Saturday, 29 December 2018

So you want to be a garden designer?

I have just been reading this book. At first I thought nah. I don't actually want to be a garden designer.
I mean I am one, because I have my PDC, and I could design gardens, but designing a garden and actually doing it are two different things.

I have found if one wants to design a garden, one needs an insanely wealthy client with a brand new plot who will throw money at you to get it done and won't use any lack of budget as stumbling blocks. Unfortunately, unlike New England where this book is set, people in Auckland aren't that flush with cash because housing is so expensive they have no time to spend on their garden. This book was talking about installing stonework masonry, landscaping swimming pools, decking, patios, stairs and doing driveways. This is even before they consider the plants.

Then because you can't conceivably do all this on your own what you do is charge a mark-up of your services, and then get sub contractors to do all the work for you under your direction. So basically you become a project manager. Most people won't hire someone else to do this for them because they would want to do it themselves, but if they do hire you, you need to work with them and do exactly what they want, even if it's maybe the wrong thing, like put in a swimming pool that is going to guzzle a lot of water that someone else will have to clean.

I've learned that one may install a spectacular garden but when the money dries up and they have no time to maintain it the garden will soon go to rack and ruin. Especially given our climate that weeds love. We get no rest over the winter period unlike in New England where it snows in winter and the plants are hibernating.

I think its a bit like people who hire other people to decorate their house. Why would you do this, can't you trust your own taste? If I have someone else decorating my house, then it wouldn't be mine. They would decorate it according to how they like it not how I like it. Because everything you do  creatively has something of YOU in it. Maybe I am not thinking like how a garden designer may think, because they have really sold out but I would put too much heart and soul into my work to just love it and leave it.  So the dilemma seems to be will Selina garden for cash. Or will she garden because she loves to? Would it be better to just concentrate on my own garden than bother about other people's, who may or may not even be interested. I thought about this and remember not long ago feeling insulted that someone would want to use me to tart up their home with plants just so they can sell it to someone else who doesn't care about plants and end up ripping them out again when they die through neglect.  I mean I am all for gardening and greening up areas but money ought not to be a motivating factor. So I thought well you just don't know who you dealing with.

Anyhow, will just keep doing what I'm doing, which is growing spring onions, you can just chop the roots off the ones you buy in the supermarket and put them in the ground to grow new ones. I've also potted up spider plants so, if anyone would like a spider plant (I looked in Kings, they sell for at least $12) you can just ask me. You can pay me back later in plants.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

'Tis the season

Christmas season has started...the garden is peaking for flowers. I'm harvesting chamomile, lavender, lambs ears and watching fruits developing come autumn.

Tidying up patches here and there am shifting ferns plus am thinking of moving lemon tree to out the north side in front of the terrace as it's getting shaded by the manuka and kowhai. I will have to do that in autumn/winter when the ground is a bit softer though.

Have potted up lots of spider plants, yes I did go to Kings Plant Barn Boxing Day sale and bought two sacks of potting mix for $10 as had a discount, sweet! But not buying any plants as its not the right time to plant them although, very tempted to buy another protea to replace the ones mown over at church. They were all 25% off i.e normal price.

Good news although not sure if should say on here, as its another secret santa thing, but to anyone reading this, please don't tell anyone, so I will write very small or maybe in green so anyone who's colourblind and won't be able to read it - am getting a team together to make the garden at church but we not going to say anything we just going to do it so it will be a surprise. Because miracles don't happen when you explain how it's all going to be done and have to write audit reports and document it and say how much it cost. I'm pretty sure santa doesn't include the receipts for all the gifts and count up all the time and labour it cost to sort, make and deliver the goodies and charge it to the children he loves. No he doesn't do that he just gives, and he somehow just knows what the right gift to give to each child. Of course he has lots of operation that big doesn't just happen with just one person. Thank you garden angels. 

In other news have just been relaxing with my summer reading a book called 'The Worst Hard Time' it's the untold story of the dustbowl in America. I can't believe that happened but it did when misguided homesteaders plowed up the prairie to grow wheat  to export to Russia and then just abandoned it when prices dropped so all the top soil of these abandoned fields just blew away - and people were dying of hunger, starvation and literally choking on dust storms when the wind blew over the dry land. The best grassland in america was totally ruined by get-rich-quick suitcase farmers, and the homesteaders were also lured in by cheap land that the native Americans said was totally unsuitable for crops as it had no fresh water. I'm wondering if that could happen in NZ..I'm thinking of all those pine forests/plantations which are logged and what happens to the land once they are logged. When you drive past logged places they look terrible just devastation everywhere. After all they are an export crop ...

But what do I know. I'm sure the experts have some clue rather than thinking about how much money they are making from it. Also I think it's weird they don't do anything with the logs just export them to other countries, we could be making furniture, carvings, pine oil, mulch...fragrant bbq woodchips, mushroom habitats, etc etc.

My family did put up a Christmas tree this year from the Christmas tree farm in Balmoral. When it dies I plan to use the pine needles as mulch it's very good especially for acid loving plants. Otherwise what a waste of a tree! Please everyone look after your trees and if you must cut on down, grow another in it's place we need all the oxygen and shade and bird homes we can in these perilous times.

Woodside Garden is going great the potato harvest yielded 303 potatoes this year. We've had plums, and there's leeks and strawberries. I'm a bit sad that SOME of the people I know only care to come along so they can harvest whatever we have grown..but never lift a finger the other times. So I kind of thought maybe I just won't show people the garden unless they prepared to spend a morning there gardening it. Or is that miserly of me? Again, what can you do when mothers want you to drive them everywhere, not pay for petrol, and harvest all your bounty, yet not contribute. Oh and tell you you can't spend the money they gave you for Christmas. But when tables are turned and they say oh you didn't help make dinner, or cook anything so you can't eat it. Oh but you did offer to help but then just get yelled at for helping. Thats quite a difference because I've never stopped anyone from gardening if they wanted to...and I've never forced anyone to garden and piled a guilt trip on them if they don't.  I don't even care if they want to plant whatever they like, it does not matter to me as long as they are enjoying gardening!

 Anyhow am planning a Neighbours picnic for Sunday 6 January raindate the following Sunday in Riverpark Reserve, by the soon to be upgraded playground (hooray, it's going to go ahead in March!!) so don't be two sandwiches short of a picnic just come along!

Friday, 21 December 2018

You have two hands

Actually there is not a lot more to do in my garden.
I have mulched the front bed with gaura and see there's borage coming up from seed I had scattered. Butterflies are coming to visit. It has rained last night.

But there are some things.

1. Find out what to do with all this applemint
2. harvest potatoes - at Woodside
3. harvest leeks - at Woodside
4. Grow chokos..where? - at Woodside
5. Check on watermelon
6. Worm fertilise plants
7. Rake leaves at St Giles and put in garden as mulch

I'm very annoyed that people just seem to think, because I am a gardener, that means I will do every garden that's going. Um the whole point of gardening is not that you get someone else to do it, is that YOU do it yourself. Otherwise, if you do not want to do any gardening but still want a garden, then that's as stupid as saying you want to own a car but will not drive it.  Perhaps the kindhearted people you bludge off will feel sorry for you and give you rides but not forever, and especially if there's a bus stop right outside your house and you actually have a free gold card.

I had some calling cards made up that I can now give to people. It says Gardener, but it doesn't mean I will actually garden YOUR garden. It just means you can come and visit mine! Because, why would I garden your garden if you could do it yourself and do it how you want it? I don't know what you like to plant, besides if I gardened your garden while you sat back and did nothing, then what's the point? You would miss out on all the fun of gardening! How could I deprive you of the peace you will get from pulling weeds and making compost? And of talking to your plants while watering, or seeing birds and butterflies and knowing you made a home for them.

Aiya. Anyway. No worries I have now things to do but am quite insulted again - MUM. Mum had to lift her fingers to do some gardening that she saw needed doing (good spotting mum!) and then blamed me that I didn't do it.
At times like this I will just say, here, there's a spade. Look, there's some secateurs. Oh and look what's on the ends of your arms.

