Saturday, 30 March 2019

For everything there is a season

Like colds for example. They sneak up on you suddenly with a sore throat, headache, tiredness and then you start coughing and then even doing simple things like getting dressed becomes a chore. My lunar gardening calendar had yesterday it was a day of rest and so, maybe the moon was trying to say something to me. Like, stop working, I've got this.

The only thing is, you can't stop working if everyone's relying on you to keep everything running. So don't make yourself indispensable - delegate. Of course you have to then tell everyone your frailty. I'm not going to church/school/workshop/working bee/class/visit when all you want to do is curl up under the blankets. But there's always the thing where you run out of food, like soup and have to go out to get some. Spreading more germs as one goes. You have to explain in simple terms to your Dad, no, I do not want icecream. I have a cold. Do you know the difference between junk food and food? No he doesn't. He has no clue what to do and I'm lying on my bed, exhausted. He thinks it's helpful to feed me chips and icecream. It's like giving candy to a diabetic, or a bread to a coeliac.

Plants have a similar thing where they don't like the cold, and stop growing, and want to just rest. You can't coax them into any sort of production and resent being given more food. It's then that Kings Plant Barn decide to have a sale, as a last hurrah for summer, as no more flowers will be had except for polyanthus, pansies and primulas. The trees are losing their leaves. Everything's gone a bit brown.

I buy dahlias, and tansy, another echinacea, and some hollyhocks. I know I ought to be putting in bulbs as surprises at church and at woodside, but sometimes I think people in control just don't like my jack-in-the-box floral surprises. Its more like WHO PLANTED THESE HERE?? But if I tell people before hand, they will just say don't waste your time. We don't want any. And it spoils the surprise.

Note to self - never surprise a control freak. It puts them in an awkward position - the realisation that they are not God and do not actually control the universe. This can cause crushing cognitive dissonance and you will experience great wrath and persecution for it - that is, if you let on that you are the source of the surprise. So my advice is to do everything in secret. If they ask, you can just say 'God works in mysterious ways'. Don't ever take any credit - thats the worst thing you can do.

One more thing before going to bed - and it will be a long season of it - feel free to dream..and next thing you know it, it will be spring.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Woodside Wanderlust - this Saturday

Ben is also going to be there with a pruning workshop, so sharpen your tools...I'm a designated tour guide, so will look out for you (not that there's much chance of getting lost in our garden - maybe in the creek though). Anyway, I'm wondering who else will turn up, or whether it will just be us regulars plus the pruners looking at each other going, where are all the other keen Westie gardeners???? So far we may just be breaking double figures, but you know what God did when he couldn't even find ten righteous people in Sodom.

I've got to go and restock the pop up library fridge and will make sure there's plenty of gardening books inside. Karyn's making her famous herbal teas and I hear Olga's baking up a storm.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Fabulous Foggydale Farm

Country roads...take me home.
Actually they took me far from home all the way to Hunua to visit Lynda Hallinan's garden or rather the Foggydale Farm, for her open weekend/autumn fair. It took about an hour to get there but Louise was very obliging, having visited once before for an Heroic Garden weekend about three years ago. Mum was in tow (again) but I honestly wonder why we take her because never does appreciate any thing, at least, she's all smiles until she gets home and tells my aunties her daughter dragged her to visit some farm.

I had always read about Lynda's exploits in the NZ Gardener magazine so seeing the place and Lynda in person was a treat for me, and wow it's an eye-candy experience. Hot orange flowers along the entrance - dahlias in full bloom and sedums, then a driveway lined with oaks and rhodos and hydrangeas,  to her cute 'she shed' stables, and then on to raised herbed beds, a floral picking garden, shaded bower, and down to the orchards and vege/flower box beds and meadows beyond.

Everywhere Lynda's touch was evident with her colour coordinated flair, there's purple/burgundy beds, blue beds, green beds, white beds, pink beds. Even her guest rooms are colour coordinated, right down to the books on the shelves.

Me, I'm considering it a triumph when anything grows in my garden so mostly colour coordination flies out the window.  I also have marauding chicken Martha to contend with. So far she's devasted my lupins, my garlic chives, dug up the pigs ear succulent that I must have replanted a dozen times, flung away my ajugas, dianthus, smashed my lobelias and just about uprooted my echinacea. I do have my hanging baskets all blue with lobelias and rosemary though, and Martha can't get to those.

Karyn's suggested banishing her to chicken never-never land and hiring a hit-man (Max) to be the strangler. It will be quick and painless she says. But I remind her it won't be if Mum finds out.

I asked Lynda about her pigs, she says they were in the orchard, but some escaped, so they only have one now, and all her chickens are confined to their designated chook run. There's some cattle, but otherwise, it's almost too neat and chic to be a real farm. She's got the down home country feel though, a few hale bales, and she's written a big fat tome about the wonders of Damson Plums. It's her fourth gardening book.

