Author Archives: Abbie Jury

About Abbie Jury

jury.co.nz Tikorangi The Jury Garden Taranaki NZ

“Garden flowers preferred”

“What is it like being old, Mum?”
“I still see through the same set of eyes.”

032That was a comment in a eulogy at the funeral we attended today. We seem to be making a habit of these in the last month or so. On this occasion, it was to remember a lovely lady, and I use the word ‘lady’ advisedly. She had led a life of ninety years filled with kindness and care. The mother of one of Mark’s oldest friends, she had been a particularly strong influence in his teen years so we were really pleased when the family accepted our offer to do the flowers for the coffin. It is not that we have any floral art inclinations – though Mark can cobble together a bouquet with some simple flair when need be. It is more a case that to celebrate a life – and a keen gardening and flowery life at that – with seasonal blooms that have been picked for remembrance is much more personal than going for a standard florist’s package.

I always find the death notices that say “no flowers please” a little sad although I can understand the sentiment. I like the notices that say “garden flowers preferred”. In other words, do not spend money on buying flowers that I cannot see but pick some flowers from the garden and remember.

It was an honour and a pleasure to remember today with flowers that she would have loved.
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The casket flowers were a simple bouquet of one of Mark’s seedling magnolias and pink and white camellias. I didn’t want to lift them off the tray to photograph them lest I bruise them. If you ever need to do something similar, Mark picked the flowers yesterday afternoon and put them up to their necks in water overnight to ensure they would hold without flopping.
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The mourners’ flowers – to place upon the coffin – were galanthus, Narcissus bulbocodium citrinus, Camellia Fairy Blush, Daphne bholua and an early scilla. After I arrayed these, I thought I had made them look altogether too much like a smorgasbord but I didn’t want to bruise them by handling them into a more artfully casual array. It didn’t really matter because what was most important is that I know that this lovely person, now deceased, would have appreciated every flower.
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The magnolia and the mountain

Magnolia campbellii in our park and Mount Taranaki

Magnolia campbellii in our park and Mount Taranaki

I prefer not to leave a negative post heading my home page for long (for an update on That Matter, refer to the last paragraph here), so here instead is the magnolia and our maunga*. I am waiting for more flowers to open so I can catch the hero shot of Magnolia campbellii in full bloom against the snow. This photo was taken in the early morning light at about 8am, as the sun was rising.

campbellii again

campbellii again

Mark is anxious that I point out I am using a zoom lens and the mountain is not 300 metres away from us. It is more like 35 kilometres distant. In this case, I feel it is appropriate to use the word iconic about our maunga. It is a beautiful volcanic cone which stands in splendid isolation on the coastal plain beside the sea and it is such a strong presence in Taranaki that it is etched into the very being of everybody who lives here. It is still active, although it is a long time since it has done much more than gently rumble to remind us not to take him for granted.

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

M. campbellii is always the first of the named magnolias we have here to open for the season. The tree is a fraction of its former size, having been clipped by a falling poplar tree a few years ago but it continues to grow and will regain its former glory over time.

Just an unnamed seedling

Just an unnamed seedling

For early glory, this unnamed seedling in one of our shelter belts takes the first medal. It is looking great, but it won’t be named or released. It flowers far too early for most climates and is not sufficiently distinctive. It is a good reminder that on their day, many plants look magnificent but they need to continue looking glorious in competition with many other candidates, not just on their day.

First bloom of the season on Felix Jury

First bloom of the season on Felix Jury

The first few flowers have opened on Felix Jury, which is still a source of real pride and joy to us. Felix beat Vulcan to the draw on first bloom this year, although the latter is now showing glorious colour. Felix will also outlast Vulcan when it comes to the length of the flowering season. In colder climates, these earliest bloomers open later. We are lucky where we live that we have clear, intense light – even in mid winter when these magnificent flowers start opening for us.