If you have two hands, you can garden!

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Stop rambling?

I looked up the definition for 'ramble' and I'm wondering whether I ought to change the name of this blog to Organised Garden Planner.

  1. 1. 
    walk for pleasure in the countryside.

    "I spent most of my spare time rambling and climbing"

    synonyms:walk, take a walk, go for a walk, hiketrampbackpacktrekMore
  2. 2. 
    talk or write at length in a confused or inconsequential way.

    "Willy rambled on about Norman archways"

    synonyms:chatterbabbleprattleprateblatherblethergabblejabbertwitter, go on, run on, rattle on/away, blithermaunderdrivelMore
  1. 1. 
    a walk taken for pleasure in the countryside.

Why because definition two is rather worrying. Although, I named it 'Rambling Garden Diary' because ramblers are climbing plants. Not that my garden is vertical, more horizontal and wants to spread everywhere. Perhaps is ought to be 'Creeping Garden Diary'.

I got this strange sensation that people don't really like ramblers. One thing is they are scared that ramblers are going to take over with their filibuster style of growing. But this is so weeds can't get a look in. Another is that, they are always being cut down. For example, I suggest to church that because of the vision to have a community/childrens garden near the daycare, we could have planters and they won't get mown over. And lo and behold someone has already made some that I could buy and we could put them in. But no, we have to wait till some people who aren't gardeners have a board meeting and then we'll let you know.

 But this is the same with the windows. The windows desperately need replacing as the panes are rotting. This was meant to be done oh, about at least five years ago. Oh no we have to wait till people have all discussed it and made a decision, nobody can just make a decision on their own and JUST DO IT. Jennifer has said to me 'Well I will believe it when I see it. I may be dead before then'. This is no joke, as her husband didn't live to see the garden bloom. And yes they could have a board meeting and talk about it, but they won't do it. I don't see them rolling up their sleeves and doing it. They might get someone else to do it, but nobody can just do it because they will soon find an email in their inbox saying 'who put these windows in? Did we say you could put them in? Take them out and don't put any in till we have discussed it'. Um...hadn't it already been discussed?

I have learned by 'discuss' is code for have lots of meetings but don't do anything. Which is why I hate meetings. The last one I went to took 3 hours. I should have up and left after the first hour.
I don't need muffins or cups of tea. I just want to know what we going to do then do it. I don't care if people want to vent about politics. They can vent to their blogs like I do.

Why do we have meetings at all? Can't we just go and garden? It seems to me, that we can have meetings in the garden while doing some work, or we could just have lunch and talk about stuff then. Why call a special meeting? Is there a special 'meeting' pay that everyone receives who goes to meetings, or is it just an excuse to sit on our butts and chat about nothing, boast about our accomplishments, and tally the treasury. I think people want to make sure there's money in the treasury, but I'd say if there's too much money in the treasury someone is hoarding it rather than spending it, and nothing is being done. Perhaps they are waiting for it to collect interest, but the time it collects interest enough to pay for whatever it is you want, well, some people just don't have as long to live as you do.  I wasn't brave enough to walk out.

 Thankfully I have now put in new batteries in both my watches and can now look at them and say 'Aw is that the time? I must go home and have a nap, otherwise I will fall asleep and drool all over you' . By the time I've had a nap, they would have got back to me and said 'we haven't come to any decision, but there's another meeting in a few months time, don't do anything until we have reached a decision. ' But I have already decided that I am going to Feel the Fear and DO IT Anyway.

My strategy of 'ignore what everyone else thinks and garden' seems to be working it's charms. Like rambling plants they just want to grow. You can't actually train the climbing tendrils to grow where you want them, what you do is you let them grow out FIRST and after they have sent out shoots, THEN train them back, nobody that I know has ever put in a climber that's already trained and then just not let them grow! If people want instant garden that then they are better off just painting their walls green with flower patterns and astroturfing the ground, but they will still have to pick weeds out of the astroturf. Yea we like the concept of a garden, except growing things, um do we have to do it? Yes silly, the thing about gardens is in them people plant plants because they actually want to see them grow.

Now I have rambled on enough, it's raining Hallelujah. Keep growing plants, and don't ever stop. Keep up the good work. I'd rather see plants grow then watch a pile of money grow in the bank, and thing is you just can't eat money.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Gearing up

Things are looking up. After several rounds of looking around for another garden company to join, I decided, why go through bullying and torture again of working like a slave and just be independent, and garden where I like to garden and where the owners too like me to garden. So I feel like I've struck gold by being given the cart-blanche on development... an overgrown garden out in bushy Swanson that will keep me busy for the forseeable future...and the Kimberley Daycare and Preschool right next door to St Giles church.

Then I may have enough to live on to pursue another project next year.  Gardeners on Air, or maybe...Plant FM.
I have a keen co-host Joanne from Ranui Community Garden who's very into holistic gardening. And I'm into herbaceous horticulture. So I think we will complement each other well.

I need to take inventory of my tools. After losing a niwashi on my last job (it was maybe a bit rusty anyway) I bought another one. But I'm thinking I may need to invest in some other kit.

Sharpening stone
Hedge shears
Backpack sprayer (for seaweed/fish fertiliser)
Gloves with claws
Brush and pan
High vis vest.

Now, Santa was very kind to me.  Last year he gave me a subscription to Kiwi Gardener, which is still active. I don't need another subscription as my bookshelves are now groaning with books and garden magazines of which I still haven't read them all. But there is one new book that caught my eye and is on my library request list called 'Flourish' Extraordinary New Zealand Women and their Gardens. I don't know if maybe there's a companion male copy called 'Thrive' Outstanding New Zealand Men and their Gardens. But this lavishly photographed coffee table book may be just the extra inspiration I need.

I once considered co-authoring a book called 'Roundabouts and Carpark Island beds 101 spectacular ideas'. I mean there seems everything under the sun in gardening books, books on garden design, books on gardeners and their famous gardens,  books on organic gardening, complete books that tell you everything you need to know, books that have handy hints and tips, books on herbs, books on flowers, books on trees, books on pots,  books on borders, books on natives, books on outdoor rooms, books on topiary,  but none of these books ever showed you how to garden right in the middle of a busy intersection. Tip - put out traffic cones and wear high vis gear.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Garden hunting

I have a new occupation - garden hunting.
I have found several neglected gardens that need the TLC of a gardener - the more weedy and overgrown the better. Not for me the fanatically clipped, over manicured and brand spanking new. As long as these owners are willing to give a decent wage, or failing that, food in return for time and labour, and a thank you, then I am happy. Not for me being shortchanged, starved and told to hurry. Or sworn at. Also, if the garden has dogs, I'm inclined to refuse to work there. I am not a fan of yappy dogs that bark and bite. And that goes for supervisors and bosses too.

My own garden is now too tidy in comparison. I've got it to the stage where I can relax, everything is as it ought to be this season at least - all the areas I've planted and looked after.  Aside from the fact mum cut down the maple tree and my brother massacred the buxus hedges. I'm rather ashamed of that because it now looks absolutely terrible and not something I can do anything about.  Come autumn I will be planning on expansion. Also it might be because I don't have any income right now to be spending - being a pauper means I have limits.

The sun is pouring down and I'm meant to water the potatoes at Woodside. After dinner. But I'm exhausted. It's one of those days.  I don't know why I volunteer for the job, it takes me a while to walk to the garden on my own and then I must walk all the way back through our dodgy park thats sprayed with Roundup, and by the time I'm finished watering, it's dark.  Sorry. I just can't get over that. Our playground is totally neglected for over 20 years yet council workers come every six months to spray poison and think they've done their job in maintenance. I weep for the creek, that runs along side, one that nobody ever swims in anymore, because of the pollution.

