Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture Awards

The RNZIH has been kind enough to send a copy of its mid-year journal containing the 2019 awards.

Garden History Award: Annemarie Endt-Ferwerda, who has published at least seven booklets and books on horticultural topics. She and her late husband, Dick Endt, established the Landsendt garden in west Auckland, today run by their daughter. Read a 2012 profile of the property and about a family of three generations of plantspeople. The garden is no longer open to the public.

Plant Raisers’ Award: Ian Duncalf, former owner of Parva Plants and a former international director of the International Plant Propagators Society, of Te Puna (near Tauranga). His breeding and selection work includes Agapanthus Thunder Storm, Agapanthus Finn, Alstroemeria Rock & Roll, Clivia Barbara, Clivia Deanna, Clivia Lydia, Eucomis Tiny Piny Opal and Eucomis Tiny Piny Ruby. His introductions include Bergenia Marshmallow, Galtonia Moonbeam and Gazania rigens Takatu Red.

Fellows of the RNZIH:
Chris Webb of Thames/Paeroa, a member of many horticultural groups and a member of the RNZIH since 2001.
Malcolm Woolmore of Auckland, a former international director of the International Plant Propagators Society, and founder of Lyndale Custom Mix Ltd (wholesale bulk potting mixes), Lyndale Intellectual Property Ltd (dealing with plant variety rights, PVR) and KiwiFlora Ltd. He has been responsible for the production and distribution of 100 million young plants in New Zealand. Since 2002 he has been a member of the National Pest Plant Accord.
Nicola Rochester, regional sales manager for ICL and actively involved in the RNZIH Education Trust (since 2005) and Young Horticulturalist Competition (since 2003).

Associates of Honour of the RNZIH (limited to 60 people at any one time):
Dr Marion MacKay, senior lecturer in environmental management at Massey University, specialising in plant diversity and conservation. A member of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust board since 2004 and author of the 2011 book, Plants of Pukeiti Forest. Marion is a founder, and leader, of the NZ Rhododendron ex situ Conservation Project and is a member of the steering committee of the Global Rhododendron Conservation Consortium. In 2013 she was appointed to the NZ Indigenous Flora Seed Bank project. She has been a Fellow of the RNZIH since 1997.
Professor Helen Leach, emeritus professor of anthropology at Otago University, specialising in culinary anthropology and the domestication of food plants. Her most outstanding book (of 22 published) is still 1000 Years of Gardening in New Zealand, published in 1984. She has been a Fellow of the RNZIH since 2004 and in 2018 was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to culinary anthropology. Read a 2016 food profile here.

Turning the air blue

The latest newsletter from the Royal NZ Institute of Horticultural contains a snippet on the agapanthus fertility and performance trials under way in botanic gardens in Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

The trials are looking for sterile or low-fertility agapanthus so gardeners can grow these popular plants without contributing to the ‘weediness’ of the surrounding landscapes.

Initiated by Auckland Botanic Gardens in collaboration with the nursery industry, Manaaki Whenua–Landcare Research, and others in the Agapanthus Working Group (established in 2012), the trials are looking to quantify the percentage of seed set among cultivars suspected of having low fertility.

White agapanthus flower – the tall-flowered plants come in blue or white. Image: Wikimedia

The plants, native to South Africa, are loved by gardeners for their toughness (easy to grow at the coast, drought tolerant), abundant flowers through the hottest part of summer, evergreen, and their dense root system which can help stabilise tricky banks. Unfortunately, the common tall, blue variety seeds prolifically and so constitutes a threat to native plants in natural landscapes.

In a 2016 paper for Landcare Research, Murray Dawson notes that agapanthus were first recorded as naturalised in New Zealand in 1952. The tall blue-flower plants produce a large number of seeds – and virtually all the seed germinates.

Councils in the Wellington area, for example, are encouraging gardeners to get rid of their common agapanthus – although warn it will take a strong back, a small digger or some serious poison to do the job, while Auckland Regional Council banned the plants in 2008.

Agapanthus ‘Thunderstorm’ has variegated foliage and grows to about 30cm. Image: Ian Duncalf

Four-year trials at Auckland Botanic Gardens and Lincoln University, which ended in 2016, showed that the dwarf-medium Agapanthus ‘Thunderstorm’ and ‘very dwarf’ A. ‘Agapetite’ were likely sterile, while the dwarf blue A. ‘Sarah’, dwarf white A. ‘Finn’, and dwarf dark blue with variegated foliage A. ‘Goldstrike’ have very low fertility.

The report concludes: “’Low-fertility’ is the most accurate term for claims made of most current cultivars.” Read the full report here (opens as a pdf).

