bedroom window. As it has a lovely fragrance and says to plant near a path in  full sun maybe it will thrive there. If can fully get rid of the black plastic 'mulch' that was from the 70s as am pulling up screeds of it and the soil underneath is just clay. You could use it to make pots. I am thinking of just piling loads of compost, twigs and plant material on top and not digging at all. This is what you have to deal with when inheriting a garden someone else has made.

Disasters such as weedmat, plastic mulch, and camellias planted in limey soil. Well I think it might be limey as the hydrangea next to it is still pink.  Thorny flower carpet roses everywhere, grapes planted where there's nowhere for them to climb, a wisteria that actually needs a support stronger than a chain link fence - I'm going to have to find an arbour soon. Maple trees that mean in a landscaped bed thats supposed to be full of flowers (thorny flower carpet ones) but nothing much will grow under a thirsty maple tree. Coprosma that attracts flies. And ginger lily that gets scorched by the sun and we have to keep hacking it back, then it gets frosted and for months of the year it just looks a mess. I am still removing shoots but thankfully most of it is in a more suitable spot.

So yeah. Christmas trees and their fake decorations are the least of my worries. If you have one good for you but personally I wouldn't bother. Find a tree you actually like and will look after all year and grow that one is my advice.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

My first client

I had a client asking me for gardening advice, and may even have a planting project for autumn!
As she was from Egypt and recently moved into the area which came with a small garden I identified the plants and what she could do with them. The exciting thing is she has a small pond with waterlilies, in her sunny courtyard type garden which has a patio, flowers, ferns, trellis, even lighting built in. I envisage jasmine growing over the trellis, bromeliads in a shady corner by the silver fern, more herbs like parsley, lemon balm and mints, a lemon tree in a pot, and perhaps some reeds growing near the pond with goldfish. Her front yard is a pebble garden that was landscaped with weedmat, and there are several mix of plants randomly placed by her letterbox.

I recommended for a beginner to start with herbs, as they are easiest to grow, and using seaweed as fertiliser and mulch, a few basic tools like a trowel, gloves and watering can. Strawberries and lettuces in pots to start off with (no tomatoes, too much trouble for someone who works full time and only limited space) and of course, easy care natives. She had a flax bush growing near the pond which may end up too big for that space, and several antirhinums or snapdragons, pinks and begonias which, while doing well were not really her cup of tea. She loves white flowers. I think jasmine would give a wonderful display full of scent for a scented night garden (full time workers coming home at the end of the day) just like those Brits who wanted a garden makeover on their flat backyards. They always wanted a garden they could invite friends over for drinks (in her case, peppermint tea). Also one that would be safe for her toddler to play in.

So now feeling inspired perhaps she will get growing (armed with copies of Weekend Gardener and NZ Gardener magazines. So thanks to the previous homeowners who left this garden for the new owners to look after and not a bare plot with weeds (like next door!).

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Epsom Salts and Imagination

Epsoms salts are wonderful for plants giving them a boost of magnesium, especially for tomatoes or citrus, and gardenias showing signs of yellowing leaves, in fact many plants can benefit. Its very cheap and you can buy a packet for $2.80 at the supermarket.

Another thing with Epsom salts is its nice for the bath to relax in. I worked on Friday for five hours on my feet so by the time I got home I was needing to put my feet up and soak. (Hooray I found a job at last!) My workplace even had a herb garden out the back so I was picking thyme to put with a platter of bread loaves.

Yesterday we had another working bee down at the garden, Jacqui planted basil and more capsicums. I clipped lavender and moved calendulas. Today I'm going to be cutting roses for church and possibly even might (sacrilege) go to King Plant Barn and buy two poinsettias as pots plants to go in the church, because, my flowers don't last that long in the summer heat! Besides yesterday when I went to tidy up the flowers, noticed they had put up a (fake) christmas tree in the church, and decorated the ceiling with snowflakes. How will my summer flowers compete with this wintery theme?

I thought of picking potato flowers but then decided against it, as with my herb rue which is in bloom now, as people might not appreciate those kinds of flowers in church (it looks suspiciously like a weed). I really don't know, if I introduce a beach theme people might get confused with the tropical flowers and then pine trees and snowflakes and it will cause cognitive dissonance, as this is a Presbyterian Church so maybe the Scots are winning in the decor area even though much of the congregation is from the Islands...

At the Baptist church they had dracenas as indoor pot plants and yucca 'architectural plants' like you would find in a generic office building, and a few fake flowers. If I were interior designer for a church I think I might have to say, well hey you can't just put anything in its got to have a theme and I'm sure God didn't ask for spiky plants with thorns and thistles, when He had the temple it was decorated with pomegranates and palms.

But what do I know. Max had an idea for the garden at Woodside that we could put up a concrete wall and a barbed wire fence. A prison garden perhaps? He said we needed a fence. I pointed out that we already have barbed wire in the form of blackberry brambles on one side.  What about planting sweetcorn all around the perimeter instead. We could have a maize maze!

What I really like is the Tree Church which is down in Waikato I heard there was this church made entirely out of trees. If I ever get married (hmm not likely) I would want to get married in the tree church. Even if it's all the way in Waikato. Who knows maybe my future husband is from there and we could just sail down the Waikato river on a lilo for our honeymoon like one crazy guy did once to fight off depression. We could stop at the Hamilton Gardens and get our photos taken with the roses.

After that who knows. Imagination is a powerful thing.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Decorating with bougainvillea

While everyone else is buying fake christmas trees I have been shopping for bougainvillea.
This it for my dry corner down the back where the chain link fence meets the wooden fence. I found a wonderful white one with a blush or apricot/peach in the flower bracts. I will train it along the fence as a backdrop to jacaranda, manuka and all my other border plants.

I found it at Mitre 10 and got to chatting with a lady who said she looked after 400 roses at the Parnell Rose Gardens. We agreed that Auckland is too humid for roses and they all unfortunately succumb to black spot. She did give me tips on where to find rugosa roses, which are very hardy and not prone to black spot, but you need to order them from the South Island. The only time I have done mail order plants is for a few ferns and Kings Seeds, and they were all a bit hit and miss. If you are buying plants I would recommend your local garden centre first, so you can assess them right there and then, and they would, the majority of them, be fresh and acclimatised to the local conditions.

There were many bougainvilleas on offer, some very vigorous, some variegated, and a few dwarf ones. I am not so sure about dwarf varieties, of course, for an easy care plant perhaps its good in some situations but then I thought bougainvilleas would just not be the climbing plant they are meant to be if they are dwarfed. It would be like having a dwarf sunflower, might as well grow daisies instead.

(Sorry dwarfs, maybe I'm just not a compassionate Snow White type). Anyway I was quite pleased with my purchase and planted straight away, and then hooray it rained last night and this morning so the plant will settle in nicely. I am risking the wrath of mum because a) bougainvillea is NOT a tree b) it can be trained easily c) if I didn't plant anything there the ivy and sundry weeds would take over.

And how can she ignore the gorgeous display it's already putting on? Better than a tacky ol' christmas tree any day. Besides, pohutakawas are flowering now, they are early, but they are putting on quite a show. 'Tis the season!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

My Day Job

I never know what to say when people ask me what I do so have now fixed that I will say my day job is gardening. Because when I say 'librarian' people's eyes glaze over and then they ask me what my favourite book is and I can't tell them. I read so many I can't just pick one that is my favourite. If I say  'Revelation' which is by the way, a really good book, I never know how they may react. Then I might venture to say what current book I'm reading but the people that ask me of course don't read any books themselves and start talking bout the Kardashians. I have no clue and don't really care if one of them lost 100 pounds but apparently its really important to keep watching them in case they do lose more.

