Postcard from Feilding

Sometimes when you receive bad news, the only thing to do is hug each other and go out into the garden for a potter and a ponder. That’s what I did this morning on a gloriously sunny winter’s day. Get the thoughts in order. So I’m sending a postcard out into the world wishing all those facing difficult times ahead their fair share of moments of peace. Hard to know what to say to those who are left behind except that time does help, a bit.

Clematis Freckles – flowers and seed heads. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Earlier this month I found Clematis Freckles flowering on the block of public toilets in Manchester Square, Feilding. A winter-flowering vine, now there’s a grand thing. This story from the Guardian (UK) tells you a bit more about the plant. Here’s some New Zealand information about the plant, although I will note that the flowers in Feilding were much smaller and more bell shaped, sort of like hellebores.

Planting it on a brick wall in Feilding was a good idea as the vine will receive just that bit extra heat through the Manawatu winter.

Not the greatest shot, but the best I could do on a grey, breezy day. Photo: Sandra Simpson

By the way, it really is ‘Friendly Feilding’ and the Farmers’ Market in the square on a Friday is one of the best in the country.

Charges dropped

The Herald on Sunday today reports that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has withdrawn criminal charges against well-known kauri (Agathis australis) expert Graeme Platt. Read the story here. Good on Cherie Howie from the HoS for regularly following up this story, most other news outlets lost interest as the case wound on.

The MPI has been left with egg on its face after a dressing down by the judge in the latest Platt hearing. I understand that Clive and Nicki Higgie, owners of Paloma garden near Wanganui, have also had the charges against them dropped (here is a link to a story from the end of last year about the case against them). Suffering a dawn raid at the same time as Graeme Platt was Jack Hobbs, curator of Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens, but he wasn’t, in the end, charged.

Here is the original Herald on Sunday story from 2012, which gives an insight into the mix-up in tree names for a Pacific kauri – legally imported from Vanuatu – that seems to have triggered the whole MPI response.

Go here to read about the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (1996).

Garden art from the Junktion

John Hilhorst is always on the lookout for “interesting stuff” and has sheds full of odds and ends – fortunately wife Karen shares his passion for creative recycling.


The top two sections of the Great Balls of Wire artwork by Karen and John Hilhorst at Te Puna Quarry Park. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple are behind one of Te Puna Quarry Park’s newer sculptures, Great Balls of Wire, a set of three balls made from barbed wire and mounted on a central post.

“You can’t use barbed wire on boundary fences on public roads anymore,” John says, “so there has been some old stuff around. We’ve sourced some from Karen’s brother’s farm in Waikato but we’ve used it all. We advertised for more but didn’t have any replies.”

Karen made her first ball wearing shearing chaps and a leather glove to handle the wire. “But one hand had to be free to use the tool to join the pieces,” she says. “It was pretty hard on my skin.”

That ball sits in their Tidalwood garden south of Katikati, and it was this that John and Gay Ireland saw on a visit.

“We’ve known the Irelands for years – we bought their Mamaku dairy farm 25 years ago and have been friends ever since,” Karen says.

The Irelands commissioned a barbed wire sculpture for Te Puna Quarry Park, where they are both long-time volunteers. Karen refined her original design and John helped her make the three-tier Great Balls of Wire.

A walk round their garden reveals their quirky sense of humour – Faulty Towers is a collection of op shop pottery fixed to clay irrigation pipes, a set of stocks and a knight were made by John for a mediaeval-theme birthday party and the Orbitron is an old railway flour carrier converted into a children’s playhouse by John.


John and Karen Hilhorst in their kitchen garden, which is surrounded by John’s home-made palisade fence. Photo: Sandra Simpson

At Karen’s request he made a palisade-style fence around their potager, primarily to keep out pukeko and rabbits. A neighbour was so impressed she ordered one too, but about five times larger.

“ It was quite a job,” Karen says, “especially doing the points. There are four varying lengths and John fixes them in randomly.”


ome of Karen’s mosaic work on an upside-down terracotta pot. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Karen, who used to do mosaic work, goes to pottery classes and makes art from groups of recycled objects, such as candlesticks or colanders, while John is restoring an old truck (he’s made a sign from the deck – General Junktion) and sculpting a recycled block of Oamaru stone.

“We’re always looking for things that may be interesting one day,” he says.

“We bought home a trailer-load when they closed the museum at the Historic Village [in Tauranga] and when we go away anywhere we’re always on the lookout. One thing about this though, you’ve got to have a reasonable-size shed.”


A piece of recycled electrical equipment ties together the colours of Loropetalum China Pink, coloured flaxes and papyrus. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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

Rose-planting time

The annual New Zealand Rose Review had arrived in my mailbox, courtesy of Hayden Foulds at the NZ Rose Society, and the garden centres are stocking up on plants, although over the holiday weekend just gone I heard one staff member say “head office has dropped a sale on us and our roses haven’t come in yet” as she forlornly surveyed the few plants on offer.

Christchurch Remembers, bred by Rob Somerfield, on sale in 2016-17. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Rose Review is a great little publication that’s available to purchase ($8.50) from the Rose Society. It contains the winners of the Trial Ground Awards, the Pacific Rose Bowl Festival and the top 10 favourite roses as voted on by rose society members – but the real value for gardeners is in the rating of various freely available plants by rosarians around the country. My Mum, for example (a New Zealand-bred rose), is being grown by people in Kaitaia, Waikato, Manawatu, South Canterbury, Otago and Southland which covers a good many of the climate zones in New Zealand (it gets a pretty good review by everyone).

A vase of My Mum, a rose bred by Bob Matthews of Wanganui. Photo: Sandra Simpson

There’s also a summary of the roses that have been reported on for 5 years with, for example, Absolutely Fabulous (Julia Childs in the US) receiving 7.7 (very good) as a garden plant, 6.4 (average to good) as an exhibition flower, 7.8 (very good) for health and 5.1 (moderate) for fragrance. “Very healthy with brilliant repeat flowering and its only fault is that the blooms can fade.”

And finally, a short article on using roses in mixed garden plantings, including some lovely photos.

The top plants on the favourite rose lists, by the way, all retained their number one spots from last year Paddy Stephens (hybrid tea and health), Raspberry Ice (floribunda), Sally Holmes (modern shrub), Irresistible (miniature and patio), Dublin Bay (large-flowering climber), Dusky Dancer (small-flowering climber), Margaret Merrill (fragrant) and Jean Ducher (heritage).

I’ve listed the always-worthwhile rose pruning demonstration in Tauranga by Laurie Jeyes on the Events page (July 19), but there are demonstrations on all around the country over the next couple of months and the Rose Society has a list.

Picked up a copy of the Te Awamutu Courier of May 28 this week and read this letter to the editor: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Te Awamutu Rose Society has been wound up”. Goodness, that sounds … interesting. Te Awamutu likes to call itself ‘Rosetown’ and makes much of its public rose gardens so it seems sad that it can’t sustain a rose society (but that “circumstances beyond our control” makes it sound like there might be a bit more to it).