Camellia family

Camellias are the stars of the winter garden – and for four Western Bay of Plenty sisters it’s the time of year when their family name is in the spotlight.

Trevor Lennard, who began farming in the Papamoa Hills in 1937, was also a well-known breeder of Jersey cows and pigs, and it was his interest in creating new bloodlines which finally won him over to camellias.

“Mum went on a trip to New Plymouth and came back with 12 camellias,” daughter Caroll Anderton says. “She nagged him to go to a meeting of the camellia society and he resisted for quite a while, but when he did get involved he found he loved camellias and could use his breeding skills.”

Kathryn Funari is a japonica camellia. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Trevor named most of his creations after family members – Alisha Carter (japonica), Debbie Anderton (reticulata) and Beth Lennard (sasanqua) among them. Trevor bred and named 24 varieties of camellia from Gay Sue (sasanqua) in 1980 to Caroll Lennard (japonica) in 1994, released just a year before his death.

The flowers of Nick Carter and Liz Carter, both japonicas, regularly win prizes at shows in the United States, while Gay Sue is acknowledged as the best-performing white sasanqua in Dunedin Botanic Gardens.

Caroll and her sister Ailsa James still run their father’s nursery as a wholesale and mail-order business. It also supplies plants to Lennard’s Orchard and Nursery shop on the corner of State Highway 2 and Poplar Lane, run by two more sisters, Marilyn Fraser and Liz Carter.

Camellia Beth Lennard. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Much of Trevor’s success came from using two plants bred by Howard Asper of the United States and registered in 1966 – Flower Girl and Dream Girl. Trevor crossed Flower Girl with reticulata Nuccio’s Ruby to produce Phillipa Lennard and with reticulata Carl Tourje for Trevor Lennard, both named in 1991.

Dream Girl, meanwhile, was crossed with a reticulata for the large-
flowered Gael’s Dream (1984) and with a seedling for Emma L (1993).

Trevor’s widow Alison passed away this year, until recently living in the house he built in 1954. Caroll laughingly points to the garden’s concrete fence.

“Once he got going with camellias that was it. In desperation he made a concrete fence after they’d extended the garden once, but then he started planting down by the roadside – at one time the camellias were five deep down there.”

Camellia Gael’s Dream. Photo: Sandra Simpson

There’s still enough space on the property for about 900 camellias, as well as the nursery where Caroll and Ailsa raise 3000 cuttings a year, plus grafted plants.

Both sisters have been bitten by the camellia bug – Ailsa attended an international camellia conference in Cornwall in 2008, while Caroll is long-time convenor of the 46-year-old Western Bay Camellia Society. Both are show judges and both regularly place at the national show.

Caroll has bred one camellia herself – Carolyn Anderton, a cross between Jury’s Joy and Weeping Maiden.

This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission. It has been updated slightly. 

Here’s an Australian article on using camellias in the garden and a link to the New Zealand Camellia Society.

Sunday digest

It’s Sunday, the weather seems to be warming up, the wheelbarrow’s squeaky wheel has been oiled, we’ve been pruning and trimming away the last of the old summer growth, the garden centres are filling up with plants again … and it’s about now that we start planning something “new” for the garden, ignoring the fact we hardly ever have “enough time” to keep what we do have under control.

Sigh, so I’ll read about gardening instead …

Abbie Jury has been thinking about the trend for “food forests”. Read her conclusions here. While here is a short piece on swapping in productive plants to a garden. And here’s a handy set of “modules” from BBC Gardening on how to plan a productive garden (remember it’s the northern hemisphere so swap everything round).

Lia Leendertz at The Guardian wishes for nothing more than a badly made garden path – so she can plant in and around it, although her throwaway line that she wears slippers to bring in the washing was perhaps more interesting! Anyway, her plan sounds like a poor man’s version of Prince Charles’ Thyme Walk at Highgrove – here’s a photo; the caption witters on about the organic garden but we’re looking at the Thyme Walk.

And while we’re over at National Geographic, here’s an article about an ancient, and giant, sequoia, the President – the second-largest tree on the planet. I read the original article in a battered magazine while waiting at the barber’s this week and was blown away by the photos.

