National Rose Trial winners

By Hayden Foulds

The weekend was a good one for Palmerston North rose breeder John Ford, who scooped the main awards at the New Zealand Rose Society International Rose Trial Grounds in Palmerston North.

His rose ‘Bright Eyes’ won the Gold Star of the South Pacific for the highest score across the trial, the Silver Star of the City of Palmerston North for the highest score by a New Zealand amateur rose breeder, and the Nola Simpson Novelty Award.

Bright Eyes rose, bred by John Ford of Palmerston North. Photo: Hayden Foulds

Mr Ford, who is the chairman of the Trial Grounds Committee, was “blown away” with the success of the rose which has clusters of light mauve blooms with a dark pink ‘eye’ in the centre. Winning the Nola Simpson award was the icing on the cake – the late rose breeder was his aunt and encouraged Mr Ford’s interest in roses from an early age.

High Fashion rose, bred by Rob Somerfield of Tauranga. Photo: Hayden Foulds

Certificates of Merit were presented to Tauranga rose breeder Rob Somerfield of Glenavon Roses for the pink ‘Smart Choice’ and the pink/red ‘High Fashion’. Whanganui rose breeder Bob Matthews of Matthews Nurseries also received a Certificate of Merit for his yellow ‘Valerie Webster’ and collected awards for overseas breeders Colin Dickson of Northern Ireland with the light pink climber ‘Checkmate’ and Christian Bedard of the United States with the yellow ‘Sparkle & Shine’. 

‘Valerie Webster’ is already on the market in New Zealand while the other winners will be released in the year or two. 

Valerie Webster rose, bred by Bob Matthews of Whanganui. Photo: Hayden Foulds

The New Zealand Rose Society trials, now into their 50th year, test new varieties from New Zealand and international rose breeders and are judged over two years by a panel of 20 judges who assess freedom of flowering, health, plant quality, flower quality and fragrance.

At the end of each trial, those roses which have gained an average of 70% are recognised with awards reflecting the consistently high performance they have achieved during trial.

Unfortunately, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the trials was disrupted by Covid-19 and many events have been postponed to 2021, including the hosting of the National Rose Show and the publication of a book on the trials history.

However, the anniversary was marked at the weekend by the cutting of a 50th anniversary cake by Mr Ford and Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith.

Garden trails, Day 2

Hot out on the BOP Garden & Art Festival trails today so the cooling effect of water was much appreciated, including the free drinking water on offer at many gardens. Photos from the Plummer’s Point-Katikati area.

A pelican contemplates a dip at the swimming pool in Garden 25. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Ducklings were doing what they oughta in a pool at Garden 8, closely supervised by mum (dad was having a snooze in the shade). Photo: Sandra Simpson
Garden visitors were having fun playing with the self-activated seven dwarves water feature at Garden 13, a cool oasis of ponds and water sounds. Photo: Sandra Simpson

But what of the plants, I hear you say?

Garden 20 was a riot of colour thanks to its many roses. This one is Ziggy, hybridised by Bob Matthews of Whanganui and released in 2017.
Every garden features a health and safety alert sign, warning of steps, pools, bees, etc. This is a list of the hazards at Garden 14. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Davidson’s plum, an Australian native, flowers directly on its trunk. Also to be seen at Garden 14. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read an earlier post about Davidson’s plum here.

Burgeoning vege beds at Garden 2. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Another rose to finish – this one is Crimson Glory and may be seen, with its spectacular backdrop, at Garden 6. Crimson Glory was released to the market in 1946! Photo: Sandra Simpson

BOP Garden & Art Festival

After some heavy rain yesterday, the organisers must have been breathing a sigh of relief this morning when the day presented fine and clear – perfect weather for strolling round numerous gardens!

Here are some of today’s images from ‘over the garden fence’. Remember, you still have 3 days to get out and enjoy some of the Western Bay’s best – and most generous – gardeners. Ticket information here.

