Thursday, 28 April 2016

Mug shot #3 Wisteria

Isn't it funny that our wisteria matches the colour of our neighbour's house? I did not plant this specimen, my brother did years ago, but lately it has been giving wonderful displays like this one in spring. At the moment it is covered in leaves.
There are two varieties, Chinese and Japanese, and two colours, violet and white. The difference seems to be one twines clockwise, the other anti-clockwise. They would like elegant anywhere, but especially good over a pergola. They develop large seed pods which hang down. They are vigorous climbers and require cutting back to keep them in shape, as they will send new shoots called suckers that can grow to great lengths. Apparently they enjoy acid soil, and are generally carefree and pest resistant. Wisteria Lane was the name given to the street where the Desperate Housewives lived. It does look like, from a distance, like someone's hung out their laundry. Of course there's an art to hanging out laundry that few people except the housewives appreciate.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Mug shot #2 Wheki aka Ponga

I  just love this plant. It's so 'iconic' that I believe every New Zealand garden ought to have one.
It's latin name is Dickonsonia Squarrosa - squarrosa due to it's sort of squarish shape as seen from the top I suppose. Ponga grows upright and its fronds unfurl from the crown, giving it a shady umbrella that will keep growing until it reaches a  height of 2m high after ten years (according to Palmer's Manual of Trees, Shrubs and Climbers) with fronds measuring 1.5m across. If you cut ponga fern trees down, new plants can grow from the base. Also its roots are creeping, and will send up new shoots elsewhere. Ponga logs are good for fences and raised beds. Give your garden a native look instantly with a few of those, I have two, although most aethetes will say plant in threes...well, pongas from the garden centre aren't cheap and its best to buy them young so they can establish, and are cheaper if you buy them when they are more mature and bigger they can set you back $100.  Mitre 10 were selling small ones for $25-30 and I think they are worth the money. If you have a friend living in the native bush (as I do!) they may able to find baby ones for you that you can have for nada. Pongas are sought after and even Prince Charles has them at Highgrove, where he cossets them in his Southern Hemisphere Garden wrapping them up in winter protecting them from frosts and snow, but here in Auckland you can just leave them au naturel. In the bush they like lowland shady sites so I have mine on the shady southern side of the house. They like general conditions and are very hardy, and they will pop back up even if there's a fire, as tree ferns are one of the establishment plants for virgin forests. Even Australia has them, I was quite surprised to find their bush full of tree ferns as well, among the eucalypts.
This one doesn't come with a Pukeko, maybe next Christmas.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Failure is not an option

I am beginning to think this landscape design course is maybe not such a good idea.
I am terrible at following instructions, formatting, and straight lines.

Also my numeracy skills leave much to be desired. One of the books recommended for reading included pictures of gorse as a desirable plant. I also need to learn correct botanical terms for all the plants, plus genus, until I become the walking encyclopaedia. This may be the exact reason why I failed library school. Well I didn't fail, I actually hold a Masters degree, it is sitting in a box right now under mum's dresser, but before it was hanging on the wall, mocking me.

Some librarian who doesn't even know the dewey decimal numbers off by heart. What happened is I attempted a journal, as they specified that I needed to write down all I learned after supposedly becoming a real librarian. But I had to do it all in a spreadsheet, and this gave me a headache. Plus at the library I worked at, I wasn't even allowed to use the computer for non-work related purposes, and keeping a library journal was one of them.
So I had to do this in my non-working hours. I ended up writing a whole blog, which turned out to be a wonderful story, but of course this did not cut the mustard with the markers of registered librarianship, it had to be in a spreadsheet and conform to their ten Boks. Which is librarian jargon for 'body of knowledge'. I learned that I didn't know anything. Really.

So anyway to cut a long story short, (which I then printed out, was marked 'fail', and consequently either chucked it in the bin and deleted the  whole blog) I didn't end up being a librarian after all, or an officially sanctioned one.

Now I have enrolled in this landscape design course which is costing me some pennies and I have found out that I will not be eligible for a student allowance for this one. So I'm wondering, do I grit my teeth and submit, or do I just stay amateur and give up any hope of becoming officially sanctioned horticulturalist slash landscape designer.

I mean, it's all the way in the South Island, Invercargill! How can I even afford to go there if I'm not even eligible for a student allowance (I enrolled too late, apparently). Why is God mocking me? Do I even want to design landscapes for rich foreign investors and nice motorway side plantings? You can't exactly go out and sniff the roses or enjoy the tuis going past at speeds of 100k.

Some encouragement will be nice.

Friday, 22 April 2016

mug shot #1 morning glory

The wonderful morning glory Ipomoea climbs up the arch. She likes a sunny spot and will go to any lengths --twining her way round any twig or branch, bringing forth bicolor blooms of pale violet and indigo that unfurl in the morning and close up at night. A close relation is the moonflower, which is white and does a Marilyn Monroe with her petals. She has heart shaped leaves, people say she's invasive but as you can see I have her well trained and pot bound, so she's not going anywhere unless I say so. You can grow these from seed, which I got from Kings. When flowered they will produce more seed so cut the dead pods off and they will grow again.
By the way I think that's Martha in the background.

Sunday, 17 April 2016


I have just put up my new greenhouse, its a mini version with 4 tiers from the Warehouse, in my alcove. I had to tie the shelves down with cable ties and used some old fridge shelves as well. My tray of seedlings have sprouted but I have forgotten which ones are which, it could be the cabbage, the cauli or maybe the leek. I am very pleased with my new greenhouse which can zip up at night.