But one thing I must share was that I won a prize last night for being producer of the Book Chooks. And God must have been trying to say something because my number got picked and I also won a hamper of goodies at the Micie Awards. It was like winning an Oscar. My acceptance speech was pretty short, it was like 'what a surprise, thank you!' hug and kiss.

Anyhow, back to my day job.
At 900 hours I am going out to do check my plants are doing ok and surviving.
Tasks for today include mulching, and I have bought two paper shredders for the task of turning useless assignments into garden mulch. One I found at the Op Shop for only $12 that does three sheets at a time, you feed the paper and the machine chomps it up into shreds. The other I found on trade me a hand shredder in which you turn the handle which also chomps paper into fettucine. Goodbye bills, assorted junk mail and letters asking me for money that I don't have. Sayonara love letters that never got replied to. Ok well maybe not the last one, but you know, if I don't send any I won't receive anything.
This year I sent an email to Santa in case, if he still thinks I'm good, he may decide to give me a subscription to NZ Gardener. Well dad seemed to be helping Santa and next thing I know he's already ordered me a years worth. ?! So maybe if I have extra copies I can give them to friends.

Staying on task, I will need to check the coral peas are climbing in the right direction. I have removed the sweet peas as its starting to get too hot for them and half of them are now mulch. It might be next week my Christmas lilies will be in bloom as they are budding now so I will have these flowers for church.

Morning tea/smoko. This is a cup of tea with a biscuit, usually a ginger nut.

Next task is checking Martha hasn't run away and she might have left us a squashed egg. Then mail call, usually something from the neighbour which means its necessary I write something back like 'It's cloudy today, and I haven't done any christmas shopping as I have no extra money' because this neighbour is still in bondage to the idea of Xmas shopping for every single person he's ever known.

Lunch time. Which, for gardeners is usually a takeaway affair as we can't all be cooks at the same time as gardening. But if I'm not gardening I will spend time cooking. Yes the division of labour is something that needs to be looked at.

Then siesta, because who in their right mind would garden in the middle of the day under the blazing sun. Only crazy people that's who.

Afternoon shift is spent reading and studying gardening books. And then by the time I'm finished its tea time, bathtime and ready for bed. I get paid a sum total of $0. But I'm not complaining, because who needs money when you have a garden. Plus, its not as if I have to walk far to work and pay for parking. Unlike SOME jobs - Auckland Public Library I'm referring to you.

Monday, 5 December 2016

John Key can now spend time in his garden

Well, heard the news yesterday and wasn't it funny that I mentioned his wife the other day that she ought to write a gardening book?

This is great news as now he can clip the topiaries affecting world trade and won't need to pay someone else to do it. I think it would be therapeutic for him. He could even come over to our electorate and check out our community garden now he has time and learn some tips about growing his own veges, instead of building monuments to state housing that nobody can live in.

Who is going to be the next Prime Minister who can say, but I'm glad Helen Clark has another job and won't be coming back to New Zealand anytime soon.

As I am on my very extended sabbatical, I was thinking what I would do if I was called to the top job.
If I was Prime Minister.....

Sunday, 4 December 2016

4 Seasons

Sherry, sherry baby
Walk like a man
Big Girls Don't Cry
Oh what a night!

I sometimes wondered, in an alternative cartoon universe, being in a singing group which consists of three altos and a falsetto. One of the vocalists would be my cat Socks singing Bee Gees style. I am not sure how this would work but it would be kind of like Jackson 5ive because even they were a cartoon. We would sing the above songs and would become really popular stand ins for the real 4 Seasons who are now too old to play live gigs.

I digress. It has just poured with rain and then it's sunny and hot again so really Auckland weather has been acting strange again. Last week it was cold and windy. So we have 4 seasons here but usually in the space of a day or week instead. This used to drive me nuts but I have gotten used to it plus having different outfits each day helps. So what if I'm wearing my puffer jacket with shorts, the weather can't make up its mind. When it's cloudy I lie down with a headache as my brain blue sky, God can't see me and doesn't mind if I have a rest. He doesn't want to bother with Auckland today.

In between spells of seasonal affective disorder which I have disguised as manic gardening, I have been thinking of this quiet garden movement which I'm not really meant to publicise or talk about, since the whole thing is people quietly gardening so people don't even notice. This would be nice because I am so sick of lawnmowers and chainsaws and leafblowers and hedge trimmers and other noisy accoutrements of modern day gardening i.e trim everything like its a barbershop. Maybe its just a guy thing that everything should be shorn and they are just extending it out to grassland and trees.

Well my garden is meant to be au naturel. It maybe the difference between the barbers and the hairdressers, really, but I feel that in gardening everyone tends to think its the barbers that are the gardeners when actually the barbers just have no style and are lazy and its the hairdressing gardeners who are the wildly creative ones. The problem of being a wildly creative person is when someone says you can't do something and tries to stick you into a barbershop job or worse... suggests look just work in an office. Stop being so wildly creative. Stop dreaming and pay your taxes like everyone else does.  Arrrrrgh.

More rambling

The church flowers were wilting by the time I got to church. What, had I not wetted the foam? Maybe not enough. Or maybe I didn't cut the stems at the right angle. But I don't know if anyone noticed that much. The sweet peas were fine as were the flowers in the vase, but that floral foam, well, I don't know. I might have to rethink those displays. Ok for a first attempt.

I made a quick exit and thought, well these church members are very forgiving.
Unlike some church members who are offended at every little thing. But I have learnt to avoid them plus you can't please everyone all the time. Els the floral queen was away in Fiji where I expect she has a hibiscus in her hair everyday. But the good thing is Marie has offered her rose bushes for next week, if I help her with morning tea (or rather, in this church, is more like lunch).

Anyhow, with Christmas around the corner I'm not sure I can compete with fullblown tinsel and snowmen and reindeer and fake pine trees. But my display did have a red and green theme.

Some melons or pumpkins have appeared as shoots in my former hugelkultur bed. I pointed them out to mum. She, to my surprise said leave them, so maybe I will get a vege bed after all growing right out of the lawn. We went for a walk to Woodside where I thought maybe we would have a harvest but we didn't take anything.

I am going to bone up on permaculture, and hope to hear from the APW course people soon, but it seems like they are not replying. Perhaps the course is so popular that they have to turn people away. I don't know. I thought I would write a book called Four Seasons In One Day - Gardening in Auckland.

Or 'Bermaculture'. If the Auckland City Council get wind of it they might issue me with censorship fines and higher rates. Of course Oprah's Book Club would not have it, but Book Chooks might. I think it was great that Michelle Obama actually wrote a gardening book. I wonder if Mrs Trump will write one. I can't imagine John Key's wife writing a book about gardening as I've seen their front yard in Parnell and I don't think the state of the nation can depend on getting your swirling topiaries going in the right direction. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe in New Zealand they can only go anti-clockwise whilst in the northern hemisphere they go clockwise and this affects world trade. Who knows?

More rambling gardening madness.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Church Flowers

This morning I am going to pick all the flowers for church. This is daunting as never done it before and will I have enough flowers? How do I arrange them?

Thanks to the library I have borrowed a book called 'Church Flowers' by Judith Blacklock and it shows you how to do them plus with tips although this church is not one of those traditional nave and pew type church. Thank God! (It would look completely amateur if it was one of those). I think they are ok with more contemporary/minimalist styles. Well He asked ME to do them not a professional florist so...

So I have buckets and a baby bath and pipe cleaners and secateurs and vases, I will need some of that florist foam and just anything that would make a good arrangement. I have set myself a challenge that I will use only real flowers and foliage.

If I do need help I suppose I can call a friend who did used to be a florist although she said when she was working as one it was quite hard work. I can imagine, as having visited a rose factory on my field trip and seen those huge bunching machines, cold stores, plus knowing florists have deadlines to meet (all those weddings and funerals) and only picking the very best. I don't have tricks like ethylene or silver nitrate to chemically induce flowers to last forever, but it is only for this month and it really only needs to last the Sunday when everyone is gathered.