I have done some small things today. Moved a parsley that was getting to much sun and drying out in the pot to the shady side of the house. Moved the watermelon in the pot to beside the fence. Fed the worms. Scattered some love-in-the-mist seeds.

Nothing too taxing. Surprisingly I am not really missing watering 300+ pots at the retirement village anymore. I was at church on Sunday, and our preacher was saying something about if you didn't want to do something, you hired a contractor in. I thought he was talking about me. But maybe it was not that you didn't want to do something, it was that you wanted something done but you just couldn't do it yourself. Because if you could actually do it all yourself, why would you pay someone else to do it? The difference between slavery perhaps and servanthood?

Sometimes I don't listen in to the sermon too much at church. Because sometimes I think the preacher is really talking about himself and confessing his own sins more than anyone else's.  I could never treat someone like a slave. But I have come to the conclusion slavery is alive and well in the 21st century it was never eradicated, just moved to different places and has a new name - workplace bullying. Thank God I  have been set free.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The barren suburban wastelands...?

It's too late. Someone has already written a book called 'Little House in the Suburbs' and they've made it all self-sufficient. I know because I picked it off the withdrawn trolley at the library today.

Well. Non-plussed, I bought it home, along with some other tomes. I'm educating myself, since at school I was never taught how to do these things. The most I recall being taught at school was how to pass exams, so that I could go to university, be in debt, and then work to pay off that debt. Or, be indebted to my parents, who paid for the degree. Not a practical thing about how to build your own house or anything like that! I can't believe I'm learning how to build a house out of logs from a children's book.

Why weren't wasn't I ever shown this in school?? Lamenting the state of the New Zealand education system doesn't change anything though. Left to my own devices, all I ever learned was what I found out from books, since I really had no teachers to guide me. Want to make a dress? Mum knows how to sew, but she won't teach me. She says go do it yourself. How to cook? Oh no, you do it yourself, otherwise you will never learn. So I just learned that she didn't want to teach me anything. Next thing I know, I am making a mess of the kitchen. You said cook something. Oh, no, she meant first I had to buy my own house, and then I could use my own kitchen. Right.

I look at the property ads in the paper. Ok, if I want to buy my own house in this neighbourhood, where am I going to find half a million dollars?
I start setting up a stove in the garage. Mum comes in. What are you doing? Making my own kitchen. Oh no I can't do that. I consider, if Dad parks his car outside, and I park my car outside, I could take over the garage, but mum has packed it all with her things in boxes and it looks like the Warehouse. I know several people who lived in their family garage. If they could get in that is.

Then I decide its a stupid idea to live in the garage, because if you did that you might as well live in your car. I have reclaimed a strip of land by the garage, which now has lemon balm, parsley, silverbeets, and other miscellaneous flowers and herbs. But it's not enough, I'm thinking of doing another border, when I have made enough compost to do expand them, and plants to move into them. This is a sloow process, why because first I have to grow the plants enough so I can make cuttings and divide them to fill out the border. Unlike some people, I can't just buy a ready made garden. So the little garden by the olive tree is slowly coming along, now blooming with salvia, daisies, cosmos, and geranium. There's a grapevine, some iris, and rhubarb as well. I'm planning on edging the path with lambs ears and more lavenders, and growing more jasmine over the fence.

My aunties come over to visit and cluck and say wow your gardens looking nice. Mum says oh it's because she's got nothing better to do. I don't know what is worse, her assessment or my former boss, who responded to the oldies who were praising the gardens and my work by  dismissing me with ill-disguised contempt -  ' that was what she was paid to do'. I saw him the other day. He wasn't happy and the weeds had grown. I know where he'd rather be, retired in Lake Taupo fishing and living in his caravan. But he was stuck here in West Auckland where the weeds always threatened to take over with every shower of rain, ensuring that there will always be year round work for the gardener.

 He still hasn't forgiven me for cutting down the iresine to remove the weeds all around it. I'm sure it will grow back. Everything grows back eventually, it's Auckland after all. I did not do the worst thing and accidently poison it with Roundup, like council workers did spraying around base of trees. I'm still in shock about that. I am sure they are keeping mum and claiming they didn't kill them they were just killing the weeds around them. Yeah right. The official council propaganda on that is there's this mysterious disease that's killing Kauri and we have to find a cure, so nobody is allowed to walk in the forest anymore. But I suspect one of the reasons is because that most tracks have glyphosate (Roundup) sprayed around them, to keep weeds down, and that it got to the tree roots, making them more susceptible to this water mould. I mean what else can be on the base of your shoes, many walk on grass sprayed with Roundup, unless we walk around barefoot, and I haven't really seen people do that because most people wouldn't dare walk barefoot on grass that the council sprays with Roundup.
Anyway, maybe this is all falling on deaf ears but I'm still going to write about it anyway because, I'm really not happy that people feel its ok to trash our environment, spray poison everywhere and end up turning it into a barren wasteland.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Little House in the Suburbs

In a Goodreads group I belong to we have a challenge this season to read a book set in another member's region. Since our group is online and consists of members from all over the world (mostly America) some have been reading books about New Zealand where of course yours truly is from and I have been challenged to read books set in the midwest of America, as well as Vancouver, Canada and New York City.

This is how I got on to reading 'The Little House on the Prairie' series of books and about the places author Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up in the late 19th century which is the midwest plains of America, west of the Mississippi river.  Laura wrote about seven books in this series starting with Little House in the Big Woods, where she lived in a log cabin and her father had to fend off wolves, bears, and panthers. The second book is about her future husband Almanzo's life as a farmer boy, and the third is the famous 'Little House on the Prairie'.

I am now on to reading the second book 'Farmer's Boy' in which Almanzo, aged nine, is constantly working - he even skips school so he can work at home on their family farm, and they have a lot to do! In fact I am so overwhelmed by all the work he does on the farm that I am comparing what I did when I was nine and I just cannot remember a thing, except going to school, where I was told I needed to stay in for as long as I can so I can get a good job (and, it wouldn't be farming, because, we don't have a farm) so I can earn enough to leave home and buy a house.  I know other people are told different things for example, some girls only went to school so they could flirt with the boys and eventually have babies. In some cultures, if you weren't coupled up by age 20 and left home to marry you might as well be an old maid. Hmm. I don't know that motherhood is any easier because I've seen mothers in their 30s and some are absolutely shattered by the sheer drudgery of looking after a household of children. Not to mention separated and divorced!

Anyway Almanzo, ever keen to prove himself as a young man, can't wait to grow up so he can do grown up things like drive horses. Meanwhile he helps breaks in calves, cuts ice for the ice-house, shears sheep, grows a massive prize pumpkin for the county fair, binds oats into sheaves, saves the corn from frost, plants potatoes, chops wood, milks cows, makes candles. His work ethic is amazing...and he isn't paid. His sisters sew, cook and make preserves. Then they go to school and with an education decide to get jobs in town that earned money instead of staying at home doing unpaid labour.

I am just exhausted reading about it. The homesteading American Dream, apparently, did not work out for a lot of people. Back in the day, the white settlers drove the Native Americans off their land as they headed further west, and basically claimed the prairie land as theirs to develop i.e farm. But the Native Americans knew that prairie land was arid and not suitable for farming, only grazing buffalo which soon became extinct. The American government's Homestead Act allowed people to claim some of that land, basically as squatters, farm it and make it pay. But because of ignorant farming practices, and lack of water as the land was in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains and flat as a pancake with no rivers, most homesteads failed to make a profit, and then...the great dust storms came. The 1930's were known as 'The Dirty Thirties' and devastated the midwest of America. So many abandoned houses and land when drought and wind whipped up the plowed to dust top soil, turning the area into a giant dustbowl. It was horrific.

At this point in time, you could say, people were ignorant and should never have farmed the prairies in the first place. Then it wouldn't have happened. The prairies are now mostly gone, replaced with irrigated fields of monoculture, but problems remain. Now the land is doused in chemicals to grow Round up ready crops. Grain and corn which is then processed into the junk food that people buy at their convenience today.

