Fluttering by

UK conservationist Steve Wheatley has landed at Te Puna Quarry Park to work with Katikati entomologist Peter Maddison and Tauranga butterfly expert Norm Twigge on an investigation of the rare native forest ringlet butterfly.

Norm Tiwgge (left) and Steve Wheatley enjoy a cuppa at Te Puna Quarry Park this morning. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust has brought out Steve, who works for the Butterfly Conservation Trust and is on a 3-month sabbatical, especially for the project. He will be based in the Tauranga area until Christmas, then moves on to Auckland and the South Island.

Norm has been recording forest ringlet sightings in the Mt Ruapehu area for 20 years and says there are six or seven areas nationwide where the butterfly is found but not a lot is known about breeding patterns or why Dodonidia helmsii is declining in numbers in lowland areas, so it’s hoped this project will fill in some of those gaps. According to the Nature Watch website, the butterfly has become “significantly rarer over the last 50 years”.

The park’s butterfly garden features in the December issue of NZ Gardener and includes interviews with the garden’s founder Mary Parkinson and, since he moved to Tauranga from Whakatane a year ago, her right-hand man Norm.

Tree of the moment: Melia azedarach

When we moved in to our home 26 years ago there was a Melia tree in the back corner but the poor old thing was past its use-by date so not too much later we had it removed. I’ve been enjoying getting to re-know it, in the gardens of others, in the past few weeks, my attention piqued by its spring flowering.


Photo: Sandra Simpson

Known as white cedar in Australia and Chinaberry in the US, Melia azedarach also has several other common names, including umbrella tree, bead tree, Indian lilac and Persian lilac. It is native to parts of Australia (and in other parts is considered a weed), as well as the Middle East, India, China and South East Asia. Drought tolerant, it reaches a height of 6-12m with a wide canopy.

The tree has fragrant flowers in spring, offers shade in summer and is deciduous in winter when the yellow berries (containing seeds) hang on the branches like so many small moons. The berries, I’ve read, are liked by our native word pigeon (kereru) – in this 2005 article, author Russell Fransham says he planted the trees specifically to attract those birds. The hard seeds, toxic when consumed in large amounts, were once commonly used to make rosaries.

A Melia tree covered in seeds in the Imperial Palace Garden, Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Melia azedarach is a member of the mahogany family although its timber isn’t considered particularly valuable.

Read more about the tree here.

Garden & Artfest: Day 4

There we are, all over for another 2 years! Director of this 10th biennial festival, John Beech, can heave a sigh of relief – apart from some strong winds today, the weather’s been pretty good. This was John’s last festival so I hope he’s being properly feted by his board of trustees for delivering 3 Garden and Artfests. Festivals aren’t the easiest thing to put on and one that’s at the vagaries of the weather (not to mention roadworks) is fraught with peril.

My thanks to all the gardeners who agreed to have hundreds of people tramp through their plots – I was impressed by how many were immaculate. Such effort and thoroughly appreciated.

There will always be niggles – the map is a perennial one and I heard grumbles again this time – but what could have been the biggest problem, the swampy ground at The Hub, just saw people accept it and get on. Sadly for Geoff Brunsden, his wildflowers were blooming at the original Hub site, a few blocks up the road, but he shrugged and grinned. Gardeners know the weather is a fickle companion.

After leaving The Hub this afternoon my final stop was at The Apron, a garden put into Baycourt’s lawn and commissioned by the festival from artist Richard Orjis. The programme blurb says: “… this project explores our everyday green spaces. It makes reference to our local landscape and the flora that resides on the boundary …”. I walked around it and through it but couldn’t quite grasp what was being presented. Could ‘flora on the boundary’ be a euphemism for ‘weeds’?

A view of The Apron garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Two ‘lawn’ circles have been cut, as well as a curving path between the flowering ‘beds’. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I only had time today for a country garden and a few city gardens before I was due back at The Hub to help out on a stand. Here are a few photos.

Not only was the front garden of this Brookfield home full of roses – every one was clearly named! Such a help. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ makes a bold statement. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I was so excited to be out early this morning that when I arrived at the first garden I leapt out of the car and set off round the extensive grounds, meeting the owner part-way. She looked me up and down and asked if I was there for the ramble. Horrors, I’d left my neck tag in the car! I must have passed muster because she accepted my apologies without query. Later, I heard her husband on the phone saying that yesterday they’d had 15-20 people trying it on (hadn’t bought a ticket)! I scuttled back to the car, put my tag on and stayed legal for the rest of the day.

Garden & Artfest: Day 3

A gallery of photos from today, in no particular order.

