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??