These are the flowers and foliage that I will pick-

sweet peas
lambs ears
licorice plant
ivy geranium
magauerite daisy
busy lizzie
cyclamen in pots
fern fronds
fruit salad plant leaves
sweet william

Sorry I do not have roses, hydrangeas, lilies,  camellias, orchids, gerberas, sunflowers or any of the fancy flowers the florists have. It is going to be small and beautiful even though churches often require bold displays of huge flowers. But maybe I can cut a few flax leaves from Pak N'Save. After all they gave us the rosemary. Mum took a cutting from the old Pak N' Save roadside planting and it just grew into a huge bush. Thanks Pak N'Save.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

No more job hunting

I have decided job hunting is a waste of time. Let the men do that. I am going to just gather rosebuds while ye may.

Last night I had come upon a brilliant idea to become a hack writer and write screeds of words while charging people money to read these very words. I will call myself a journalist and go freelancing up and down the nation writing garden critiques. Might even take a few pictures on my ipad and also, make money from selling these very photos to stock libraries who will keyword these pictures with 'paradise' 'eden' 'oasis' so that when someone really needs a photo and their garden isn't up to scratch, they can just have a stock photo and nobody will be any the wiser.

Of course my cunning plan won't work without some insider tips on gardening that only very few VIP gardeners are allowed to know. So I will set it up that to be in this gardening racket you will also need to invite three or more friends so you too can reap the benefits of being in this downline.

When people ask me how I became so wealthy I will just say I planted a money tree and it brought me all this good fortune, but if you would like cuttings well I am going to have to charge you.
But it's worth it I tell you nobody ever became poor from gardening.

But..the people will sputter, mystified how do you do it all, your fingernails are not even dirty! My fingernails are coated with petroleum jelly and I really let the worms and bees do all the work for me. They don't call them worker bees for nothing. And besides the worms love it, I give them scraps and crumbs and they will work for those and not even complain. The secret really is in the soil.

What, not The Secret that I found at the library by Rhonda Bryne?
Uh no not that secret. I could write a book on the real secret. And also sell it and get Oprah to put it in her bookclub, so that millions of gullible americans can read it. But I have standards. Besides that book was a total rip of the Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Summer Daze

I have just changed all the calendars to December. How time flies!

NZ Gardener magazine has offered me three free issues subscription. They gave me the November issue but now it's December so perhaps that will turn up in the post soon.
I am thinking next year I would like to do the Auckland Permaculture Workshops course or design certificate. The only thing is I have no money to do it, so am hoping to have a scholarship or a job soon that would pay for it. I was offered the caregiving role but when found out the pay, well you don't want to know. For the hours and the getting to and from work, that kind of pay would hardly cover the cost of petrol to even do the job. And from what I heard can be quite demanding, although at the interview I wasn't really given much information about the role. Seriously what they offered was a joke and I was like no thanks.

So it's back to the drawing board. The SIT landscape design course by distance I am no longer interested in. Funnily enough I did go down to Invercargill were SIT is situated and where they (unhelpfully) suggested I get a job down at Diacks nursery, but we were only there for a day passing through and spent most of the time in glorious Queens Park. They even have tuataras.

This morning since I'm barred from planting new plants (or is it only trees?) there isn't much to do, but I was thinking about the snow in summer if it would grow near the groundcover plants or would it look out of place. I have seen pictures of it where it spreads for what seems like metres carpeting the ground with silvery leaves and snowy blossoms, but I already have a native pratia (which is also called snow in summer) that seems to have done well.

My attempt at sowing scarlet runner beans like Jack and the beanstalk seems to have failed. I heard they don't taste very nice anyway and are more of an ornamental bean. Nevermind the Coral Pea seems vigorous enough and when the sweet peas die down I may take it out of its pot and plant it permanently near the arch.

I'm thinking of having sweet peas in clear bowls and little posies for the church and pots of cyclamen. Or maybe even gerberas.  Just for something different.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Flower Power

Yesterday it rained, I had sown phacelia, and scattered pumpkin and citrus seed around. There was a working bee at Woodside on Saturday, got a lot done weeding and mulching the asparagus patch, putting pumpkins in tyres, moving the eggplants and capsicums to a new sunnier bed and deciding what to grow over the arch (passionfruit, maybe??)

This week I really need to get started with my flower arrangements for church on Sunday. The church I currently go to does not have a flower ministry, it seems they get artificial ones in, but as you know artificial flowers are no substitute for the real, fragrant thing. So the other local church which has always had real flowers have kind of lured me away. Besides I have already put real flowers in their hanging baskets outside and in garden beds the artificial flower church so I hope I have done enough. They had eschewed a garden bench so there is literally nowhere to sit, so I figured maybe my efforts were being wasted.

I am thinking of joining the Te Atatu Floral Circle, which has always urged me to come but it's been on Tuesdays and I always had class on Tuesdays. However now I am free perhaps I will go. Last week was out shopping and came across a wall hanging that said 'God cares for the flowers, how much more will he care for you?'. I had not thought how flowers were an important ministry before but without flowers, how does anyone get fruit?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Flowers blooming now

Peace lily, geranium, love-in-the-mist, lobelia, rose, feijoa, chinese lantern, sweet pea, dietes, thyme, daisy, calendula, lavender, dutch iris, buttercup, canna lily, cyclamen, swan plant, manuka, jasmine, grevillea, cabbage tree, rock rose, nasturtium, alyssum..

Just to name a few. Photos may come.
I was sitting on my picnic table bench the other day and removed my glasses as I was upset about something mum said and was crying. As you might know I am short sighted so without them everything was a blur. Then I really saw my border and it was beautiful. The fragrance, the bees buzzing, the colours, the birds and the butterflies. The colours all fused together to become like one of those fuzzy impressionist paintings by Monet.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Had I created that? Well no, I just arranged them so. God created these plants, I just planted them.

I put my glasses back on and saw what mum saw. Too many different plants and certainly some of them must be weeds in a jumble. But I don't care, its beautiful.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Looking up

Since I posted last I've been called for interview and may have a bit of paid work in the future. No its not gardening but caregiving, which I suppose is similar to gardening in a way. Helping people in the autism spectrum to grow.

I don't know if any of the clients would be into gardening, but will find out when I get there I suppose. Since my plans are all up in the air at the moment and have just finished in school, maybe its time to just take stock and sit back and enjoy the garden.

We are in for some hot weather as yesterday I was really feeling the heat, and desperately needing the cool shade of a tree. I appreciate nothing more on a hot summers day withe the blazing sun overhead. Mum and Dad had a big tussle over the fig tree I tried to plant by the garage and its now been decided to plant it just outside the back fence so we can still have figs but not inside our property.

I hope the fig survives because it was doing quite well in its pot in my alcove but I can't keep it in its pot forever, I saw it looking a bit droopy plus anything in pots over summer require lots and watering.  Mum said figs can grow really big and she didn't want it by the garage. I suppose I do have plenty of trees on the boundary although none of them are big enough to provide decent shade yet. The tangelo tree does provide some respite except for the whitefly. I'm hoping the neem powder will do its work. With our ozone hole and UV rays especially strong over summer I do value any shade/canopy but mum is the  opposite, she seems to be of the minimalist concrete block/rectangular lawn/ordered rows/clipped hedges style of gardening. Anything that looks curved or wavy or just sort of out of control gives her nightmares. That I was able to get away with the mix of shrubs and trees I now have in the borders is a miracle. If she had her way it would be just nothing above knee height.