The Little House books are about a time when most things were still done by hand. So they are fascinating in the details of things, like, new shoes. You didn't go to the Warehouse and pick out a ready factory made pair, and get overwhelmed with all the choices available. A cobbler came to your house stayed for a few weeks and made you a pair! And it would last until they fell to pieces or you grew out of them.

On that note I am thinking when I am old and grey (which is probably not too far off) I might write a nostalgic children's series about growing up in the 1980's about this Little House in the suburbs and how Dad worked all his life to pay for said house and how Mum helped him.  In many ways, it's a dream, to own ones own house, and the land it's on. What's remarkable is the everyday sacrifices people make to make that dream a reality. Home Sweet Home indeed.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Season's Greetings

Don't panic - go organic. The late Margaret Jones, one of the stalwarts of the Soil and Health Association, used to say this phrase a lot. I don't know if people are aware of the oil crisis that seemed to have been going on ever since the 70s, but somehow managed to get subsumed by Al Gores 'Inconvenient Truth', climate change, and reducing 'carbon footprint' movements. 'Sustainable' has become a byword and to be vegan is now a trendy thing. Although, I noted, it can be quite expensive to be vegan and hipster. Sometimes its laughable at peoples hypocrisy, you might buy vegan cheese, but it's wrapped in a plastic wrapper which is unrecyclable, and could kill whales. Plus it might be shipped from miles away consuming polluting fossil fuels to get to the market.  To consciously NOT consume and make do or make our own goes against everything the global economy tells us, especially around Christmas time.

I had been watching 'The Power of Community' How Cuba survived Peak Oil. This documentary showed how, under communism when oil was restricted commodity, the Cuban economy ground to a halt. The nation nearly starved because much of the food grown was for export and they didn't grow enough to feed their own nation.  They had relied on imports and chemical agriculture to run their farms but when they had no access to fertilisers and no oil to run the tractors, guess what happened? The people started growing their own food and converting vacant lots to organic gardens, out of necessity. The market place became local. People had to ride bicycles or convert trucks into buses and wait hours for a bus ride because oil was scarce and expensive.

Everything became slow. Energy that depended on fossil fuel was restricted, so people looked to free solar power to heat their water. At first, life was hard and it was a massive change, people had to adjust but a few years later people were thriving. They learned to grow their own food using permaculture methods. They learned to make do..and families and communities became closer as a result because they needed each other to make it work. People became gardeners and farmers and it was no longer a lowly position but one held in highest esteem - it was putting food on the table. Instead of buying things, people swapped and shared goods. The Cubans called this economic/energy crisis of their history the 'Special Period'.

Would my mum survive if she could no longer eat rice imported from China as her staple? Could we grow enough of our own to feed ourselves? I think we all have the brains and know how and resources to manufacture our own goods and grow our own food, and we are blessed with a good climate and fertile land to do so. But currently, we are wasting a lot of resources in a bid to become 'world class' and attract the almighty dollar. Even our organic food is exported overseas while our own native citizens end up becoming homeless and we constantly import non-organic food.  We import drugs and harmful pharmaceuticals but export life-giving food. I don't know when it will end but in a global economy the bigger nations are going to always have more buying power than the smaller ones. That's just simple mathematics. Unless we make our money from gambling. But I digress. John Key already did that, it was called investment banking and allowing land to be sold to overseas speculators and developers.

I say this Christmas, please, don't spend it at the shopping mall, the temples of consumerism. Let's enjoy the season and enjoy sharing its fruits, especially with those who are less fortunate,  the miracle of the birth of a King, and the crimson pohutakawas and christmas lilies which are blooming early this year. Instead of a silly season, it could be our special season.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

No compromise

I once believed that people who got married had to compromise. Most married people have shared that  "marriage is a compromise" which means in many cases the woman has to give up everything to suit the man. That disturbing on many levels, but it also suggests there is no such thing a real promise. A compromise is not a promise. It makes me wonder why people marry when they just cannot agree on anything. How can two people walk together if not agreed?

Where is this going? Well I am in a quandary, I could lie, but I just can't do it. My fault is I'm too honest. And I cannot remain silent. So, perhaps another way to put it is I REFUSE TO USE POISON.

This is the thing. I know what a weed is, and I know what a good plant is. But even a weed has it's uses and it's still a plant. So if someone tells me that for a gardening job they would like me to spray poison around a tree to get rid of the weeds, I'm rather sceptical. Firstly how would anyone spraying be able to avoid contacting a tree's roots or part of the leaves (trees can put out suckers with leaves from the base) and poisoning them and the beneficial bacteria and fungi as well? How would anyone know, within a few years time after constant contact with poison, such as glysophate aka Roundup that stays in the soil for six months or more so weeds don't grow back, is slowly killing the tree?

How can anyone do this without being suited up like a beekeeper/astronaut and not be exposed to poisonous chemicals by breathing in drift spray or contact with bare skin?
Is this gardening? Or is it  'maintenance'? Or is it a con by the chemical poison manufacturers to get people to use their toxic products forever?

These are questions I am asking. And how is this related to Kauri tree dieback? I believe it's very much related.
And not only that, how about human infertility, cancer, autism and other modern day diseases related to toxic chemical exposure, in the air, in our water, in our food? If this poison was 'safe' as manufacturers may claim, then it wouldn't be a poison. But this poison is sprayed in our parks, our reserves, our school playgrounds, our vineyards, nurseries and farm crops where organic gardening (real gardening)  is unheard of.

What can we do. I believe we need to speak out. And ban these products. For our environment, for God's creation. This is not a thing we ought to take lightly. If you are exposed to these chemicals you WILL die. Maybe not right away, but it's like the forbidden fruit, Eve ate of it and she felt fine, she didn't drop dead that instant. But it changed everything and from that day she began to die.

Do I have an immunity to all the poison I've been unwittingly exposed to in the world today? After all I've managed to reach 38 years of age without dying yet.  If I drink any deadly thing, will I die? Maybe some of us are thicker skinned. But it doesn't mean we should willingly, knowingly expose others to it either. Babies. Young children. Elderly. Our flora and fauna. I believe they are worth protecting and caring about. And therefore no compromise.

Saturday, 1 December 2018


Went to two Flower shows over the weekend, and left feeling inspired.

At the NZ Flower and Garden show Buffie again won medals for her creative upcycle display -  with a theme of native birds and pohutakawa flowers made from scraps and cast offs, while her food basket for Ranui Community Garden was fantastically lush.  Henderson Garden Clubs and Te Atatu Floral Circle combined theirs into a kiwiana/asian inspired courtyard setting, with backdrop of palms, anthuriums, ferns, birdbath and paua shells.  Others in the community garden exhibit were Yates, NZ Butterfly and Moth trust, West Lynn Gardens, Ark in the Park, New Zealand Gardens Trust, The Auckland Bonsai Society, and the Bromeliad Society.

Suitably attired in my floral ensemble I  entered a dazzling pavilion of flowers, many florists were making floral handbags and shoes arrangements, decorative umbrellas and candelabras. I really wished I could have chatted with the florists at work but they all had signs on their stands saying 'please don't talk to the florists' and so I just had to admire their handiwork in respectful silence.

Garden highlights were the Fairy Forest garden in which you peaked into a magical enchanted fairy forest, an bee pollinator garden that included beehives planted up with bee friendly flowers, a garden that had a hanging bed and pool (obviously for wealthy leisure lifestylers), a beach front bach garden created by school children. One that wowed everyone was a Japanese style garden that had a shinto style bell, maple trees, and stepping stones all lushly planted up that people could wander through.

Of course I was cajoled into buying things by the persistent retail traders. So I admit to buying as well as lunch,  'genie' salt and oil scrub and jars of herbs and spice rub mix. And purple iris rhizome.  I can't resist purple irises. Something about them...

