Garden & Artfest: Day 3

A gallery of photos from today, in no particular order.

Leigh Nicholas is showing an exhibition of her stunning flower photos in her Papamoa garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Clare Trott has ‘boxed clever’ by using Japanese box for her hedging – no problems with blight, whereas her two English box balls need constant spraying. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The view across the harbour from Pete’s Retreat at Mataphi (No 52). The peacock isn’t real. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This surprisingly large and well tended suburban Te Puke garden was full of sophisticated detail, such as this deck dresser. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Liz Clark in her Ohauiti pottery studio. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Claudia Gorringe (Standards of Excellence) was in a Japanese-inspired, high in the Ohauiti hills, chatting to the owner (far right). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Thankfully, after a long trip into the Ohauiti hills, there was a another garden open right next door. The giant gerbera makes a nice focal point at the end of this rustic pergola. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Garden trail – day 2

Bitsy day today as I went to gardens in Mt Maunganui and Papamoa this morning then came home to write a piece for the daily (unpaid, naturally) and sort out a couple of photos. That done I headed over to beyond Te Puke. I was planning to see two on the same road but a friend I met in the first one recommended a cottage-type garden a bit further out so I took her advice and was glad I did. Beds bursting with flowers, flowers, flowers … and a beautiful afternoon tea at a reasonable price (Dianne had recommended that too!).

The Speaker Series starts tomorrow at The Lakes hub, as does the floral art exhibition and one or two other fun-sounding temporary installations such as the Suspended Forest and the display gardens. And all the gardens are open from tomorrow to Sunday, so nothing to stop you. Read full details here.


Kaylene Don’s Mt Maunganui townhouse may have a tiny site but she and landscape designer Michelle McDonnell have given it interest – here are stripes of heucheras and mondo with a miniature bougainvillea in the pot. Photo: Sandra Simpson


St Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners, beside Kaylene Don’s raised vege garden and a vertical patch of herbs and edible flowers. Photo: Sandra Simpson


A quiet corner (note the panels of Balinese stone work, much jealousy from me) in the garden of Leigh Nicholas, who is also exhibiting her photography on site. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Hidden away in the tropical growth in Leigh’s garden is an outdoor shower! Photo: Sandra Simpson


A visit to Ron and Pat Howie’s Te Puke garden is to be blown away by the unusual plants – this is the (large) flower of Magnolia macrophylla, native to the southeastern US and eastern Mexico. Ron has pulled the branch down for me with a rake. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Spent ages in the Howie garden trying to get a decent shot of this striking flower – Passiflora antioquiensis (red banana passionfruit, nowhere near as vigorous as the banana passionfruit). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read more about Magnolia macrophylla and Passiflora antioquiensis.

Putting out the welcome mat

Pat and Ron Howie of Te Puke love their garden and love showing it off so had no hesitation about planning for next week’s Tauranga Garden and Art Festival as soon as the 2012 event was over. This will be the fifth time they have put out the welcome mat for festival visitors.

“There’s not much use in having a reasonable garden if you don’t share it,” Ron says. “The fact you’re doing it for charity is an added bonus.”


Ron and Pat Howie in their garden. Ron builds the gates and any special features himself. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Howies have some handy hints for anyone planning to open their garden for a big event, such as the well-established Tauranga area festival:

  • Do any big work – tree removal or pruning – at least a year before so everything has recovered and filled in again by the time of the festival
  • Make sure lawns and edges are mowed and tidy before visitors arrive – it improves the look of any garden instantly
  • Never let weeds go to seed and sooner, rather than later, you’ll be on top of them. Planting thickly is a big help in keeping weeds down
  • Be available to talk to visitors; it enhances their experience.

But it’s no good asking them when to prune roses to have them flowering at the right time – Ron gave away all his roses long ago.

Instead, the couple enjoy “pushing the boundaries” by creating a tropical look in a sub-tropical climate, although Ron says they have the benefit of a microclimate thanks to the surrounding kiwifruit orchard shelter belts.

“Not every plant is perfect on the day,” Ron says, “but we try and have a garden that has interest throughout the year … and a spring garden can be ruined overnight by unpredictable weather.”

Pat admits the first time of opening can be nerve-wracking. “You’ve got be able to take a little bit of criticism because somebody will always find fault,” she says.

