Sandra’s Garden – people, plants and events in the Tauranga area

Welcome, please come on in, have a look around and leave a comment.

October 30: Well, it looks like it’s happening again. The big-flowered clematis I bought last year looks like it’s dying. I might as well treat them as annuals, though at $40 a pop they’re jolly expensive annuals. I gave up on the big-flowered clematis a few years ago after a bad run and swore never again. Then I saw Mrs Cholmondeley in a garden centre …

She was left in her PB last year and was fine. Repotted over the winter into a glazed pot, not pruned and came away with some good shoots and flower buds and, slowly, they’re wilting and turning brown. I’ve just looked up “clematis wilt” on the net and sure enough Mrs C is one that can suffer from wilt.

Anyone have any ideas for me? (Aside from never, ever buying another large-flowered clematis again!)

October 28: A fine weekend, who would have thought! Plenty to do in the garden, including dividing and repotting two Cymbidium orchids which probably should have been done two years ago but I always seem to think about it when there are new flower spikes showing. Barry Curtis runs great potting demonstrations at the Tauranga Orchid Show every year that makes the task look simple and straightforward.

If you’ve missed those, you could try this YouTube video from Australia which goes through the process pretty quickly, or this one from England which goes more slowly. Cymbidiums are one of the few orchids that grow on the ground but they will do better potted in bark rather than a medium that is soil-based. The draping leaves hide the pot well or you can dig a hole for the pot so it looks as if the orchid is growing in the garden (this is also a good trick for bromeliads).

Commercial growers of Cymbidiums train the flower spikes so the stem ends up straight. Home gardeners can stake flower spikes for the same effect or leave them to arch. My first flowers came out in July-August and the last flowers at the beginning of October. They last well on the stem but remember to protect them with snail bait.

Te Puna Quarry Park is a great place to see orchids growing “naturally”. The park has lost quite a few Cymbidiums recently as large pines were felled, but volunteer Mary Parkinson, who led the original planting team, says the orchids were losing out to the trees in terms of nutrition and were starting to struggle.The hope is that there will be some more large donations of plants, as there were in the beginning. Despite a lack of topsoil and relatively harsh summer conditions,  Cymbidiums thrive at the park and are a sight in late winter through spring.

October 27: Received an email from Ned Nicely, parks co-ordinator at Tauranga City Council yesterday, extolling the Robbins Rose Garden, saying it’s looking the best he’s seen it in the 15 years he’s been associated with it, and urging me to go and take some photos. Which I did this afternoon.

And yes, the gardens are looking good.

One of the 28 beds is given over to Mutabilis, a twiggy rose that covers itself in blooms – orange buds opening to flowers that darken with age. Up close the singular flowers are ho-hum and not really what you’d put in a vase, but the effect of a mass planting, such as at Robbins Park, is stunning … and on a windy day you can see why Mutabilis has the nickname “butterfly rose”. Mutabilis is an old china rose, dated to “before 1894” and flowers for an extensive period. Barbara Lea Taylor’s book Old-Fashioned Roses (Bateman, 1993) tells me that it was originally named Tipo Ideale and the author describes it as an “astonishing rose”.

Other roses on show just now include New Zealand-bred Hot Chocolate, Blackberry Nip (by Rob Somerfield of Te Puna) and Hamilton Gardens.

While we were at the park we also ducked into the Tropical Display House, which Ned  describes as a “hidden treasure”. The exterior isn’t terribly promising, but the interior always looks great – various hoyas are in flower just now, as is the national flower of Chile, Lapageria rosea, various bromeliads, vireyas, tuberous begonias and orchids.

October 24: Called in to see Ohauiti potter Murray Garner this morning. He wanted me to see the progress of the outdoor bowl he’s making for me. As we were wandering through the garden I complimented his wife Kay on her Chatham Island forget-me-nots, some of which were blooming. Kay very kindly offered me some of her seedlings (even after I told her that I killed a store-bought plant last year). She has a good-sized patch of them and says her only “secret” is to scatter some table salt round them once a year.