Leigh Nicholas is showing an exhibition of her stunning flower photos in her Papamoa garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Clare Trott has ‘boxed clever’ by using Japanese box for her hedging – no problems with blight, whereas her two English box balls need constant spraying. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The view across the harbour from Pete’s Retreat at Mataphi (No 52). The peacock isn’t real. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This surprisingly large and well tended suburban Te Puke garden was full of sophisticated detail, such as this deck dresser. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Liz Clark in her Ohauiti pottery studio. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Claudia Gorringe (Standards of Excellence) was in a Japanese-inspired, high in the Ohauiti hills, chatting to the owner (far right). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Thankfully, after a long trip into the Ohauiti hills, there was a another garden open right next door. The giant gerbera makes a nice focal point at the end of this rustic pergola. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Garden & Artfest: Day 2


River Cottage’s pop-up café. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Vege Grower held the calendar fort at The Hub today, allowing me to do a bit more roaming and, with an errand in Katikati, I decided to start at Garden 1, River Cottage. Wise choice, particularly as it was time for elevenses! What a welcoming sight on the front lawn and in the kitchen.


The sensational staff hard at work. Photo: Sandra Simpson

And the equally sensational strawberry sponge (with green tea). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Beautiful weather today and there seemed to be plenty of people taking advantage of it. Fingers crossed the weekend will be just as nice. Here are some photos from some of the other gardens I wandered around.

The cat may be called Bernie. Whatever, he’s very friendly and was enjoying the sun in the Italian-style garden at Earthforce (garden 5), occasionally drinking from the pool. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Even looking at a photo of a wasp makes my scalp crawl, but I couldn’t resist this colour combination. The bearded iris is Golden Panther and grows at the Amazing Iris Garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The southern view from a well-thought-out garden at Omokoroa Point. Photo: Sandra Simpson

And if that wasn’t enough, here’s the view to the east with Mauao showing above the horizon. The large ceramic jug in front is by potter Murray Garner who is showing in this garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Garden & Artfest: Day 1

Hard to think how to categorise the weather today – sometimes damp, occasionally sunny, a bit chilly, a little sun. Spring, in other words. I spent the morning at the festival’s Hub at The Lakes, helping out on the Tauranga Orchid Society stand and selling my calendars. One calendar went to a chap from Singapore who was delighted to learn that I’d taken all the photos myself – and promptly got me to autograph it!

The ground is very spongy and soggy at The Hub – a pair of ducks were busy dabbling across the central lawn and its ponds this morning – so festival director John Beech, Roger Allen from the bromeliad stand and a couple of other blokes laid some wood chips on weed matting to create a stable path in front of the marquees where the orchids and bromeliads are sited. And I can report that the ‘luxury’ Portaloos are indeed a cut above!

Zipped off around a few gardens this afternoon and am looking forward to a full day out tomorrow. (The Vege Grower will be at The Hub with my calendars, if you’re interested.)

My Mum, a rose bred by Bob Matthews of Wanganui, is in perfect bloom in the garden of Colleen Thwaites. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The enticing view from the driveway of a Plummer’s Point garden, which reveals itself to be full of flowers and colour against a background of established natives or the estuary. (Note the sky – it was just about to rain, again.) Photo: Sandra Simpson

Echoing detail between the land and the jetty. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Laburnum in flower at Alf Mundt’s garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A Japanese maple (left) provides a good colour foil to native horopito in Alf Mundt’s garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Pacific Rosebowl 2016

Just back from an afternoon in Hamilton, helping judge the Pacific Rosebowl entries in the Rogers Rose Garden, and then attending the afternoon tea and prizegiving – and would like to thank those I sat with for making feel so welcome.

Best Hybrid Tea: Sunline, bred by Rob Somerfield (Glenavon Roses, NZ). Sunline (1995-2009) was the world’s highest-earning racing mare of her time. She retired from racing in 2002 and was put down in 2009 after suffering a debilitating hoof disease. Some months later, Rob said, her owner phoned asking if it would be possible to have a rose named for the horse.

Sunline in Rogers Rose Garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Best climber: Indigo Knights, bred by Chris Warner (UK). Accepting the prize was Ben Pratt of Tasman Bay Roses, the New Zealand agent for Warner-bred plants. Tasman Bay Roses was started by Ben’s parents, Nigel and Judy, in 1966.

Most Fragrant: Double Fragrance, selected by Rob Somerfield (a climbing sport of Deep Secret).

And then came …

Best Floribunda, Children’s Choice, Best NZ-Raised Rose & NZ Rose of the Year: Christchurch Remembers, bred by Rob Somerfield.

Christchurch Remembers. The rose will be widely available next winter. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Rob wanted to name a rose for the city but didn’t want to do it too soon after the fatalities in the 2011 earthquake. He also sought – and was given – permission by Mayor Lianne Dalziel to name the rose, which won a Gold Star of the South Pacific at the National Trial Grounds in 2014, as a memorial to the 185 people who died in the February 22 quake.

The Grand Old Man of Roses, Sam McGredy, was in attendance, tootling about in a golf cart to view the blooms. Daughter Kathryn McGredy presented the Sam McGredy Award for the Best NZ-Raised Rose, while another daughter, Clodagh McGredy, presented the Pacific Rosebowl for the NZ Rose of the Year.