I have some more gardening books to look at.
Here are some of the titles -

The ornamental Edible Garden by Diana Anthony
1001 Plants to Dream of Growing (the title changed from 1001 plants to grow before you die)
Plot by Meredith Kirton
Sepp Holzer's Permaculture
Flower Arranging by Judith Blacklock

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

waste of time

I am not allowed to plant any more trees.
I have to get a paid job soon otherwise, I will just keep gardening. But where to find these jobs that pay? I keep having the dentist call me wondering why I haven't seen them in 18 months, and the doctor shall I just tell them I can't afford to see them right now?
My car is due in for a service, and I need to pay off some debts for a holiday that cost more than I thought it would due to some expensive dining out. Could have bought a whole crayfish dinner for that amount of money...but at this fancy restaurant we were dining off rocks, I kid you not. They weren't even rock plates just rocks!

Today am going to beeswax my picnic table to stop it from rotting, as I got it from the dump as can't afford a  brand new one, or a proper raised garden bed which is why I tried to make a huglekultur one. That didn't go down well with mum.  Thankfully my deck chair arrived and its even better than the ones I saw that were more expensive at the Warehouse.

When the working day is done, girls just wanna have fun. I think maybe I will apply to pick strawberries, I'll risk getting cancer later for the prestige of saying I have found paid work. Hey its a job. I have even had some wiseguys once suggested to me I try prostitution. It's legal, and there are more ads for that in the paper than there are genuine jobs.

hmm. What should I write in my ad. Hot petite asian with green fingers. 18+ $60/hour. Call me.

Monday, 21 November 2016


I have decided to make a hugelkultur mound down the corner so I can grow chillies and maybe kumara.
I have a whole lot of logs and twigs to make the mound with, just need to dig a bit to bury it all, have a whole compost heap to turn in, and then some soil and straw mulch on top. I won't need to buy any raised bed edging, I hope. I have kinda made  the beginnings of one on Mt Asher but hadn't really completed it. That one is edged with volcanic rocks a friend gave me.

Now we only have one chicken there will be less chance of damage. I hope to make it today as got most all the materials.

I have vetoed the idea of the bbq for now as last night Mum just said something that made me think, if I have it she'll just be nagging me all the time, plus there is no wheelchair access except outside. I cannot even serve dinner without her telling me what I didn't do, even if I was going to do it immediately after. I wonder if its just a mum gene that makes mothers want to henpeck all the time. Plus because she doesn't know how to bbq she will be put out if I have one, last time we had one and invited my friends she just sulked because she wasn't the star of the show. Then she complained about all the food, even when she was devouring it. I can only explain this to friends who have similar mothers. Others will try and reassure me, oh but I'm sure your mum really loves you, but they don't have to live with their mothers!  Let's just face the truth, and not have this silly idea that all mothers automatically love all their children and know how to show it or that children have a choice in where they live, because, if I actually had a place to go I wouldn't be here. Besides, this is MY home too I'm native NZer and I cant be kicked out like some tenant, overstaying immigrant or bastard child.

Thankfully someone else is offering to have a summer bbq so I will not miss out,  but I would really like to use my kettle one soon as have got the rosemary, charcoal and nut husks for it. This is real bbq not gas, and you can taste the difference and I have three bbq recipe books I want to try.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Pot Luck

My task for today was to find Hardenbergia Violocea or Coral Pea climber for my arch. So far I have grown both annual vines morning glory and sweet pea and in Woodside it was ornamental gourd, but I would like something permanent and a friend suggested 'Happy Wanderer' which is a cultivar name of  type of vine/climber. She didn't know what it really was so I looked it up and now you know.

I didn't want more annual vines as the arch looks bare over winter, and already have jasmine growing over my alcove am really pleased to find two vigorous climbing coral peas at Kings. The plant is an Australian native and flowers over winter, bringing bees and butterflies. Bonus! This cultivar is called 'free and easy'. They are still in their pots for now until I decide to dig a hole for them but it seems they like rocky soil.

Mitre 10 also had two spanish lavenders, quite sizable for $3.  Originally they sell for $12 each! I picked them up and now they are in my sunny backyard border filling gaps, along with ivy geranium and festuca glauca liberated from their pot. The dying sweet peas filled another tyre.

I think am happy with my garden now and just waiting on my deck chair  to be delivered so can sit back and relax with my copy of  NZ Gardener Fresh from the Garden. I could also lie on my sun lounger and had a lovely nap yesterday and it's as good as a hammock.

BBQ time, still deciding on whether to have it this month or later in January. I suppose it doesn't matter usually its just you decide on the day because of the weather and whoever turns up will turn up. I have given up trying to coordinate parties and making sure people attend because people are just notorious for saying 'oh I'll come' and then don't show. Or 'I'll listen to your show' and then don't.

You can listen to some Book Chooks opine about gardening books here.

Friday, 18 November 2016

In the Zone

I suppose you could say I was 'in the zone' for gardening as yesterday I continued rearranging plants and now have removed all the ginger lilies except for a few in the corner in the rock bed so they are not crowding the other plants. They have now been moved to more suitable spots in the garden, a large clump by Sock's clivia and more in the flaming canna bed. I pulled up sheets of plastic 'mulch' from underneath and thought it was horrible stuff and never did a good job of suppressing weeds anyway, plus another disadvantage of black or plastic mulch you can only lay it down on an empty bed and then plant things through it, by cutting slits in plastic, it won't work if you already have a garden. I've tried thick cardboard mulch but the creeping buttercup now just grows right through it.  Where there is plastic mulch the beds are as dry as a bone and the soil, compacted and unable to breathe beneath it.  Where there is no mulch creeping violet (but white) has taken over, which looks quite lovely and no longer think of as a weed. It works sort of  like ivy although non climbing and when all knitted together makes a good ground cover.

I have learned to live with a few buttercups which, if my shrubs continue to grow to shade the area they will eventually die out, hopefully. En masse in flower they look quite pretty but I suppose it would never do for a garden magazine! Ceanothus 'blue sapphire' has room to spread its joy, I have liberated the echeverias from their pot and put them in more prominent places in the bed, as sort of have a glaucous blue theme in my garden, slash sub tropical. Not sure how this works but the trio of gardenia, ginger lily, frangipani are going to work together and may become a quartet if hibiscus wants to shoot up as well.

The blue/purple trio is lavender, ceanothus and echium. Then I have pinks scattered around, like sweet william, lambs ears, and thyme.

Beth's geraniums are now gracing the terrace/porch and I now have a sun lounger thanks to Trade-me it was only $5! My deck chair is coming soon too for the deck. I moved the circular cafe table and red chairs to one part of the deck and the picnic table is now under the shade of the tangelo tree. So now with that sorted I think I'm  nearly ready for the bbq season and parties. Bring on summer!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Gardening month

Looks like its gardening month for me as this is my tenth post and it's only halfway through November. Loretta invited me over for a tour of her garden where her geranium cuttings are doing well, and she has filled her front path with pansies, larkspur, petunia and marigolds.  By the side of the house she has made a vege garden and there is an island perennial bed.

Not to be outdone, I decided I better get cracking on my weed bed (now 1/3 weeded) near the drive. I had been contemplating last night of moving my hydrangea that is beside the garage to the side of the house where it can be seen, but also shaded from the sun to be next to the red camellia. Well now camellia has a friend, and she also has more companion plants I have moved and they include  two Nandina heavenly dwarf bamboo 'Firepower', one red edged hebe, a nasturtium, two red impatiens, one red spider flower grevillea, a crassula, and a diosma breath of heaven. It's a bit of a red theme.

On the other side of the house, I have taken the frangipani out of her pot and planted next to the gardenia. So she is directly under my bedroom window, and any fragrant flowers I will be able to reach down and pick from my window. The two star jasmines I have planted to climb up the alcove on the northern side.