“But if you just be yourself and make people feel welcome everything will go well.”


Cantua buxifolia is a magenta-flowered woody shrub native to Bolivia and Peru. Pat and Ron have the Bicolour hybrid, while the Tricolour is the national flower of Bolivia as it echoes the colours of the country’s flag. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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

Flowering now

A little while ago I posted a Flowering Now that was coincidentally about red flowers – well, today’s provides the balance with a look at some white flowers.


White Magic hellebore (winter rose). My flowers come on short stems, but there are plenty of them! Photo: Sandra Simpson

And here’s a link to Clifton Homestead Nursery in Otago that specialises in hellebores, a useful plant for part-shaded situations. The large, glossy leaves are there all year and in late winter along come the flowers. The long-stemmed types tend to be nodding but someone told me a few years ago that she grows hers in hanging baskets so she looks up at the flowers. Not a bad idea.


Osmanthus Pearly Gates. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I bought this plant after going for a walk round Looking Glass Garden in the spring – after climbing the Stairway to Heaven with St Peter at the top waiting for us we reckoned we’d earned afternoon tea at Pacifica Garden Centre on the outskirts of Papamoa.

Seeing a plant named Pearly Gates seemed like a big, celestial nudge so we bought it and, as the label said “highly fragrant”, we planted it by the front door. I can’t smell it, but others have told me it has a “sweet, creamy” scent. The label suggested also that it could be used as a “low hedge”, which is an interesting idea.

I’ve tried to photograph my sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) while it’s in flower, but the flowers are very small and I haven’t managed a decent photo yet – I can’t smell that either, yet it’s also supposed to have a pleasant perfume. (Usually I have a good sense of smell so can’t explain this current malfunction.)

My plant is in a tall pot and was badly treated for a time – I moved the pot into a garden bed to fill a temporary hole and promptly forgot about it, leaving it in full sun for the best part of a year. What’s that plant with yellow leaves? Yep, it was an ailing sweet box. I quickly moved it into a shady spot and nutured it for a good while and thankfully it has recovered.

And, finally, my small wildflower patch still has some flowers in it – alyssum is going great guns and there’s also this interesting plant, sweet mignonette (Reseda odorata).


Sweet mignonette. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Rocking it

A high retaining wall that stretches across the street frontage of a house doesn’t sound promising, but one Te Puke gardener has created a bold statement from necessity.

When Jan Aitchison, who has had large country gardens in Galatea and Pukehina, and husband Bruce moved to Te Puke they bought a property that had a large stone retaining wall, slumping in places and with stones missing from others.

But rather than patch up what was there, the couple decided to start again and create a rock wall that would double as a garden.


Sunlight has its part to play in the success of the wall. Photo: Sandra Simpson

“A landscaper gave us the idea and sent us to Ohauiti to see one he’d done. It was just what I wanted,” Jan says. “I didn’t want to hide the rocks, I wanted them to stand out.”

Seventeen truckloads of quarry rock later, the Aitchisons had a 2m-high wall in front of the house that rises from the street verge, with a lower wall beside the driveway and “specimen” rocks elsewhere to carry the theme through.

“The guy who put them in was so good,” Jan says. “It was like watching someone do a giant puzzle – but a puzzle with gaps. I wanted to put a couple of proteas in the wall so he left bigger gaps in those spots.”

The couple chose rock quarried in Welcome Bay, rather than Te Puke, to tone with the colour of their brick home.


Sedum tumbles out of a gap. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Jan has been practical with her plant choice – tough South African and Australian natives – but the wall is also home to “every colour of Carpet Rose” that tumble happily down the irregular sides.

Although the wall garden is watered occasionally, Jan has mostly gone for drought-tolerant plants – including succulents, prostrate rosemary and grevilleas, gazanias, shiny-leafed geraniums and yucca.

The planting also includes Pittosporum Golf Ball, Heliotrope Cherry Pie, canna lilies and perennials to satisfy Jan’s need for colour.

“The intention was always to show the wall off as well,” Jan says. “The rock has its own beauty so I’m happy to cut things back to keep it visible.”


Part of the rock wall that runs across the front of the property. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This article originally appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times and is reprinted here with permission.