Plant Stories: Singapore Botanic Gardens

Apart from curiosity about the gardens themselves and the opportunity to see the National Orchid Garden, I had a more personal reason to make sure Singapore Botanic Gardens were at the top of my list for my first visit to the city-state last year.

Many years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a Tauranga resident named John Ewart, a former member of staff at the garden before and after its most tumultuous years. John generously shared his story with me, so being able to visit the Gardens in person felt like completing that circle.

John left New Zealand in 1934, aged 25, bound for Kew Gardens where he furthered his training in horticulture. In 1937 he was posted with the Colonial Agricultural Service to Singapore as assistant curator of the Botanic Gardens, a year later spending 12 months working at the Straits Settlement Botanic Gardens in Penang (Malaysia), before returning to Singapore.

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Singapore Botanic Gardens’ rotunda. Photo: Sandra Simpson

With war on the horizon many senior staff were assigned to other duties and demonstration plots of vegetables were started in the Gardens to encourage food production among the public.

Fortunately, John was on leave in New Zealand in 1942 when Singapore fell to the invading Japanese. He was posted to Ghana with the task of increasing cocoa production but 2 years later joined the British Army and served in India before returning to Malaya.

The Gardens had been pitted with shell craters and trenches during the fall of Singapore but fighting had spared the priceless Herbarium. Despite the terrible conditions during  the Japanese occupation, the invading force did however, look after the Gardens, mostly thanks to the quick-thinking Professor Hidezo Tanakadate of Tohoku University, a vulcanologist, who immediately assumed control of the Gardens and evicted the military. Prof. Tanakadate, one of whose fellow officers was related to the Emperor, retained the British directors to administer and assist in repairs. Other staff members were not as fortunate, sent to work on the Siam-Burma Railway, where many lost their lives.

After nearly a month’s reparation work on houses and grounds, “the Gardens regained its calm centre of research activity”.

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A joey palm (Johannesteijsmannia altifrons) at a Garden entry. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Botany professor Kwan Koriba, from the Imperial University of Kyoto, took over as director in December 1942, immersing himself in research on the growth habits of selected Malayan trees and producing a scientific paper on the topic. Eric Holttum and EJH Corner, previously in charge of the Gardens and who remained at liberty throughout the war, also devoted their time to research.

Mr Corner had chosen to stay in Singapore (although his wife and son had escaped) seeing it as his duty to protect the Gardens’ scientific collections. Just five days after the fall of Singapore, he was appointed secretary and interpreter to Prof Tanakadate. Read more about this period of Mr Corner’s life here (he has sometimes been accused of collaboration).

During the war a set of brick steps, still in use today, were built down to the Plant House  using bricks made and installed by Australian prisoners of war. In August 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the war’s end, a group of veteran PoWs from Australia visited the Gardens to see the steps they’d built.

After demob, John Ewart was one of the first to return to Singapore Botanic Gardens and was in charge of the gardens until the director, Mr Henderson, returned in 1946. John then assumed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the gardens. In 1946 he was also appointed Agricultural Officer for Singapore (increasing crop production to feed the colony) and carried out those duties alongside his work at the gardens. Under moves to nationalisation he was compulsorily retired in 1957.

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Part of the Ginger Garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

While in Singapore John bred an orchid, naming it for his son – Aranda Peter Ewart (registered by the Gardens in 1951) – and apparently there were also two more, also named for his children, Gillian and Andrew. John returned to Singapore in 1986 for the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Gardening Society.

When he and his wife Mary and their family came to Tauranga, John grew carnations for the cut flower market for a time, as well as avocados. He was also a well-respected member of the International Dendrology Society. John died in Tauranga in 2001.

Read the full history of Singapore Botanic Gardens, from 1822 to the present day. The Gardens became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.

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Our native plants: Celery pine

The celery pine (Phyllocladus) is a member of a small genus of conifers that, although they appear to have leaves, don’t! Three celery pines are native to New Zealand and one each to Tasmania (Australia) and Malesia. What appear to be leaves are short, flattened twigs called phylloclades and give the trees their common name as they’re thought to resemble celery leaves. The phylloclades do, however, function as leaves and carry out photosynthesis.

The trees don’t flower but have pollen cones that produce seed. The seeds are consumed by birds which in passing dab on a piece of fertiliser and spread.

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Celery pine ‘foliage’. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The three types found in New Zealand are Phyllocladus trichomanoides (tānekaha), Phyllocladus toatoa (toatoa) and Phyllocladus alpinus (mountain celery pine, mountain toatoa).