There’s a preconception that the Myostidium hortensia grows only on rocky shores but New Zealand in Flower by Alison Evans (Bookmakers, 1987, an excellent book if you can get it) says  plants have been grazed out of other sites and that it survives only where inaccessible to animals. It is described as a “perennial herb” and is, believe it or not, related to the common forget-me-not.This photo wasn’t taken in Kay’s garden (I didn’t have my camera with me) but part of a group planting I saw last year growing happily in the CBD in Wellington. Council gardeners had teamed it with clivia and rhododendrons under deciduous trees.

Another excellent book is 100 Best Native Plants (Godwit, 2008 revised edition) by Fiona Eadie, now the head gardener at Larnach Castle. Fiona identifies one of the biggest enemies of the beautiful Chatham Island forget-me-not as humidity and says that in humid areas they should always be planted where they will get plenty of air movement … and somewhere that is sheltered from the rain. “Shade is not necessary so long as the root system can be kept cool.” So, easy then!

Murray will be exhibiting his work in a garden during the Garden and Artfest.

There has been a change in date to the BOP Rose Display – the Events page has been updated.

October 23: Have you noticed the new Visit page on the menu header? More gardens will be added over time.

October 21: More in today’s Herald on Sunday on the Ministry for Primary Industry’s search and seize raids on some of our highly regarded plantsmen – Clive Higgie (Paloma Gardens, Wanganui), Jack Hobbs (curator of Auckland Botanic Gardens) and Graeme Platt (Albany). Read an earlier piece from the NZ Herald here (today’s article appears to be behind a paywall) about a to-do in the world of kauri.

The fuss is over Agathis silbae which may or may not be Agathis macrophylla (spelled incorrectly right through the HoS story and differently, but still incorrectly, in the caption). If they’re the same tree, it seems there is no problem. But if Agathis silbae is a separate species the Ministry, which itself has been renamed recently, wants it gone.

The confusion over naming is relatively common in the botanical world – species are regularly moved in and out of genus groupings (think michelias and magnolias, or read this article to discover why the botanical name of Douglas fir has changed 21 times). And despite scientific advances, it seems the identification of plants is still fraught with difficulty.

A retired nurseryman I interviewed last year was despairing of the tangle of names for wisteria ever being sorted out, especially as many of the plants are happy to naturally cross-breed.

A snippet of my work turned up in today’s HoS article – three paragraphs from an interview with Graham and Mavis Dyer about their kauri collection and a photograph of Clive Higgie taken when I visited Paloma Gardens in 2009. He said that he never took his hat off, but did so for me!

October 19: Anyone sick of the wind yet? I’ve been keeping a careful eye on plants in pots and hanging baskets and making sure they’re well watered. Yesterday we had torrential downpours but on Wednesday and today the wind has been drying. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen from one moment to the next – horizontal rain or wind gusts that will knock you sideways. (Wellington gardeners will feel right at home.)

In July Tauranga City Council removed most of the trees on its protected tree register – and an arborist told me recently that the chainsaw gangs had never been so busy. There were about 1800 trees on the register and now there about 340. Unfortunately, Tauranga isn’t renowned for its mature trees and now there will be even fewer for the community to enjoy. Read some council information about the register here (ignoring the map).

October 17: Have added a new Event – a Permablitz in Katikati on October 27.

Was talking to John Little yesterday about box blight – his Oropi garden uses buxus extensively in hedging and topiaries. He sprays regularly with a mix of copper and fungicide and says the affected plants seem to be flushing away with new spring growth … but the spraying must be done regularly, especially in humid conditions.

Having got some blight in my own little hedge, I also asked the advice of a Te Puna nurserywoman.

The first step is to cut out the affected parts, making sure that all the twigs and leaves are picked up and disposed of, preferably not burned and definitely not composted.

She then recommended spraying the affected plants with Nitrosol Oceanic, available at Farmlands, every two weeks and immediately after trimming; and three times a year spreading Roksolid, which is made in the area, “liberally” under the plants. She reckons they can bounce back from the blight but the treatment needs to be maintained.

This is what the Royal Horticultural Society has to say on the matter.

October 14: While I’ve been at the keyboard today getting all these data entered, my husband has been outside working away on a small section of new garden that has been rescued from the twin perils of tree roots and alstroemerias, thanks to a chainsaw and a Dingo. It’s the kind of project at which my man excels – planning and creating. The boxing, base layer of metal and stepping stones are in. Next comes the topsoil and some white gravel to nestle round the schist pavers … then we can plant!

All words and photos copyright Sandra Simpson