I have also tided up ferndale and moved the birds nest fern to centre stage, created a corner next to the steps for bromeliad, succulents and gastria.

I am now tired and think I'm ready for a long soak in the bath and an early night. I cut a rosebud for mum, she's still getting over the loss of Mary. Now that we are one less chook, Martha is getting extra attention. She has been hanging out under the rosemary, go figure. Rosemary for remembrance. Poor Mary.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Its raining, hallelujah!

Its not raining men, though, so sorry for all those who read this and  think the man drought has ended. Although having said that, a few men have decided to join us at Woodside so its not all on the ladies. Thank you Giles, Pierre and (sometimes) Mike.

I bought two more  star jasmines as was thinking of having them for a ground cover but then thought maybe they can go by my alcove as they really are sunlovers for a flower screen and my grapevine hasn't taken off yet. I can't seem to find a good climber or ground cover for the rest of the back rock garden that would cover the area and mum doesn't like ivy. Perhaps snow-in-summer? The native pratia took but the other pratia didn't, maybe I will just have more lithospermum. Becauses snow in summer has silver foliage and it might look out of place. I would love virginia creeper to clothe the wall but I can't seem to find it anywhere, and same for climbing hydrangea.

I also considered rugosa rose as I pulled out a sickly rose on the weekend by the chain link fence, being a bush, it wouldn't scramble along and as you know I'm not keen on the thorns. But Kings didn't seem to have any old-fashioned ones althought there was one called Blackberry Nip that came as a climber with a wonderful fragrance although that will set me back $40 and not sure if I'm prepared to pay that much for one plant that may or may not live.

More musical plants - pink manuka Wiri Kerry is now where the gardenia used to be in the corner, and the gardenia is now next to the dragons gold kowhai. Maidenhair fern in a pot that died down is now with fruit salad plant, and I have cut down the twiggy azaleas in Socks (and now Mary's) bed.

Here are my top plants for this year and my flop plants

Muelhenbeckia Complexa 
This native vine has taken off and become a lovely screen for the back of Fluffy's butterfly garden
Star Jasmine
Has also put in lots of growth, now with flowers!
'Pink Perfection' Cabbage Tree
This one is a stunner, I hope it continues to be pink and grow tall, thanks Loretta for choosing this one
Canna Lily
Gorgeous red has multiplied and the leaves are great too, thanks Nicole's mum!
Fruit Salad Plant
Love the leaves, thanks Beth for this cutting

Pratia 'Country Park'
I suppose my garden isn't really a country park so it didn't want to grow for me.
Iresine 'Beefsteak'
Loretta gave me cuttings, they grew for a bit but then died. I should have grown them in pots, maybe the chickens got them, shame as they a glorious hot pink colour
Passionfruit 'Black Beauty' 
I had about four but they never did well, even when coddled
Boston fern
I tried planting these out but they don't do well out of their pots
Everlasting Daisy 'Paper Cascade'
Succumbed to mites and didn't last long!

Also yesterday I won a copy of NZ Gardeners latest Organic Gardening publication! Apparently one of my tips is in there so I received a complimentary copy. I forget what tip it was as I gave them many so when I've read it all will find out!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

How does Mary's garden grow?

Socks is now sharing his bed with Mary. This morning I planted the pink cabbage tree where Mary is buried. I have also divided the pink chinese lantern and moved it there along with a hen and chickens fern.

Martha is coping on her own but looking a bit lost now her sister is gone. Mum went to work today although yesterday she was pretty sad. It's too soon for another hen and Martha won't like any replacement. I have to go check on her soon, she lays soft eggs and refuses to eat any laying pellets. Martha, being slimmer and perhaps faster, managed to escape the dog's jaws but Mary, being plump and not so fast, could not get away. I have seen her trying to jump the fence, Martha can but Mary just couldn't jump high enough.  Mum also rigged the gate with an extra wire so it can't swing free. Dad is going to be more careful with closing the gate, as it was left open and the dog saw the opportunity.

Now I am feeling rather bewildered and lost. I didn't mean to make my garden a cemetery but there are memorials for Fluffy, Socks, Snowy, Mary, not to mention cats past, Sparky next door who loved rosemary, Meo the original cat, Pepper the crazy cat, Book, Camilla, Henry and Georgina the previous chickens..and Mt Asher is for Iraena.

Went to the Parnell Rose Garden festival yesterday and smelled the roses. Nancy Steens' Garden was looking lovely. It was blooming with cottage favourites, roses, leading into a white garden circle with a fountain in the centre. I am going to bone up on flowers and flower arranging for the church in December. I was also asked to help a church lady tidy up her garden, Myra who gave me the daisy cuttings.

I have several plants I want to search for at Kings and not sure if they have any but I am after
Climbing Hydrangea
Virginia Creeper
Rugosa rose
Chamomile for a carpet

My renga renga lillies are in bloom and the back border is coming away with new growth. I haven't decided on a date for my summer BBQ Garden party yet, but I did see a check table cloth and matching umbrella at the craft show that is just what I'm after for my picnic table.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

RIP Mary

Sad news,  the Midian neighbours dog has killed poor Mary. It got in the gate as their's had swung open and Dad left ours open. We didn't hear anything as Mum was making fish balls with the mincer and Dad was playing his radio loud. Martha escaped but Mum found feathers all over the yard and Mary in the dog's mouth, she died soon after.

We have buried her in Sock's bed, and I may plant the pink cabbage tree there in memory of her.
Mum is heartbroken.

She was a good hen and gave us many eggs. *sob* if you reading this please say a prayer for Mum she's devastated.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Finding Neem

 I don't know if this works, but I will give it a go anyway. I have just sprinkled Neem Tree powder all underneath the tangelo tree along with vermicast to combat whitefly. Neem tree oil is also available to spray, along with granules, but I thought my best bet would be a powder sprinkled from the trunk to the drip line, so it can be absorbed through the roots. It does have a strong but not unpleasant smell, that will hopefully repel these insects which seem to have taken a great liking to my tree.  The neem tree has all these pest repelling wonderful properties that is just as good as Yates spray just like the soapnut tree washes my laundry and I don't have to use Persil automatic.

I have also learned that commercial citrus tree fertiliser is not good, maybe you can have too much of a good thing. The tree will grow, but maybe too well and thus be susceptible to attack, like how good looking, attractive people always seem to attract trouble in their lives. Well its true, look at all those Hollywood actor types. They always getting high on drugs cos they can't handle the fame.  But it's all surface, inside, they are weak. Commercial fertilisers are like plant steroids. They give terrific yields but at what cost? Apparently you can gain the world and lose your soul.

I hope the same  thing won't happen to my meyer lemon tree. I bought this lemon tree on whim from Pak n'Save before I seriously started gardening. Unlike my yucca which I regretted buying the meyer lemon is proving to be a good investment.  Nothing will kill it, and it has been moved several times. It's even flowering now and may set fruit this year. Meyer lemon is residing in Fluffy's butterfly patch surrounded by manuka,  muhlenbeckia, chinese lantern, kowhai and jasmine. So I have a yellow and white theme going on here. I have mulched them with pea straw and feijoa prunings. Mary and Martha even lay a clutch of eggs in the corner which weren't discovered for a few days, how my parents missed the eggs I don't know,  but they found out and are now back to laying in the cage.

Meyer lemon is replacing the sad old lemon tree next to the tangelo that was on it's last branches. We had several other lemon trees in pots that never did well, they all succumbed to borer or scale or some other sap sucking insect. Ruud Kleinpaaste the bugman would know. Lemon trees are New Zealand's iconic backyard tree, every home has one. It has to be Meyer because they are the most frost hardy.

