Urban living – Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ and wheelie bins

IMG_0741Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’. Again. Beloved of landscapers and non-gardeners alike, it is even more popular in Australia than in New Zealand. For readers who continue to think that the name ‘Little Gem’ means this is a dwarf tree that will only reach two or maybe three metres high, I offer you these plants photographed from Sydney daughter’s third floor balcony. They are already head height on the third floor and will have more growing to do.

These particular plants have been stretched upwards by close planting at not much more than metre spacings. Trees will reach for the light when there is competition but there is nothing unusual about ‘Little Gem’ reaching this height. Apparently the owners of the ground-floor apartment are not so keen on them. I can understand this. All they will see is the bare trunks at the base but to them falls the task of cleaning up the leathery leaves which take a very long time to break down. It is our daughter who gets the benefit of flowers and foliage three stories up.

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IMG_7138Just be warned if you are planting this handsome but ubiquitous tree in a small space. Also, do not expect a glorious floral display from the evergreen grandiflora magnolias, such as you get from deciduous magnolias and members of the evergreen michelia family. The grandiflora flowers are individually showy but short-lived and generally few in number at any time. The bougainvillea in this photo from the third floor balcony has since been removed by the ground floor owners and I can’t blame them for that. Like most climbers, it flowers on the top growth, so they would have had all the problems of rampant and wayward growth with fierce thorns but none of the delight of the colourful bracts.

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When a frangipani and wheelie bins fill your only outdoor space….

Urban living is a source of some fascination for me, a long-term country dweller with huge amounts of personal physical space – even more so when it is high density, inner city living rather than suburbia. There is much discussion in our largest city of Auckland these days about the need for intensification of housing in the face of a rapid growth in population. I could not help but notice in Sydney that the provision of space for rubbish and recycling collection is often overlooked in the planning of both building and the provision of services. When your only outdoor space is almost totally taken up by a plethora of recycling bins, it seems a failure of something.

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After a wait of 17 years – flowers!

Camellia impressinvervis

Camellia impressinvervis

When I published my article on The Golden Camellias of China and Vietnam back in early June, I added an excited postscript noting that one of our plants of a yellow species was about to bloom for the first time.

Not just one, it turned out, but three! These were plants that we bought in 2001, back in the heady days of Neville Haydon and his Camellia Haven Nursery and they were probably two-year old grafts at the time. So it has only taken about 17 years for them to flower in our conditions. We are marginal for these tropical species.

Fortunately, Neville is still available and switched- on, despite advancing years, and was able to identify the species from photographs. The labels on the plants here had long since gone. So this year, we have flowered C. euphlebia, nitidissima and impressinervis. The nitidissima we will have bought under that name because we already had C. chrysantha and would not have bought a second one and it is likely that they were thought to be different species back then. So we probably have two different forms of it.

Camellia euphlebia

Camellia euphlebia

They did not all flower at the same time, so I could not get a photo of all three in a row. What I can say is that C. euphlebia only had a four or five blooms in total and they were very small but the foliage is the largest of all and handsome in its own right.

Camellia nitidissima

Camellia nitidissima

C. nitidissima is the stand-out for us – plenty of flowers. Too many to count, even. Blooms were large enough to stand out on the bush and the foliage and form is handsome. Unfortunately our earlier form of C. nitidissima that we have under the name of C. chrysantha did not flower this year, so I could not compare the two forms.

C. impressinervis to the left, C. nitidissima to the right

C. impressinervis to the left, C. nitidissima to the right

C. impressinervis has blooms of similar size, substance and colour to nitidissima but not as many of them. It also appears to put up filaments (presumably petaloids?) in the centre of the showy boss of stamens. Our plant is upright with the typical bullate foliage and it set at least 100% more blooms than C. euphlebia this year (in other words, about 10).

C. euphlebia to the left, C. nitidissima on the right.

C. euphlebia to the left, C. nitidissima on the right.

These are collectors’ plants. I am not aware of them still being in commercial cultivation in New Zealand. But at least they are in the country and anybody determined to get hold of them will be able to find material to graft plants for themselves. Though most people will need to learn how to graft first but the decline in technical skills is another topic altogether.

