Catching up on the news

Big pile of papers waiting for me when I got home and I’m still only part-way through them and not reading in date order …

The Elms Mission House in Tauranga is planning an ‘iconic heritage garden’ on a corner site that has been designed in collaboration with historians, heritage architects, archaeologists and tangata whenua. At the centre of the garden will be a sheltered visitor pavilion. If funding applications are successful, The Elms Foundation hopes to have the garden done and dusted this year. Read an earlier posting about The Elms and its garden(s).

A new, multi-million dollar art garden has opened at Matakana, north of Auckland – Sculptureum is on a 25ha site developed by Anthony and Sandra Grant and includes three gardens, six galleries and a café. One of the pieces on show is a glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly of Seattle (if you’re going that way be sure to visit Chihuly Garden and Glass). Sculptureum is open to visitors Thursday-Monday with no cellphone conversations allowed in the gardens and galleries! What a brilliant ban to put in place.

Australian biosecurity officials are getting a name for themselves – after incinerating  irreplaceable 19th century plant specimens sent from France to the Queensland Herbarium to aid research (read the full story), oops, they did it again!

Border officials destroyed six lichen specimens, owned by Landcare Research in New Zealand and including a lichen classified as of special scientific value, which were being sent to the National Herbarium in Canberra. Landcare has suspended loans to Australia until protocols are sorted out, although the Australian officials have already admitted the specimens should not have been destroyed and their actions contravened their own procedures! Duh! Read more here.

Sadly, for growers in New Zealand, myrtle rust has been discovered this month at a nursery and adjoining property in Kerikeri. This serious fungal disease has been unknown in the country until now but is wind borne and prevalent in Australia to the west, New Caledonia to the northwest and Raoul Island to the northeast so I suppose it was only a matter of time. Austropuccinia psidii is also known as guava rust and eucalyptus rust.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website says: “Myrtle rust could affect iconic New Zealand plants including pōhutukawa, mānuka, rātā, kānuka, swamp maire and ramarama, as well as commercially-grown species such as eucalyptus, feijoa and guava.

Photo: Ministry for Primary Industries

“Severe infestations can kill affected plants and have long-term impacts on the regeneration of young plants and seedlings. It is not known how this disease will affect New Zealand species. Overseas its impacts have varied widely from country to country and plant species to species.”

The Kerikeri property is in lockdown and movement restrictions are in place but it’s going to be difficult containing something windborne. If you think you’ve seen myrtle rust, phone the MPI hotline 0800 80 99 66 (photos appreciated but don’t try and collect a specimen).

Writing on the NZ Farm Forestry website in 2015, Lindsay Bulman offers some background to the disease: First described in Brazil in 1884, the rust was recorded from Central America, Florida and Mexico by the 1970s. There has been a rapid expansion over the past 10 years, primarily through the live plant trade. Myrtle rust has been recorded from Hawaii (2005), Japan (2007), southern China (2009), Australia (2010) in NSW and then Queensland in the same year, followed by Victoria in 2011 and most recently Tasmania in February 2015. In 2013, it was reported from both South Africa and New Caledonia.

“While the disease rarely kills adult plants, extremely susceptible species may be threatened. For instance the Malabar plum, or rose apple, Syzygium jambo, which is exotic in Hawaii, suffered widespread dieback and death following the introduction of myrtle rust.”

Read more myrtle rust articles from the NZFF website.

A Stuff report quotes Northland nurseryman Russell Fransham as saying a friend of his, a nursery owner in Queensland, reports that the impact is highly variable between species, and some appear to be more resistant than others.

“He said the first year or two was devastating, there was so much carnage among the myrtles, but some were virtually unaffected even though they are surrounded by it. Now where he is in Brisbane, he says it’s hard to see much evidence of it so it sounds quite hopeful.”

But in the meantime it’s a stack of worry for everyone.

Update May 23: Myrtle rust has now been confirmed in nurseries in Taranaki and Te Kuiti which means that it’s probably too late to do too much. In a comment attached to this post from Catherine Stewart of the GardenDrum website, she says: While the effect of myrtle rust on Australian nursery stock seems to have diminished over the past couple of years, I think this is because many are no longer propagating the most affected plants, such as Austromyrtus ‘Blushing Beauty’. Certainly Brett Summerell at Sydney’s RBG thinks that several of our iconic plants, such as the biggest of the paperbarks (Melaleuca quinqenervia) is on a “100-year extinction curve”.

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News Digest

Chelsea Flower Show favourite UK designer Dan Pearson has started an online magazine called Dig Delve which will “feature stories about gardens, horticulture, plants, landscape, nature, food growing and eating, and will also look at inspirational growers, producers, farmers, makers, cooks, florists, artists and craftspeople”. Read the first issue here.

Didn’t make it to last month’s Melbourne Flower Show? Never mind, Catherine Stewart from Garden Drum was there as our eyes, ears and inquiring mind. Read her thoughts and see photos – Trends, Trophies & Tidbits and Avenue of Achievable Gardens by student landscapers.

Various plants in my garden have struggled with this summer’s extended humidity – and yes, some have died. Kate Wall at Garden Drum explains why growing in the subtropics isn’t just about the heat. Read her post here.

Just for garden tourists, The Guardian offers a list of 10 of the best gardens … that you’ve probably never heard of.

Don’t be alarmed myrtle rust has not arrived in New Zealand – yet. However, the Ministry of Primary Industries is asking gardeners to remain alert and have prepared a webpage showing what it looks like and what to do if you think you’ve spotted it. See it here.

Box tree moth (Cydalima perspectalis), a native of East Asia is spreading through England after first being spotted in 2008, while one Dutch grower reports that Switzerland is buying very little box now “due to the blight and the moth”. Read the full story here.

It’s a long and winding road, but the nub of the story about the latest “buzz band” is that its members are 40,000 bees, and their activity forms the basis of One, “a transcendental drone symphony between man and bee that is surely one of the year’s most beguiling offerings”. The “soundscape” was created especially for an art pavilion designed to represent a hive. Read the whole story here.

And while on the subject of bees: Newly published research shows that bees looking for nectar need to be able to spot flower petals and recognise which coloured flowers are full of food. Professor Beverley Glover, of Cambridge University’s Botanic Gardens and who is also Head of the Evolution and Development Group at the university’s Department of Plant Sciences, and Dr Heather Whitney from the University of Bristol found that iridescence – the shiny, colour-shifting effect seen on soap bubbles – makes flower petals more obvious to bees, but that too much iridescence confuses bees’ ability to distinguish colours. Read more here.

And just one more … while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in Bhutan last week they presented the Queen with a gift – a rose named for her. King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema founded the annual Royal Bhutan Flower Show last year and have created an English garden.

The Daily Mail reports: The red flower, named the Queen of Bhutan Rose, was developed as a special gesture for the King and his wife, who has been dubbed the ‘Kate Middleton of the Himalayas’. (Don’t you hope the last bit of that sentence has been made up? Maybe we should dub Kate the ‘Jetsun Pema of the Home Counties’.) Read the full report here.