I also managed to snag some cyclamen that was going for $1.50 a pot as the flowers were past their best, but they will bloom again I'm sure. I bought seven of them and they are now planted under the maple tree. I plan to eventually cover the ground with  white cyclamen, bulbs like snowflakes, and snow in summer, as it's Snowy's bed, he also has a Snowball tree in the corner.

We are now harvesting feijoas which everyone is eating, before it was peaches, and then it turned to pumpkins (which seem to be still growing), gourd, choko, tomatoes, and bitter melon. If this was North America it would be the harvest season which coincides with Halloween, but, as we are southern hemisphere we somehow don't celebrate the autumn as it ought to be celebrated and end up having Easter bunnies and eggs instead, which belong to spring. Also whats annoying is Christmas in the summer, but when it's winter here, there is no relief in sight and nobody has any mid-winter parties.

When I read British gardening books I get confused with the seasons and end up expecting blooms at the wrong time of year. So I try and avoid these and only glance at them occasionally to glean ideas. For the Brits having succulents and tree ferns and palms in their gardens is somehow exotic, but just about anything grows in Auckland, which is both good and bad. Bad because weeds like it here too. I was looking at an old gardening book, definitely from Britain, that had a page for gorse and was extolling the virtues of this spiny plant. Good for hedges, it says. uh...

Thats what they said about...privet, wandering jew, castor oil plant, agaves, agapanthus, ginger lily and all these other wonderful plants that just turn out to be weeds in Auckland. I'm sure on judgment day these guilty gardeners will have their comeuppance. Was it you who introduced the first gorse into New Zealand? Oh but I didn't know, I thought it would make a nice hedge. Well, look at the consequences of your actions. Cue horrible graphic pictures of lambs and cows being impaled on gorse bushes and dying from being spiked and farmers cursing this terrible plant and suffering from the carcinogenic effects of round-up spray...

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Greenhouse effect

I'm looking for greenhouses or potting tables as my old bbq table which I am using as a potting table which I found on the side of the road is falling to bits.  The Warehouse are selling some for $50 but they are walk-ins and I'm not sure I have the space, although they have a four tier one for $60, while Mitre 10 have some 2 tiers for $30 and 3 tiers for $50 but their PVC covers don't look so sturdy.

I have sown some of my seeds in punnets except for the sweet peas, which I plan to sow direct in the garden if I can find some cloches to protect them from birds first.

I have moved the heliotrope cherry pie plants out of their pots into the garden border as they seem thirsty and would do better in the ground, one of them is thriving near my fernery. But they didn't like it at all out the front so I will try them out the back.

Other than that I have been reading up on pruning and training, for my course, and I have to decide on 30 specimens to photograph of trees, shrubs and climbers for my assignment. So coming soon for your edification will be 30 of these plants complete with photos and information about them (and my thoughts).

In my flaming bed I have added bronze carex. Now there are all these different colours and the effect is probably a designer horror of oranges, browns, and hot pink iresine, but I just want to see what will grow there!

Friday, 8 April 2016

Seeds to sow and food for thought.

Went to a seed meeting on Thursday for Woodside and was given these seeds to sow -

Sweet pea - Lucky Dip
Sweet pea -Blue
Cauliflower- Italian Purple
Broccoli de Cicco
Cabbage - Early Ballhead
Leeks- Musselburgh

I've also planted munstead lavender in my log burner bed (with flaming celosias) along with Iresine a friend gave me cuttings of.

Also I found another arch at Kmart but then forgot to save the receipt, or, I saved the wrong one.
D'oh! This is so I can be reimbursed, as we do have some funding from Massey Matters that goes to supporting community gardens. This is so we can buy tools and hold events and buy plants and mulch etc so that we can actually DO the gardening without it all having to come out of our limited pockets as we apply for it.

I have wondered about being paid to do gardening for other people but I think the satisfaction may not be there. At the end of the day you are slaving for someone else and lining their pockets...and you don't even have the reward of the produce. This goes for any type of job that is done for someone else. If there is a voluntary job it means everyone pitches in I think to make it work, otherwise its all on one person and then the person that pays you gets the credit for paying someone else to do it. I suppose thats how the other half live. I had this designer decorate my home, I had this architect, and this garden designer made one for me. All well and good, but you just paid someone else to do a job that you could have done yourself and made your own. It may not have been perfect but it's your own labour and ideas and nobody else can lay a claim to it.

Food for thought.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

April Showers

It is now April and the start of autumn..the maple leaves are turning a rich red and I can feel the cool crispness of the morning air starting to chill. It is my favourite time of year.

On Sunday we had our last tai ch'i class at the garden. I don't know about the whole drawing energy thing but it is relaxing to do the movements and breathe in the fresh air. Like plants, needing the carbon dioxide and thriving in the sun, humans need also oxygen and to be outdoors enjoying the sun at times.

I skipped church because I don't know, I felt that toss up between spending an hour and a half inside a sitting in a stuffy church building as opposed to being outdoors moving in the fresh air among God's creation and thanking Him seemed to be a non issue. And then I thought about our sad church yard and how we never gathered outside and enjoyed it as it was over run with weeds and become a kids playground.

Ironic isn't it? I've heard of this man who made an outdoor church entirely out of trees, in Hamilton somewhere. It sounds wonderful.

Well today I was thinking, a friend had a swing seat in their backyard that I had admired and that I always meaning to buy, and I thought of the perfect place I could put it. I hope Briscoes have some left and I have enough money for one as that would be nice to have a place to sit and relax and not be bothered by people inside the house. It is a two seater and got a canopy over and so you not going to be fried by the sun.

I have been busy idenitifying plant specimens for my landscape design course and actually managed to take some photos so, this blog may have some pictures after all. I need to identify at least 30 so this blog might be taken up with individual plant specimens and my musings on them for a while. Makes a change from my ramblings.