Agapanthus ‘Thunderstorm’, bred by Kiwi Ian Duncalf, forms part of the Storm series for Anthony Tesselaar in Australia.

Agapanthus ‘Navy Blue’ growing in Alnwick Castle gardens in Northumberland. This is a deciduous plant. Photo: Sandra Simpson

In her 2017 book, The Wondrous World of Weeds (New Holland), Pat Collins writes that the indigenous people of South Africa grow the plants around their homes as they’re considered a magical aid to fertility and pregnancy!

“To soothe your feet after a long hike, weave the soft leaves into a slipper shape, put over the feet and relax. Has a silky smoothness that eases your aches.”

The root is also used by the Xhosa people in a medicinal way, even though the plants are toxic to humans. Note that the sap can cause severe ulceration of the mouth.

The striking flowers of Agapanthus ‘Twister’ – white, pink and blue – seen last year at Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire, England. Another deciduous agapanthus. Photo: Sandra Simpson

‘Twister’, pictured above, was selected in South Africa in 2008 from the breeding programme of Quinton Bean and Andy de Wet and, after extensive trials in around the globe, the first plants were sold in 2013. Apparently, it was the first time the pair had released a plant into the international market – and they’ve had trouble keeping up with demand ever since!

In colder climates, the weedy tendency of agapanthus is dealt to over winter – or they’re grown in pots as house plants. The Royal Horticulture Society noted in 2017 that it had almost five pages of registered plants (but “the fact is that many are very very similar”.) Britain, where they’re also known as African lilies, even maintains a National Collection of Agapanthus.

Read more about plants available in New Zealand in this 2014 post.

Tauranga Clivia Show

Always a good afternoon at the Clivia Show and 2018 was no exception. Ian Duncalf (Plant Struck) and Jude Coenen (Pixie Clivias) are producing some brilliant plants here in the Western Bay of Plenty and had a selection on display.

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Clivia Dainty Dancer, bred by Jude Coenen, sports an eye-catching flower. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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Ian Duncalf has named this plant Clivia Lydia, in honour of champion Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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Clivia Jen. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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This unnamed seedling bred by Ian Duncalf has a green throat. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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Clivia Toon’s Green is one of Jude Coenen’s green-flowered plants that uses seed imported from Japan. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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Ian Duncalf has done me the great honour of naming this plant Clivia Sandra! As they age, the yellow flowers develop a blush on the petals. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Coming up clivias

Popped out to the Clivia Display at Te Puna Quarry Park this afternoon – just the tonic for a grey day that ranged between drizzle and wind-blown downpours! And for anyone who thinks clivias come only in orange, the breeding work of  Ian Duncalf of Te Puna and Jude Coenen of Apata might surprise you.

Clivia Deanna, bred by Ian Ducalf. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Clivia Moonbeam, bred by Jude Coenen. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Clivia Leigh, bred by Ian Duncalf. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Clivia Adele, bred by Jude Coenen, has many admirers and it’s not hard to see why. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Floral fun

Took myself off yesterday to Life’s a Circus, a piece of ‘floral theatre’ by Francine Thomas. I’d heard about these productions before but had never been able to attend one – all I can say is, my goodness!

Baycourt Theatre was pretty full and the audience lapped up the event which comprised Francine’s musings on life while creating outstanding floral art quick-snap in front of our eyes (as well as what seemed to be zillions of pre-prepared pieces). The stage slowly filled with groups or single pieces with breaks for a small story to be acted out, dancing or circus-type performance (La Dominique Zirkus, an aerial hoop gymnast, and Libby Winehouse, a pole fitness exponent – and accountant!).

No photos allowed during the show, but we were welcome to take snaps after the house lights came up at the end.

Yes, that is a ‘pole dancer’ (Libby Winehouse is more of acrobat or gymnast really) who was part of the show. Looking on is one of the young dancers. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Just part of the stage at the end of the performance – the piece on the far right was hoisted up during the show to reveal the pole and performer. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Francine acknowledged her Aunty Betty, down from Whangarei for the show, who had a florist shop where Francine and her mum helped out (her mother was also in the audience). Francine’s husband Ashley makes many of her props and was a stagehand, while other assistance came from members of the Tauranga Floral Art Group. The show was filmed and DVDs may be ordered, $30 each, email Fay.

Francine was the New Zealand demonstrator at the 2014 World Association of Floral Artists in Dublin, won the 2016 Designer of the Year title from the Floral Art Society of NZ, and next year is heading to the US where she has been invited to teach and demonstrate.