So with all my money gone, I headed home, but I think the best thing about the show was talking to and meeting other enthusiastic gardeners.  And some even wanted to join our club!

The Sweet Pea Festival, was actually packed when I visited, with all the blooms on display, not just sweet peas but other flowers in all their glory. I dragged mum along, and she grumbled that it was all old ladies (herself, not included?) but I wasn't really looking at the old ladies I was looking at the flowers. Some really exquisite ones in all colours. I suppose it was a bit like Miss Universe beauty pageant for flowers. I'd been reading about one of our former Miss Universe Lorraine Downes, she had written a memoir about what it was like representing New Zealand and then winning the honor of being chosen as the most beautiful woman in the Universe, well for 1983... it  sure makes for an interesting life. If nothing is required of you except to smile and look pretty, and that brings joy to people, well thats a good thing isn't it? But even she said this got old after a while!   I wonder if my flowers will one day win awards, but isn't it enough that I think they are already beautiful in their own way anyway.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Gardeners on Air

Psst. Want to hear some something secret squirrel. Am negotiating with Planet FM for a new radio show --- am very excited because it will be all about gardening. Stay tuned!

Other plans and projects on the go. Today I'm heading to the Flower and Garden show at the Trust Stadium. I'm going to be at the community garden club stand, I heard we won a merit award.  I'll be dressed in a suitable floral ensemble, as Mike was disappointed last time I turned up in unfloral frock (it was polka dots) when I said I was going to be all floriferous. Thank you SPCA op shop for your affordable clothing.

Affordable may be the by-word to sustainable gardening because, I have a free pass. But others said they would pay $90 to get in. Hmm. Apparently that includes beers. Of course my own garden doesn't cost anything to see, but then, its still a work in progress. Readers, some of who've told me 'Your blog is very judgemental and critical' and quoting scripture  'Judge not, lest ye be judged' are probably not aware of this, but as far as I know I haven't judged  or criticised anyone.  I am not giving out awards for gardening. Or demerit points. As far as I'm concerned, I am the least qualified to judge anyone else's work. Gardening is hard work, it's a team effort, it's a labour of love. Who am I to judge? So I am not entirely sure where people are getting this judging vibe from me. If they talk to my mum they may get a different story. Yesterday morning I was told I didn't open the curtains wide enough, this is mum's way of saying 'Good morning'.

Puzzled about this, I decided to dismiss it (what do I know anyway?) and concentrate on my garden. I've potted up two eggplants so now I have three. Some cherry tomatoes are now in. They are dosed with a good helping of worm wee. My gardenias leaves are turning a bit yellow so I've going to dose them with a bit of epsom salts for magnesium deficiency.  My lemon tree also needs attention. I may need to move it come winter as it's getting crowded out.  I have tonnes of spider plant babies that need potting up.

Church garden also had a tidy up, deadheading and weed. Les and I filled up the compost bin so I'm thinking that we might need another. We planted some pink ginger lilies that Pat donated and cleared the cherry trees sprouting up near the kowhai. Sad to say that project was a bit stalled when the elders decided I couldn't spend any more money. We really need another compost bin, and then I get it from our funders Ecomatters that I spent too much on plants and mulch and not enough on raised beds and rainwater diverters. Arrgh. Its hard to please everyone, especially when, maurauding lawn mowers run over your plants.

Sometimes I wonder if I should even start anything at all and go back to doing nothing like I used to, since so many people just don't like me doing stuff. Eh Mum. Mum doesn't care she just wants me to earn a million dollars, give it all to her, and then she will be happy. Something is wrong with this picture but I have long given up trying to figure it all out. I'm supposing all mums do this, as a way of keeping their poppies short. 'If its not perfect, you might as well not do it at all' was what my old boss used to tell me, but the problem was, he expected me to do everything while he just sat around barking orders at me so I told him 'You are like my mum' and he said 'I would like to meet your mum' but I have so far succeeded in keeping them at some distance from each other. Ah the generation gap.

I confided this problem to a Chinese gardener I met at the Gardens 4 Health meeting. But she said she couldn't talk to my mum either about her control issues as her dialect is different and so my hopes were dashed. Perhaps this will be a serious topic of discussion on my gardening radio show and I can talk to some gardening gurus who also specialise in psychiatry. Mothers who don't want their daughters to grow (up).

Monday, 26 November 2018

The snail race

 I remember reading a memoir one time called 'The Day Job: Adventures of Jobbing Gardener' It was about an out of work actor/comedian who decided to take a day job as a gardener to earn some money while he was hoping to break into the big time.  What could be so hard about gardening, after all, isn't it just about keeping things tidy, clipping shrubs and pulling weeds?? Well all in all he found it a rather satisfying job, peaceful and quiet,  until a rival garden company turned up on the scene and gave him a run for his money because they had the power tools, the mowers, the blowers, the trimmers, the chainsaws, and basically left him in the dust. They were the Power Gardeners.

After basically destroying creation and making a racket for anyone trying to have a nap in the afternoon, the jobbing gardener had to admit defeat and go back to making stand up jokes and TV commercials, because people paid good money to have their gardens done up in a flash, by the Power Gardeners rather than pay someone to take all day to rake each leaf.

Ok I am exaggerating, but it's true. People would rather pay someone else to poison their land quickly so they don't have to pull weeds for a few months. Also, in another twist, these Power Gardeners with their 'big boy toys' would rather spend the day at the races getting drunk and gambling their earnings away than quietly observing nature and racing snails.  I once suggested this to another fellow gardener that we didn't have to go all out at the races for the end of year party, we could just have our own backyard bbq, it could even be vegan, and race snails we found in the garden but oh no it seems like its more fun to beat dead horses.  And you know, they only get treated well if they win the race, because heaven forbid they break a leg, which means they are no longer useful to make money, and end up getting shot. Well she was quite amenable to this snail race idea but I know I would be laughed out of my tree if I so much as mentioned this to the Power Gardeners.

Now I'm reading another memoir (where do I find time to read all these books, good question, I make time) called 'The Gardener of Versailles' My life in the World's Grandest Garden. By Alain Baraton, Gardener-in Chief at the Palace of Versailles. To anyone who knows a bit of French history this is the grandest garden there is. Seriously King Louis XIV moved heaven and earth to create this...palatial landscape, of which are endless vistas, statues, fountains, allees, reflecting pools, parterres, you name it, it has it. And Marie Antoinette, before she got her head chopped off, did not enjoy the grand lifestyle that much and chose to create her own piece of the countryside in Petit Trianon, which was where she went to escape being royal. It's still there to this day and you can gasp in awe at the recreation of a beer lifestyle on a champagne budget.
 According to Monsieur Baraton,  after lamenting the loss of the horse drawn cart to the tractor with it's noisy gas guzzling, soil compacting ways and scythes to mowers, herbariums to online catalogues and willow baskets to plastic bags on page 199 he observes:

'Slowness is an integral part of my profession - the snails chosen by Le Notre (well known French gardener) for his coat of arms were a humorous manner of underlining this essential truth. That is why the recent technological revolution in gardening has hardly been a success. Technology has permitted a fair share of miracles, but not in gardens. Work done quickly isn't beneficial because nature itself is slow. In the end, it's a simple question of rhythm and harmony. What's the point in doing things more quickly?

Hear hear. So thank you snails, you are good for one thing, to remind us, take things slow.  I am a gardener, not a mowing technician, spray operator, or mindless working robot. And I often remind myself of the fact, by observing these snails as they slowly munch their way through the renga renga lilies. Also, I've seen that like the Power Gardeners, in the end, snails too like to drown themselves in beer.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Roses for our noses

The Parnell Rose Festival was brilliant, the Sunday weather shined for us and actually grew quite warm from a cold start. Te Atatu Floral Circle had the loveliest stand selling flowers, plants, jams and chutneys, and everyone was milling around the roses, all in bloom, in fact, so many that garden club member Bev and I were overwhelmed. I can't say I have a favourite rose, but can only say when a rose smells like a rose - that's a rose to me.