Tānekaha (strong man), which can reach 20m, appears early in the growth of a forest and regenerates well in the shelter of mānuka and kānuka. Its white timber is the strongest and most flexible of the New Zealand conifers. Māori used it for canoes and houses, and for koikoi (double-pointed spears). They also produced a red dye from its bark, which contains 20-25 percent tannin. Early settlers used the timber for marine piles, bridges, railway sleepers, and props in the coal and gold mines.

The Meaning of Trees entry for celery pine includes this nugget: Unsurprisingly, tānekaha trees were highly valued, particular in areas were they were scarce. In Ruatuhuna, the few large specimens of celery pine were so highly prized that they had their own names, and only those with direct ancestry to the area were allowed to take bark from them.

Toatoa grows up to 15m, with distinctly whorled branches – trees that grow in the open are conical in shape. It regenerates freely in cut-over or damaged forests, and can live for 500 years.

Mountain toatoa ranges in size from a small shrub in alpine scrub, where it is most common, to a tree of up to 9m in upland forest.

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Photo: Sandra Simpson

They are considered to be Gondwana plants with fossil pollen and the look of the trees indicating they were present when Zealandia separated from Australia.

Elie-Abel Carrière (1818-96), a French botanist, described a live plant in cultivation in the 1850s at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, most likely the Tasmanian species. At the time Carrière was a leading authority on conifers.

Bucket list: Butchart Gardens

World-renowned Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island in Canada draw almost a million visitors each year, testament to the creative couple that transformed a limestone quarry and cement works – and the ongoing care from subsequent generations of the same family.

The million or so bedding annuals make this garden something of a rarity – an old-fashioned display garden. Packed with colour and immaculately kept, Butchart Gardens is a crowd-pleaser at any time of year – thousands of bulbs in spring, flowers galore in summer (including roses), maples in autumn and heathers and snowdrops in winter.

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The Sunken Garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Attracted by rich limestone deposits, Robert and Jennie Butchart opened a quarry and cement works on Vancouver Island, off Canada’s west coast, in 1904 before building a home on the site two years later and beginning a Japanese garden. The property is 12 miles from Victoria, the island’s main city.

Robert was born in Canada, though his parents were Scottish migrants. He married Jennie Kennedy, who had been planning to study art in Europe, in New York state in 1884. She was an adventurous young woman who enjoyed ballooning and flying and later became a qualified chemist, working for her husband’s business.

As the limestone was exhausted, Jennie saw the potential for a sunken garden – in 1909 there was a 1.4ha hole left the bottom of which Jennie, with the help of quarry staff, clothed with tonnes of topsoil.

Between 1906 and 1929, the Butcharts created a Japanese Garden on the seaside (so visitors arriving by boat at the cove would have a pleasant walk to the house), an Italian Garden on their former tennis court and a beautiful Rose Garden. Robert collected ornamental birds from all over the world, keeping ducks in the Star Pond, peacocks on the front lawn and with elaborate birdhouses throughout the gardens.

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The Rose Garden includes a beautiful ‘tunnel’ walk. Photo: Sandra Simpson

It’s said that by 1915 Jennie had 18,000 visitors annually to Benvenuto (‘welcome’ in Italian), although refused to charge admission. She also served all her visitors – invited or not – tea, until the sheer number of people arriving made it impossible! On occasion, Jennie served the tea herself, sometimes not being recognised, and on one occasion received a tip from a visitor.

In 1930, in appreciation of her generosity, she was named Victoria’s best citizen.

The area’s Mediterranean-type climate made gardening a pleasure for Jennie, who continued to develop the grounds until the couple gifted the 22ha property to their grandson, Ian Ross, in 1939 for his 21st birthday. Ian spent the war years in the Royal Canadian Navy and by 1945 realised Benvenuto needed urgent attention.

He decided to turn the garden into a self-sustaining tourist attraction and for more than 50 years was involved with every aspect, including planting annuals, initiating outdoor symphony concerts, and devising a billboard campaign that attracted tourists from as far south as California.

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Jennie Butchart’s private garden isn’t open to the public. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Since Ian’s death in 1997 the property has been under the stewardship of firstly his son, Christopher (who produced elaborate summer fireworks shows from 1977 until his death in 2000), and now his daughter, Robin-Lee Clarke, with some 70 staff working at the property.