Mark's Fairy Magnolia White

Mark’s Fairy Magnolia White

Michelias have now been reclassified as magnolias and the earliest varieties are opening. This is Mark’s Fairy Magnolia White which has the bonus of a lovely perfume. Magnolia season feels like the start of a new gardening year for us and each day is filled with anticipation to see what else is opening. Many of our trees are now large, so I find I am often photographing up against the sky. Hence I often refer to this time of the year as the season of skypaper.

As far as my previous post on the magnolia and the well site goes, for those of you curious about the reaction of the company I can report that so far, the reaction has been… nothing. Nothing at all, although I know they spent a lot of time checking it on my site on Tuesday. I fully expect that situation to remain, although I will certainly be pleasantly surprised if the company responds to the challenge.

*Maunga is the Maori word for mountain and is widely used in New Zealand, especially when referring to mountains which have long held particular spiritual significance for tangata whenua – the first people of the land in this country.

The magnolia and the well site***

071
So you want to be a petrochemical company communications manager?

A cautionary tale written without blood, but with plenty of sweat and many tears (ref endnote 1).

Part one:
1) To brand your company as an ethical petrochemical company is:
a) an oxymoron.
b) an unsolicited accolade from the community your company is working within.
c) a mantra to be repeated by all staff until they believe it to be true, irrespective of what the        company does.
d) a branding tag-line to be repeated frequently until certain key organisations hear it so              often that they come to believe it is true.

Correct answers c) and/or d)

2) When approached by a resident to discuss a matter of concern face to face, at a forum set up to enable this precise situation, the correct response is:
a) to get your mobile phone out of your pocket and start checking for messages as a subtle,         passive-aggressive indication to the resident that he/she is of no importance at all.
b) to listen courteously because that is the purpose of the gathering.
c) to give your full attention to the resident because, while you do not like him/her                           personally, he/she may have something to say that is worth listening to and you are, after           all,  representing an ethical company which prides itself on high standards of behaviour               from its staff.

Correct answer: a) (Note 2)

0083) When a senior member of your staff has forwarded an email from a resident to the district council she was criticising, do you:
a) look embarrassed, apologise on the spot to the resident and say you will look into it further.
b) carry out step a), confirm that the incident did happen and get back to the resident with a genuine apology from the company, an explanation of how it happened and what steps have been put in place to ensure it cannot happen again.
c) keep a poker face, do not acknowledge it, do nothing and hope it goes away.

                                           Correct answer: c) (Note 3)

4) When a senior member of your staff has forwarded an internal email from within the company to the New Plymouth District Council which is both patronising and critical of a resident and she receives a copy as part of an Official Information Act enquiry to the council, do you:
a) look embarrassed, apologise on the spot to the resident and say you will look into it                 further.
b) carry out step a), confirm that the incident did happen and get back to the resident with a       genuine apology from the company, an explanation of how it happened and what steps               have been put in place to ensure it cannot happen again.
c) keep a poker face, do not acknowledge it, do nothing and hope it goes away?

Correct answer: c). Again. (Note 4)

007 (3)5) When residents advise you that they have had to close down part of their business because of the high impact of your company activity near them, do you:
a) immediately start looking for actions that may mitigate the effect and whether there is middle ground that can be found.
b) ignore it totally.
c) investigate compensation even though the residents have not asked for it, because their annual loss is in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Correct answer: b) (Note 5)

6) When residents sign an affected party consent under the Resource Management Act based on incomplete information supplied by the company do you:
a) claim it was an honest mistake and do nothing further.
b) apologise and try to rectify the situation.
c) apologise and offer compensation.
d) reply by referring to a related issue only, further obfuscating it with PR waffle-speak.

Correct answer: d) (Note 6)

029 (2)

0287) When keeping affected residents adequately informed is an acknowledged issue, what should you do?
a) Regularly email the neighbours who have expressed a preference for communications by email from the company.
b) Absolutely nothing above and beyond what you have always done.
c) Trust the neighbourhood grapevine. It is a very effective                                                                     method for transmitting accurate information.

                                                              Correct answer: b) (Note 7)

026 (2)8) Communication from a petrochemical company is best summarised in which of the following statements?
a) A two way dialogue between the company and affected parties with genuine, direct engagement.
b) A one way process whereby the company disseminates the information it chooses to disseminate.

