Shedloads of style

Something that seems to be ‘on-trend’ is having a smart little building or caravan in your garden – less a shed than a day room. Here are some I’ve seen over the past few months …

This sweet little caravan was set up in a Katikati-area garden for Tauranga’s Garden and Artfest. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The interior had homely touches without being cluttered. The crisp green-and-white colour scheme is a winner too. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The same property also had a cute ‘working’ shed. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This property owner has painted her garage cum storage shed barn red and decorated the walls with old implements. Looking surprisingly good against the wall is Top Shelf. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lynda Hallinan’s ‘shepherd’s hut’ at Foggydale Farm. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lynda has written about her property and says this about the hut: … our shepherd’s hut – aka the bric-a-brac shack, a repository for my junk-shop finds – has had four paint jobs. It started slate grey with a skirt of snow-white chrysanthemums then morphed into a cheery cherry with beds of beetroot-red zinnias before an ill-advised autumnal experiment in electric orange. As winter gave way to spring, the tangerine tones clashed so badly with my candy-pink star wars magnolias that it was hastily repainted a tasteful shade of sage green.

A peek into the hut’s interior (green and white!). Wouldn’t it be lovely to have somewhere to nap in between tending the beds? Photo: Sandra Simpson

This pavilion at the Hunua property called Addenbrooke can lift its skirts, be hitched to a vehicle and head off. Kind of a café de wheels without the café! Photo: Sandra Simpson

The large Addenbrooke garden is open to visit, by arrangement.

Out & about

Went to Lynda Hallinan’s preserving workshop at Palmer’s last night – she is so calm and confident. She and her mum (her mum mostly while Lynda whizzed stuff up and talked) were making jam on a barbecue and had brought along examples from Lynda’s preserves pantry including pickled onions, damson gin, blackboy peaches and bachelor’s jam, which she described as ‘summer in a jar’. (The link will take you to a site where a single-variety method is described – the recipe on River Cottage is more traditional with its layers of various fruit.)

Some of the Vege Grower’s home-made chutney. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Picked up some great tips too, and I’ll post a link to Lynda’s recipes when they go up on her blog (in the next few days, she says):

  • Pour jam into a plastic container and put it in the freezer where the high sugar content stops it from freezing – just scoop out what you want when you want it
  • If you’re bottling tomatoes, use a bit of citric acid in the mix to counter any fear of botulism taking hold during storage
  • A jam funnel is an essential piece of equipment
  • If you use jam-setting sugar berry jam will take about 5 minutes to make.

She also talked us through the water bath method and the overflow method – for the former there’s no need to stew fruit first as the water bath will lightly “cook” the fruit.

The audience was shocked to learn that none of the tinned apricots we buy in this country actually come from New Zealand. Lynda buys her central Otago apricots fresh and has them shipped up, 20kg at a time.

Earlier this month, the Tauranga Bromeliad Group held its annual open day, always good for picking up some growing tips, as well as plants.

I came away with a couple of plants – a bromeliad and two tillandsias. A few days later I went to the Tauranga Orchid Society auction and came away with a few more bromeliads and tillandsias, plus some orchids.

And last Sunday it was time for the annual volunteer breakfast at Te Puna Quarry Park. Some misting rain had settled the dust but we desperately needed more rain (at the orchid auction it turned out that the Te Puke area had had a deluge the night before – we didn’t get a drop in town).

A lovely cooked breakfast, a birthday cake for Jo Dawkins and a walk to settle all that lot. Perfect.

Aristolochia in flower at Te Puna Quarry Park. The one on the right is the front of the flower, with the back showing on the left. Photo: Sandra Simpson

See an earlier post about Aristolochias or Dutchman’s pipe.

A side view of a flower shows the “bowl” of the pipe that gives the vine its common name. Photo: Sandra Simpson

And best of all we last night got our downpour!

One enchanted evening


Lynda Hallinan enchanted an enthusiastic crowd at Growing Pains in the Tauranga Art Gallery last night – making them laugh with her musings on the best garden tool (a handyman-type husband) and sending several people to their notebooks and phones as she recommended plants and gardening solutions, including:

  • Orlaya grandiflora, the type of plant she says, that people only grow if it’s recommended to them. “You wouldn’t buy it if you saw it in the garden centre, but the bees and the hoverflies love it.”
  • Use aspirin for tomato blight (no, don’t take it, apply it to the plants). Read more here.
  • Only use fresh horse manure if you are completely sure you know what the horse has eaten – for instance, if the animal has recently been given de-worming tablets, the manure will kill earthworms too. Better to compost it for a year.