Lemons can be used for all sorts of household recipes, as both dessert, drink, and cleaner. How is that for versatile? Much as landscape designers seem to love yuccas and other architectural plants that are really, quite useless, I am in praise of the lemon tree. Because when life gives you lemons, you can always make lemonade.


I forgot to mention the author of the book I mentioned - Terry Hershey. The title is 'Soul Gardening'.
I have just put in some new plants for our church hanging baskets - they now have cascading lobelia in blue, petunia in white and nasturtiums. I've planted up the little playhouse windowsill with pansies and more nasturtium, and the garden bed now has a rosemary.

My groundcover bed now has oregano as well. Its slowly being carpeted. I had a visitor to my garden today, and was given a tip to get rid of whitefly thats buzzing around my tangelo, use neem oil. I'm not keen on spraying so am using neem powder instead to get to the roots, and heard worm castings will also help build up the tree's immunity.

This weekend all things are happening in the gardening world, there's the Parnell Rose Festival which is on every November, rain or shine, and NZ Gardener editor Lynda Hallinan is opening up her garden to the public this weekend. I'm not sure if I can make it since its all the way east in Hunua.  Foggydale Farm she calls it. I don't really have a cutesy name for my garden but I call this land of mine Iranasea. Its been called that ever since I remember. I'm not sure where the name came from but it stuck.
It's kind of like 'Gondawanaland' that mysterious landmass which happened to break up when the land got divided in the days of Peleg (look in the Bible for that bit of history) after Noah's Ark. Or was it before? I'm not sure.

Iranasea is divided up into several states, there's Pussycatland, Jemima Land, Glenpurple, Washington (the laundry) and Anywhere Land. There's also Kitchen Land and Columbus (a vassal land). The enemy territory down the back is known as Midian.  Next door to us is Newaland.  We also have a Hen and Chickens Island and an Easter Island.  There used to be a Pinecone Land but that got swept away. Recently there was a volcanic eruption and Mt Asher appeared out of nowhere.

Tolkien and CS Lewis may have their Narnias and their Hobbitons/Middle Earth, but Iranasea was first on the map in my book. I can tell you all about the history of Iranasea, but that's another story and another post....

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Gardening for the soul

I read this book in which a preacher kid learned to let go and have a garden. This strait laced competitive American control freak lands in the English countryside and learns the beauty of an bearded iris and the wonders of a cottage garden where there's not a straight line to be seen, no lawnmower, and things just you know, GROW.

After 20 different quotations from published authors as if uncertain that his point of view was even valid (if you got it from a book, it must be!) he finally learns to just sit still and smell the roses instead of spraying them into submission.

I have thought about this as I walked around the garden today and saw my plantings establishing themselves, the lemon balm's scented leaves, the parsley, the feathery fennel, the delicately scented sweet peas and nasturtiums twining their way along the border. The narrow strip of land between our lawn and the neighbours driveway has been reclaimed. That bit is mine but it sits adjacent to the large expanse of lawn cut to an inch of its life, and where dad hadn't mowed, I barely noticed until he pointed out to me that he neglected to cut that bit of grass where the lawn mower had run out of petrol.

I have never once said to Dad that he must mow the lawns ever, but I imagine it is pre-programmed into his brain that he must do it or risk...what exactly? Butterflies and bees? Daisies? Hundreds and  thousands of yellow creeping buttercups strewn like confetti over the backyard? A meadow?

It's a bit hard to romp in this garden if there's nothing really to romp about in. I've considered we just roll up the turf and install fake grass which may look just as good. People do it all the time at silly season, fake trees, fake snow, fake reindeer, coming after the fake ghosts and fake blood and bone of Halloween. My garden could conceivably become one of those fake landscaping design projects in which everything is all lines on a page and no soul.

Anyway, just my thoughts. Hurry up global warming, can't wait for the day petrol is going to run out and then all the lawnmowers and cars are silenced and we can just get back to real gardening again.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Covering new ground

Progress report -

I planted three more thymes, one emerald carpet and two woollies, plus another pratia which has little blue flowers, and a leptinella, which is like a native ferny groundcover that I saw at Mincher.  Also I have edged the path to the house with more lamb's ears, scrounged from the bed that is now smothered in mugwort. The chickens like to use that plant as a hidey hole to lay eggs in.
I have moved the ficus primula - creeping fig - to the side of the steps hoping it might decide to clamber up the wall there as the last two spots I had it in did nothing but sulk. Then I have ripped up some hydrocotyl which I know is now deemed a weed but it creeps and looks spectacularly green so I'm hoping that will take as well.

My weedmat is now covered with weeds and it's only really one third weeded. Another plant I found at Mitre 10 is nz fuschia procumbens, which is a creeping kind of fuschia and I've put that in with the ponga fern. I had my eye on star jasmine as a ground cover and you can buy small ones for $8 so I was thinking I might buy two to cover the ground where it's sunny. I have seen star jasmine used to great effect as a groundcover outside of all places McDonalds in Pt Chevalier. Fluffy's butterfly garden has one star jasmine which is now climbing the fence but as it would take a long time to get established and cuttings I think maybe I better buy two plants.

I also need to buy some more potting mix to pot up aloes as they don't really like shallow rock beds even though its warm and I will put them on the deck side of the house which currently doesn't have any plants, except for muehlenbeckia now twining its way through the railing. There is a sign that now says 'Beware of the Cat' in brass.

I may also move the tea tree (camellia) next to the other camellia so it can have a friend as its really not doing that well next to the hydrangeas down the bottom of the garden, the leaves are very pale and don't seem to be growing much.

And another task I need to get busy with is growing sunflowers, which I will plant directly at Woodside although I now have seed raising mix, which I am going to use to sow beans where I had tomatoes last year. These are scarlet runner beans and perennials so that means I don't need to plant them again every year just cut them down and they will resprout again. I have no tomatoes as yet since last time they didn't do that well (and they are very heavy feeders) but I may have them in pots on the deck with the aloes this time if I can find big enough buckets. Or maybe by the fence However I have learned they are actually perennial vines too so I actually don't need to dig them out again if I just leave them they will grow again.

Anyway, busy busy must get cracking since its November and not long before the summer bbqs season.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Thyme to get rid of weeds

My side front back garden (our house is back to front) has a bed that needs TLC or rather that needs to be completely replanted because its full of weeds!
Well it always has been ever since the conifers were taken out and become part of the driveway but I had some inspiration from Prince Charles' thyme walk and have decided to turn this bed of red gravel rocks into a thyme walk/drive as well.

So at first I thought maybe I can just weedmat it and plant in holes and I even bought some weedmat (ugly black stuff that supermarket bags are made out of) and pinned it to the ground with rivets. But then I realised that wouldn't really work and weedmat is so ugly, and then you have to put soil or mulch ON TOP and where would I get that from? So I am doing the old-fashioned route and weeding out each horrible weed by hand (and trowel). And underneath all those weeds and rocks is black plastic anyway which I can just pull up.

I have so far planted four emerald carpet thymes which I hope WILL spread to make a lovely green carpet, one native pratia and one native seriella. The natives are meant to do well if the thymes don't take but as they are in full sun for most of the day in poor soil I'm hoping they will take like a duck to water. (Or duckweed). The pratias and seriellas are groundcovers meant for no-mow lawns, forming dense mats, and even have nice white flowers, one is even called 'snow in summer'.  Seriella is touted as wonderful and salt resistant, so if you need to get rid of weeds just sprinkle salt around and all the  surrounding weeds will die except for the seriella.  However I might hold off for now because I don't want to kill the thymes as well.

The weeds infesting this part of the garden include plaintain, dandelion, oxalis, clover (which I may just leave, it's pretty) and some other unidentifiables that routinely get squashed by my car tyres.