                                                              Correct answer: b) (Note 8)

9) To shut down all communication with residents who persistently raise concerns that the company does not wish to address is:
a) Best PR and Communications practice.
b) A really subtle method of increasing the stress levels on the residents.
c) An effective message to the residents that the company “frankly doesn’t give a damn, m’dear”.

Correct answers b) and c) (Note 9)

10) When a resident mentions two properties listed for sale on either side of Mangahewa C site, both of which have asking prices below their rateable value, enquiring whether there is a link to Todd’s activities, do you:
a) ensure that there is no discussion in the public forum on this matter.
b) immediately investigate thoroughly because if there is a correlation, this is a major issue for residents in the district and therefore for the company.
c) airily dismiss it in one-on-one conversation by generalising the matter out to ‘times being tough in Taranaki’.

Correct answers a) and c) (Note 10)

011

Part two:

11) In 250 words or less, write a paragraph incorporating at least 10 of the following statements while conceding no company responsibility or definite action (Note 11):

  • … minimise disruption to the community.
  • We sincerely work…
  • …. minimum possible level
  • We remain very committed to an opportunity to discuss
  • … some constructive dialogue
  • … our internal planning for reducing the disruption to residents
  • It is important that we understand your concerns.
  • We remain committed to working through this situation
  • We acknowledge all the concerns
  • Your points have raised a high level of internal attention regarding future procedures for dissemination of Todd Energy information and the most appropriate communication methods.
  • We are committed to ongoing dialogue
  • … options to minimise disruption to yourselves and the broader community.
  • … this statement used in isolation is misleading

If you have managed a score of eight or better, congratulations. You are well equipped to take on a senior role in communications for a petrochemical company.

028 (2)

Note 1: The back story:
From 2006 until the second half of 2014, we managed a courteous and cooperative relationship with Todd Energy throughout their intensive activities which have had major negative impacts on our life here at Tikorangi. This took considerable effort and goodwill from both parties. The relationship broke down late last year and continues to deteriorate. At about the time of the relationship breakdown, new senior staff were appointed at Todd. While this may be coincidental, our point of contact changed and the style of interaction changed.

On March 27 this year, the Manager of Community Relations contacted us, suggesting a meeting. After delays from Todd’s end, an agenda was agreed and that meeting took place on May 14 where we tabled our many concerns. On June 19 we received an official response from the company which consisted of some additional information around only one of our concerns. It failed to address that concern directly and all other issues were ignored.

Note 2: April 9, 2015, Todd Energy Community Consultation Forum held at Manukorihi Golf Club, as reported by a third party.

Note 3: My email to Hamish McHaffie at Todd Energy, sent on December 27, 2013 was forwarded to New Plymouth District Council consenting staff on January 22, 2014, by Todd staff member, Bill Armstrong. That private email of mine contained various references about the staff to whom it was forwarded, including: ”… with NPDC decisions appearing to be increasingly erratic (a couple of really odd ones came through on Christmas Eve which made me wonder if the staff member had been imbibing since lunchtime)…”

Note 4: The same email chain mentioned in (3) also contained internal company communications. I found the comments about me to be incorrect, patronising, offensive and inappropriate to be forwarded beyond the company staff.

Note 5: Email to Todd Energy, March 31 2015, unacknowledged. Also raised explicitly at the meeting on May 14, to be received in complete silence.

Note 6: Complicated, but the reply of June 19 does not address the core issues raised which were related to the writer failing to inform us that if we signed the single men’s camp consent, it would materially affect the apparently unrelated traffic consent which was our main concern. The outcome significantly benefited the company while stripping away the small legal protection we had held.

Hamish McHaffie
To Abbie Jury
CC Jane Snowden
Jun 19
Hi Abbie,

We’ve received the flowing (sic) points back from NPDC/Ralph:

• The rig camp consent expires 2018 so remains part of the existing environment until then.