A framed view in Garden 75. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Spot the lizard! A clever use of succulents in the same garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson
A beautiful double clematis, name unknown, in garden 76. I’d recommend getting along to this one as it’s the last time it will be open. Photo: Sandra Simpson
The owner of Garden 54 likes the historic lighthouse at Akaroa so much this is the second model he’s made of it! It resides in a spot overlooking Tauranga Harbour. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Waiting patiently at the bottom of garden 51 is this stone frog and two large ponds. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Garden 52 offers a quarantine-free trip abroad – all the way to Tuscany and an Italian garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson
The flowers of Passiflora antioquiensis (red banana passionfruit) were attracting a lot of attention in garden 74. This climber is nowhere near as vigorous as the weedy banana passionfruit (Passiflora tripartita or P. mixta) but still has edible fruit. The foliage is also very different. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Art of the Outdoors specialises in scrap metal sculptures and this one is particularly apt for the Bloom in the Bay hub at Tauranga Racecourse. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Bay of Plenty Area of the Floral Art Society of NZ decided to celebrate its show at the Racecourse with a ‘fascinator’ theme for one section. First place was awarded to this hat by Francine Thomas. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Francine Thomas was also winner of the BOP Area Designer of the Year title for 2020 with this tall piece on the theme ‘The Voice of Nature’. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Tree of the moment: Fuchsia excorticata

So excited to find this New Zealand native tree in bloom last week beside a track at Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park, having previously only seen photos.

Kotukutuku is the largest species in the Fuchsia genus – size varies widely depending on growing conditions, anything from 4m to 12m-plus – and was identified for Western science in 1769 by the botanists accompanying Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. Its Maori name includes tukutuku, or ‘letting go’, which may refer to the tree’s peeling bark or its semi-deciduous habit, see more below.

Kotukutuku or tree fuchsia is the largest fuchsia in the world. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Tree fuchsia is found throughout New Zealand and in cooler and cold areas its leaves will turn yellow in autumn and fall. It also has a bright, orange-brown bark that peels off the trunk revealing green streaks underneath. This combination of leafless branches and trunk colour may lead you to believe you’re looking at a dead tree, especially when it’s surrounded by the verdant greenery of our native bush. Unfortunately, in areas where there isn’t predator control possums can quickly strip a tree bare of new shoots and leaves, thus killing it.

Flowers, which come straight off the trunk and branches, open greenish streaked with dark purple and, once pollinated, end up a deep red. They have distinct length variations of styles and filaments to ensure cross-pollination by honey-bees and nectar-eating birds, and have the most amazing blue pollen. In 1882 William Colenso recorded that young Maori liked to use the pollen “to adorn their faces”.

Flowers are followed by purple berries, known as konini by Maori, who collected and ate them and also used them for dye, and early settlers who used them for jam. The berries are also a good source of food for birds.

This American website says both fuchsia flowers and berries are edible (even our garden hybrids) and includes recipes for fuchsia jelly, fuchsia jam and fuchsia berry scones.

The flowers are also notable for their blue pollen, a trait they share with New Zealand’s creeping fuchisa, Fuchsia procumbens, the smallest fuchsia in the world. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The following comment is from Gardening with New Zealand Shrubs, Plants & Trees by Muriel Fisher, E Satchell and Janet Watkins (1988). The ‘I’ isn’t identified.

Throughout this book I have purposely omitted to record the value of the timber of the various trees referred to. However, the wood of the tree fuchsia is said to be very durable but, because of its gnarled trunk, it has been passed by. What a tragedy more of our trees do not have gnarled trunks!

The wood is extremely difficult to burn.

Gardens of remembrance

By Sandra Simpson

By the time the battlefields of Belgium fell silent in 1918 the landscapes were unrecognisable. Instead of wheat and potatoes, the land offered up a crop of bodies – in the Ypres area alone nearly 200,000 from all over the Commonwealth.

Today, Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemeteries on the old Western Front are peaceful spots where the row on row of uniform headstones are softened by colourful garden plantings.

In 1918 the Commission’s founder, Sir Fabian Ware, brought together three eminent architects – Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Reginald Blomfield – to plan the cemeteries and memorials.

Although renowned English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll was never formally employed, she worked with Sir Edwin. Her border plan is still used wherever climate allows – 15-25cm mowing strip (to protect the headstones), borders 45-60cm wide containing the headstone and: Roses planted every two to four headstones (one variety per border); a front plant for interest; dot plants between roses and headstones; a low plant in front of each headstone (preventing soil splash but not obscuring the inscription); and bulbs planted either side of rose bushes to give early interest.