The Parnell Rose Gardens are one of Auckland's unsung garden treasures. My most favourite place to go, apart from the Domain's wintergardens and fernery, is the beautiful Nancy Steen garden which features roses amidst cottage perennial favourites such as sweet peas, geraniums, columbines, pansies, foxgloves - all in bloom. It's a very simple design of a pergola area with three borders leading to a circular space with a goldfish filled fountain in the centre, and the surrounds which has a silver and white flowered theme. Obelisks for climbing roses add height to the borders. The paths are white chip and edged in brick. There are seats to sit down and it's all very cosy and intimate garden room, almost like a bower. Very romantic. It is at it's best now so if you have the time go visit.  Then walk a way around and enter the cool palm walkway area thats shaded featuring clivia,  ferns, fruit salad plants and kawakawa.  And further afield past the tea rooms (which for some reason, are never open??) you will find ancient iconic pohutakawas with their limbs spreadeagled like spiders, perfect climbing frames for young Auckland monkeys.

Who was Nancy Steen? I found out that she was an Auckland artist and gardener who adored roses. She wrote an encyclopaedic tome called 'The Charm of Old Roses' that was a best seller back in the 60's, and she was considered a botanical expert. This was in an era where the new hybrid tea rose to prominence (excuse the pun) and rose breeders were pushing the new varieties to the eager consuming public, perfect looking roses for the vase that flowered for months on end. Ms Steen lamented the loss of the older varieties that may not have been flowering all the time or long-stemmed giants but they made up for it in charm and scent.  So she sought to catalogue and preserve the older varieties to ensure they were not lost to fad and fashion. While Nancy had her own rose garden at her place in Remuera, she was well-known and loved amongst fellow gardeners to have this garden made especially in her honour to celebrate her love of old-fashioned roses.

Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet? My thoughts are that there are some roses that don't smell sweet at all - they have absolutely no scent and must be ashamed to be called roses. So don't be fooled by just judging on outward appearances - the nose knows it's a rose.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Turning over a new leaf

And so ends my time gardening with Bark at the retirement villages as of last Friday - who can say they retired from a retirement village?  After mowing lawns for the >100th time I decided to call it a day, lest a ponga tree fall in the fernery and I could no longer hear it due to my damaged hearing.

I'm now going to concentrate on quiet gardening in which I also wear camouflage gear so you won't even know I'm doing it. I also need to rectify the damage my brother caused to those buxus hedges which he trimmed for sure, but back to their bare bones so that their skeletons are showing through. I thought a hedge had to have leaves on it to be a hedge? And one more thing I'm mad about is, he trimmed my hardenbergia arch and left Lady bird's nest exposed so that she is no longer secure. There are dead twigs all through the arch now where he's chopped it instead of doing secateur work, for each tendril he shaved it with the power trimmers like slicing a cake.  This is what I get for going away and leaving amateurs to do the job. Aiya.

I will have to tell my brother he's banned from our hedges now and I don't care if he's the one that owns the trimmer. I would gladly leave a bush untidy and the grass to grow wild if there were birds living in there because I have seen dead birds all over the ground where the grass has been mown at the church.  Aside from their mower totally destroying three expensive flowering shrubs that I still have yet to replace.  We are in a war, it seems, on one side the garden militant with their mowers, blowers, weedeaters and trimmers polluting the air with their toxic fumes and noise and potential threat to life and limb, and the garden peace corps with our green thumbs, seeds and flowers guerilla gardening in places where there was no garden before.

For sixteen months I had been lured to the other side recruited as a garden cadet to cut grass and pull weeds. I should have told them forget it, employ some goats instead.  But I guess its all in hindsight now and I must atone for my foolishness in believing one can ever tame a garden in the flesh. It can't be done. And no amount of money or roundup will ever grow a garden in the spirit.

So it's back to the drawing board..and I mean truly back. My borders need to be expanded. So I got busy and added some more plants to New Gardenland. Bev from the Garden circle kindly offered me spanish shawl from her amazing  terraced flower garden. I planted geums won in a raffle. Purple iris and geraniums from Pepper Tree Nursery. A dicentra Bleeding Hearts (one I had my on my wishlist for a few years now) from Aero Garden Centre in Thames. Margaret offered me orange succulents, sedums, and creeping jenny. Today I bought cherry tomatoes eggplants, and fragrant Cook Island ginger from the Henderson carboot sale.

Tomorrow I am going to check out the Rose Festival in Parnell, even though I have said many times I'm not that big a fan of roses...I like the flower but can't stand the thorns. But I'm sure there will be other flowers there..I'm really hanging out for the Sweet Pea Flower show in two weeks time at the Horticultural Centre in Western Springs. Unlike the NZ Garden and Flower Show at the Trust Stadium which is charging an arm and a leg - $90 a ticket last I heard, the 17th Annual Sweetpea and Flower Show is absolutely free. Bring your sweet peas!

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Great Garden Ramble

This years trip (after Taranaki got callously indefinitely postponed again by my employer) was with the Te Atatu Floral and Garden Circle to Whangamata where we saw nine different gardens and had a blast. Small sea-side surfie town Whangamata wasn't so small after all in fact it was bigger than I imagined, having never set foot there before, so I had no idea what to expect.

Like Mangawhai, it contained a lot of retired escapees from Auckland building their dream home and dream garden as well as dream yacht and dream million dollar views. Whangamata-ites must contend with burning salt winds and fickle microclimates. Apparently the weather can change in an instant just like Auckland or it could sit for days. When we arrived, the sun shone and the birds sang. Thirty three intrepid gardeners packed a coach bus with plenty of room for cuttings.

First stop was Jane's place in Whitiroa just opposite the beach. I saw day lilies growing in sand. Her front garden consisted of 'anything that can stand the conditions'  - lavenders, bromeliads, succulents, poppies, petunias, aloes and then you went round the back where it was more sheltered it was all lush green border of veges, roses, perennial flowers, fruit trees, and more. There was even a pineapple growing in a shadehouse. Most impressed and most generous was Jane offering cuttings and bulbs and succulent offsets.   A beautiful cottage style garden with a bit of everything. I managed to snag some ivy geranium a gorgeous burgundy colour, and a blood lily bulb. Apparently the club rule is one must never ask to take cuttings from gardens we visit. But she offered!

The next day was also bright and clear, we saw a smart town house garden with a clipped rosemary hedge, tiny vege patch and lawn, very low maintenance and pebbly but just right for a widow enjoying her seaside retirement. Queen palms, aloes, and succulents with jade plants were easy care - she told she had feng shuied her garden.
Another was an artist's studio garden that had a gorgeous Australian frangipani in bloom, lots of bromeliads, and spanish moss in hanging baskets.
By the inlet was a lovely suburban home with a perfect view of the sparkling sea framed with pohutakawas. It had a border although this was secondary to the lawn that stretched to the water and all along the rest of the cul de sac were well maintained gardens of retired homeowners who had chosen to live right near the neighbourhood marina.  Fantails flitted about the trees and we marvelled at the bird life here, maybe because of the lack of city traffic.

Then we climbed the hill to what to me was a veritable mansion with landscaped grounds on a sweeping lawn dotted with blue herons. It commanded a view of the sea, surrounded by a native shelter belt of Kauri trees, flax, and in front olives, renga rengas and birch treees.  The house/mansion was nestled in border filled with lavenders, rosemary and marlborough daisies.  Us townies were a bit gobsmacked and lost amongst the vast rolling lawn, which apparently only took 45 minutes to mow with the ride on mower.  So this is what farmers/wealthy landowners do when they retire. Downsize to 'smaller' mansions.
Another property was a plant lovers garden with 12 fruit trees, vege patch and borders crammed with anything that would grow, that bordered a stream separating it from next doors retirement village.
Yet another crafty studio house was home to a florist and felt maker, boasting raised vege patch and she-shed. We were a bit chagrined to learn the florist sourced her flowers from Hobsonville.