Butchart Gardens is regularly named one of the best gardens in the world and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on its centenary in 2004.

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Flowers everywhere. Photo: Sandra Simpson

In a 2011 interview, Rick Los, the gardens’ horticultural director, said:

“When people come here I want them to be overwhelmed by the beauty of what is possible in a garden. As soon as you turn on to our property, we want your first impression to be that the garden is clean and spotless and meticulous with lots of colour.

“If people go away happy and inspired, then I feel we have done a good job. But my first goal is to get them to say ‘Wow!’ We want them to have a wonderful experience from start to finish.”

All borders are planted at least twice during the year, some five times. A faded or decaying flower is not allowed to linger on a plant. Read more here, including his defence of the extensive use of “municipal” bedding plants.

Warming winter spices

Once upon a time one of the most valuable objects in a western European household would be the spice box – and these powders and dried pieces of plant imported from tropical lands were used not only to flavour food but also to treat illness.

Today, the cuisines of Asia are considered to use the widest variety of spices with the food of India coming instantly to mind when one thinks of “spicy” food.

“A lot of people think all curries are very hot dishes,” says Anu Bhardwaj, owner of the Spice Trader store in Katikati. “But not all Indian food is hot and spicy and if you make it at home you can decide how much flavouring you want to add.”

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Clockwise from top left, green cardamom (seed pods), cinnamon quills (bark), whole dried chillies, star anise (used in Chinese food, a dried fruit), turmeric (powdered rhizome) and cloves (dried flower buds). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Anus has taught a community class about curries and spices and contributed to a 2016 Harvest exhibition at the Western Bay Museum in Katikati.

“Spices all have health-giving properties too,” she says. “For instance, turmeric, which is one of the main spices used in Indian food, has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory actions, very good in winter.

“Soak a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a glass of water and drink the water to help control blood sugar, while black chickpeas are full of iron and good if you’re a vegetarian.”

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Anu Bhardwaj. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Anu, who has lived in Katikati for 16 years and hails from northern India, recommends making garam masala (curry powder) rather than buying one. “Dry roast the spices – which can include mace, black cardamom, green cardamom, black pepper and cloves – on the stove top, let it cool and blend it all together. Dry roasting the spices gives them quite a different flavour to the powdered spices you buy.”

The other main ingredients of any curry are onion, garlic and fresh ginger.

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Illustration of Ferula asafoetida from ‘Köhler’s Medicinal Plants’, published in Germany in 1887. Image: Wikimedia

Browsing the shelves of her store is an education in itself – tamarind paste, jaggery (unrefined sugar), chickpea flour, black nigella seeds, black rock salt and asafoetida, which is the dried latex of Ferula root, a member of the celery family.

“Indians use asafoetida a lot but it is becoming better known in the West,” Anu says. “It’s a good flavour substitute for anyone who can’t digest garlic or onions.”

Potty about bulbs

From football-size to those as small as grains of sand, bulb enthusiast Bill Dijk loves them all.

“I call myself a bulbophile,” he laughs. “It’s an addiction and it started with a friend who gave me half-a-dozen daffodil bulbs on condition I entered the flowers in a show. I won a prize and was hooked – and the next year he gave me more.

“It developed to the point where I started to look for something else and got interested in bulbs from South Africa, partly because they suit my local climate.”

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Bill Dijk with a tray of Oxalis massoniana, a bulb native to South Africa. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Bill and wife Willie, both Dutch by birth, moved to the outskirts of Tauranga from the South Island 44 years ago with a plan to start a kiwifruit orchard. Instead, and after working 5 years for someone else, Bill set up Daffodil Acres – about 4 acres growing some 300 to 400 daffodil varieties – that eventually morphed into a mail-order business for rare and unusual bulbs.

Now retired, Bill is enjoying growing simply for pleasure and is indulging his interest in breeding, particularly tall bearded iris and miniature daffodils.

“I started my love of bulbs with daffodils and when you start with daffodils you suffer from yellow fever for the rest of your life,” he says.

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Grown by Bill Dijk, from left, ‘Tweeny’, Narcissus calcicola, ‘Lively Lady’, ‘Little Flik’ (from his own breeding porgramme) and ‘Segovia’. Photo: Bill Dijk

Among his breeding successes are Wilma (named for Willie),  Little Emma and Little Becky (named for granddaughters), Daffy Duck and Dainty Monique.

“The idea is to breed something better than the parents – better form, better colour, a good cut flower,” Bill says. “It’s an exciting hobby because you’re hoping it will be something people will like.”