Judy Horton is a Los Angeles garden designer who likes to stand inside a house and look out before planting anything. Read more about her approach here.

And don’t forget there are some great local events coming up, I know you’ll kick yourself if you miss them:

August 3:
Western BOP Camellia Society Show: 9.30am-4pm, Arts & Crafts Centre, Elizabeth St West, Tauranga (near the Takitimu Expressway). Besides the cut blooms on display, the show also features plant sales, many of the camellias unavailable elsewhere. Novice entrants welcome and you don’t have to know the names of your flowers to enter. Staging is on the Friday. For more information contact Janette, phone 544 5279.

Winter Warming Curries & Spices: 10am-3pm, Katikati Resource Centre, $5 (includes lunch). The annual Katikati Herb Society Midwinter Seminar includes a hands-on vegetarian curry workshop courtesy of Anu from Spice Traders. For more information phone Jenny Ager-Pratt, 552-0697.

August 7:
Te Awamutu Floral Art Club 45th Birthday, from noon, Te Awamutu Bible Chapel, Chapel Drive. The event includes a demonstration by Francine Thomas from 1pm. Tickets $15.

August 31:
Te Awamutu Daffodil Show, St Pat’s Hall, Alexandra St, noon-4pm.

A walk in the park, part 2

Time to finish off our stroll round Te Puna Quarry Park (here’s a map to help orient you) …

There’s always so much to see in the orchid-butterfly-fuchsia area but we need to push on and turn uphill again, passing two new sculptures on the cliff side before reaching a corner and the Japanese-style garden maintained by the local Bonsai Society. There’s a seat here too with a grand view that takes in the fall of land to the harbour, Mauao and offshore islands, just the place to catch your breath.


Synchronicity by Steve Molloy, pictured on a fine day (that’s Mauao in the centre). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Running along the edge of the wide top terrace is a long drystone wall which keeps photographers and those admiring the view from tumbling down the cliff! At the far end of the terrace are the Lions Steps, so named for the service group that made them but you can roar when you get to the top if you like or, if you haven’t any breath left, sink down on to another thoughtfully placed seat!

This is the highest point on the trail and after a flat stretch it starts to descend. We come out above the South African and Australian areas but there are plenty of options for side trips and you’ll make many visits before you take the same one twice.

A maple and magnolia area is being developed, there’s a well-established subtropical area, a protea path, a native arboretum, a planting of palms and … well, you get the idea.


Fire heath (Erica cerinthoides) provides a bright spot of colour on a dull day. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Australian plants seem to be in flower at all times of the year and today is no exception – banksias and grevilleas mostly – but it’s the proteas that catch my attention. Lots of flowers and buds looking magnificient with raindrops caught in their hairy surfaces.

When we get to the gazebo by the big Michelias (flowers smelling divine just now) there’s a choice – continue along the main path to complete the loop back to the mosiac couple, or start heading downhill on smaller tracks. Today, we follow The Teenager who heads off downhill to the right through plantings of camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas which means we bypass the herb garden (downhill to the left).

We stop and listen to the rain pattering on the huge leaves of a Ficus dammaropsis, native to the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and wonder whether we are looking at cones or flowers but a look at this website indicates that the round “things” are, in fact, fruit which are edible, in PNG anyway.


Ficus dammaropsis – the long white ‘spire’ is the flower, the round ‘cones’ fruit. Photo: Sandra Simpson

We pop back out on the main track (that we came uphill on) below the mosaic couple and having come through the vireya rhododendron area, admiring the manuka that are covered in flowers as we pass the Rotary Pool.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our walk, despite the on and off drizzle, and I’ve taken plenty of photos. And after all this exercise what could be better than afternoon tea? Actually, that shouldn’t be a question. There is nothing better than afternoon tea … ever (except perhaps morning tea). And there’s always a warm welcome at nearby Cafe Paradiso. Heck, they even know our names now!

Rose pruning advice

Keep it simple. That’s the wise advice on rose pruning from Laurie Jeyes who has been tackling the winter task for about 55 years.

“I was about 12 when I started taking care of roses,” he says. “We moved into a place with roses and somehow it was left up to me to look after them, but I’ve always had an interest in nature and horticulture.”