Lynda Hallinan. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lynda, who has been a garden writer for 20 years, is a bubbly personality and fun speaker and she had the audience in the palm of her hand as she recounted some of the growing pains she’s had upsizing from a suburban section to a much – much – larger country garden.

The evening was a fundraiser for the Sydenham Botanic Park project and advisory group chairman Brian Hodge opened the evening by talking about the history of the site and future plans. Thanks so much to sponsors GardenPost, Palmers Bethlehem and incredible edibles for making Growing Pains possible.

There were giveaways too, in the form of vouchers for berry plants courtesy of incredible edibles and NZ Gardener magazines, courtesy of Lynda. There were also two great raffles on offer so there were some very happy winners at the end of the evening.


A section of the crowd at the event. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lynda brought her gardener Fiona Henderson with her and the pair had had some shopping fun in Paeroa on the way south. Not so much fun was discovering a flat tyre as they prepared to leave for home after dinner.

Help was at hand in the form of Geoff Brunsden and Keith Frentz who not only figured out where the spare was kept (under the vehicle) but managed to work out how to free it. That it required them both to roll around on the ground under the jacked-up ute and stretch their problem-solving skills to the max seems to suggest someone at Nissan got a little bored one day. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the knights in shining armour at work as both phones were busy being used as flashlights!

  • Lynda is presenting a new series of Get Growing, which first screens on Choice TV at 7.30pm on Fridays. Next week’s programme (October 24) features Geoff Brunsden talking about wildflowers. The episodes re-screen at various times.

The organisers of Growing Pains would also like to thank Tui Garden Products, Scullys Skin-care Products, Penguin Books NZ and Pak ‘n Save Tauranga for their donations to the raffle prizes.

Catching up with Lynda

Lynda Hallinan hasn’t got much time to talk – a TV crew is coming and she’s got weeds that need pulling.

The well-known garden writer is presenting segments for a new series of Get Growing that will start screening on Choice TV on Friday, October 17, coincidentally the evening she’s speaking at a fundraising event in Tauranga.

“People might be able to get home in time to see me on the telly,” she laughs, “if they haven’t already had enough of me.”

In previous series Lynda has hosted the show, teaching people new to vege gardening but this time that role is taken on by Justin Newcombe while Lynda will talk about seasonal work.

“New gardeners tend to get overwhelmed – choosing a fertiliser at the garden centre shouldn’t be hard. So my advice is to relax and not overthink things.

“Sure, mistakes will be made but a garden is made as much by the mistakes and the successes. And in case anyone thinks I’m some sort of superior gardener, all I can say is that I’m still killing things, lots of them.”

She suggests that mastering the basics will save new gardeners money and be a good learning process – growing from seed, taking cuttings for new plants – and that one of the most important attributes a gardener can have (“and I don’t”) is patience.


Lynda Hallinan. Photo: Supplied


Moving to the Hunua countryside and a 22ha “patch” in 2010 after living in suburban Auckland, everything seemed to happen at once. She had only just moved to her fiance’s home when she:

  • Lost all her possessions, including her collection of gardening books, in a shed fire
  • Then, to her great delight, she discovered she was pregnant
  • The couple decided to stick to the February date they had chosen for their wedding, partly because they needed to build the garden to be married in
  • And Jason, who’s a dab hand with a digger, broke his Achilles tendon, twice, during the work.

Lynda wrote a book about her first year back in the country (she was raised in north Waikato) and Back to the Land is a year-long month by month account of the much-loved flower garden she began in 2011, her regular spot at a farmers’ market and the preserves, pickles and various beverages, including cider and beer, that spring from her produce.

Lynda’s interest in veges and fruit stemmed entirely from a wild New Year’s resolution made in 2007 – she would live off the produce of her 733 square metre Auckland section for the year, with only $10 a week allowed for groceries.

“I think the champagne might have had something to do with it but it was a fun year and I learned heaps, including how to barter, although it was a bit touch and go sometimes too.”

This year she’s photographing a food crop and a flower every day, is preparing her garden to again open to the public – and doesn’t for a moment miss the overseas travel to garden shows, her high heels and handbags or even the Big Smoke’s night-life.