Kathryn McGredy presents Rob Somerfield with the Sam McGredy Award. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Rob Somerfield receives the Pacific Rosebowl trophy for NZ Rose of the Year from Clodagh McGredy. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Fantastica Botanica

For the month of November – and in conjunction with the Tauranga Garden and Artfest – Graham Crow is showing his Fantastica Botanica in the foyer of the city’s Trinity Wharf Hotel.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

Graham has revisited his hydrangea exhibition from the last Garden and Artfest and now presents his hand-cut and hand-coloured paper petals as a wall, plus three hydrangea domes in various shades. The petals are amazingly textured and the nuances of colour astounding.

Graham also has an exhibition of new works at Zeus Gallery until November 17 – Blue Shift.

A card arrived in the post yesterday from Leigh Nicholas, reminding me she’s part of the Art Trail for the Garden and Artfest and inviting me to drop in to her Papamoa exhibition. Will do!

Leigh is one half of Evergreen Landscapes but is now as much at home behind the camera as she is the design table. In capturing the beauty of our natural world with her camera she demonstrates a keen artistic eye and works in a very natural way. Recommended.

The Garden and Artfest runs from November 17-20.

Coming up roses … and irises!

Tauranga residents have been able to enjoy two flower shows this weekend – the BOP Rose Society show on Saturday, which this year has become a judged show again after about 10 years of display only, and the golden anniversary show of the BOP Iris Group, held today.

Rose Show

Champion of Champions was Solitaire, shown by Bev Turnwald, with the same bloom also named Champion Exhibition bloom. Bev also took out Champion Fully Open with another stem of Solitaire.

Champion of Champions and Champion Exhibition bloom was Solitaire, grown by Bev Turnwald. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Glowing Amber, grown by Marie Ryan, was Champion Mini Stem. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Best Wishes, shown by Marie Ryan, was Champion Small Stem. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The BOP Rose Society meets on the third Sunday of the month, 1.30pm, at various places (fewer meetings over winter). For more information email Fern.

Iris Show

Queen of the Show, Best Seedling & Champion Bearded Iris: Unnamed seedling (Christina Braybrook); Champion Beardless Iris: Arts Alive (Merv and Lynn Stockley); Best NZ-bred Iris: Jean Collins (Merv and Lynn Stockley); Best Gold Iris: Penny Lane (Cris Savage); Points Prize: Christina Braybrook.

Queen of the Show was this unnamed seedling grown by Christina Braybrook – the stem had 6 flowers on it. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Candy Cane Cutie shown by Cris Savage of Meadowland Irises in Matua (Tauranga). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Hampton Harmony, grown by Cris Savage. Photo: Sandra Simpson

An unnamed seedling grown by Christina Braybrook. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The BOP Iris Group meets on the last Sunday of the month, from 11am (includes a shared lunch) at a member’s home. For more information email Jim.

Tree of the moment: Australian frangipani

Kudos to the arborist in Tauranga who decided to plant Hymenosporum flavum in Grey Street. The trees are really coming into their own and look magnificent when in flower.

Australian frangipani trees in Grey St, Tauranga. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I’ve heard the glossy-leafed tree referred to as both NSW frangipani and Queensland frangipani, while in Australia they seem to refer to it only as “native frangipani” as it grows well in most parts of the country. Oddly, my two reference books (admittedly from book fairs) about Australian plants don’t mention it.

The trees grow fairly fast – depending on the climate from 10m to 25m at maturity – but don’t tend to be long-lived, although there is one in California that was planted in 1904 (see below). We removed one from the garden that was no more than 30 years old but showing signs of being at its end. The tree’s branches can be brittle in strong winds.

The Australian Native Plants website notes that the tree is closely related to Pittosporum and native to the coastal forests of eastern Australia from the Hunter River in New South Wales to Atherton in Queensland and extending to New Guinea. The tree naturally keeps to a tidy, if rough, pyramidal shape.

The flowers’ sweet perfume is particularly noticeable in the evening. Photo: Sandra Simpson

According to the San Marcos Growers website, the tree (with the common name sweetshade in the US) is believed to have been introduced to California in 1900 by renowned horticulturalist Dr Francesco Franceschi with many large specimens still in the Santa Barbara area, including what is listed as the largest specimen (planted in 1904) on the California Big Tree Registry. (If you like reading about ‘characters’ do click on the good doctor’s name.)

Hymenosporum flavum is included in the Tasmanian Fire Service’s list of low-flammability plants. Read more about Fire Retardant Garden Plants.

There is also a shrub form known as Gold Nugget, which grows to about a metre high and wide, and which responds well to pruning. However, this is the 2006 NZ Gardener magazine response to a question about why a Gold Nugget wasn’t flowering: “[It’s] … been a bit of a disappointment for some gardeners. Although it can grow well and form a lovely compact, bushy shrub, some individual plants just don’t seem to flower well. Sometimes one will flower every year while another plant in the same conditions won’t flower at all and there’s no obvious reason why.”

Hymenosporum flavum is no relation to the tropical frangipani, Plumeria.