Tauranga Orchid Show 2022

Part of the series of displays at the Tauranga Orchid Show. Photo: Sandra Simpson

People flooded through the doors of this year’s Tauranga Orchid Show, a wonderful sight for the organisers who no doubt breathed a sigh of relief (I’m a society member but not an organiser, only one of the many volunteers who help out). Plant sales tables were stripped bare over the course of the two days, which means everyone is happy – purchasers and the out-of-town vendors, some of who had travelled from Whangarei and Auckland.

There was a happy buzz in the room, the sort that happens when old friends get together again after a while apart. Food 101 ran a great little cafe during the show and the Racecourse venue was great, as always. Visitors this year though turned left instead of right to find the show and the new room, which is shaped differently to the other, gave the display a fresh look.

Grand Champion orchid was Paphiopedilum Fleuret Isles, grown by Cliff Goodchild, president of the BOP Orchid Society who lives in Whakatane. This plant also won Best Paphiopedilum and Best Specimen Plant. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Reserve Champion was Dendrobium Fortune Lady ‘Muse’ shown by Ninox Orchids of Whangarei. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Tania Langen of Ninox Orchids receives the Reserve Champion trophy from Tauranga Orchid Society president Conrad Coenen. Photo: Sandra Simpson

There were several new trophies awarded this year and the club was delighted that Susan Enticott, daughter of the late Brian Enticott, a Life Member, was present to award the cup donated in Brian’s name.

Susan Enticott (left) with Lee Neale, grower of Laelia jongheana ‘Heart’s Desire’, winner of the Brian Enticott Cup for Best Cattleya. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Odontioda Anna Clare, grown by Pam Signal of the Tauranga society, won the new Barry Curtis bowl for Best Oncidium Alliance. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Jo Dawkins (left) and Deborah Parkinson admire Dendrobium Limelight, grown by Cliff Goodchild, winner of the new Best Australian Dendrobium trophy. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Best Cymbidium was Cym. Fury Land ‘Fortius’ grown by Ninox Orchids.

Me? Well, I got a second place for my Dendrobium Berry x (Aussie Hero x Yondi) but that wasn’t the only warm moment. Turns out a remark I made about the colour of one of Leroy’s gorgeous plants being ‘cheerful’ at a previous show somewhere stuck with Lee Neale and that’s what she’s called the orchid. Talk about honoured!

Rhyncattleyanthe Leroy’s Sunset ‘Cheerful’. Photo: Sandra Simpson
One side of the Tauranga Orchid Society stand. Photo: Sandra Simpson

On the grass

Heather Elliott was working as a landscape designer in Matamata when she heard that a wholesale nursery on the outskirts of Tauranga she often bought plants from was up for sale.

“I used to plant so many liriopes in my designs that I thought I ought to grow them myself – so I bought the business.”

Heather Elliot in her nursery. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Ace Mondo was established at Pyes Pa in 2000 and specialises in mondo grasses and the perennial liriopes (muscari and spicata) that also feature attractive autumn flowers.

“Mondo is a great plant for low-maintenance gardens – no weeds will come through it once it’s established and most varieties look good all the time,” Heather says.

Ophiopogon intermedians ‘Alba Variegata’ is also known as ‘Stripey White’. Photo: Sandra Simpson

For something different in mondo, Heather recommends the “pom-pom” Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Kyoto’, which grows only 5cm high, or Ophiopogon intermedians ‘Alba Variegata’, which has almost white leaves when grown in sun or green with a white edge when grown in shade.

“Mondo has far more potential than people realise,” Heather says. “People tend to put it in containers but it will have a limited life in a pot.”

She also worries that the popular black mondo (Ophiopogon planiscapus Black Dragon) is rarely used in a way that shows it off. “Plant it under silver birches,” Heather suggests. “It looks magnificent against the white trunks, but do try and leave it alone once it’s in. It doesn’t like a lot of fussing.”

Liriope muscari ‘Gold Band’. Photo: Ace Mondo

Liriope spicata ‘Franklin Mint’, also called ‘Green Carpet’, has more grass-like foliage than other liriopes with the bonus of lilac flowers in summer.

“Liriopes are a great plant to let naturalise on, say, banks or under trees and they can take drought too. People often mistake them for a bulb, but they’re rooting plants that are easy to increase by division.”