However, that interest didn’t lead into work until Laurie “eased” himself out of his telecommunications career and turned his rose-growing hobby into a small business producing blooms for the cut-flower trade in Auckland.


Laurie Jeyes. Photo: Sandra Simpson


A former member of the Auckland Rose Society, Laurie has been in the Western Bay for 25 years and is a past president of the Bay of Plenty Rose Society, as well as having organised the annual show for some 14 years.

There are a few simple safety rules to remember when pruning, he says:

  • Always wear a hat (to protect your scalp from thorns)
  • Wear gloves, preferably leather but at least with leather across the knuckles
  • A pair of glasses or safety goggles is also a good idea.

Cutting gear should include secateurs, mid-sized loppers (which can replace secateurs for much pruning) with a gear operation to help leverage, a fold-out pruning saw for small spaces and a stiff brush (not wire, which may cut into the bark and allow disease into the plant), something like a potato brush.

Make sure the cutting gear is both sharp and clean – cuts should not break the bark and if you’ve used your gear on diseased wood make sure it’s cleaned well before the next use.

Pruning should take place from about mid-July to the end of August to protect the new growth as far as possible. “When you prune you kick the new growth off and we can get stiff frosts in July and cold winds so if you’ve pruned before that you may find the new growth burns off.”


Wedding Day is a climber that covers itself in flowers. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Laurie recommends spraying the bottom half of rose bushes with a winter-strength solution of lime sulphur in May to deal to scale (the top half will be pruned off).

“It’s a bit smelly, but it’s very good as a disinfectant and dealing with over-wintering fungus. On pruning day you can use a winter spray oil to smother the last of the scale and about a fortnight later spray again with copper.”

He fertilises his roses three times a year – end of August, Christmas and mid-February – to keep them going during our long flowering period. “In colder climates they get more vibrant colours but a shorter flowering season. Here, our colours might be a bit less intense but we have flowers from the end of October to May.”

Bush/standard roses:

Step 1: Prune out dead wood, spindly branches, old wood and any criss-crossing branches in the centre of the plant. Generally shorten the growth and then look at the shape you want to achieve (usually a vase shape).

Step 2: Select the branches you’re going to keep and cut about 6mm above an outward-facing bud, sloping the cut back to just behind the bud. If you prune between buds the wood will die back to the bud, but may die back all along the branch. Laurie recommends cutting back about half to two-thirds of the bush size. Any large saw stubs may be covered with pruning paint, but take care to apply it only to the cut.

Step 3: Clean the crown (base) of the plant with the brush. As well as clearing away garden debris, the removal of flaky bark and exposing the crown to the weather may “wake” dormant buds which will develop into new framework branches.


Anna Leese rose. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Step 1: Carefully release all the ties, holding the branch with one hand while you release the tie with the other.

Step 2: Prune out dead and broken wood, branches growing in odd directions and any cane putting out thin branches (a thin branch will grow only a thinner branch).

Step 3: Prune all the laterals to the first or second bud from the main cane – each stub will produce two or three flowering stems.

Step 4: Tie the canes back into your desired shape.

Roses in pots:

Repot at a minimum every second year, but better done annually. Laurie recommends pruning both top growth and roots before replanting into new potting mix and slow-release rose fertiliser.

“Potted roses get a lot of very fine root growth and this interferes with the take-up of nutrients and water so it’s good to get rid of some of that.”

Flower Carpet roses:

Use hedge clippers to create desired size and shape.

Water shoots:

These are vigorous new growths that come away from the crown of the rose. They will form part of the plant’s framework but need protecting while in their fresh growth stage. “They are a bit like a ball and socket and will just pop out of the crown if they get moved round too much while they’re still soft,” Laurie says. “It’s wise to put a stake in next to one, especially during our spring winds, to stop it rocking about too much. It’s a shame to go round the garden and see all that gorgeous growth lying broken.”

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

Tuesday digest

Tony Foster, who produces a botany word of the day on his great blog of the same name, has collected the his definitions and photos together in a book for iPads, find the details here.

“This useful reference presents 1260 botanical terms, their derivation from Latin or Greek, a definition of the term and 550 illustrations to convey the meaning of the term. There is a full glossary of the terms as well as study cards.”