He’s spent 10 years on a scented, miniature green daffodil and reckons it might need only one more cross with Narcissus viridiflorus, a green species bulb, to have the flower he wants. He’s had a flowering with the scent and size he wants, but only touches of green and wants to make the green stronger.

Bill has noticed that miniature daffodils are especially popular with women, while men prefer big-flowered daffs. “Perhaps men think that because the miniatures are dainty they’re difficult to grow, but they can grow anywhere and are particularly suited to rock gardens and pot culture.”

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Native to South Africa, Massonia pustulata is summer dormant. Photo: Bill Dijk

His extensive collection includes everything from the giant Brunsvigia josephinae (candelabra lily) to, well, several types of Oxalis.

“Collectors love Oxalis but no one else wants to hear about them,” says Bill, a member of the Pacific Bulb Society. “They flower prolifically for months on end, come in every colour, are easy to grow, and the majority aren’t rambling or weedy. I always advise people to put them in a pot and then you won’t lose track of them – and you’ll probably feel better about having them contained.

“Oxalis really would be one of my top recommendations when it comes to bulbs.”

Bill, who “dabbles” in clivia, has become keen on Lachenalias, especially those with interesting foliage – the raised spots of L. pustulata or the types with spotted leaves. He’s trying to add purple spotting to the leaves of L. viridiflora, which blooms with turquoise-coloured flowers in early winter.

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Lachenalia viridiflora or the turquoise hyacinth. Photo: Sandra Simpson

“I’m getting too old to start things from seed – I’m 82 this year. I want to see things flower this year or next.

“But 3 years ago I imported a few seeds of the blue hippeastrum [Worsleya procera], I couldn’t resist. I may have to wait another 2 or 3 years for a flower so I hope to be around to see it.”

* * *

Bill’s Top Bulb Tips:

  • Check how deep the bulbs should be planted – most common spring-flowering bulbs go in about 2.5 times their length, while many South Africa-origin bulbs like their shoulders above ground. However, Bill believes it’s not necessary to be 100% accurate as “nature will correct”.
  • Choose a sunny, well-drained, open situation. If you’re likely to forget where the bulbs are, mark the site, draw a plan, or use bulb baskets.
  • Before planting, dig the ground over and incorporate compost.
  • Never cut off yellowing foliage – it’s feeding next year’s flower. Plant annuals or other, later-flowering bulbs to hide die back.
  • Bulbs in pots are easier to keep track of and, once they’re finished flowering can be moved to hide dying foliage.
  • To keep bulbs flowering well, divide the clump every 3 or 4 years, and keep the site weeded.
  • If you can afford to, repot bulbs every year to keep up flower production. Ensure there is slow-release fertiliser in the new mix, which should be free draining.
  • Bill makes his own planting mix with pumice, compost and sand as the three main ingredients, plus a slow-release fertiliser.

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

Plant stories: Goodale Moir

William Whitmore Goodale Moir (pronounced Moyer) was born in 1896 in Papaikou on the big island, Hawaii, the son of Scottish migrants. As well as being a long-time sugar industry agronomist with Amfax, Mr Moir, was also a noted orchid breeder, developing more than 65 hybrids, giving later hybridisers a much better understanding of the genetic relationships between genera.

Paul Devlin Wood, writing in Hana Hou!, the magazine of Hawaiian Airlines, offered a link for Goodale Moir’s interest: “These first [orchid] collections were stocked by plant hunters, scouts sent by the sugar and pineapple companies to search the Pacific for new genetic material. One of these scouts, John Moir, returned in 1917 from the Philippines with boxes of live orchids. Moir’s son Goodale became a leading figure in the early days of hybridisation …” Read the full article here.

In 2015 the Hawaii Tribune Herald reported: “Early in the 20th century, John Moir of Honolulu and later his son, Goodale, built one of the earliest orchid collections in the state. The Moir collection passed to Herbert Shipman on Hawaii Island just before the outbreak of World War 2.” Mr Shipman then became one of Hawaii’s first commercial growers.

The Spanish Colonial Revival home Goodale built in 1930, known as Lipolani, has been recognised by the Hawaii Historic Foundation. The one-storey home on the outskirts of Honolulu is a significant example of the residential work of architect Louis E. Davis.