The last two gardens were as we made our way back to Auckland in Thames.
Pepper Tree Nursery had plants for sale and also 4 and a half acres of gardeners delight with 180 maples, meandering paths, lots of perennials and flowering shrubs and other colourful trees hidden amongst a valley that was once all gorse. Impressive. Like Ayrlies very naturalistic and park like it also had ponds but filled with waterlilies.
And then a firm favourite was the last garden on flat paddock transformed into a blooming rose garden edged with buxus, all colour coordinated, very chic and just three years old. Arches covered with banksia rose, a cute raised bed potager and faux shed facade with a touch of whimsy (giant strawberries, balancing tea pots) and a sign that said 'My garden peaked last week, sorry you missed it'.  Plenty of seats for us tired gardeners to rest our weary limbs which we appreciated in this one.

And that was the Great garden ramble..had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Photos? I think I was busy gasping with delight to take many or sipping my morning tea. But thing is you have to be in amongst it to truly experience a garden and so I make no apologies for not providing you with an overload of eye candy.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Alternative Lifestyles

APW - Auckland Permaculture Workshop had it's 10th anniversary on Saturday. Caught up with past students and teachers, and was inspired by various projects that have been happening, or ongoing. One of the twelve permaculture principles that comes to mind so far has been number 9  'use small and slow solutions' with the emphasis on SLOW. There is no 'quick fix' and we commiserated on just how long our projects were taking to get off the ground. Especially when faced with the older generation resistant to change. Things that might seem simple like perhaps, composting food scraps at the market, become huge enterprises requiring all manner of resource consent, government red tape and regulations, and bureaucracy to wade through. Oh and endless meetings.

Permaculturist Sepp Holzer 'the rebel farmer' was often faced with this and I tend to subscribe to my own principle of do first, explain and ask for forgiveness later. Although a lot of the time one's observing and interacting is strictly from a natural point of view. There's no point in asking permission from people who have no understanding of the environment to ever see things your way. People sold out to mammon/consumer culture way of life will just mock your efforts and tell you it can't be done. However I have learned that if God wills it, nothing is impossible.

My garden tutor Buffie has been everywhere lately, she's featured in this month's Kiwi Gardener,  highlighting the Ranui Community Garden and also this week's New Zealand Women's Weekly showcasing her 'funk up my junk' enterprise. Upcycling is Permaculture's principle number 6 produce no waste. Korero Cafe was refurbished using materials totally recycled from the demolition of other cast offs - even the signs are made of old nails and the planters from old paint cans. Am in awe of Buffie's endless creativity and inspiration, making tables and chairs out of old pallets, cute tote purses from old jeans, she could turn a sows ear into a silk purse that lady!  Not only that, her artistic vision extends to catering spreads, at APW's party the drinks and nibbles were so gorgeous to look at everyone was taking photos of the food before daring to grab a bite to eat.

Some other inspiring projects that were shared included bringing the  local community together with bicycle workshops, creating pollinator paths along bare spaces of ground next to walkways for bees, a couple who decided to grow their own fruit trees on their quarter acre section and make ciders and jams while holding pruning workshops, bartering everything else including food, creating repair and mend hub for machines and tools...

I had a bout of inspiration today and think for my next job will be totally local in my own street by the creek and new playground upgrade. Riverpark Garden Co. But first I need to find out if there is any use for privet. Because we have heaps of it by the creek, could we harvest this resource instead of seeing it as a nuisance weed that causes us to sneeze? Or maybe its actually desperately needed as shelter for birds? I don't know...but in permaculture anything is possible. If it cured cancer maybe??

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Golden Gnomes

Before the funeral Les helped pick out some flowers for the church garden memorial bed. We now have a hot pink pelargonium and purple petunias next to the Jesus rock that says 'Well done good and faithful servant' to all that have passed on at st Giles. The triangle garden is also doing well, filling out with hollyhocks, statice, alyssum, lillies, daisies and more petunias. We also have a pop up library (it's the church's old fridge, painted with a new lease of life)  next to the bustop near the roadside beds which librarian Nova is filling with children's books and I'm keeping topped up with garden books, and hopefully more Bibles. People have been taking the Bibles so I always need to check so we can add more. I did a tidy of the church garden on Saturday morning, missing our elder Graeme as I was  deadheading the passion dianthus and guara he planted. Church flowers for Sunday were pink gladioli, pale pink scented geranium and hot pink pelargonium.  Pink daisies and lavender. Plus two vases of original purple and pink bicolour sweet peas. It was good to see Jennifer at church on Sunday and she appreciated all the flowers. Maybe God knew to take Graeme just before Labour Weekend so that we will always remember him at this time of year when all the flowers are in bloom. 

I am terrible at remembering to take photos of my floral arrangements but I guess I'm too busy gardening to consider adding photography to my repertoire. I prefer to use words though.  This coming weekend I'm attending a Permaculture Party, for the 10th anniversary of APW. I can't believe its just been a year since I got my PDC - Permaculture Design Certificate, and I still haven't done much about it. Perhaps next year I will move into a more creative permaculture position, if I'm not lumped with weeding for another year with my work. Because nobody else seems to have the time or patience to actually do it.  Oh the drama and tyranny of perfectionism in an industry where perfection is not always possible. This is what you get from people who don't know how to garden being in charge of gardeners. And control freaks, I can tell you some hair raising stories about these. 

There's this one gardener, who shall remain nameless to protect their guilt, who rushes everyone and  complains loudly nobody is helping them, but then doesn't ask politely if um, maybe someone could be so kind as to lend a hand? Then said grumpy gardener huffs "I can't keep doing this all by myself' yet continues to break their back getting it all done while putting everyone else down because they are in a such a hurry instead of taking their time.  What is the old adage, marry at haste, repent at leisure? This can apply to  certain gardeners too, who try to 'get a jump on spring' and expect their seedlings to grow when they just aren't ready? It's not warm enough yet, for Christ's sake, WAIT! You can't hurry love. Nothing is to be gained by planting seeds too early, nobody can effectively make things grow - there is a time and season for everything. Ecclesiastes tells us 'He has made everything beautiful in it's time'  and I do believe that when you do a rush job, it be thoughtful and care about everything you do, because nobody wins prizes for being first except Mr/Ms Bossy Boots stomping around in the mud throwing a hissy fit when things don't go their way.  Best Drama Queen/King in a gardening role. And the Golden Gnome goes to....

Thursday, 18 October 2018

RIP Graeme

Sad news Graeme our St Giles elder and fellow gardener is no longer with us, he has gone to meet his maker.  He died peacefully at home on Monday morning. His farewell funeral is tomorrow at Morrisons, Universal Drive at 3pm.

Graeme was a keen gardener and always gave me good advice about plants. He had a wonderful productive vege patch and he and his wife Jennifer kept both their house and garden immaculate. They always welcomed me in their home but it was the garden that I most liked to see as Graeme was always growing something new. One time I gave him some broad beans seeds, they were meant to be dwarf  variety but in Graeme's patch they grew to be giants! Must be something in the soil, but I also attribute it to Graeme's green thumbs.

Graeme had an eye for order and beauty as we worked together on the St Giles garden beds. As an enthusiastic gardener he had to restrain me sometimes with his wisdom when I found 21 dianthus for our flower bed and put them all in at once. He rearranged them to be pleasing amongst the hebes that Auckland Transport had planted there, they had left the job half done so I just added some more plants. Graeme was in horror the Auckland Transport had given us hebes, he called them cigarette butt hiding plants and said we needed something more like grasses that won't hide all the rubbish. We couldn't take them out but I was afraid I might have created more work for him by putting too many dianthus there so he took some dianthus away and then put back the weedmat. Then we got some white stone chips mulch and it was Graeme's idea to put twelve memorial rocks there that represented the twelve apostles.