For those of us who still prefer holding a book in our hands, or indeed reading a book (not a screen) in bed Tony promises a “hard” version, probably by early next year.

His 2012 book, Plant Heritage New Zealand, is also available as an iPad book. Find more details here.

If you haven’t already looked at Tony’s blog, click on Botany Word of the Day on the right-hand menu.

Rachel Hunter helps save rare NZ plant from extinction … was the breathless headline in the NZ Herald recently. Here’s the story, which is quite interesting from a botanical point of view but differs from the printed version in at least one aspect. The paper said “imported plants” were responsible for the plant’s decline; the online version says “imported animals”. The photo in the paper was better too, our Rach holding a baby kiwi.

This is a January story from TV3 about using a “gun” to fire kakabeak seed into areas not accessible to browsing pests.

If you happen to be in Montreal between now and September 22 get along to the city’s botanic garden and see the International Mosiaculture Festival – “botanical artists” showing 50 works.

Mosaiculture, according to the website, is a refined horticultural art that involves creating and mounting living artworks made primarily from plants with colourful foliage (generally annuals, and occasionally perennials). The pieces draw on sculpture for structure and volume, on painting for their palette, and on horticulture for its plants in a living, constantly changing environment. Mosaiculture is different from topiary, which features mostly shrubs that are pruned to create shapes.

A walk in the park …

Yesterday was a low-cloud drizzly day around here but that didn’t stop us enjoying a walk round Te Puna Quarry Park. Great day for photos.


Raindrops pick out a cobweb strung between these bright aloe flowers. Photo: Sandra Simpson

We always walk the same way round – up the main track to the mosaic woman and her husband, turning left at the fork so we come to the cactus and succulent garden first. Lots of aloes out just now and even spotted some small flowers on a “hairy” cactus of the Oreocereus type, native to the high Andes. This website makes mention of the hair offering protection from strong UV rays, while others mention protection from another light and cold.


Oreocereus-type cactus. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Then it’s up through the bromeliad area heading towards the butterfly garden. The Vege Grower and the Teenager wondered what was wrong when I started shrieking “it’s a pineapple, it’s a pineapple”. Guess what? It was a pineapple!


A pineapple! Photo: Sandra Simpson

We’ve become fans of the Hairy Bikers who can be seen in the Best of British series on Thursdays on Choice TV (free to air). They recently talked about pineapples – which were  such a status symbol in 18th century England that they could be hired (at great expense) as a centrepiece for dinner parties. (Hairy Bikers, hairy cactus … is there a theme developing here?)

Pineapple plants are members of the bromeliad family and native to the tropical Americas. Years ago I saw a commercial plantation of Ananas comosus in Hawaii – so that’s what goes in the tins! – but only a few of the Ananas family have edible fruit, most are ornamental. This website shows how to grow a plant from the top of a fruit and here’s a link to the website of the Dole Plantation in Hawaii.

The Quarry Park has been renowned for its orchids since it first established. Over the past year or so though, those plantings have been somewhat diminished as pine trees have been removed, taking the orchids with them. However, the trees were competing for nutrients and water in the soil and their needles making conditions a bit too acidic for the orchids so although many plants have gone, growing conditions should now be better for the plants going in.


Raindrops on a Cymbidium orchid. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The first cymbidiums (the link is to a New Zealand website on cymbidium care) are out and there are also zygopetalums and slipper orchids (paphiodelium) in flower – all planted outside in a place that doesn’t have a lot of topsoil! The plants aren’t mollycoddled and they respond well. There will be more cymbidiums and the Australian dendrobiums to come too.

That’s less than halfway round so I might save the other photos I have for another instalment …

Conifer heaven

Conifer gardens were all the rage 40 years ago when Noeline and David Sampson decided to open a nursery on part of their dairy farm on the outskirts of New Plymouth.


Yew Silver Spire makes an attractive hedge. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Cedar Lodge, until recently run by their son Greg, is  the country’s only specialist conifer nursery.

“My parents started with a hobby collection,” Greg says, “but soon realised nurseries had only limited ranges. They saw [renowned Taranaki nursery] Duncan and Davies had conifers on their list so decided to open a nursery.