I spied the doyenne of gardening Mrs Bev McConnell being chauffered by garden buggy around the garden. I think she might have been a big influence on Lynda with all her blue beds. She's only just up the road in Whitford so I'm thinking they are just about neighbours. And to think last year I might have had the chance to work at Ayrlies with Bark but I never did..I just don't think I could stand the two hour commute. She's having her annual plant fair again next month.

However you can visit a garden a bit closer to home if you want...Woodside are having an open day which just so happens to coincide with our working bee (wonder who's idea that was??) and try out our brand new mulcher this Saturday. Morning tea on us. And Ben will show you how to prune our fruit trees.

Why no pics of faboulous Foggydale well am sorry, you just have to take my word on faith that we were there cos by the time I got to the place my phone had conked out with low battery so I couldn't take any photos even if I wanted to. Which seems to be always the case with me, just so not blessed with the camera that I don't even take selfies like everyone else does to prove they went to some place. It's no good for anyone who doesn't like reading! But don't worry, Lynda fans can just keep buying NZ Gardener magazine for fresh photo shoots of her garden, like Madonna, she's constantly reinventing herself and will always be in vogue.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

On (bio)diversity

My Permaculture buddies are banding together to plant marigolds at the New Lynn Mosque after the tragic shootings on Friday.
I am shocked and appalled that this mass shooting could happen in my country. My prayers (to the Lord God Almighty, not Allah) are for healing for this land and the people, for light in the darkness and comfort for the slain victim's families. And for justice to prevail and judgment for the gunman, who, having shown no mercy, won't be given any mercy for the lives he took, unless he repents. But I'm not sure he will, how can you just kill 50 people you don't even know and live with yourself?

Marigolds and salvia had been recently ripped out of the roundabouts by council contractors to make way for winter floral bedding (most likely, pansies or polyanthus) even though they will come up again if pruned back. I sometimes think clearing a bed of floral annuals is a bit like a massacre of the innocents, when used to do it with Bark I would protest, as the flowers wouldn't even be composted, they all went into a giant bin and got taken away to landfill. Well this time the contractors offered them to the community gardens, even though they all looked a bit ravaged, some were still alive, so I managed to salvage a few for Woodside.

I went back a few days later and took some for my own garden, trimming them back, planting in the beds dad had recently helped me edge and hoping they would take. There were at least a hundred plants in that roundabout display and I saved about 20 of them. The thing is, council just see annuals as throwaway plants to be changed every season, so spend huge amounts of money on colour, make wonderful displays, and then rip them all out again. It's very labour intensive. My gardening bootcamp training involved getting all these plants in line and planting them before the rains came. Then my boss would come and yell at us workers if we did leave a muddy footprint behind. It had to be perfect.

Unfortunately he was not to happy one day to find I had planted pink flax in the roundabout to fill the gaps left after the cineraria had been destroyed by one zealous resident in an attempt to cut them back. My justification was this pink flax was perennial and the foliage would always be pink so the residents would have something colourful to look at all year round. And the pink flax was just wanting to be divided and spread around. Well he got me to rip them all out again and we ended up putting hundreds of primulas in for a season, until they all died away and replaced them with petunias. After that I don't know what his plans are as I left that job, but it might be begonias, or possibly pansies and polyanthus, then  impatiens, in a never ending cycle (I think they have a contract with a nursery supplier) but the deal is you always had to rip them out and put new ones in.

Most of the residents, loved the splashes of colour every season but there was always the ones that quietly complained that we were wasting so much money and couldn't we have permanent plants. I think maybe they had a point or were being sensible but what could I say I was just the gardener what did I know. I mean if I piped up and said, then we could spend money on new indoor plants because the ones we have are pest ridden with mealy bug. Oh no. So we just did what we always did and removed hundreds of plants and put new ones in the roundabout while leaving pest ridden plants indoors for me to water three times a week.

Huh. Anyway I did secretly introduce spider plants into that indoor plant display even though my boss sniffed at them and called them common. But they are tough plants and didn't get eaten by mealy bugs. And even if they might get a few caterpillars, can always dust them with pepper instead of having to fumigate them with Mortein. And so that is how I introduced diversity into the indoor garden.

I think they are still there...

Monday, 18 March 2019

Composting Workshop 27 March

My good friend at St Giles Cenny is hosting a compost workshop at her house with Judy Keats
so we can get on with making compost for our gardens and the church. Hooray!
Please register and come along if you'd like to learn all about it.
See you there..

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Working from Home

Things have been developing in my garden since the rains have come. I moved all the succulents out of my hanging troughs into the sunny area under the eaves of the house. It was rampant with creeping violets that creep along and fry in the sun looking wilted, so I pulled these all out and now it's a somewhat fairy garden of tiny succulents and portulaccas, and geranium cuttings.