Mr Moir  chose the wedge-shaped site at the junction of two streets because it had the best trade wind flow. He was a strong believer in the flow of breezes and their favorable effect on plant growth and health. He built a “puka puka” [vented tile] wall to protect the garden from the full force of the Nu’uanu trades while allowing for good air circulation.

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Goodale and May Moir pictured in their Honolulu garden in 1978. Photo: John A Stevens

Goodale and May Neal were married in 1950 (she had been widowed the previous year) in the Moir Gardens in Po’ipu, Kaua’i. The garden was Goodale’s creation, and was cared for and maintained by his brother Hector and sister-in-law Sandi (Alexandra Liliko’i Knudsen).

For most of Lipolani’s first 18 years the entire garden was given over to orchids in landscape beds – until orchid stem borer reached Hawai’i in the 1950s. In the process of clearing out dead and diseased plants, the Moirs did a major garden renovation, eliminating lawn and replacing it with concrete pavers and basalt stepping stones, while at the same time almost completely enclosing the garden in such a way as to create several courtyards with distinctive characteristics.

After the garden’s orchids were removed, the couple then grew bromeliads on a large scale, although both had grown and loved bromeliads “since they could walk”, and created one of Honolulu’s most celebrated gardens (registered with the Smithsonian Institute). The property was for sale in 2015 – leaving the family for the first time. Read more here.

In his book, Gardens of Hawaii, landscape architect Stephen Haus calls Mrs Moir “the godmother of Hawaii gardeners”. She was visited by garden enthusiasts and landscapers from as far away as Brazil, Bali and Thailand.

A 1979 article in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society by John A Stevens recounts visiting  the Moirs at their home.

“Goodale (as he is known to close friends) has had several hundred articles published on orchids and their hybridising, starting with Dendrobiums, Vandas, Phalaenopsids, Cattleyas, Epidendrums, the Laelinae Tribe, and recently, the Oncidieae. Research and collecting trips for the last-named tribe have taken Goodale to Jamaica and the Caribbean on numerous occasions. His seemingly endless hybridisation of the miniature Oncidiums has been duly recorded in the list of New Orchid Hybrids published regularly by The Orchid Review.

“But … let it be known that Goodale has devoted more and more time in recent years to growing bromeliads, and writing about them, and has possibly 25 or more articles in print on bromeliads, most of them appearing in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society. Goodale’s style has always intrigued me: forceful, concise, sometimes a trifle opinionated.”

Mr Stevens describes Mr Moir as small of stature with a smooth, round face that at times could look “almost Orientally inscrutable”.

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Miltonia Goodale Moir ‘Golden Wonder’ at the 2017 Te Puke Orchid Show. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A note in Mrs Moir’s 1983 book The Garden Watcher said that more new intergeneric orchid species had been created and named in their garden than at any other spot on Earth – interestingly, Mr Moir, who tracked the results of more than 50,000 intergeneric cross attempts that he made over a period of decades, was convinced that the take rates were higher during the two phases of the moon that correspond to rising tides!

In the early 1950s Mr Moir pioneered Tolumnia (equitant Oncidium) orchid breeding when he began crossing species he had collected while on business trips in the West Indies. The first 25 years of activity were dominated by his efforts and by the 1970s the potential he was coaxing out of “Moir’s weeds”, as they were called, encouraged others to join the pursuit. The most active being Richard and Stella Mizuta and Robert and Susan Perreira, also of Hawaii. The foundation Mr Moir had painstakingly laid was about to bear fruit. Tolumnia Golden Sunset (Stanley Smith x Tiny Tim) was made by the Perreiras, and registered by Francis Aisaka in 1975. Read more at the American Orchid Society.

Milton O Carpenter, writing in 2000 in the AOS journal, said: “In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of temperature-tolerant Oncidiinae, a descriptive term that I apply to those plants that will thrive in temperatures from 45 to 100 F [7C-38C]. Pioneering work … was done by the late W. W. Goodale Moir of Hawaii, who registered 273 Oncidiinae intergeneric hybrids in 46 different combinations. Building on Goodale’s foundation, Helmut Rohrl of California, George Black of England, this writer (all protegés of Goodale), and a few others, have been engaged over the past 30 years or so in a continuing exploration of the limitless possibilities within this alliance.” Read more here.

In his Orchids of Asia book (2005), Eng-Soon Teoh writes “W W Goodale Moir of Honolulu dominated the breeding programme of the Oncidium in a way that no one else has been able to do for any other orchid subtribe or genus.”

