Sad news

News has come through this morning (December 1) that natural beekeeper Marcia Meehan of Hamilton has passed away suddenly.

Update: A service for Marcia will be held on Monday, December 3 at noon at Hamilton Park Crematorium, 395 Morrinsville Road, Newstead, Waikato.


Marcia Meehan, urban beekeeper

Marcia, who has taken workshops all over the country, was so encouraged by the turnout at her recent talk about natural beekeeping at the Garden and Artfest that she decided to hold a workshop in Tauranga – that was to have been held tomorrow.

The hosts, Helen and Mike Crosby, don’t have a list of those who were to attend, and neither does Marcia’s daughter. Her daughter has been able to contact a few people who have left messages on Marcia’s cellphone, but knows she hasn’t been in touch with everyone.

Because people may be turning up anyway, Mike and Helen have arranged for Dennis Crowley, president of the local beekeepers’ association, to talk about top-bar hives and bee-keeping, from 9.30am for the morning, 98 Kulim Ave, Tauranga. It will be a drop-in sort of event and there are top-bar hives to see. Mike says that since he’s had his own bees his fruit trees have doubled their production.

To read more about natural beekeeping, visit Marcia’s website.

Our thoughts are with Marcia’s family. She will be a great loss to a great many people.


Gardening World Cup

No sooner do I mention the Gardening World Cup (in a Sunday Digest) than Auckland landscape designer Xanthe White goes and wins the Best Design award at this year’s event in Japan which had the theme Gardens for World Peace.

Read all about it, and see some pictures, here or at the official website. Xanthe has used plants from Aotearoa and included a green wall.

Other results: Best In Show – Lim in Chong (Malaysia); Peace and Flowers Award – James Basson (France); Gold Medal – Lim in Chong, James Basson, Xanthe White, Kazuyuki Ishihara (Japan), Hiroshi Terashita (Japan); Silver Medal – Jo Thompson (France), Gabino Carballo (Spain), Karen Stefonick (USA), David Davidson and Leon Kluge (South Africa); Bronze Medal – Richard Miers (England), Jihae Hwang (South Korea), Haruko Seki (Japan).

Here’s a photo of Xanthe’s re-created Chelsea garden at Daltons Plantation, just part of the extensive garden she is creating there.

Photo: Sandra Simpson


A quick post to let you know that the Events list has been updated – a fun evening event at Palmers in Rotorua tonight (be quick!), a garden art trail in Whangamata at the weekend and the new NZ Edible Garden Show in Hastings in February.

Meanwhile, some more national organisations have been added to the Groups page – Chrysanthemum Society (the secretary is in Rotorua), Daffodil Society (the Northern club comprises Waikato and Bay of Plenty), Rhododendron Society (the nearest group is in Rotorua) and the Royal Institute of New Zealand Horticulture.

Colleen Thwaites has added her lovely Siesta Orchard garden to the Open Gardens list. If you open your garden to the public, please let me know and I’ll add your details too.

Did anyone guess the identity of the flower in the mystery photo in the post below? It’s a rhubarb flower, something the French expression jolie-laide (literally beautiful-ugly) seems to cover. I snapped it off and had it in a vase for a few days – the cut stem curled up attractively in the vase but the flower didn’t open any further.

What’s Flowering

Some photos of what’s “on” in my garden right now.

A gerbera from the Everlast range – the tag promised it would flower for almost 12 months of the year and so it has! Fingers crossed it is setting a new plant or two … and it has lovely, glossy leaves.

The Iceland poppy is a cottage garden favourite and it’s not hard to see why – they’re gorgeous. I tried other kinds of poppies last year but they didn’t do well in the wet summer. Iceland poppies are native to northern subpolar regions.








Anyone care to hazard a guess as to what sort of flower this is? Leave a reply and I’ll put the answer in the next post …







Gibbs Farm

I was lucky enough to be invited on a group visit last Friday to Gibbs Farm, a 400ha private sculpture park on the Kaipara Harbour north of Auckland. Alan Gibbs generously opens his property to the public a few times each year and despite staff being anxious at facing a record crowd, it all seemed to go pretty smoothly.

I may write some more about it, although it’s not a garden in the true sense but a honking great landscape that is beautifully kept. Anyway, here are a couple of pictures to be going on with.

Horizons by Neil Dawson, supposedly a sheet of corrugated iron that’s blown in from elsewhere, changes slightly depending on where you are. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Farm staff have created their own work of art with the cairn-like woodpile. To the left is the stunning Dismemberment, Site 1 by Anish Kapoor. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Sunday Digest

When I was in Melbourne last year I chose to spend a day in the Royal Botanic Gardens in the central city rather than work out how to get out to Cranbourne and the Australian Garden, but put it on the list of things I really must do one day. Now the second and final stage of this intriguing project has opened. Read all about it here. Follow this link to the garden’s home page.

If you’re in Wellington over the summer you might like to visit the exhibition at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace in Tinakori Rd. Her Painted Words opened on November 16 and will run to the end of February (open 10am-4pm, Tuesday-Sunday). Artists include Gretchen Albrecht, Gavin Chilcott, Karl Maughan, Séraphine Pick, Philip Trusttum and Ans Westra who have all produced a work inspired by a KM quote about flowers and gardens.

The Garden Party seemed the obvious place to go for a quote, and here it is, from the first paragraph:

“The gardener had been up since dawn, mowing the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass and the flat dark rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine. As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that impress people at garden parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing. Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels.”

Landscape designer Sarah Price (who did some of the “Olympic meadows” in London) has written a useful piece about “naturalistic” plantings, something of a fad in Europe, thanks to the much-admired work of Dutch landscaper Piet Oudolf and English gun Tom Stuart-Smith (who also did some Olympic work).

Sarah’s article includes some useful how-to advice that could be adapted to include some of our native plants.

Tom is interviewed here about his Olympic work and how to create a meadow garden.

Within the Olympic meadows were several themed areas – South African, North American, etc – that were held together by the overall design. Interestingly, this “big picture” design was by two horticultural tutors from Sheffield University. See some pictures of their work here.

Coming up Roses

A couple of years ago the members of the Bay of Plenty Rose Society decided that they could no longer host a judged show – the number of members was falling while their age  was rising.

Instead, they now have a two-day display at Palmers in Bethlehem and include all sorts of roses, not just those that would find favour on a show bench.

This year, for instance, there are David Austin blooms alongside old roses and in among modern hybrids, including some by Rob Somerfield of Te Puna, a breeder that Sam McGredy calls “the pride of New Zealand”. There are flowers of floribundas, climbers, shrub roses and bush roses. There is also an entire table given over to miniature blooms.

The display is on until close of business tomorrow. Palmers provides an order sheet so fancied roses not in stock can be obtained, and rose society members are on hand to talk about caring for the plants.

A visitor admires the display