Now the hanging troughs had been emptied out with their falling apart coconut liners, which I've used as mulch, I have relined them with hessians sacks and one fraying bathtowel, along with newspapers, paper bags, comfrey and twigs for drainage. Into these went super light  weight potting mix, prostrate rosemaries and lobelias. I'm going for the blue flowers trailing look. This will combine nicely with the blue flowers of  plumbago which is slowly and steadily creating climbing hedge against the timber fence.  Mum wasn't too pleased I had used 'her' hessian sacks to line my baskets with, but I said I could always find more (Thanks Marianne, also for the coffee grounds). The thing is coconut liners they sell at the garden centres just  rot and fall apart over the years, and then you end up with  potting mix and soil crumbling through the cracks and they are not exactly cheap either.

Then it was time to overhaul Snowy's bed as you might recall it's got the maple tree that sucks all the moisture out of the soil, so I've given it lots of crassulas (apparently meant to be a weed in Auckland) around the base of the tree, to give it some green coverage instead of struggling dandelions. Then more creeping violets I've pulled out of the Apricot tree bed, which is having scented geranium and penstemon cuttings. Once I got the secateurs handy I couldn't help myself and took more cuttings, so have poked in more daisies, echiums and pelargonium cuttings all over the garden.

Socks and Mary's bed also has been given lots of homemade compost and am growing lupins. I've just put in more lambs ears as Jennifer and I tidied up the St Giles beds on Saturday and it was growing a bit rampant. Never one to waste plants I took them home and have now tucked them in various spots. Also star of this garden is echinacea - I finally managed to find one, this one came from Kelmarna Gardens which I revisited yesterday with mum for their Harvest Festival. Looking good Kelmarna! Beth has also given me another manuka, so I've planted that there as well.

I have now moved the lemon tree into a big pot and need to go dose it with Epsom salts because the leaves are looking rather yellow and it hadn't been getting enough sun. Perhaps it may have to stay in the pot? I've given lemon plenty of seaweed mulch, comfrey and worm castings.

I was only slightly annoyed this morning when, leaving the front door open to recycle my grey water, Dad kept closing it because of Martha, and then yelled at me to go get a job. I got mad, and said I already had a job at home. I don't think he ever sees the garden as a lot of work but it is.  He later apologised but Lord knows if I don't garden this place nobody will, it will grow weeds and nobody will care.  Mum tried to show me job ads for gardeners wanted but I don't want to garden someone else's garden  and be bossed around and bullied and exposed to dangerous poisons and go deaf from mowing lawns like last time. No thanks to wage slavery. Never again! I said to Mum, I'm going to be my own boss right at home cos I don't want to live in a dinky apartment building  and join the rat race just to earn money so I can pay the rent on said apartment and be bored out of my brain from the nine to five grind.  Mum had some compassion on me because she'd lived in Hong Kong where you couldn't grow a thing and all you saw was 4 million other people living in high rises/parking lots as far as the eye could see.

So she stopped showing me job ads in the paper from potential tyrants.  I'd been in the job hunting and  CV writing business long enough to know that when people leave a job vacancy it's because they don't get paid enough or they are treated like slaves by their horrible bosses.

Monday, 4 March 2019


 No I haven't been brewing intoxicating substances but something has been worm tea. My worm workers have been asking for a pay rise so I added another tower to the worm farm because they are being so productive.

As I don't have a cow I can't bury cow horns and use their cow dung by the light of the full moon and make preparations to biodynamically spray all over the garden BUT I can use my worm castings and do a home grown biodynamic preparation by swirling it all into a bucket.  Then I cast the worm tea all over the garden and pray please Lord of creation and worms as I cast out this  super charged worm tea grow and live and turn this dead soil alive.

I'm hoping it will work. I had been watching a dvd called 'one cow, one man, one planet' about Peter Proctor who, it seems is a biodynamic practitioner. He went to India to tell all the farmers who had been using degrading chemical agriculture  which destroyed their soil to dust, to switch to organic farming, and taught them how to compost, how to fertilise their soil naturally, and other things like crop rotation, seed saving and natural forms of farming and agriculture. It seems entire villages are catching on and there's a green revolution (or is it rebellion?) happening to counter the chemical/genetically engineered/modern  poisonous methods of farming to make money.

It's pretty amazing and you can see the difference in the soil. Now my soil, what's left of it, is still a few years away from being that healthy fertile soil you can just grow anything in. The first year of starting this garden I couldn't grow any shrubs they all died because they didn't like the hard as rock clay soil. I still find it hard going as there's  still not enough humus to sustain life. But I've managed to get a few plants started the easier ones like succulents, ground covers, manukas, apples, bulbs and plants that are marginally weeds like swan plants.  Everything else like veges I've got in pots.  So here's hoping as the more I compost and add green manures, and the more Martha and my worms produce manure that I will get more life into this place and the soil will be nice and healthy not dead and barren.

Why I live in the hardest area to create a garden I don't know but we all have to start somewhere. Teri's asked me how do you garden on  a clay hillside and I'm thinking with much determination! Soil is like our hearts for anything to grow they must be sort of soft and spongy not hardened, cracked and broken. We had a sermon at church last Sunday and the scripture was 2 Chronicles 7:14 it was talking about no rain and the locusts eating all the land. BUT God says 'If my people, who are called  by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways and seek my face, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land."

So God please answer my prayers to heal my land!