So here's hoping this experiment will work and I will have a nice fragrant lawn which never needs mowing just steamrolling (or rubberrolling) every now and again by my car.  I hope to find some roman chamomile for the sunnier patch as heard that does well too. Unfortunately its not that cheap to buy these herbs that sell at Kings for $3.49 a pot and groundcovers are $9.99 so I will just need to do as my budget allows (which means, find some more paid work!) and I have a lot of ground to cover so as well as praying for it not to rain for my garden party I also have to pray that whatever I plant will thrive and spread quickly so people won't exclaim over my patchy no-mow lawn and say - you missed a spot. Mum was very suspicious that I put weedmat down and quickly reminded me that the rivets and nails I banged in place will probably puncture my car tyres.

I haven't told her those sharp mother-in-law tongues sell for $20 at the Warehouse but then I think she already knows. She already knows everything. That's the annoying thing.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

101 Gardening Ideas

 No I don't have 101 Gardening Ideas but I have two books that say the same so actually I have 202 Gardening Ideas. (One is NZ Gardener and one is Australian Women's Weekly).

Yesterday I bought some more solar lights, this time a longer one to thread on the deck and put the shorter one in the hedge since some of the bulbs are blown. I also bought one that has butterflies on it to put in my butterfly garden. I moved a ponga log to the corner as a kind of retaining edge since chickens kept digging up the mulch and took the broken chairs and umbrella to the dump (it cost $12 to get rid of them). I have a blue checked table cloth for my round outdoor table and hoping to find a similar or red checked one for the other picnic table.

It will be Guy Fawkes night soon and BBQ season should start up again so am thinking what to do for my next garden party. Karyn has invited all us gardeners to celebrate her partner's 40th at her place and the theme is Arabian Nights. I'm imagining her place is going to be rugged up and exotic looking. Very sheik.

I have thought one day when my brother has done up his 1930's Packard we could hold an Art Deco party perhaps.  Or maybe... a Southern Style bbq with roast suckling pig. Or..a seafood extravaganza, if anyone wants to bring whitebait fritters and mussels.

Are not gardens meant to hold parties in?
I am taking some royal tips from Prince Charles' book the Garden at Highgrove as well. His garden is fantastic any way you look at it and I'm sure he holds lots of parties there to rival the Queen's petits fours.

I will just have to wait for the weather to clear after all this wind, rain and hail we've been having lately. It is now sunny outside but there's dark clouds on the horizon and who knows what it will be next hour. If I fix a day and time I will just need to pray like Elijah for it not to rain.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Mother-in-law's tongue

I have just been accused of stealing a mother-in-laws tongue, by my mother. Now I don't know why I would do that seeing as they are the most ugly plants ever but mum has got into her head that since its not there anymore I must have moved it or done something with it.

It is no good pleading innocent as she's already made up her mind I am guilty.
My mind is going into overdrive thinking of all the things I can say back to my mother about HER tongue but then again maybe its not a good idea. Perhaps if by magic the mother-in-law tongue does come back, her tongue would stop lashing out at me all the time because the plant will be there by proxy, absorbing all the noxious gases from the computer. (Mum claims these plants are good for computers). Well I don't know, my macbook has never really suggested it needed a plant. But it had been acting up on me lately, crashing my emails and thus I am not able to upload any photos of Mincher.

I don't have plants in my office/study although I do have fake gerberas in a vase. I also have enough sweet peas to fill a vase now and they are decorating the dining table. There's a maidenhair fern in the bathroom, and several of Beth's indoor pot plants I am looking after - a bird's nest fern,  a plant called 'mother of millions', maidenhair, and kalanchoes. In my bedroom I have a rose and some daisies. Probably not the most inspiring floral arrangement but then I have to practise some more for the church flower blitz in December.  I cannot compete with the flowers Else buys from Drury or Pukekohe but surely the church members might like some potted cyclamen?

Aunty Ellen gave us some of her orchids which I have gathered into the hanging basket, removing the paper daisies which are now being attacked by mites. Another casualty is also catmint and sage chickens again dug it up, (unless it was the naughty neighbourhood cat) but I suspect chickens.  I have managed to find two good red sturdy plastic chairs for our outdoor table as the two wooden ones are collapsing, AND my outdoor umbrella broke, one of the spokes just plain snapped, so I've decided not to buy another one and just move the table under the tangelo tree for shade instead. I am looking for red checked table cloths that are wipe clean if anyone has them, and they are going to be anchored by mosaic solar lights to create a sort of french garden cafe atmosphere en plein air.

Yesterday in our working bee I mulched the eggplants with lavender and borage, so hopefully the snails won't get to them anymore. Things are growing at hectic pace and the garden centres are chock full of summer veges to put in. I managed to find a blue granny's bonnet or aquilegia that I so admired at Mincher to be part of my flower garden, and nearly got locked in at Kings Plant Barn when I lost my key. Thankfully someone had handed it in but for a moment I thought I would have to walk all the way home to get the spare one to unlock my car, or spend the night at the garden centre waiting for the AA to come. I suppose there are worse things than being stranded at Kings Plant Barn. They will have to make up a little corner for me there and name it 'Selina's bed' or something.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Lovely Mincher

I am typing up this post before I get out to the working bee today at 9am. I want to apologise what I said about the SDAs as it was a bit harsh. If you are an SDA reading this you are welcome to come to our community garden on a Sunday and help out as well. On a Saturday you can just come along and enjoy the garden while the rest of us are working in it but we will leave some jobs for you to do on Sunday. How is that?


My report on lovely Mincher!

Mincher is a Garden of National Significance. Like Ayrlies, it was originally farmland. Whilst Ayrlies was paddocks and rolling hills with a coastal climate, Mincher was orchards and strawberry fields on flat land on beautiful rich soil bordering on a stream.  The owners, husband and wife team Angela and Bruce Spooner, transformed this into an English style country garden, complete with Georgian House, Cottage, hedging, herbaceous border, potager, cottage garden, kitchen garden, and even its own riding trail (no horses...yet) There's plenty of interest with the stream bordering the property where there's a native bush walk, leading toward a small lake with ducks, a croquet lawn surrounded by a circular totara hedge, pergolas covered with vines, espaliered fruit trees, plum trees in the remaining orchard, an avenue of pin oaks...even a bog garden with primulas and flag iris beneath a low bridge over a ditch.

For those that delight in all things English, you will find yourself at home in this immaculately presented garden that recalls a grand estate. Not quite as dramatic as Larnach Castle with its ghosts and brooding mists, I would say the atmosphere in this garden is quite different, when Margaret and I visited the day turned out brilliant. The gardeners gave us a tour of the property and in which they help the owners achieve their dreams - the herbaceous border is a lot of work! The lawns are criss cross patterned and I can imagine a sort of Jane Austen style Pemberley rom com being enacted here.

We exclaimed over all sorts of unusual plants we'd never seen before and I have taken a few (if can get them upload) photos of ones that caught my eye. There are even helpful brass name tags identifying the unusual plants in many areas of the garden.   On the day we visited a later tour group of garden club members descended on the garden so it must be very popular one to see. As its only 25 minutes from where we are its worth visiting for a day out.  Mincher is named after a breed of spaniel dog that the owners adore. Thank you Angela and Bruce for opening your garden for everyone to enjoy, its gorgeous!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Say it with flowers

I have just landed a job doing flowers for the church. I am rostered on for December, so am thinking what flowers will be available then, and if not flowers, maybe I can do fern baskets? Or maybe a water feature?

