Judging by the number of bags of orchids being carried out from the Waikato Orchid Show on July 24, people have been missing their orchid shows! Here are a few photos from the event.
A column about cabbage trees by Bob Brockie in a recent Listener caught my eye. Although Cordyline australis trees were first planted on the “English Riviera” (the stretch of coastline known as Torbay and including Torquay, the birthplace of Agatha Christie) in Victorian times, Bob, who is an expert on diseases afflicting these trees, had a more recent story to relate.
During World War 1, many New Zealand troops wounded in France were repatriated to a hospital in Torquay, a small town on the south coast of England. To remind them of home, a row of our native cabbage trees/tī kōuka (Cordyline australis) was planted in the grounds of the hospital, and the tall trees are still there. The Brits took a liking to these trees, calling them ‘Torquay palms’ … They think our cabbage trees look exotic, tropical and glamorous …
In 1982, British graphic designer John Gorham (1937–2001) was commissioned to devise a poster for the English Riviera and came up with a look inspired by earlier travel posters (such as the one above), albeit simplified to a prominent silhouette of a Torbay palm against a blue sky that lightens towards the horizon, a horizontal strip of teal sea and another of golden sand. See it here. Cabbage trees, of course, aren’t part of the palm family, but no matter, they’re not part of the cabbage family either!
Torquay United Football Club’s shirts for 2020-22 feature “an eye-catching central stripe with a repeating palm tree pattern. Not just any palm tree, either – it’s the famously hardy Torquay Palm, known for its resilience and durability, characteristics that have served United’s players well since the club’s formation in 1899.” I have to say that from a distance it looks like a tyre track!
When a good size, often after growing a side branch, a cabbage tree will produce large sweet-smelling florescences, each head containing 6,000 to 10,000 small flowers. These flowers last for up to 6 weeks and, generally, there is a bumper crop every 3 to 5 years.
The largest known tree with a single trunk is growing at Pakawau, Golden Bay, in the South Island. It is estimated to be 400 or 500 years old, and stands 17m tall with a circumference of 9m at the base. The tallest example has been measured at 18m and stands in the grounds of Ashburn Clinic near Dunedin. Read more about that tree here.
The Chelsea Flower Show is the backdrop for new-release plants to be judged by the Royal Horticultural Society as ‘the best of the year’.
The 2022 winner from 20 shortlisted plants was the succulent x Semponium ‘Destiny’. An intergeneric hybrid, ‘Destiny’ is a cross between Aeonium and Sempervivum. Drought tolerant and proven hardier than Aeonium, it grows on a single stem sending out offsets over time. The deep-red leaves hold colour year-round with a chandelier-like flower of yellow flowers with a reddish centre. The RHS website says, “Ideal as a pot plant and loves full sun or part shade and shows no signs of summer dormancy”. The plant was bred by Daniel Michael and exhibited by his company Surreal Succulents, a Cornwall nursery. Read more about Daniel and his love of succulents.
Second place went to Armeria pseudarmeria ‘Dreamland’ (Dreameria Series), a re-flowering Armeria with salmon-pink, globe-shaped flowers. This plant, 20 years in the making, takes this genus “from a spring alpine into mainstream perennial border and patio plantings”, the judges said.
It flowers for 7 to 8 months and copes with drought, frost and wind. ‘Dreamland’ was bred by Plant Growers Australia and exhibited by Stonebarn Landscapes Ltd. The Dreameria Collection so far features five plants with some available in New Zealand.
Third was Salvia Pink Amistad, a plant selected in 2018 from seedlings bred the preceding year by Rolando Uria, the well-known salvia plantsman from Argentina. It flowers from late spring to autumn, with deep pink flowers growing to 1m tall on upright stems and thriving in sun and part shade. It is an easy plant to grow and is hardy to -5C.
The plant is a cousin of S. ‘Amistad’, one of the most popular salvia cultivars, which has sold more than 4 million plants (amistad means friendship in Spanish). It was exhibited at Chelsea by Middleton Nurseries.
Over the past 2 years many Kiwis had to rely on memory to enjoy Italy’s la dolce vita – but for Tauranga’s Gill Brodie, a visit to an Italian garden is never more than a few steps away.
Her garden, ‘Piccola Lante’, was inspired by a visit made to the famous Italian Renaissance garden ‘Villa Lante’ and has hardly changed a jot since it was created on a bare site in 2001.
Gill, a professional photographer, and husband Fraser, who has an engineering background, had two practice runs at getting the garden they wanted, she says, the previous one being 1.2ha of formal gardens. “The structure of this one was there, although we didn’t know it at the time.”
Fraser designed and created the hard landscaping, including a stepped rill that runs from a large two-tier trough on the house level down two levels and then internally recycles the water back up, and a tile-roof garden shed that incorporates stage set columns.
“We fought and argued our way through making the last two gardens,” Gill says, “but this time I gave him free rein. We went for a lot of structure, greenery and a few pots.” The site adjoins a reserve which gives it an expansive feel.
In 20 years changes have been few – a silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) replaced with a Gleditsia, Ficus repens removed from walls (“I’d never have it again”), small lilly-pilly hedges that developed curly leaf replaced with kumquats, creating a circular walk by adding steps from beside the gazebo up to the house level, and Gill’s trompe l’oeil photo on the gazebo wall changed from Assisi to Venice.
One major change is, however, almost invisible. Five years ago Gill replaced all the Buxus sempervirens hedging with Buxus microphylla var. japonica. “All the hedges had box blight so we replaced the lot with something more resistant,” she says. “The new box is a slightly brighter green but I don’t think anyone has noticed.”
The “nice, sharp edge” of ‘Piccola Lante’ means it doesn’t take much to have it looking top-notch, Gill says – trim the hedges and rake the gravel. She admits to having taken Fraser’s advice about enjoying the Gleditsia’s leaf fall in autumn and not going out twice a day with the rake.
Splashes of potted colour on the top terrace – red pelargoniums, lavender and annuals in blue, white and pink – are carefully curated and Gill loves her small, raised pond with its blue waterlilies. “Fraser thinks there might be a few too many pots. He doesn’t like it looking too busy.”
The middle terrace is mostly a Pinus pinea (pine-nut tree), trimmed about every 3 years for shape, and which delivered its first – and so far only – cone last year. Some of the olive trees planted on their land beyond the garden wall are non-fruiting but others gave up a good crop last year. “I like the idea of passersby being able to help themselves,” Gill says.
The bottom terrace has raised vege gardens on one side, a picking garden of roses, hydrangeas and perennials on the other and a grape-covered gazebo at one end. “I love roses and had 300 in my last garden. I started with only four here but have sneaked in a few more.” The latest is Crepuscule that will be trained over a house wall but Gill’s favourite, despite its lax growth, is Windsong for its colour.
And the trick to creating an authentic slice of Italy? “Remember that while the overall effect of a garden in Italy is magic, if you look closer there are mended pots and things are just how they are. That’s what we’re like here too. It’s not just to look at.” Molto buono!
The above article was first published in NZ Gardener and appears here with permission.
Gill’s love of photography was fostered by her father, Stan Roy, who informally catalogued life on navy ships, such as the Leander and Ajax, during World War 2. As a child in Warkworth, Gill “hung around” the darkroom of Tudor Collins, well-known for documenting kauri milling in New Zealand, after her Saturday morning ballet lessons.
Gill went on to become a dance teacher, but in 1997 decided to pursue her love of photography. Eventually, she and Fraser ran a home-based business printing billboards.
I’ve been going through some old issues of NZ Gardener before recycling them and found this hilarious – and at the same time sobering – letter from an Auckland reader in a 2002 issue.
My wife always wanted a pergola. I wanted it to be a surprise. I secretly gathered all the components, I pre-cut the uprights and fancy cross-beams. I arranged for a day off work and waited for her to leave for her working day.
My wife only works part-time and so I had only 3 hours to concrete in the posts, erect the rest of the structure and plant the clematis at the base. The activity that followed her departure can only be described as frenetic. Garden was cleared, holes were dug, cement was mixed, posts were embedded and everything was ensured to be perfectly square.
The disaster came about when I ran to the garage for the ready-cut cross-beams. I didn’t bother turning on the lights – I knew where the parts were and, gathering the rather heavy load, turned to walk from the garage.
What I had forgotten was a 2.5cm step in the middle of the floor.
I tripped, dropping the heavy load of wooden beams on to my foot. As I fell I reached out to grab hold of the nearest secure item. It was a handsaw. Yes, it was sharp. Yes, it did cut my hand. I was on my knees but jumped up clutching my hand and turned around thinking words I’m too polite to utter even when alone.
More misfortune awaited as I took a step forward not noticing the old television aerial I’d strung from the garage ceiling (just in case I’d need it one day)! It would have taken my eye out had it not been for my glasses. As it was, the aerial broke my glasses, put a rather deep gash into my cheek and gave me a nose bleed, but my eye was undamaged. I reeled back in pain and again tripped, this time over the wooden beams I’d dropped, and fell to the ground, hitting my head on the concrete floor.
How long I was unconscious I cannot tell. I was aware of the blood, though whether from my cheek, nose or hand, I do not know. It became obvious that I was not going to complete my project in the allotted time.
It was a day when only one thing went according to plan … my wife got a surprise when she returned home!! Oh, and the pergola is now complete and the clematis looks fantastic.
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In May this year the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) reported:
- Nearly 69,000 new claims for gardening injuries in 2021 at a cost of more than $79 million.
- That cost was the highest in 5 years, increasing by more than $25 million since 2017.
- The top five gardening injuries last year were soft tissue injuries, laceration/puncture wound/sting, foreign body in orifice/eye, fracture/dislocation, and burns.
- The top five parts of the body to be injured in the garden were back/spine, shoulder, finger/thumb, arm and neck/back of head. There were nearly 20,000 claims for back/spine injuries in the garden last year.
- In 2021, women were slightly more likely to hurt themselves in the garden than men, with 35,513 women (52 percent) suffering gardening injuries compared to 33,294 men (48 percent).
Take care out there!