Remembrance roses at Bedford House Cemetery, near Ypres in Belgium. Photo: CWGC

Because of the number of blooms they produce, only floribunda roses are used and gardeners deadhead throughout summer to encourage repeat flowering. After a disastrous outbreak of a highly contagious rose-killing bacteria in Europe, the CWGC changed all its varieties in 2012 and now uses those of compact size, health and vigour, with Remembrance, a red rose named for the Commission by Harkness Roses, the most widely planted. White roses are not used because they don’t stand out against the headstones.

“It’s about not being confronted by a sea of headstones,” Peter Francis, the Commission’s media officer, says of the gardens. “But there was no template for anything like this. Every detail we take for granted had to be worked out.

“Because the architects couldn’t agree, Sir Frederic Kenyon of the British Museum was brought in. He wrote ‘War Graves. How The Cemeteries Abroad Will Be Designed’ in 1918 and that pamphlet is still our guiding light.

“He had a vision of a dignified place for the dead – and the living – with horticulture to soften the masonry. There are deliberately no paved paths as the overall effect should be of a garden, the sort that the people buried there might recognise from home. ‘Nothing gloomy’ were Sir Frederic’s words.”

Lijssenthoek Cemetery, near Ypres. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Sir Fabian also enlisted Sir Arthur Hill, assistant director at Kew Gardens, who in March 1916 headed to the Somme in northern France on the first of several trips to survey local flora and advise the Commission on endemic plants.

“Sir Arthur believed that using local flora was key,” Peter says. “Field poppies, cornflowers, camomile – the locals planting the first cemeteries in western Europe could use what was available to them, saving money and knowing the plants wouldn’t fail.”

Sometimes plant choices subtly reflect a cemetery’s burials – plants from Nepal in Gurkha cemeteries or maples to commemorate Canadians. The Ramparts cemetery in central Ypres, the resting place of several members of the Maori Battalion killed in 1917, includes New Zealand flax.

“It’s an extra endeavour that people don’t always notice but we like doing,” Peter says. “Our gardens must help create a place conducive to remembrance – plus offer colour, texture, height variety and succession flowering, which can get challenging outside western Europe.”

Late afternoon sun catches the seed heads of an ornamental grass in El Alamein Cemetery. Photo: CWGC

The desert cemeteries of El Alamein (Egypt) and Tobruk (Libya), for instance, don’t have lawns and use drought-tolerant plants, such as Agaves, succulents and bougainvillaea.

The rocky Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey experiences snow in winter and temperatures exceeding 40°C in summer. The terrain means graves are marked by ‘pedestal’ headstones set close to the ground, surrounded by lower-growing border plants.

“There is lawn in the Gallipoli cemetery,” Peter says, “but we don’t irrigate because water is such a scarce resource. So the lawn browns off as part of the natural cycle and re-greens when the rain arrives.

“Of our significant plants, the Lone Pine at Gallipoli is probably the most important. Unfortunately, it was damaged by fire 20 years ago and it’s taken a huge amount of work to sustain it.”

Precision mowing with specialist equipment at a cemetery in France. Photo: CWGC

The Commission is in a unique position to chart climate change with regular reports flowing in from gardeners on six continents. “In the Far East, for example, they’re saying the wet season isn’t as long and when it does rain it all comes all in one go, which has a devastating effect on plantings,” Peter says.

“The 2018 northern summer was the driest on record in what had been the Western Front [Luxembourg, Belgium, France] and we lost one in three border plants – and when you measure your borders in kilometres that’s a significant loss.”

Since World War 1 centenary events began in 2014, all the western Europe cemeteries have seen record numbers of visitors – 350,000 people a year at Tyne Cot alone. “A couple of million pairs of feet creating wear and tear is a nice problem to have,” Peter says. “A pristine cemetery with no visitors is not what we want.”

The Commission finished its final World War 1 memorial in 1938 … “and then we had to start all over again”.    