Last Sunday I popped into the Tauranga Clivia Show at Te Puna Quarry Park where business was brisk as visitors were thrilled by the colours on offer from local breeders Ian Duncalf (Plant Struck) and Judy Shapland Coenen (Pixie Clivias). [Apologies to Judy, I hadn’t realised she changed her name after her marriage.]

Clivia breeder Ian Duncalf was thrilled with the show. Photo: Sandra Simpson

 

Clivia Diana, one of Ian’s breeding successes. Photo: Sandra Simpson

 

Agapanthus

Out for a walk this morning and I paused for a moment to admire a bank of blue and white agapanthus flowers. A bit guiltily, I might add, as we’re all supposed to be wary of agapanthus after Weedbusters and the Auckland Regional Council declared the southern Africa native a threat to our native bush, although it’s still to appear on the National Plant Pest Accord.

It escaped inclusion in the 2011/12 updated list but the trade off was a banning of sales in the Auckland region of agapanthus types that grow over 50cm tall.

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A bank of miniature agapanthus at Te Puna Quarry Park. Photo: Sandra Simpson

But agapanthus have plenty of fans too. Their fibrous root systems are great for holding banks together, the plants are drought tolerant and can be used to give a tropical look to a garden, they have reliable, showy flowers over a long period and will grow in full sun or heavy shade, and are a sure bet for coastal gardens … but they can quickly grow into large, difficult-to-remove clumps (stock will eat the leaves down to the ground, but the tubers are likely poisonous) and should be dead-headed to prevent seeding.

So, a six and two-threes situation.

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Agapanthus Thunder Storm bred by Ian Duncalf. Photo: Courtesy Ian Duncalf

However, plant breeders are coming to the rescue with sterile and low-fertility forms. Renowned Australian plantsman Anthony Tesselaar waxes lyrical about his company’s Storm series of agapanthus, which includes the variegated – and sterile – Thunder Storm bred by Ian Duncalf of Te Puna, near Tauranga.

There has been some research done into sterile and low-fertility forms, including at Landcare Research (the information is undated on the link, but is from 2012) and at Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens (the trial to find “ecopanthus” continues there this summer), which is where Agapanthus Seafoam originated.

 

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Agapanthus Finn, a sterile dwarf agapanthus bred by Ian Duncalf and named after his youngest son. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Non-invasive agapanthus bred by Terry Hatch of Joy Plants in Auckland include Pavlova, Baby Pete and Sarah.

The Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture in 2012 published an illustrated article on agapanthus in this country (pdf).

Vege news

A single plant that grows potatoes under the soil while at the same time producing tomatoes may be a world first for a Katikati nursery.

Andrew Boylan, co-owner of incredible edibles with wife Fiona, says the idea is all about space. “With shrinking urban sections it makes sense to develop plants that help home gardeners grow more in less space.”

 

The plant, which has the trade name Potato Tom, combines Agria potatoes with Gardeners’ Delight cherry tomatoes – and is, Andrew believes, a world first commercial release.

Solanum tuberosum, Potatos growing on plant.

Potato Tom. Image: incredible edibles

“The idea of grafting a tomato on a potato is not new,” he says. “But it has never been commercialised and, as far as I can make out, we are the first to do it.”

Tomatoes are members of the potato family (Solanaceae) so the two are naturally compatible. Ian Duncalf of Te Puna, a plant breeder of some note, says he worked out the grafting technique necessary for Potato Tom and had “fun” doing it.

“I had one at a friend’s place, as a bit of a trial, and went round there one night and saw all his guests really taking an interest in the plant. That’s what it’s all about for me, making people excited about something.”

Potato Tom, which can be grown in a pot, produces cherry tomatoes through summer and when they have finished, it’s time to dig the potatoes.

Note: Since my story was first published in mid-September, a nursery in England is also selling a potato-tomato graft, TomTato (and despite the use of  ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘hybrid’ in the link story, it’s still just a graft).

Kings Seeds, another Katikati business, has been surprised this season by the popularity of a Dutch heirloom pea that features deep-blue pods.

“We generally know what will be our top sellers,” says Barbara Martin, who co-owns the mail-order company with husband Gerard. “But this has shot up the list and taken us all by surprise.”

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Pea Blue Shelling. Image: Kings Seeds

The peas, simply called Pea Blue Shelling, can be eaten pods and all when young or left for the peas to develop out and be cooked for eating. The purple flowers are also edible.

Another unusual vegetable from the new catalogue is the flowering sprout Kaleidoscope, a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. “They’re pretty little things,” Barbara says, “and if they’re cooked lightly they keep their purple colour.”

The “flowers” look like kale and grow like Brussels sprouts and Barbara advises topping the stalk a month before harvest to increase sprout size.

This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission.