People flooded through the doors of this year’s Tauranga Orchid Show, a wonderful sight for the organisers who no doubt breathed a sigh of relief (I’m a society member but not an organiser, only one of the many volunteers who help out). Plant sales tables were stripped bare over the course of the two days, which means everyone is happy – purchasers and the out-of-town vendors, some of who had travelled from Whangarei and Auckland.
There was a happy buzz in the room, the sort that happens when old friends get together again after a while apart. Food 101 ran a great little cafe during the show and the Racecourse venue was great, as always. Visitors this year though turned left instead of right to find the show and the new room, which is shaped differently to the other, gave the display a fresh look.
There were several new trophies awarded this year and the club was delighted that Susan Enticott, daughter of the late Brian Enticott, a Life Member, was present to award the cup donated in Brian’s name.
Me? Well, I got a second place for my Dendrobium Berry x (Aussie Hero x Yondi) but that wasn’t the only warm moment. Turns out a remark I made about the colour of one of Leroy’s gorgeous plants being ‘cheerful’ at a previous show somewhere stuck with Lee Neale and that’s what she’s called the orchid. Talk about honoured!
Heather Elliott was working as a landscape designer in Matamata when she heard that a wholesale nursery on the outskirts of Tauranga she often bought plants from was up for sale.
“I used to plant so many liriopes in my designs that I thought I ought to grow them myself – so I bought the business.”
Ace Mondo was established at Pyes Pa in 2000 and specialises in mondo grasses and the perennial liriopes (muscari and spicata) that also feature attractive autumn flowers.
“Mondo is a great plant for low-maintenance gardens – no weeds will come through it once it’s established and most varieties look good all the time,” Heather says.
For something different in mondo, Heather recommends the “pom-pom” Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Kyoto’, which grows only 5cm high, or Ophiopogon intermedians ‘Alba Variegata’, which has almost white leaves when grown in sunor green with a white edge when grown in shade.
“Mondo has far more potential than people realise,” Heather says. “People tend to put it in containers but it will have a limited life in a pot.”
She also worries that the popular black mondo (Ophiopogon planiscapus Black Dragon) is rarely used in a way that shows it off. “Plant it under silver birches,” Heather suggests. “It looks magnificent against the white trunks, but do try and leave it alone once it’s in. It doesn’t like a lot of fussing.”
Liriope spicata ‘Franklin Mint’, also called ‘Green Carpet’, has more grass-like foliage than other liriopes with the bonus of lilac flowers in summer.
“Liriopes are a great plant to let naturalise on, say, banks or under trees and they can take drought too. People often mistake them for a bulb, but they’re rooting plants that are easy to increase by division.”
Heather has always worked in horticulture – her first job was picking apples in Nelson before heading off to study at Lincoln. Before buying Ace Mondo, she and her husband had a 40.5ha asparagus farm in Waikato.
“A change of pace was required,” she says. “We had a young family and 70 staff at the season’s peak. It was full-on.”
Evening will come, however determined the late afternoon, Limes and oaks in their last green flush, pearled in September mist. I have conjured a lily to light these hours, a token of thanks, Zones and auras of soft glare framing the brilliant globes. A promise made and kept for life – that was your gift – Because of which, here is a gift in return, glovewort to some, Each shining bonnet guarded by stern lance-like leaves. The country loaded its whole self into your slender hands, Hands that can rest, now, relieved of a century’s weight.
Evening has come. Rain on the black lochs and dark Munros. Lily of the Valley, a namesake almost, a favourite flower Interlaced with your famous bouquets, the restrained Zeal and forceful grace of its lanterns, each inflorescence A silent bell disguising a singular voice. A blurred new day Breaks uncrowned on remote peaks and public parks, and Everything turns on these luminous petals and deep roots, This lily that thrives between spire and tree, whose brightness Holds and glows beyond the life and border of its bloom.
– Simon Armitage, Poet laureate (UK) has written this poem to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Glovewort is an old name for lily of the valley.
There are, and will be, many stories to read and listen to as the 54 countries of the Commonwealth pay tribute to a much-loved long-serving monarch. Here, I thought we might take a look at just a few of the plants that have been named in her honour, a memorial garden if you like.
Not surprisingly, the most recent addition to the garden is a rose, ‘Elizabeth’, released earlier this year to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and showcased at the Chelsea Flower Show. The David Austin-bred rose is described as having a strong and sweet fragrance of Old Rose and lemon sherbet with apple-blossom pink petals, and was created especially to mark Queen’s Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne. “Exceptionally healthy and versatile of habit, she forms a shapely and commanding shrub.”