• The NPDC view is that a consent application to drill a further two wells (for example) at MHW C would trigger the issue of traffic on the local road and the parties that traffic goes past. That would include the Jury’s.

• Our provisional opinion is that no matter whether the rig camp consent was live or not, the overall effects of the elevated local road traffic arising from further drilling and testing would likely on balance result in the Jury’s and others being identified as affected parties which would be the same as for the initial MHW C consent.

• Certainly having a rig camp on site would be a positive traffic mitigation measure in reducing traffic effects. But we do not foresee that reducing traffic effects to the less than minor level the RMA specifies before parties are considered not to be affected.

The points above have mostly been our understanding through the consenting and variation processes. The premise of these points continues to drive our internal planning for reducing the disruption to residents around MHW C and at this stage we have no plans for any additional wells at MHW C site.

We remain committed to working through this situation with you and Mark, especially resolving any concerns you may have about how new future activity will be consented. Jane and I have been discussing a follow up meeting with you both. We are available if you and Mark would like to have a follow up meeting?

Kind regards,
Hamish.

Note 7: At the May 14 meeting, we tabled our concerns about not being kept informed of changes to activities which have a major impact on us with additional traffic generation. We were asked how we preferred to be kept informed and specified email. In the time since, we have not been informed of a new date for the commencement of Mangahewa G site, of a pending consent application to NPDC for additional work at McKee , of a “scope estimate” variation to current work on Mangahewa C site which could see work continuing nearly six week longer than earlier projected. The only notification we have in fact received is a letterbox drop telling us that drilling is starting again on Mangahewa C site on July 25 which, as far as we can work out, means that that the work on that site is already running later than the aforementioned “scope estimate”.

Note 8: For example: April 14 from Jane Snowden: “Todd would like to ensure you have all relevant information related to our current and future operations”
June 23 from Jane Snowden: “Your points have raised a high level of internal attention regarding future procedures for dissemination of Todd Energy information and the most appropriate communication methods.
We are committed to ongoing dialogue with you and Mark regarding future Todd operations and any measures you consider we can initiate to create better practices for the exchange of information. Hamish and I are available at any stage to follow up on questions relating to our current and future operational program and discuss any potential options to minimise disruption to yourselves and the broader community.” (italics, mine, but the message is clear that the writer has no intention of discussing serious issues that have been raised about company actions in the immediate past.)

Note 9: In response to an offer to meet with us again, I replied on June 24:
To Jane Snowden
CC Hamish McHaffie
Jun 24
Dear Jane,
Yes, do let us have another meeting. With the same agenda, but this time you and Hamish get to talk and to give a response to the specific concerns we raised. I am sure, as an ethical company, you will wish to address these.

While you are, as you say, taking measures on “future procedures for dissemination of Todd Energy information and the most appropriate communication methods”, this is not a substitute for responding to us in detail on our very specific concerns.
Regards,
Abbie

Abbie and Mark Jury
Tikorangi – The Jury Garden

There has been no reply. Earlier, I had registered my concerns at the failure of the same recipient to respond on April 14 and April 23.

Note 10: June25, 2015, Todd Energy Community Consultation Forum held at Manukorihi Golf Club. As reported by a third party.
http://www.trademe.co.nz/property/rural/auction-910203752.htm
http://www.trademe.co.nz/property/residential-property-for-sale/auction-880835916.htm

Note 11: All excerpts from recent emails received from Todd Energy.

*** Why the magnolia and the well site? A couple of years ago, when we were on better terms with Todd Energy, we gave them a small truckload of plants – mostly magnolias and michelias – to screen plant the roadside at Mangahewa E site along Tikorangi Road. The magnoliafication of Tikorangi, we jokingly call it – putting the stamp of our special magnolias through the area and, we hope, bringing pleasure to local residents. It just seemed so haunting when last season I saw Mark’s beautiful Magnolia Felix Jury (named for his father), putting up a bold and brave bloom in front of the site. A visual metaphor for the area where we live.

The above represents the opinions of the writer based on her personal experiences, unless otherwise noted.