When you have waited 17 years for flowers, it is a pretty exciting experience (in an understated gardening sort of way) when the first blooms open.

Why do so many New Zealanders hate trees?

IMG_0878I read a report last week about leading Auckland mayoral candidate, Phil Goff’s plan to plant a million trees around Auckland.  Good luck on that one, Phil, I thought. For many New Zealanders do not like trees.

I was telling Mark about findings in The Sceptical Gardener, by Ken Thompson, who is clearly interested in the effect of a garden and trees on real estate prices. First he quoted a US study. From Lubbock, in Texas, no less. The shorter version is that if you have a garden that is a rich, layered eco-system that supports a wide range of different birds, the correlation is that it adds US$32,028 to the value of your real estate when you go to sell it. There is more – another chapter on determining the value of trees, both planted on your own section and also on the road verge. A Perth (Western Australia) study shows broad-leafed trees on the road verge add AU$16,889 to the value of your adjacent real estate. That is a very precise sum.

“Not in New Zealand,” was Mark’s comment, articulating what I had already thought. “It is more likely to devalue your property by that amount in New Zealand.” For many New Zealanders do not like trees.

4589Why, when we live in a country that was until very recently, heavily forested, do so many people hate trees here? Why do so many folk want to hack back or cut out anything over two metres in height? And why do we so often see the death sentence pronounced and carried out on trees once they have reached about fifty years of age? “Past their use-by date”, it is often claimed even though the tree may in fact have a life expectancy of hundreds of years.

I used to think that maybe it was a visceral response that harks back to the difficult conditions encountered by our early settler forbears who arrived expecting to find pleasant green, rolling lands but instead had to start by hacking out dense, impenetrable forest in order to find a place to stand.

Upon reflection, it is more likely a response to conditions whereby our climate is not quite as warm as most of us would like and our housing stock is generally of low quality – at least when compared to other western societies and cooler climates. Often poorly insulated, if at all, and inadequately heated, most of us rely on passive solar heating so we want sun, sun and more sun. Woe betide any tree that might block a ray of sun or indeed any view. We are still a very new country with little respect, let alone reverence, for the past.

Third floor balcony of a Sydney apartment

Third floor balcony of a Sydney apartment

I am just back from a visit to Australia where both our two daughters live and I could not help but notice the greater role played by trees in that country. Sydney daughter has a third floor apartment with a good-sized balcony and how bleak that setting would be without the surrounding foliage. It is high density living not far from Bondi, with heavy traffic and residential high rise all around. Yet despite that, there are only three apartments that overlook her living area, both indoors and outdoors and the trees cushion the heavily urbanised environment. The trees are a combination of large specimens on the verge and trees planted in the garden of the ground floor apartment.

Canberra suburbia

Canberra suburbia

Canberra daughter lives in a much harsher climate (hot in summer and very cold in winter) but is in one of the desirable leafy suburbs with large street trees. Canberra is a planned city and in her area, the trees are allowed to grow to maturity even at the expense of footpaths. There aren’t many footpaths at all and those that do exist, appear to be laid in slabs which would accommodate tree roots better than the unimpeded level surface poured in one that we demand in NZ suburbs. Additionally, front fences are banned – only hedges allowed – which avoids the prison look of some of Auckland’s leafy suburbs. Daughter tells me that public policy is such that where tree replacement is required, no more than 20% of trees be felled at any one time.

So good luck to Phil Goff and his million trees. Increasing housing density in Auckland means that leafy public plantings are going to be even more important to soften the urban environment. But he will be fighting some hostile attitudes from many residents.

064Some readers may recall our lost campaign to try and save about 29 mature pohutukawa that lined the river in our local town of Waitara.

IMG_5481Believe it or not, some folk actually think this barren wasteland (now grassed) is an improvement. Three small specimens have been planted to replace the missing twenty-nine. Eventually, that is. As long as tree-hating local residents and the powers-that-be don’t hack them out before they ever reach maturity. For this is New Zealand and urban trees are not greatly valued by many.