Looking around in my garden, the first sweet peas have blossomed, the geraniums are in bloom, as is the ceanothus and lavender. Everything is coming up lovely and my front rockery is a riot of rainbow colours. It will win no awards in the home and garden magazine, its so garish and not tasteful at all. It looks kinda like a primary school childrens garden with primary bright colours.

pink- sweet william
red - grevillea or spider flower
orange - geraniums, calendula
yellow - gazania
green- leaves, ferns, aloe
blue- ceanothus
indigo - dutch iris
violet - violets and pansies, lavender

along with grey green lambs ears
and white alyssum

The fun bits are the bird bath or rather duck bath, hippos and tuatara. There's even a cat sometimes sunning herself by the wall. So I suppose I do have a mini zoo. Except in this zoo you can feed the animals, in fact are encouraged to, as when they are hungry they have an annoying habit of coming inside and disturbing the humans.

Ssh don't tell Jacqui but I have secretly sown wildflowers in the community garden. When they come up it will be a pleasant surprise. Also it will help pollinate the capsicums and eggplant I am dead set of having a harvest this year. Choko was vetoed this time along with gourd. Too rampant and nobody eats them, claims Jacqui. Well, all the more for me.

Sweetcorn was also voted down because last time we had Seventh Day Adventists steal our corn and other veges. Well we suspect. They claimed innocence but we have evidence that it was them, and said if they want produce come help us on our working bee days. No we can't, they said, we are not allowed to work on Saturdays.

Maybe they were imitating Jesus when he plucked the corn in the field on the Sabbath but the thing is they plucked it when it wasn't even ripe.
I don't know, I never really got on with SDAs as they like to point out things like did you know you aren't supposed to eat bacon? But they still buy sausages at our sausage sizzle anyway, so I really don't know whats up with them. promoting their Sanitarium breakfast cereals  they asked librarians to lie  to the camera and say they loved weetbix etc but to me it tastes like cardboard no matter how much sugar is dumped on it.  Apparently they hire out the church on Saturday to have their services, which is fine, but we couldn't even clean up or do a regular working bee on a Saturday since they were using the church.  Then all the lights blew and on Sunday the congregation entered a darkened church because the SDAs didn't want to work to change the lightbulbs.

I have now decided to go to a different church which SDAs don't rent out and do flowers there. If they did they'd probably steal the flowers.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


This morning I checked on my passionfruit vine that I had planted only a week ago and it was dug up by the roots. Sigh.
Chickens again?
I have to resign myself to the fact that chickens are sabotage my attempts to grow fruit. They also thought that it would be fun to dig up my freshly planted taro plants that haven't even been in the ground for three hours.

I may have to double fence the area again or drape netting over the whole border. Or use my water gun, I don't know why they don't like me I have never been mean to them and feed them corn cobs and bread and they still don't like me.

Has mum trained them to root out any plants she doesn't like? But she doesn't even know I planted taros. I pulled out the swan plant, but then I was the one who planted it so that was my prerogative. As far as I know the chickens have not planted anything of their own...

Anyway aside from minor annoyances my garden is going great and I'm enjoying all the spring flowers and new growth.

I have been on a short visit to Katikati where they grow avocadoes and all the seeds from Kings are packed there. I helped on a new orchard that had fifty trees, mulching and weeding.  In a few years time the yield from all these trees is going to be huge! They still need protection from frost though so its not you can just plant an avocado tree anywhere and it will grow. But Katikati has fine soil, perfect loamy texture and is the ideal place to grow fruit.

While there are orchards out in West Auckland still they are dying out and the soil here was never that conducive to abundant yields, being mostly clay. You can still work the land but its much harder, even at Woodside we need to bring soil in.  My home is on a former apple orchard subdivision, and when it was developed they took all the good topsoil away, so we were left with like a few inches.  When developers do that because they want homes on a level site they ruin the soil structure by digging it all up and scaring all the worms and beneficial fungi away, plus spraying with roundup, and God knows what other herbicides.

Maybe with all the Chinese buying land now even orchards we may start to see paddy fields with rice and the reason they are flooded is because then the weeds are kept down and nobody needs to spray rice as rice survives wet land. I am sure the rich Chinese investors actually don't really want more hotels, apartment blocks and eyesores, they come here because NZ is so beautiful and plentiful  and want to get away from living in a ghetto. Thats my theory anyway, I really don't say we can blame one group of people for the way housing and land prices are these days. Well at least not a whole nation. I would say its the greedy people from all nations that are ruining it for the rest of us. If someone offered me a billion dollars for my bit of land and it was the only home I had to live on and I loved it no way would I say yea sure. Thanks for your ridiculously expensive offer but its my homeland and I'm not selling.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Castles in the air

I made a trip down to Dunedin last month and visited the famed Larnach Castle, New Zealand's only castle. The castle had been restored to its former glory but it was not the castle interiors I was impressed by - every old home has antique furniture and the wealthy are no's just more lavish than ordinary people's I suppose and bigger and more of it.

What impressed me was the garden surrounding it. The Barker family bought the castle when it was in ruins and over 40 years later the garden is now flourishing and befits such a grand estate. It does not have a moat like I expected a castle to have but a circular lawn forecourt, a fountain, an allee or avenue of laburnum leading down to a reflective pond, iconic cabbage trees flanking the stairs, cypress, montgomery pine shelterbelts and hedges, a seaside coastal embankment complete with gazebo and pathways, a serpentine perennial garden, a rainforest walk with pongas and natives, and secret alice in wonderland motifs.  What is not to love?

From the turret you can see out to the Otago Peninsula on a clear day or be above the clouds and mist on all other days of the year. (Dunedin seems to brood in perpetual scottish gloom). I can imagine many scottish plays being enacted here with a Lady Larnach perhaps wandering the halls at night crying 'out damned spot' with her scrubbing brush.

Well, only about five family members died untimely in this tragedy so you might expect a few unhappy ghosts wandering about. It even has a banqueting hall with three roaring fireplaces but thankfully no three weird sisters predicting Dunedin woods on the march.

I have a leaflet here entitled 'the plants at Larnach Castle' and it lists each one like they are jewels in the crown. Well they are. They are the real stars of the show and give the castle life.
I am dreaming one day I may have a castle of my own. I may look after it for 40 years or more, surviving betrayal, intrigue and nervous breakdowns but it will be there long after I'm gone...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Spring is here!

My garden is coming to life!
I noticed some of the sweet peas are now budding.

Since I've been away the rains have drenched the soil and we've had a few thunderstorms to blow the cobwebs away and add nitrogen blast, and everything is now coming away. There are Dutch iris with purple and white blooms, peach blossom, hellebores, daffodils, snowflakes, lavender, nasturtiums, ajuga, bluebells, wisteria and numerous other blooms making an appearance.

The fruit trees are leafing out with new growth as well as the jacaranda and jasmine. All over the country, there are spring garden festivals of tulips and daffs, orchids, azaelas and rhodos, you name it, the flower will probably have its own festival. Although I haven't really seen an agapanthus festival yet. But I'm sure other lillies might have them.

My next project is to find two stepping stones as they have both become puddle stones and they are no good if we want to hang our washing and have dry feet.
I also probably am going to plant more carex to edge the bed where there's a dip and its become a bog. I tried primulas but they never lasted long.

Yates sent me tomato seeds for National Garden Week (Had no idea we had one) which were the 'mortgage lifter' variety. Well thankfully I don't have a mortgage anymore so I gave them to the neighbours in hopes this might spur them to continue on with their vege garden, which I see contains weeds and potatoes at the moment.

I still am pondering the merits of having a raised vege bed in the backyard but I notice the trend is now for something called hugelkultur which is a more organic way of cultivating veges. This comprises of lots of rotten logs mounded up with earth instead of edged rectangular beds that are very pricy and basically just large containers. The logs inside the mounds release fungi and beneficial organisms into the soil and the mounds allow sunlight to fall onto the veges for maximum growth.

Also drainage is much better among these raised mounds and there is less digging involved. So I am going to look into that a bit more before I start the earthworks.