“What they didn’t know was that Duncan and Davies were getting out of conifers.”



Juniperus chinensis Expansa variegata is a low-growing conifer that can be used as a groundcover. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Since the heyday of conifer gardens in the 1970s, gardeners have turned their backs on mass plantings of members of one of the world’s largest family of trees.

“The popularity of conifers will never get back to those heights,” Greg says, “partly because there are so many other plant choices now. We try to promote conifers as good mix and mingle plants that will give year-round colour and texture.”

He says that for low-maintenance, easy-care plants it’s hard to go past conifers which, loosely speaking, are any tree that has a cone and so includes natives such as kauri, rimu and totara.


Conifers as far as the eye can see – the Cedar Lodge display garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Cedar Lodge features a large display garden, including everything from the dwarf Chamaecyparis obtusa Chileab, the tips of which turn red in winter, to the giant Taxodium distichum (swamp cypress) one of the few truly deciduous conifers. Many conifers are useful for shady sites, among them the creamy-coloured Chamaecyparis obtusa Mariesii and the blue Abies procera Glauca. The world’s biggest-selling conifer is Thuja occidentalis Smaragd, which forms a natural pyramid.

“If you want an Italian look, this is the one,” new co-owner and former nursery manager Pip McVicar says. “Italian cypress can get canker so Smaragd is a better option.”


Pinus strobus Orbita is not yet released to the market. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A new member of the family that has been introduced to the market by Cedar Lodge is Dacrydium cupressinum Charisma, a “yellow rimu” discovered by Taranaki plantsman and magnolia breeder Vance Hooper, while Pinus strobus Orbita, a dwarf  “mop-top” pine, will be on the market when the nursery has enough stock.

This article first appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission. It has been updated slightly. 

Our native plants: Wahlenbergia

Wahlenbergias go under the common name “native bluebell”, which threw me when I saw flowers in Tongariro National Park as they were white. It turns out that more often than not the flowers of Wahlenbergia albomarginata are white … so much for common names. (They’re also known as native bluebells in Australia, a country that has a different set of natives to New Zealand.)

The Wahlenbergias (named after a Swedish botanist) are our only native members of the campanula family.


Wahlenbergia albomarginata. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I have even been directed to some in flower under a washing line in Rotorua. The homeowner had a patch of gravel surrounding the upright of a Hill’s Hoist and these little plants were right at home there, flowering madly.


Also Wahlenbergia albomarginata, perhaps. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Wahlenbergia congesta is found on the West Coast of the South Island, W. matthewsii grows around Kaikoura, W. akaroa on Banks Peninsula and W. violacea on our offshore islands. I have read that there are 10 native species and they are all, apparently, good rockery plants, not difficult to grow and flower from November to February.

There are some great close-up photos of W. albomarginata on this website (scroll down).

Find a link to the New Zealand Alpine Garden Society here, the Scottish Rock Garden Club and the North American Rock Garden Society.

Bee happy

Honey bees have been kept in New Zealand for more than 150 years, and 2013 marks the centenary of the National Beekeepers’ Association of New Zealand so NZ Post has released a set of stamps to mark the occasion.


The set shows bees at work (collecting nectar, in the hive and making honey), a beekeeper and comb honey.

According to the information accompanying the stamps, New Zealand’s economy may be more dependent on pollination from the honey bee than any other nation on Earth. Roughly one-third of everything we eat is pollinated by bees, and many of our crops would not be viable without bee pollination.

Honey bees in New Zealand are under threat as a result of the parasitic varroa mite. This stamp issue aims to raise awareness of the role the honey bee plays in New Zealand. Read more about the individual stamp designs here.

Winter colour

Driving through Greerton the other day and my eye was caught by the colourful cherry trees along Chadwick Rd. Colourful in winter? I found a park, jumped out and took some photos …

The trees are covered in knitting and crochet (hope it is holding up after last night’s thunderstorms and rain) with the “yarn bombing” project designed to attract more people to the shopping centre.

A group of women have been stitching away since November and put their work on display at the beginning of this month – in the end about 30 knitters contributed to covers for 22 trees. Isn’t it gorgeous?