009

Garden lore: July 20, 2015 Petal blight, white camellia hedges and winter pruning

“One has a lot, an endless lot, to learn when one sets out to be a gardener.”

Vita Sackville-West, A Joy of Gardening (1958)

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Petal blight

Petal blight

After writing about Winter Whites last week, referencing the ubiquitous white camellia hedges, of course I noticed this hedge on my way to town. My eye was drawn to the composition of brown and white flowers. It is a japonica camellia, though which one I am not sure. Closer examination revealed a bad case of petal blight, even this early in the season. There are two main giveaway signs. The first is the brown flowers hanging on to the bush. Most modern camellias are what is called self-grooming. They are bred to drop their spent blooms but those affected by petal blight hang on. The blighters. The second sign is shown by turning over a brown bloom and removing the calyx that holds the petals together. There is the tell-tale white ring of death – fungal spores. There is no remedy. You either live with it or you remove the plants.
076

I have never been a fan of japonica camellias for hedging. The foliage can go a bit yellow in full sun and both leaves and blooms are too big. Smaller leafed camellias, seen in the sasanquas, some of the species and the hybrids look much better. Miniature single flowers usually fall cleanly and disintegrate quickly, avoiding the sludgy brown effect below.

Camellia transnokoensis

Camellia transnokoensis

While our C. transnokoensis hedge needs to thicken up yet, we are charmed by its floral display. The sasanqua ‘Silver Dollar’ is also an excellent hedging choice. While the small flowers are nothing special viewed close-up, it is one of the first sasanquas to bloom for us and one of the last so it has exceptionally long season allied to compact growth and small leaves which are a good, dark green.

Camellia sasanqua Silver Dollar - an excellent hedging option

Camellia sasanqua Silver Dollar – an excellent hedging option 

While some claim that sasanquas can get petal blight, we haven’t seen it on our plants. And although the single flowered species and hybrids are not necessarily resistant, most set large numbers of flowers but each bloom only lasts a few days so they fall before blight takes hold.

On another topic, winter is pruning time. I did the wisterias on Friday. This is one plant family I recommend removing totally if you are not willing to prune them. They have dangerous proclivities. Most of the roses are done and I have started on the hydrangeas. Those in colder climates may be better to wait another month before tackling the last two because pruning encourages new growth which is vulnerable to frosts. The pruning guides I did several years ago as part of my Outdoor Classroom series give step by step instructions if you are not sure where to start – wisteria, hydrangeas, roses.

Magic carpet

Snowdrops on a hillside

Snowdrops on a hillside

July may be the bleakest month of winter for us but it is also snowdrop time and these little charmers brighten the greyest of days. You can never have too many snowdrops in my opinion, and the varieties that do well with us are building up to a satisfying level. By definition, that is when we have enough to move them out of optimal garden or nursery conditions and start establishing them in carpets.

It is our interest in what we call “romantic gardening” – others refer to it as “naturalistic gardening” – that we derive as much, if not more pleasure from plants naturalised in meadow conditions as we do from cultivated, tightly maintained garden beds. It is a blurring of the edges in gardening, exploring how far we can replicate the simple charm of wildflowers but in a managed situation.

Lachenalia aloides and grape hyacinths (muscari) at the base of Pinus muricata

Lachenalia aloides and grape hyacinths (muscari) at the base of Pinus muricata

It is not as easy as it sounds. Many of the charming bulbs in their natural environment have conditions which are much harsher than here. Winters that are very cold and often dry mean that most growth stops, as do summers that are hot and dry. But in our dairy-farming heartland, soft conditions keep grass growing all year round and that growth will simply swamp most bulbs. It has taken us some years to learn to manage this. Selecting bulbs that will cope in our conditions has been trial and error.

Bluebells and hooped petticoats (Narcissus bulbocodium) planted at the base of a eucalypt

Bluebells and hooped petticoats (Narcissus bulbocodium) planted at the base of a eucalypt

It also takes eleventy thousand more bulbs than you think it will. Even bulk buying a couple of hundred bulbs is not going to create much of a carpet in the short term. To get a quick result using large bulbs like daffodils or bluebells, planting at one every 10 square centimetres means 100 per square metre. I worked this out because I was planting a little mixed area. Using dainties like erythroniums, dwarf daffodils, snowdrops, crocus and rhodohypoxis, it took about 4 of these small bulbs per 10 square centimetres – or 400 per square metre. That is a large number and may explain why we don’t see many bulb meadows in this country, beyond well established fields of daffodils dating back many decades. Obviously, if you plant at greater spacings, you can cover a larger area but you will wait longer for the carpet effect.

Colchicum autumnale flowering at the base of a metasequoia

Colchicum autumnale flowering at the base of a metasequoia

While planting around tree trunks is not the same thing as naturalising bulbs in a meadow situation, it proved to be a good place to start for us. We have many trees in fairly open situations where it is possible to establish easy bulbs beneath. Most bulbs need sun so these need to be trees with a higher canopy to allow light below. Planting amongst the exposed roots of established trees ensures the bulbs don’t get mown off or trampled as they surface and generally they get established with little competition. It is also an effective way of controlling some of the invasive bulbs like ipheions and ornamental oxalis.

Scattering seed is hit and miss and slower to give any results but much easier. We were delighted this year to see Cyclamen hederafolium showing its colours where Mark had scattered fresh seed several years ago. He had given up hope that it would work but lo, there are rewards for patient gardeners and the older we get, the more patience we seem to be developing.

 Bluebells planted on the margins, drifting through our park area

Bluebells planted on the margins, drifting through our park area

Bluebells are easy and we have used them in swathes around shrubs in the area we call our park. Because they are flowering at the same time as the full flush of spring grass growth, we have to keep them to the side of areas we need to mow. Bluebell, and indeed snowdrop, woods that we have admired in Britain are carpets beneath deciduous trees. Our woodland areas are heavily dominated by evergreens so we don’t get enough light to replicate those carpets here. That is why we have to opt for the margins instead.

The triumph of experience has been getting grassy banks with dwarf narcissi and snowdrops naturalised. To do this, Mark spent some years establishing the native grass, microlina. It is finer and less vigorous so doesn’t swamp the bulbs and can be controlled with minimal cutting – just a pass over with the weedeater from time to time. It is not quite the same as a bulb meadow, but we have learned to work with what we have here.

Carrying a tray of Nerine pudica, in case you are wondering (which I admit I planted in the rockery, not in meadows)

Carrying a tray of Nerine pudica, in case you are wondering (which I admit I planted in the rockery, not in meadows)

First published in the July issue of New Zealand Gardener and reprinted here with their permission.

Winter whites

Ripples on the ice formed on a farm trough

Ripples on the ice formed on a farm trough

July is our bleakest winter month here. We feel the cold, especially this week with three sharp frosts in a row which is unusual for us, but the daytime temperatures rarely drop below double figures (Celsius). The ice photo is from a water trough on the coldest part of the property. Mark was very taken with the patterns.

Early Pearly - the loveliest of sasanqua camellia flower forms

Early Pearly – the loveliest of sasanqua camellia flower forms

But cold is a relative thing and a winter here in Taranaki remains full of flowers. I was playing around with white camellia blooms because I had been reminded of our love affair with white flowers in this country. The ‘any colour is fine as long as it is white” syndrome, perhaps. I am sure gardeners in parts of the world which spend many weeks or months or under snow might find this national obsession with white flowers puzzling. I suspect it may derive from a sense of social envy – Sissinghurst’s white garden has a lot to answer for here in the antipodes.

