A louder buzz

The buzz in our garden just got a bit louder – thanks to the arrival of a bumblebee hive. We’ve had fun watching them pop in and out of the hive and get used to their new surroundings and the Vege Grower is hoping for bumper crops this year, thanks to the extra workers.

And away they go! Photo: Sandra Simpson

The hives have been developed for backyard gardeners and schools as a joint venture between Zonda Beneficials, an Auckland company that specialises in biological controls and pollination, specialist Tauranga seed company Wildflower World and Farmlands.

The hives come with about 50 workers and a queen – enough to pollinate a backyard vege garden – and the hive will last, in favourable conditions, for three to four months.

“The key,” Geoff says, “is to make sure they have enough food in your garden so they stay there.” He has put together a mix of 16 wildflower species designed to feed bumblebees for at least three months and keep them close to home.

Unlike honeybee hives that continue from year to year, bumblebee hives are short lived with the queen laying worker bees until just before the hive closes down. Then she will lay only queens, 20 to 30 on average, and these will disperse to start new colonies.

“If you’re lucky – and have planted for them – they may stay in your garden,” Geoff says, “but they won’t use the box hive again.”

A bumblebee hard at work inside a hollyhock. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Bumblebees are thought to be more efficient pollinators than honeybees because they:

  • Start earlier and finish later each day
  • Work in all weathers (honeybees don’t like wind or rain)
  • Carry a bigger load of transfer pollen
  • Will visit more flowers per hour than any other pollinator
  • Are extremely efficient in extracting pollen from “hard to access flowers” such as beans and tomatoes
  • Will forage in confined areas, within a small radial area.

Bumblebees are also easy to look after – there’s no honey to collect, the numbers in each hive are much smaller and they aren’t affected by the varroa mite that has devastated honeybee hives.

Step one in preparing to have a backyard box of bumblebees is to sow the wildflower seeds near where the hive is to be located – once the flowers start to bloom the hive can be ordered.

Home garden hives cost $60 (plus GST and overnight courier charge) and can be ordered from any Farmlands store. Full instructions on hive placement and maintenance are included. Geoff suggests that in areas of high rainfall, or prone to heavy downpours, that a cover be placed over the hive (he uses an old beach umbrella). Although the hive is a waxed cardboard, it may deteriorate faster than it should in “monsoon” conditions.

Read more about bumblebee pollination trials in avocado and kiwifruit orchards.

Some of this article was originally published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission.

Growing Pains

The effervescent and always-fun Lynda Hallinan is coming to Tauranga Friday, October 17 to speak at a fundraiser for the Sydenham Botanic Park project.

The early evening event – called Growing Pains – is in the lovely atrium space at Tauranga Art Gallery.

Editor-at-large for New Zealand Gardener magazine, Lynda has travelled extensively in New Zealand and overseas, visiting many of the world’s great garden events and gardens.

These days, though, she is most likely to be found in her new-ish, large rural garden with two little helpers in tow – she reckons that all that’s changed is the size of her gardening mistakes!

Lynda is refreshingly frank about the hits and misses she has in her garden and may share some of her experiences of opening a garden to the public – her first festival was while she was living in her central Auckland cottage. When she found herself feverishly  linking extension cords so she could blow-dry the dahlias, she realised a certain madness had taken hold!

Since then she’s moved to the country, got married (in a garden she and fiancé created for the event), bought livestock, developed an orchard and had two baby boys – and wrote about it all in Back to the Land (Penguin). She writes weekly columns for the Sunday Star-Times and has hosted a TV show where she helped guide families to developing a successful vegetable garden.

What: An evening with Lynda Hallinan, plus some fantastic spot prizes and raffles.
When: Friday, October 17 at 5.30pm.
Where: Tauranga Art Gallery, cash bar.
Tickets: $15 each, available from Palmers at Bethlehem (7 days) and GardenPost, 155 First Ave W, which is off Glasgow St (Mon-Fri only). There are no booking fees! Note that seats are limited and there may not be door sales available.

Thanks to sponsors – GardenPost, Palmers Bethlehem and incredible edibles – all proceeds from the evening will go to the Botanic Park project.

Tauranga’s best orchids

I feel totally orchid-ed out after three show days and a set-up day, so as the final word here are the prizewinning blooms. Enjoy (and, in my case, be envious … one day!).

Champion bloom – Cattleya Itsa Blue ‘Blue Moon’ grown by Lee and Roy Neale of Auckland. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Reserve champion – Aerangis hyaloides, a miniature orchid from Madegascar, grown by Helen McDonald of Tauranga. Not only is this orchid tiny, it is all white and difficult to photograph! Photo: Sandra Simpson

Three Orchid Council of New Zealand awards were also made, based on a points system as scored by the day’s judges.

Paphiopedilum Pavarotti, grown by Elizabeth Bailey of Tauranga. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Cattleya Dreamcatcher, grown by Helen McDonald of Tauranga. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Epidendrum (Rose Valley x Pacific Punchbowl) ‘Big Smile’, grown by Lee and Roy Neale of Auckland. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lee and Roy breed their own short-stemmed Epidendrum orchids. Read more about that here.

Granny’s Delirium 2

A peek into Granny’s parlour, ready for public inspection. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Pictures from the Tauranga Orchid Show on today and tomorrow at the Racecourse, 10am-4pm, $3/adult.