Visitors at Kanchanaburi Cemetery in Thailand, the main prisoner-of-war cemetery for victims of the infamous Burma Railway. Photo: CWGC

The Commission:

  • Has a £65 million ($122.5 million) annual budget to care for 1.7 million graves of Commonwealth war dead from World Wars 1 and 2 – 23,000 cemeteries and memorials in more than 150 countries.
  • Is one of the largest and most varied horticultural organisations in the world, employing 850 gardeners, including arborists, who care for more than 700ha.
  • Has its biggest cemetery by area in Egypt (El Alamein) and by burial in Belgium (12,000 at Tyne Cot). The smallest is on Oracoke Island off the North Carolina coast in the US (4 burials).
  • Works with equipment manufacturers to improve tasks such as mowing, edging, composting, tree and hedge-trimming, and irrigation.
  • Uses as little herbicide and pesticide as possible and hopes to eliminate green waste.
  • Is undertaking one of its biggest reconstruction projects (headstones and gardens) at 13 sites in Iraq. In 2019 a CWGC staffer visited southern Iraq, the first time in 12 years it had been safe enough to do so.

This article was first published in NZ Gardener and appears here with permission.       

November, a month of gardens!

There are so many garden events in November, it always makes my head spin! And this year seems doubly so for not only are we emerging into a bountiful spring, we’re also re-awakening (fingers crossed and touch wood) from our lockdown anxieties.

Bay of Plenty-Waikato events this month (find further details on the Events page) include:

Nov 6: Morrinsville Rose Show, 11.30am-3.30pm. Matamata Rose Show, noon-5.30pm.

Bromeliads of all shapes, sizes and colours will be on display and for sale in Tauranga on November 7. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Nov 7: Bromeliad Display & Sales Day, 8am-noon, Tauranga. Tauranga Rose Show, from 11am. Crop Swap, 10am, Katikati. Garden Open Day, 9am-5pm, Athenree (near Katikati). The Full Monty vege gardening workshop, 9.30am-3pm, Karangahake Gorge.

Nov 7-8: Bonsai Convention & Show, Tauranga Racecourse.

Nov 8: Plant Mini Market, 10am-2pm, Te Puna Quarry Park, off SH2 near Tauranga. includes Devonshire teas. Rose Garden Sunday, 10am-4pm, Te Awamutu. Tea, raffles and cut roses for sale. Vote on the best roses in the Gardens.

Nov 14: Edible Weeds & Green Smoothie Workshop, 10am-2pm, Tauranga. Amore Roses Open Day, 10am-4pm, near Hamilton. Garden Design, 9am-3pm for 2 weeks, Fraser High School, Hamilton.

Nov 14-15: Waihi Garden Ramble

Nov 16-20: Intensive Market Gardening, Pakaraka Farm (near Thames).

Nov 18: Grow On Seedlings Club for Kids, 3-4pm, Katikati.

One of the country gardens featured in the 2018 Garden and Art Festival. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Nov: 19-22 BOP Garden and Art Festival, based in and around Tauranga.

Nov 20: Buggin’ Around with Ruud, 2.45pm, Katikati. Explore two food gardens with Ruud Kleinpaste. How to Murder Your Vegetables More Slowly with Ruud Kleinpaste, 6-7pm, Katikati, free.

Nov 20-22: Pacific Rosebowl Festival, Hamilton Gardens, including on Nov 21-22 Waikato Rose Show.

Nov 24: Te Puna Quarry Park AGM, 1pm, in the Gallery at the park (off SH2 north of Tauranga). Guest speaker David Brown.

Nov 26: Waikato Horticultural Society: Lavender, 7.30pm, Hamilton Gardens Gate 2.

Auckland’s Lee Neale of Leroy Orchids will have her fabulous plants for sale at the Orchid Market in Tauranga on November 28. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Nov 28: Tauranga Orchid Market, 9am-3pm, Wesley Church Hall, 13th Ave.

Nov 28-29: Tauranga Fuchsia Exhibition, noon-3pm (Sat) and 8.30am-1pm (Sun), Arts & Crafts Centre, Elizabeth St West.

Nov 29: Ferment, Preserve, Pickle Workshop, Pakaraka Permaculture (near Thames).