As well as co-writing a handbook on Hawaiian soils (published in 1936), Mr Moir also contributed to Variegata Oncidiums (1970), Breeding Variegata Oncidiums (1980 – read the chapter on the culture of these plants), Creating Oncidiinae Intergenerics (1982) and Laeliinae Intergenerics (1982), as well as publishing many hundreds of articles on orchids.

Among his awards: Fellowship of the Orchid Society of South East Asia (at the 1966 World Orchid Conference in Los Angeles); Garden Club of America Medal (1973), AOS Silver Medal of Achievement (1982).

Among the orchids he registered with the Royal Horticultural Society were: Cattleya Memoria Goldie C. Moir (1948), Tolumnia lalita Pia (1950), Cattleya Peggy Moir (1951), Tapropapilanthera May Moir (1953), Miltonia Goodale Moir (1954), Oncidium Twinkle (1958), Miltonia May Moir (1959), Vanda Charm (1960), Miltonia Sunset (1961), Miltonia Purple Queen (1961), Vandachostylis Lilac Blossom (1963), Brassia Rex (1964), Miltonia Guanabara (1964), Stanhopea Memoria Paul Allen (1968), Eipcattleya Yucatan ‘Richella’ (1969), Catasetum (Clowesia) Rebecca Northern (1971), Bratonia (Miltonia) Olmec (1975), Bratonia (Miltonia) Aztec (1976), Aliceara Dorothy Oka (1976), Tolumnia Henemoir (1977), Oncidium Gypsy Beauty (1978), Aliceara Tropic Splendor (1981) and Aliceara La Jolla (1983).

Mr Moir died in 1985 and Mrs Moir in 2001, aged 93. Read an obituary for her here.

Plantswomen honoured

Three plantswomen were recognised in the latest Queen’s Birthday Honours list, all with Queen’s Service Medals. I note that a letter writer to the NZ Herald disputed one of these awards – but I wonder why he picked on that one and not, for instance, services to wrestling, horse racing or even politics!

The details below have been taken from the official citations at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Mrs Helen Guthrie of Waikanae, for services to music and horticulture:

She has been president and branch secretary of the New Zealand Camellia Society for 14 years and organised the National Camellia Show in Waikanae in 2009. She was membership secretary on the National Council of the Camellia Society, has judged throughout the North Island, and won several awards at national and local shows. She has been a member of the New Zealand Rose Society since 1984 and was president of the Kapiti Rose Society when Kapiti hosted the 1992 National Autumn Rose Show. Mrs Guthrie has been a national judge of roses for 25 years.

Ms Avis Leeson of Hamilton, for services to horticultural education:

Ms Leeson has donated her time to creating vegetable gardens and orchards at more than 300 schools in the Waikato region, and from Northland to Invercargill.

As a hospice volunteer Ms Leeson fell ill in 2007 and while recovering developed a project to teach children how to grow food. She initiated the project at her former primary school in Morrinsville and her gardens have since spread to schools from Karapiro to Hamilton North. Her project has reconnected children with the facts of how food is produced and in many of the schools this teaching is now accompanied by cooking classes for students to experience the process from garden to plate. Her project has been sponsored entirely by businesses and is staffed by volunteers.

For health reasons Ms Leeson, now 88, stepped down from active participation in 2014, with the project now continued through the Avis Leeson Fruit Tree Trust. The Trust secured an ongoing commitment from McGrath Nurseries to supply 1000 fruit trees per year until 2024. Ms Leeson continues to assist the Trust and is producing a gardening manual for the schools involved. Watch a 2016 Seven Sharp clip (3:33).

Mrs Beverley Van of Christchurch, for services to bonsai:

Mrs Van has grown bonsai since the 1970s and first initiated bonsai beginners’ classes at the Avice Hill Centre in 1992, which led to the formation of the Avon Bonsai Society in 1993.

Since 1993 Mrs Van has served as either a committee member or president of the Avon Bonsai Society and has made her home available for committee meetings and workshops. She was made an Honorary Life Member of the Society. She delivered talks on growing bonsai to garden clubs in Christchurch and further afield. She has mounted individual bonsai displays in addition to displays for the Christchurch Festival of Flowers and participated in and judged club displays.

She produced a book with her late husband, Bonsai Growing in New Zealand for the Absolute Beginner (and others), and currently runs a bonsai website. Mrs Van has also developed her skills as a potter, studying traditional Japanese and Chinese bonsai pots, and regularly produces high-quality ceramics for all styles of bonsai presentation.