Laelia lundii has been attracting attention, not always an easy plant to flower, according to an expert. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Commercial grower Russell Hutton has brought along award-winning Phalaenopsis orchids from Taiwan, not seen before in New Zealand and including a coppery shade. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Mary Parkinson (with a little help from her friends) makes up table decorations and posies for sale. Mary opened Tauranga’s first florist’s shop and has made bouquets for royalty and celebrities, including Liberace! Photo: Sandra Simpson

A visitor admires the display. Judging was done this morning. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Granny’s Delirium

Been at the Tauranga Racecourse for most of the day, helping to put together the display for the three-day Tauranga Orchid Society show that opens tomorrow (10am-4pm each day).

Granny’s Orchid Delirium has been devised by the society’s vice-president Conrad Coenen and is a walk through Granny’s parlour then out past her patio, enjoying flowering orchids of all shapes, sizes and colours.

The Welcome sign. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I’ve lifted furniture, cut cloth, held stuff steady (although was unable to manage a staple gun, those things are hard to fire!), unloaded plants from cars, unpacked plants from crates and placed plants in the display under the watchful eye of those more experienced.

Conrad (left), Uta and nutty Bob. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Uta and I became the origami twins, wrapping framework in black cloth to match the in-situ black dividing panels and so creating the walls of the display. I also reckoned we could probably upscale and become the new Christo such was the neatness of our work. Oh, okay, Utta’s work.

Who is this Granny we’re talking about? Well, she’s a widow with a wide circle of friends and a loving family, but she’s kind of lost the plot after being given an orchid in bloom and has definitely caught orchid fever (no known cure).

Conrad and his Granny (left). Photo: Sandra Simpson

To find out more, come along to the Racecourse in Greerton – there are lots of plants for sale so you may find yourself infected by the same bug as Granny.

Plenty more like this at the Tauranga Orchid Show. Photo: Sandra Simpson


National Camellia Show results

Bumped into Caroll Anderton at the Spring Fling and she has been kind enough to provide the Western Bay of Plenty results from the National Camellia Show and Convention held in Hastings last month. Eight members competed and seven brought home awards!

There were 870 blooms on display from 108 growers with 15 camellia societies represented, from Whangarei to Dunedin. The 2015 conference will be in New Plymouth.

To see generic photos of these blooms, go to the New Zealand Camellia Society website.

Champion bloom; champion reticulata: Ruta Hagmann, grown by Diane and Harvey Howard of Blenheim.

Caroll Anderton: Os Blumhardt Trophy for 3 Hybrid Blooms, the same: Patricia M Bates. Clark Cup (best japonica seedling). Maire Trophy (best overall seedling – Caroll has yet to name this plant, but it may be one of her last). Certificate for 3 Medium Japonica, the same: Elena Noble. Honours: Patricia M Bates, Elena Noble and Hishi Karaito.

Ailsa James: Berg Trophy for 6 Reticulata, different. Clark Cup (best reticulata seedling). Certificates: 6 Small Japonica, different; 6 Miniature Japonica, different; 3 Medium Japonica different; 3 Variegated, different; 12 Japonica, different; 3 Small Japonica, different. Honours: Jamie.

Camellia Night Rider in the garden of Colleen Ross. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Colleen Ross: B & J Warsaw Trophy: 3 Miniature, different. Certificate: 1 Spray under 35cm: Wirlinga Princess. Honours: Buttons & Bows, Raspberry Glow, Alfrons and Night Rider.

Margaret & Leo Mangos: Durrant Trophy for Yunnan Reticulata: Purple Gown.

Jill Gray: Honours: Japonica Bernice Boddy.

Bill Anderson: Honours: Peggy Burton.

Photos from the Fling

What glorious day it was at Te Puna Quarry Park on Sunday for the second annual Spring Fling – vivid blue sky, sunshine and plants and people galore. When I was going through my photos it seemed as though there were a few useful sub-headings I could use, so here goes …


John Beech, director of November’s Garden and Artfest. Photo: Sandra Simpson











Tauranga Garden and Artfest, November 17-23.

The orchid repotting demos by Barry Curtis are always popular. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Roger Allen grows hydrangeas for the cut-flower market and breeds his own plants. Photo: Sandra Simpson














Black Doris plum – from the stall of Brent Tennet. Photo: Sandra Simpson













Brent is the owner of Te Puna Plum Nursery, which specialises in stone fruit. Why can’t we grow apricots here? Because the soil is too rich, Brent told me this morning, and the winters aren’t anywhere near cold enough. Leave apricots to central Otago.

Iris unguicularis on the stand of Bill and Willie Dijk. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Commonly known as the Algerian iris, this little plant flowers in winter. Read more about it here.

Roger Allen sold out of his stems of proteas so quickly he sent the troops off to collect more. Photo: Sandra Simpson










A ranuncula in a kokedama hanging made by Coraleigh Parker. Photo: Sandra Simpson












Read more about Coraleigh Parker and kokedama here. Read how to make a moss-covered kokedama here.

Francine Thomas gets emphatic during a floral art demonstration. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Francine’s tea cup and saucer. Photo: Sandra Simpson










See Francine’s website. She’s an enormously talented individual, and a real hoot!

Slipper orchids grown by Laurie Dawbin. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Shona Purves reckons that she made about 200 scones for Devonshire teas last year – I’ll be sure to ask her this week what her estimate is for 2014. The women were busy all day and sometimes had lines of up to 20 people waiting, and no wonder. The scones were fluffy, delicious and fresh from the gallery’s oven … and they had jam and whipped cream on top! What’s not to like?

Update: Shona says that more than 300 scones were baked and sold on the day … and they went through 8 litres of cream, whipped for the crowning glory.

Lynne Avery (left), baker Shona Purves in the background, and Lois Galbraith. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Quarry Park visionary and society patron Shirley Sparks (right) takes a tea break with Pauline McCowan, who brought her red MGBGT along for the day. Photo: Sandra Simpson