“I’m a gumboots girl now,” she laughs. “A Swanni on a cold day, good garden tools and some beautiful flowers are all I really want.”

Local garden news

Been away for 2 weeks (a postcard arriving shortly) so thought I would catch us all up on some local garden news.

1: Tickets are selling quickly for Lynda Hallinan’s Growing Pains in Tauranga on Friday, October 17. They are now available only from Palmer’s in Bethlehem, $15 each and with all proceeds benefiting the Sydenham Botanic Park project. The event is at 5.30pm in the Tauranga Art Gallery and features a couple of really good raffles and some spot prizes.

2: Tauranga City Council discovers it is responsible for the dying Norfolk Island pines along Pilot Bay and Marine Parade in Mount Maunganui! Independent arborists reckon it is the spray council contractors use to combat Onehunga weed (prickle weed) cause, you know, you wouldn’t want anyone going barefoot to complain about having a few prickles in their feet from crossing a public area. Sheesh, prickles in my feet as a child was part of summer.

3: Liz and Geoff Brunsden of Wildflower World and GardenPost are leading a small-group Gardens of Britain tour next year – leaving June 12 for 13 days. The trip takes in the marvellous RHS Wisley garden, the renowned Breezy Knees garden in Yorkshire, the David Austin rose garden in Shropshire and Hidcote Manor in the Cotswolds.

For more information about the trip, see the Flora Tours website.

4: The latest community garden to spring up in the Western Bay of Plenty is outside the Experience Comvita visitor centre in Paengaroa (south of Te Puke on SH33). The garden provides produce to the Comvita café, as well as to the 14 volunteers who have helped set it up. The garden includes a bug hotel, worm farm and a berry garden with Comvita donating the land and building of the raised beds.

Read more at the Paengaroa Community Garden Facebook page.

Pearls of Wisdom

A few of the good ideas and bon mots from the speakers at the recent Garden and Artfest …  but first a photo (readers of a delicate disposition should look away now) …

stephen ryan + colin davis - Copy

Loud Shirt Day at the Garden and Artfest – guest speaker Stephen Ryan (left) resplendent in orange with tiny blue polka dots, while Tauranga resident Colin Davis opted for the Colgate look! Photo: Sandra Simpson

Cats, possums and rabbits don’t like the smell of Thiram fungicide, according to Lynda Hallinan, editor-at-large for NZ Gardener. Read more about that in this fact sheet from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. She also recommended Stockholm tar, used in the equestrian world, to repel possums – paint it at the base of trees to keep them off.

“Put it in, it dies, put in the compost – and you have that most valuable thing in a garden. A gap.” Stephen Ryan, Australian gardener, nurseryman and author.

Don’t have a heatpad for seed raising? Gerard Martin of Kings Seeds demonstrated how to start tomato, capsicum and eggplant seed using a 2-litre ice-cream container and plastic wrap.

Punch some drainage holes in the bottom of the container, add 2” of seed-raising mix, sprinkle the seed over – never sow seed more than twice its diameter deep – lightly cover with more mix, water, wrap the container in plastic film (making sure there are no gaps) and place the whole thing in your hot-water cupboard.

The seeds should germinate in about a week but works only for seeds that don’t need light to germinate. The seeds shouldn’t go outside too soon when they come out, give them time to adjust.

Don’t attempt to trim your topiary to its finished shape on the first attempt. Approach the size and shape you want. That way, any mistakes made will be small ones – Claudia Gorringe during her clipping demonstration.

A natural treatment for varroa mite is to use icing-sugar. Buy a puffer from a pet store, fill with organic icing sugar and cover all the bees lightly (they breathe through their skin so don’t overdo it). The icing sugar makes the bees slippery and the varroa mites slip off. As well, the bees love the icing sugar and lick it off, in the process preening off the mites. Do fortnightly. It doesn’t eliminate varroa but you can keep on top of the pest.

– Advice from Marcia Meehan, natural beekeeper

Getting out in the sunshine and gardening is medicine. Hearing birdsong is medicine.

Every vege garden needs a flax plant – there are your tomato ties (strips of flax) that will do the job but be gone by the end of the season. Much better than plastic.

– Both from Robert McGowan, rongoa Maori medicine expert.