Heather has always worked in horticulture – her first job was picking apples in Nelson before heading off to study at Lincoln. Before buying Ace Mondo, she and her husband had a 40.5ha asparagus farm in Waikato.

“A change of pace was required,” she says. “We had a young family and 70 staff at the season’s peak. It was full-on.”

For more information see the Ace Mondo website or phone 027 416 4445.

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

Floral Tribute

Evening will come, however determined the late afternoon,
Limes and oaks in their last green flush, pearled in September mist.
I have conjured a lily to light these hours, a token of thanks,
Zones and auras of soft glare framing the brilliant globes.
A promise made and kept for life – that was your gift –
Because of which, here is a gift in return, glovewort to some,
Each shining bonnet guarded by stern lance-like leaves.
The country loaded its whole self into your slender hands,
Hands that can rest, now, relieved of a century’s weight.

Evening has come. Rain on the black lochs and dark Munros.
Lily of the Valley, a namesake almost, a favourite flower
Interlaced with your famous bouquets, the restrained
Zeal and forceful grace of its lanterns, each inflorescence
A silent bell disguising a singular voice. A blurred new day
Breaks uncrowned on remote peaks and public parks, and
Everything turns on these luminous petals and deep roots,
This lily that thrives between spire and tree, whose brightness
Holds and glows beyond the life and border of its bloom.

Simon Armitage, Poet laureate (UK) has written this poem to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Glovewort is an old name for lily of the valley.

Farewell Queen Elizabeth II

There are, and will be, many stories to read and listen to as the 54 countries of the Commonwealth pay tribute to a much-loved long-serving monarch. Here, I thought we might take a look at just a few of the plants that have been named in her honour, a memorial garden if you like.

The ‘Elizabeth’ rose was released this year. Photo: Jonathan Buckley/David Austin Roses

Not surprisingly, the most recent addition to the garden is a rose, ‘Elizabeth’, released earlier this year to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and showcased at the Chelsea Flower Show. The David Austin-bred rose is described as having a strong and sweet fragrance of Old Rose and lemon sherbet with apple-blossom pink petals, and was created especially to mark Queen’s Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne. “Exceptionally healthy and versatile of habit, she forms a shapely and commanding shrub.”

Released in 1954, the year after the 25-year-old’s coronation, ‘Queen Elizabeth‘ was bred by Dr Walter Lammerts in the United States. This one is a vivid pink floribunda, described as having long, upright stems and being “very much for the back of the border”. Steven Desmond, writing for Country Life this year, said, “Its perfectly formed flowers were visible from a long way off, not least because of its exceptional height. In summer, I could barely see over it. No less a judge than David Austin described it as ‘indestructible’.” Read the full article here. Among the many awards over the years for ‘Queen Elizabeth’ are the World’s Favourite Rose (1979) and the Award of Excellence for Best Established Rose (2015).

Clematis montana ‘Elizabeth. Photo: Wikipedia

Desmond notes in his article that Clematis montana ‘Elizabeth’ appears to be the first plant named in the Queen’s honour after her coronation, developed by Jackman’s nursery of Woking in Surrey. It was awarded a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 1993. The very pale pink, vanilla-scented flowers have a pretty satin sheen, while the stamens have white filaments and pale yellow anthers. This plant particularly likes having its feet in the shade.

Jackman’s Nursery was a family business from 1810 to 1967, when it was sold. George Jackman, father and son with the same name, together began hybridising clematis in 1858. A garden centre is still in business, but the Jackman name was dropped in 1996.

Rhododendron ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ is a compact plant bearing masses of primrose yellow-greenish flowers. “As with all yellow rhododendrons, this plant does need good drainage (but not dry conditions!). It also needs some shelter.” The plant won an RHS Award of Garden Merit in 2013.

This gold-dipped stem of the orchid Dendrobium ‘Elizabeth’ was presented to Queen Elizabeth by the President of Singapore in 2002 to mark her Golden Jubilee. The orchid was named in 1972 during a visit by Queen Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh to Singapore. Photo: Royal Collection Trust

Dendrobium ‘Elizabeth’, with twisted Dresden-yellow petals and a uranium-green lip, was named in honour of the Queen when she visited Singapore in 1972, said Whang Lay Keng, curator at Singapore’s National Orchid Garden.

“Dendrobium Elizabeth is a majestic, robust and resilient plant,” she was quoted as saying. “It’s kind of like how Queen Elizabeth carried herself.” After Queen Elizabeth’s death, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens loaned a flowering plant of Dendrobium ‘Elizabeth’ to the British High Commissioner, to be displayed alongside pictures of the monarch in his residence.

The orchid Vanda ‘Platinum Jubilee’ was on show at Chelsea this year and was named by Dr Lawrence W. Zettler to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s milestone. The orchid was created by Robert Fuchs, president of the American Orchid Society and owner of R F Orchids of Florida (click on the link to see photos of the orchid).

“At the conclusion of the show, as we were taking down the display, several people asked if they could buy the orchid on the spot,” Dr Zettler said. “We told them ‘no’ because they were headed to the Queen herself. We then loaded the orchids into a taxi that waited outside the gate, and off it went.” Read an interview with Dr Zettler here.

Bulbs of Narcissus ‘Diamond Jubilee’, named to mark the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, were planted in a grassy area of Buckingham Palace garden in 2011. Given that she has also been the monarch of Wales and the daffodil is the national flower of that country, it should be no surprise that she has a beautiful diamond daffodil brooch. Read more here. It’s thought that in 2012 the Sultan of Oman may have gifted her a set of four brooches, one for each country in the United Kingdom, for her diamond jubilee.

The Regal Hebe range is apparently bred in Waikato, but so far I haven’t found out more than that. A new release is ‘Elizabeth’, which will grow into a small shrub with masses of pink flowers through summer. The plant is happy in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil and is frost hardy. Trimming spent flowers will help keep it compact. See a picture here.

Was Winter 2022 Wet and Cold?

With winter apparently ending on September 1 (try telling that to nature), I thought it might be instructive to consider how wet and cold we’ve really been, given that memory is a tricky thing. At times it’s seemed to be very wet indeed, but has it been all that bad? Well, yes. The information shown below comes from two parts of the North Island – Manawatu (rainfall) and Tauranga (temperature).

Rainfall figures for Manawatu, 2022 in blue. Graphic: Lee Simpson

This graphic was prepared to demonstrate to a business that buys fresh produce why growers in New Zealand have been finding it so difficult this year so far, and this winter in particular. The rainfall pattern has been all over the place, only hitting the average in March and staying well above average almost all winter. Having 61 years of rainfall data collected on a farm near Sanson means there’s a well-established long-term average.

My own attempt at gathering temperature data isn’t quite so flash, but is included for what it’s worth. The information comes from a wireless digital maximum-minimum thermometer kept in an orchid shadehouse in central Tauranga. The shadehouse has a roof but is open at the sides. The day-to-day and night-to-night changes are interesting from a plant-grower’s point of view.

The table covers the period June 1-August 15 for each year (so misses the 2022 ‘atmospheric river’ from the tropics that arrived later in the week starting August 15).

Coldest Day11.7C          
June 29
July 10 & 11
July 2 & 9
Warmest Day20.5C           
June 1
July 22 & Aug 11
Aug 12
Coldest Night1.5C             
Aug 12
June 29
July 9 & 10
Warmest Night13.6C           
July 8
June 8
June 20
Max. Day to Day Drop18.6 – 13.5C
July 13-14
20.1 – 14.3C
July 24-25
18.4 – 13.1C
July 21-22
Max. Night to Night Drop11.1 – 4.8C                
July 28-29
8.6 – 1.0C
June 28-29
9.6 – 1.3C      
July 7-8
Max. Day to Day Rise11.9 – 17.1C                  
Aug 9-10
12.8 – 19.1C
Aug 5-6
13.7 – 18.4C 
 Aug 6-7
Max. Night to Night Rise4.8 – 12.6C                
July 18-19
3.0 – 12.3C
July 16-17
3.8 – 11.3C
July 12-13

Dyed in the wool

Following on from last week’s post about the mediaeval wool trade, we now look at some of the plant-based dyes that have been used since ancient times to colour wool – woad, madder and weld were often described as the ‘holy trinity’ for dyers.

The leaves of woad (Isatis tinctoria, a yellow-flowered member of the mustard family and also a medicinal plant) produce blue. It is a biennial that flowers and seeds in its second year with the leaves of plants grown in fertile soil apparently producing the bluest colour. The term ‘Pictish’ to describe the ancient inhabitants of northern Britain comes from the Latin term for ‘painted’, which is how the Romans described these people who used woad on their skin.

This illustration of a woad mill in Germany is from a 1752 book by Daniel Gottfried Schreber’s. Image: Wikipedia

In mediaeval times there were important woad-growing regions in England, Germany and France, where Toulouse became prosperous from the woad trade. Woad was eventually replaced by the more colour-fast indigo and in the early 20th century, both were replaced by synthetic dyes. Read more about woad in Britain. Or go here to read more about woad in France.

Featuring the colours of woad (blue), madder (red) and weld (yellow) is The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle, one of a series of seven tapestries making up The Hunt of the Unicorn, woven between 1495 and 1505 (about). The tapestry is at the Cloisters Museum, New York. Image: Wikipedia

The leaves of the indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria) are soaked and fermented to produce the brilliant blue dye that has been popular for some 4,000 years. A legume plant (nitrogen-fixing), Indigofera tinctoria may be an annual, perennial or biennial, depending upon the climate. Dyeing with indigo is an intriguing process as cloth removed from the dye pot looks yellow, but rapidly turns blue when exposed to the air.

Skeins of wool dyed with varying shades of madder. Photo: Wikipedia

Madder (Rubia tinctorum) is a hardy perennial that spreads easily, so should only be grown with care and in confinement. The plant should be left for 3 years before roots are harvested. Apparently, adding lime to the soil in autumn or winter will produce a deeper red from the root. Cloth dyed with madder tended to fade so the European discovery of cochineal insects in Mexico, and the red dye they produce, was a revolution.

Wool dyed with weld for tapestries woven at the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre, Giza, Egypt. Photo: Wikipedia

Weld (Reseda luteola, dyer’s weed) is another ancient dye, this one producing yellow from its leaves – brighter from fresh leaves and softer from dried leaves. The Romans used weld to dye the tunics of the Vestal Virgins. When over-dyed with woad, it produces ‘Lincoln Green’, which is supposed to have been used to dye the clothes worn by Robin Hood and his band in the 13th century. Used with madder it produces an orange. The biennial plant prefers to grow in limestone or chalk soil.

Just to note that ‘Lincoln Grayne’ originally referred to a high-quality red cloth, the word ‘scarlet’ then meaning not a colour but a cloth, while the ‘green’ was cloth of a lesser quality. Since at least the Elizabethan period, however, ‘Lincoln Green’ has meant a shade of green.

Other English towns also had specialty dyes, including “Coventry blue”, with the renowned permanence of the colour leading to the phrase “as true as Coventry blue” or “true blue”. Sadly, the recipe for Coventry Blue was apparently lost in the 17th century during the reign of the Puritans.

On the back of a sheep

It’s easy to forget what a role wool has played in the world’s development, partly perhaps we’re all so used to the many fibres, man-made and natural, that we have access to today. But, make no mistake, fortunes were once built on wool.

The impressive Cloth Hall in Ypres is today home to the In Flanders Fields Museum. Photo: Sandra Simpson

One illustration is the town of Ypres in Belgium, more famous today for its proximity to World War 1 cemeteries and the nightly Menin Gate Last Post ceremony. However, the Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle in Flemish, ‘laken’ being a type of high-quality woven woollen cloth) that faces the Market Square shows just how wealthy wool once made this place. The huge building was constructed in the 13th century – and reconstructed in the 20th century after the devastation of World War 1.

The ground floor consisted of halls with vaulted brick ceilings that were used for the sale and storage of goods and produce. Until the mid-1840s a small river flowed past one end of the building and small boats could make their way right up to the Cloth Hall from the Yser Canal to load and unload.

Detail from the window by Arno Brys showing dyeing and finishing processes. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The upper floor halls were used by merchants as a banqueting hall, warehouses and meeting rooms. At the eastern end is a 17th century addition (again reconstructed in the 20th century) which contained a chapel, frescoes, stained glass windows and a fireplace, murals and a frieze illustrating the Counts of Flanders. Today, this is the Ypres Museum and includes an extraordinary modern stained-glass window by Arno Brys that pays tribute to the town’s mediaeval history, including the wool trade.

The English surname Fuller is associated with the production of wool, as are Weaver, Tucker and Walker. Fulling involves two processes: Scouring and milling (thickening) and was originally carried out by pounding the cloth with a club, or by the fuller’s hands or feet (hence Walker). In Roman times, Wikipedia tells me, fulling was done by slaves working the cloth while ankle deep in tubs of human urine (a liquid so important to fulling that it was taxed). For a demonstration of fulling (thank goodness it’s not smell-o-vision) English actor and keen historian Tony Robinson mastered his stomach and got into a vat (5:50).

From the medieval period, fulling was often carried out in a water mill, with the next step being to stretch the cloth on large frames known as tenters. It was attached to the frame by, you guessed it, tenterhooks, the origin of the expression ‘being on tenterhooks’.

Construction on St John the Baptist in Burford, Oxfordshire began in the 12th century. It was completed in the 15th century as a ‘Wool church’. Photo: Sandra Simpson

England’s so-called Wool Towns, a title particularly applied to places in Suffolk and north Essex, came to prominence when weavers from Flanders settled there to escape The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453). The wealth that then flowed in has left these villages and towns with beautiful buildings. Other places known as Wool Towns can be found in the Cotswolds and Yorkshire, among other areas.

From ancient times, people have wanted to add colour to their clothing and next week’s post will feature some of the plant dyes that have for centuries been used with wool: Woad (blue), indigo (blue), madder (red) and weld (yellow).

From the world of plants

The 2-day Auckland Garden DesignFest is returning after Covid-layoffs, on November 26 and 27. The self-drive tour allows attendees to rub shoulders with some of New Zealand’s elite garden designers and visit up to 18 gardens. It’s also an opportunity for visitors to ask questions, take advice and be inspired by ideas for enhancing their own gardens and outdoor spaces. The earlybird ticket offer of $55 (normally $65) is available until October 31, and there’s also a three-garden ticket for $25. Read more about the event here.

Brie Langley works at Kew Gardens and in the Palm House looks after what is thought to be the world’s oldest pot plant – a giant cycad (Encephalartos altensteinii) native to the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and brought to Britain in 1775. Read her first-person accounty here.

Only one Wood’s cycad (Encephalartos woodii) has ever been found in the wild, in South Africa in 1895 by English botanist John Medley Wood. Today, all Wood’s cycads are clones of that one tree and all are male. Kew’s specimen arrived in 1899 and was placed in the Palm House, but was moved to the Temperate House in 1997 and astounded staff by coning for the first time in 2004. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A new eucalyptus species has been discovered in suburban Sydney with an estimated total of 700 trees. It is believed Sydney is the only place where what is currently known as Eucalyptus sp.Cattai is found. The species was first listed as endangered in 1999 before it was upgraded to critically endangered in 2005. Now it will get its own name and formal description which scientists hope will boost conservation efforts. The Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan is growing seedlings to plant in secret locations. Read more here.

If you’re back travelling, there are some new gardens that may be tempting. Newly opened is a temporary garden along the historic Castlefield Rail Viaduct in Manchester, England, the 330m park inspired by New York’s High Line public park.

Featuring 3,000 plant species in gardens created by architects and community groups, the 12-month £1.8million pilot project aims to explore Manchester’s history and introduce some greenery into a post-industrial landscape. Read more about the viaduct here.

Hall’s Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Wikimedia

A 17th century herbal healing garden is being re-created at the historic 1613 house that Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna shared with her husband, John Hall, a physician who is believed to have advised his father-in-law on medical ailments. The home, Hall’s Croft in Stratford-upon-Avon, and its other gardens (behind the building) are already open to the public.

Documentary evidence shows that the vast majority of Hall’s patients were women, and the herb garden at Hall’s Croft will be filled with the sort of plants that he used in treating them. The garden is scheduled to open next year. Read more here.

Trees of the Moment

Native to China, Vietnam and Myanmar, Illicium majus was pointed out to me in a Te Puke garden recently and I was immediately won over.

Illicium majus has sweetly scented flowers, while the crushed leaves are also perfumed. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The garden owner has several of these evergreen trees, which nectar-eating birds, bees and butterflies love, but has been surprised to find the flower colours have all been slightly different, ranging from a creamy white to this blush-pink, deducing the batch must have been seed grown.

Although this tree is purely ornamental, its cousin, Illicium verum, bears the spice we know as star anise and others are used in making perfume. Illicum were originally considered to be part of the magnolia family.

In the same garden was a line of Drimys winteri trees, also attractive to nectar-eating birds, bees and butterflies. I have posted about this tree from South America before, read that here and please be sure to read the comment posted by a member of the Winter family.

Drimys winteri in flower this month. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Architectural Plants website points out an unusual habit this tree has if it gets dry when young – the branches droop, and stay drooped even after it gets enough water. Read more here.