Released in 1954, the year after the 25-year-old’s coronation, ‘Queen Elizabeth‘ was bred by Dr Walter Lammerts in the United States. This one is a vivid pink floribunda, described as having long, upright stems and being “very much for the back of the border”. Steven Desmond, writing for Country Life this year, said, “Its perfectly formed flowers were visible from a long way off, not least because of its exceptional height. In summer, I could barely see over it. No less a judge than David Austin described it as ‘indestructible’.” Read the full article here. Among the many awards over the years for ‘Queen Elizabeth’ are the World’s Favourite Rose (1979) and the Award of Excellence for Best Established Rose (2015).
Desmond notes in his article that Clematis montana ‘Elizabeth’ appears to be the first plant named in the Queen’s honour after her coronation, developed by Jackman’s nursery of Woking in Surrey. It was awarded a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 1993. The very pale pink, vanilla-scented flowers have a pretty satin sheen, while the stamens have white filaments and pale yellow anthers. This plant particularly likes having its feet in the shade.
Jackman’s Nursery was a family business from 1810 to 1967, when it was sold. George Jackman, father and son with the same name, together began hybridising clematis in 1858. A garden centre is still in business, but the Jackman name was dropped in 1996.
Rhododendron ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ is a compact plant bearing masses of primrose yellow-greenish flowers. “As with all yellow rhododendrons, this plant does need good drainage (but not dry conditions!). It also needs some shelter.” The plant won an RHS Award of Garden Merit in 2013.
Dendrobium ‘Elizabeth’, with twisted Dresden-yellow petals and a uranium-green lip, was named in honour of the Queen when she visited Singapore in 1972, said Whang Lay Keng, curator at Singapore’s National Orchid Garden.
“Dendrobium Elizabeth is a majestic, robust and resilient plant,” she was quoted as saying. “It’s kind of like how Queen Elizabeth carried herself.” After Queen Elizabeth’s death, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens loaned a flowering plant of Dendrobium ‘Elizabeth’ to the British High Commissioner, to be displayed alongside pictures of the monarch in his residence.
The orchid Vanda ‘Platinum Jubilee’ was on show at Chelsea this year and was named by Dr Lawrence W. Zettler to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s milestone. The orchid was created by Robert Fuchs, president of the American Orchid Society and owner of R F Orchids of Florida (click on the link to see photos of the orchid).
“At the conclusion of the show, as we were taking down the display, several people asked if they could buy the orchid on the spot,” Dr Zettler said. “We told them ‘no’ because they were headed to the Queen herself. We then loaded the orchids into a taxi that waited outside the gate, and off it went.” Read an interview with Dr Zettler here.
Bulbs of Narcissus ‘Diamond Jubilee’, named to mark the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, were planted in a grassy area of Buckingham Palace garden in 2011. Given that she has also been the monarch of Wales and the daffodil is the national flower of that country, it should be no surprise that she has a beautiful diamond daffodil brooch. Read more here. It’s thought that in 2012 the Sultan of Oman may have gifted her a set of four brooches, one for each country in the United Kingdom, for her diamond jubilee.
The Regal Hebe range is apparently bred in Waikato, but so far I haven’t found out more than that. A new release is ‘Elizabeth’, which will grow into a small shrub with masses of pink flowers through summer. The plant is happy in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil and is frost hardy. Trimming spent flowers will help keep it compact. See a picture here.
With winter apparently ending on September 1 (try telling that to nature), I thought it might be instructive to consider how wet and cold we’ve really been, given that memory is a tricky thing. At times it’s seemed to be very wet indeed, but has it been all that bad? Well, yes. The information shown below comes from two parts of the North Island – Manawatu (rainfall) and Tauranga (temperature).
This graphic was prepared to demonstrate to a business that buys fresh produce why growers in New Zealand have been finding it so difficult this year so far, and this winter in particular. The rainfall pattern has been all over the place, only hitting the average in March and staying well above average almost all winter. Having 61 years of rainfall data collected on a farm near Sanson means there’s a well-established long-term average.
My own attempt at gathering temperature data isn’t quite so flash, but is included for what it’s worth. The information comes from a wireless digital maximum-minimum thermometer kept in an orchid shadehouse in central Tauranga. The shadehouse has a roof but is open at the sides. The day-to-day and night-to-night changes are interesting from a plant-grower’s point of view.
The table covers the period June 1-August 15 for each year (so misses the 2022 ‘atmospheric river’ from the tropics that arrived later in the week starting August 15).