While Graeme knew he was getting on a bit - all those rocks, pebbles and chips were heavy! I reassured him we would continue to look after St Giles garden.  I think that was one less worry from his mind to have some younger people gardening. Les also helped with other garden beds and Graeme was so encouraging and wise in what would be the best thing to do. He  told me, take Les as a helper gardening is good for him rather than going to the library all the time. lol. He said it in jest I suppose because he must have known I was a  librarian that was always getting in trouble.  We got so many compliments from church members and people passing by about the flower bed. I knew I had an ally with Graeme in getting the work done and what would be most pleasing to God.

The only thing that worried me  was when Graeme told me he was going to spray the weeds with Roundup. He was very cavalier about it and said 'she'll be right'  but I just said to him be careful about that as its a toxic chemical. I don't know if exposure to Roundup directly causes cancer but cancer is what got him in the end.  As has happened with so many people today. So just going to say that as a warning to gardeners in particular  to be safe because if Roundup gets into your system your body is not going to like it. I would rather people weed by hand than have to get out and spray or at least, wear gloves and a mask. The most dangerous time is when you are mixing a concentrated  lethal chemical.  Don't let weeds overtake your garden so that you will need to resort to using what to nature is like a hydrogen bomb. The fallout is more than you think.

Despite all this, even if it kills you, and we all are going to die of something in the end, Graeme's  enduring faith is a shining example to us all we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. His love and care for everyone at St Giles was in his regular prayer meetings and guidance for anyone who asked. We all knew we could go to him as he always had time for us being like the Grandad of St Giles church.
 Graeme's last words to us was Romans 8:28 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.

RIP Graeme we love you and miss you but most of all thank you for sharing that God loves us and showing His love to others. Will continue on with St Giles garden in your memory this side of Paradise.  Till we all meet again. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Plant Geeks

In horticulture, it seems every flower has it's devotees and own fan club. For some, it's roses, for others, it's orchids. There are ones for carnivorous plants, bromeliads, rhododendrons, herbs. Some of my workmates are into plants like gaura or bird of paradise (one even has a tattoo of said plant on his arm)  But for me, it must be the sweet pea.

I met what Monty Don would call a plant geek on Saturday. He is world renowned horticulturalist and plant breeder Dr Keith Hammett. Despite what Monty says, he is charming and we got on very well, because he breeds my favourite flower, the sweet pea. He also breeds clivias, dahlias, primulas, dianthus and amaryllis. Keith, as he likes to be known, opened up his garden  up at Massey for everyone to see his clivias for the National Clivia Festival. Keith is the one who developed a rare yellow variety of clivia that's highly prized in designer gardens. The originals are bright orange, but now there are demands for red ones. He hasn't quite perfected the red ones yet as he wants them to be bigger and more trumpet shaped, but the ones he has bred so far are striking fire engine red, a stand out in any spring garden.

Me being a sweet pea fan, I was able to query his daughter and himself on all things sweet pea, the different colours, their growth habits, when the best time to plant is (May) and just what it is about them that makes them the quintessential English cottage garden plant.  The fluttery petals, the divine scent, or the way it delicately climbs trellis, fences and arches? In England, where Keith was from originally, the sweet pea is highly prized, there are shows entirely devoted to sweet peas, and there is quite a lucrative market for seeds.  It's a valued export item, although it requires a lot of patience to breed all the different colours, that come from the original bi-coloured  species.

Keith's large garden is a haven for clivia which grows en masse in broad swathes under trees around his  park-like property,  there's nothing quite like it. Part of his garden is a nursery and the sweet peas are grown in neat shadehouse tunnels in very uniform rows. I bought four packets of seeds, two solstice (late sowing) sweet peas in red and hot pink, another early sweet pea that changes colour from blue to purple, and mixed dahlia seeds. I also bought two dainty perennial primulas that look like golden and red buttons.

I planted the primulas in the Camellia driveway bed (or the Fat Lady Sings bed, as I call it) and then got to work on removing creeping buttercup and edging my flaming log bed with mondo grass I rescued from a work tidy up. Compost was then applied and I am quite happy with it, so satisfying to remove great big clumps of buttercup! The flaming log bed is so named because it's got logs as edging and flaming  coloured plants like canna india shot, red abutilon,  nasturtium and of course, bright orange clivias.  I plan to add more red and orangy plants there so it looks like it's on fire, like love lies bleeding, red dahlias, and maybe poinsettias. Mum is a fan of red flowers so, will wait till Keith perfects his red clivias I know where to source them now. Thanks to Olga who is always telling us gardeners we have to meet this unashamed plant geek.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The full Monty Don

I have my first immigrant, I call 'Ladybird' who has made her nest in the hardenbergia arch in New Gardenland. Mum says to let her settle in and not to disturb her. Mum doesn't say anything about not wanting an arch anymore, and it seems like I'm not about to move away to Dunedin anytime soon either. The loquat tree has had it's firstfruits, and now they are ripening delicious and sweet, along with the acidic tangelos. I might have to neem the tree again, to guard against whitefly, but otherwise the fruit has been so abundant we have surplus to give away.

Returning to work was not easy after being in holiday mode for a week. However everything at Waitakere is just blooming great. At home I have planted some rhubarb in the Princess Diana bed and moved the diosma there too. I am in despair of any annual flower seedlings coming up because of Martha digging and scratching them out before they have a chance.

I found a book in the library called 'Down to Earth' by Monty Don, who seems a rather likeable Englishman. For some reason he reminds me of Michael Palin, or maybe its the 'Monty' name, except he's not a TV comedian, but a  TV gardener. He even went around the world in 80 gardens, like Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 days. Monty did visit two New Zealand gardens, Ayrlies, and Te Kainga Marire. This was how I came to know about Ayrlies, otherwise I would have had absolutely no idea it existed.  Monty had high praise for Ayrlies, but even higher praise for Te Kainga Marire. I have not been to Te Kainga Marire, which is in Taranaki, now world renowned for being purely native and having plants Monty was invited to jump on like a trampoline. Monty was after the exotic and so was excited to come across a garden that had NZ plants, because if you can imagine, he did not come halfway across the world to see an English garden, he already had one at home!

Well he can come and see my garden if he wants, that does not attempt to be English, even though the front half is clipped buxus I thought I had ripped out all the roses. I blame my brothers, they also need to come and give the hedges a trim as they threaten to blocking the path.  With horror now I see two flower carpets roses creeping back. I don't know how they escaped, but they are there. Anyway, the book was not about his Grand Tour but about his 50 years experience gardening and giving us readers tips. Two thing stood out for me.

Page 157 Trust yourself
'Western horticulture has tended to elevate the specialist above the generalist. This is often unhelpful and inappropriate. Plantsmen and women are geeks. Like all geeks, they cannot imagine anyone not being as interested as they are by their own obsession. They are often charming and one can always learn from them but they are not typical gardeners, so do not be overly influenced or confused by them.'

hmm ok then. I'm wondering who he could be referring to. Botanists? Or Botanic gardeners?  People that have to collect every plant at the garden centre and then end up being an expert on yuccas?  I don't know. Do I bore you to tears with my gardening blog?

And another  thing that my boss might be horrified to hear is Monty writing  on page 95 Wildlife gardening 1.'Avoid tidiness: leave leaves, patches of weeds, overgrown shrubs and climbers, and dead stems on plants. All this provides essential cover and shelter for insects, birds and small mammals like bats'

It could be that people that are always neat and tidy are afraid of bats. Or birds nesting in their trees. Or small animals in general.  Hey we are bigger than them, it's not as if we are hiding tigers, lions and bears in our gardens.

So next thing I must to is write to Mr Don and see if he wants to visit NZ again, he can come over in Summer to see New Gardenland with Ladybird, taste homecooked Chinese food  in exchange for me pottering around at his place in Winter with indoor plants (he hasn't mentioned what he grows inside)  watching him on the telly. I could also write a book as well (working title, 'Stuck in the mud')  about my years of gardening experience. All four of them.