As I progressed on my white flower assemblages, often having to pick the flowers because it has been raining or windy, I began to feel positively bridal despite the winter chill.
029
The Montanoa bipinnatifida has passed over and the monarch butterflies have moved onto an obscure michelias species that is flowering. The frosts have dealt to the Dahlia imperialis alba this week and Luculia ‘Fragrant Pearl’ is passing over, but there is plenty of white in evidence. Yes, it is a dead harrier hawk above – killed on the road but passed on to a Maori weaver to use the feathers. In the basket starting at the back is one of the gordonias. They have been particularly good this season. Then the small flowers are Camellia transnokoensis  which we rate highly as a small leaved, miniature flowered species which we are using as hedging. We replaced some buxus hedging with this camellia. For, Mark reasoned, how much better to have a hedge that has pretty flowers which make a contribution to the ecosystem by feeding birds and insects. Next is another species, Camellia gauchowensis, Camellia sasanqua Mine No Yuki, Early Pearly and at the front Camellia drupifera. 

Camellia transnokoensis

Camellia transnokoensis

Picked in the rain today

Picked in the rain today

Daphne bholua

Daphne bholua

At the top we have Mark’s new Daphne Perfume Princess – not pure white by any manner of means but the overall display is more white than coloured. Next to it is one of our favourite species, Camellia yuhsienensis, whose flowers are like the michelias of the camellia world. Below is the Himalayan daphne,  Daphne bholua  , which has the sweetest perfume of any daphne we know but suffers from scruffy growth and badly behaved habits of suckering and seeding. Next is Rose Flower Carpet White (does it ever stop blooming?) and then the pretty bloom of Superstar – another white camellia which we rate highly on garden performance and weather hardiness – at least when compared to most larger flowered whites.

 

Galanthus - the winter snowdrops
We may not get a long season from the galanthus and they certainly don’t peek through the snow here, but the simple charm is constant. Galanthus elwesii and Galanthus ‘S Arnott’ are the most reliable performers in our conditions. Although we grow some other varieties, these two are our mainstay.

067Finally today, I headed out into the chill to find the white evergreen azaleas, the very first of the new season’s michelias (deliciously fragrant) and white hellebores. By this time, I found my eyes being drawn to colour and red blooms were demanding my attention. I would find a monochromatic garden soon palled but the colours  will have to wait for another day as I end with the simple perfection of Camellia Superstar below.

Superstar (6)

The Avocado Thief

Avocado tree

Avocado tree

023 - CopyBehold an avocado tree. A tree, I admit, that demonstrates a case of allowing a twin trunk to develop though I am told that is permitted with avocados. It is a tree which has had the best ever crop of Hass avocados this year. It has truly been a mast year. We are a bit marginal when it comes to avocados and they tend to crop biennially. There is no crop next year so we are making hay (or guacamole, to be precise) while the winter sun shines.

 

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit A is the pile of avocado pits around the place. These tell us that we are not alone in harvesting the crop. In fact given the predations of waxeyes, starlings, blackbirds, rats and possums, it is a miracle that we still collect fruit by the bucket load. Possums are a major pest in this country and Mark and the dogs do a round each evening checking for them. Mark conducts an autopsy on the stomach contents of each possum he shoots – mostly to check who is eating the buds of the magnolia trees at this time of the year – and noted last week that one appeared to be full of guacamole.

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

But exhibit B fingered another avocado thief. None of the aforementioned raiders stashes partially eaten fruit all round the place. We had noticed that new dog Dudley was looking particularly glossy and plump. The natural avocado oils are clearly kind to his fur. Mark has taken to doing a circuit twice a day to pick up whole fruit that has fallen in an attempt to beat Dudley to the draw but any time the dog disappears from view, it is a fair bet that he can be found near the avocado tree.

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Dudley is a four year old fox terrier, surrendered by his previous owner to the SPCA for re-homing. He came to us in January – clearly a well-loved townie dog used to being fed tidbits any time his previous owner was eating, allowed on any furniture and accustomed to sleeping in his owner’s bed. He was a little timid at the space here and confused by the changes in rules. But now he has taken on the role of estate dog as though he were to the manner born. He is a whizz on rats, a keen possum dog, happy to assist with moving the four beefies that comprise Mark’s little cattle herd, patrols the boundary to ensure that Sam the neighbour’s dog does not make incursions and  he is more than happy to deal to the perceived surplus of avocados.

 

To the manner born

To the manner born