Reticulata camellias – from China with passion

A reticulata hybrid bred from C. lindl and named ‘Liuye Yinhong’, photographed at Kunming Botanic Gardens

A reticulata hybrid bred from C. lindl and named ‘Liuye Yinhong’, photographed at Kunming Botanic Gardens

C. lindl

C. lindl

There is a special thrill to seeing a plant in its natural habitat. The species are often very different to the plants we know and grow in our gardens. So it was with the reticulata camellia known as ‘lindl’ that is indigenous to the forests on Baotai Mount in Yongping County, south-west China. It may be the parent of many of the named reticulatas grown as garden ornamentals, but in itself, it is not a showy garden plant. It is a naturally occurring forest tree – and by tree, I mean anything up to 18 metres high.

 

C. lindl is the is the dominant indigenous reticulata camellia species on Mount Baotai.

C. lindl is the is the dominant indigenous reticulata camellia species on Mount Baotai.

The city of Dali in the Yunnan Province of China proudly proclaims itself as the homeland of camellias so it was only appropriate that they hosted the International Camellia Congress in February this year. Their literature claims records show that camellias have been cultivated for as long as 1500 years and based on what we saw, you would be hard pressed to find anywhere in the world where they are cultivated more extensively than in their home territory. They are a commercially significant plant – to the envy of every nurseryperson who attended the congress.

A private courtyard garden in the village of Longxiadeng

A private courtyard garden in the village of Longxiadeng

Public plantings in parks and temples featured reticulata camellias- or retics, as they are often called by camellia folk. Domestic gardening we saw was largely based around courtyards, densely furnished with container grown plants and the retics were dominant. Ordinary folk walking down the street carrying a plant home were carrying retics in bloom. We saw extensive bonsai being carried out on big old reticulatas that have been dug up and brought in to remodel in a new way.

Zhangjia Garden – a modern recreation of traditional vernacular architecture with extensive displays of camellias (10 000, apparently), almost all grown in containers in the five internal courtyards. The majority are reticulatas, as can be seen in this temporary display in a stone trough.

Zhangjia Garden – a modern recreation of traditional vernacular architecture with extensive displays of camellias (10 000, apparently), almost all grown in containers in the five internal courtyards. The majority are reticulatas, as can be seen in this temporary display in a stone trough.

There is not a big range of different named cultivars. Mark, who finds interest in variety and difference, found the dominance of maybe six to ten varieties began to pall a little. Some are the same as selections seen around New Zealand, although they have been renamed by Western gardeners. There do not appear to be dramatic new breakthroughs in colour, flower form or growth habit in this branch of the camellia family.  They just are. And they are celebrated for what they are and given pride of place in the local culture.

The reticulata camellias in our garden are far more recent with most dating back a mere 50 years or so. In that time they have made small, open trees, maybe 4 metres high. Every year they flower in abundance with blooms that can be up to the size of a bread and butter plate. I mentioned the curse of petal blight in my June column and it is true that reticulatas also suffer from this unpleasant affliction. However, the sheer weight of the large blooms means that most will fall cleanly, rather than hanging about attached to the plant as the japonica camellias tend to.

Reticulata camellias are used extensively in public plantings in the Yunnan, such as this one at a temple in Dali.

Reticulata camellias are used extensively in public plantings in the Yunnan, such as this one at a temple in Dali.

Reticulatas used to be part of the usual camellia offering in this country. Sasanquas for hedging and autumn colour, japonicas and hybrids for mass blooming from mid winter to spring and reticulatas for their big show-off blooms. Sadly, no more and that is a reflection of the downward pressure on plant pricing and the move to plants that can be more easily produced in larger numbers. The issue is that very few reticulatas grow on their own roots so they are not able to be grown from cutting.  They need to be grafted onto rootstock and they are not easy to graft successfully. The prized variegations that can give bi-coloured blooms and, at times, foliage are indicative of virus in the plants and that virus weakens plant growth and makes them harder to graft.

If you see any reticulatas offered for sale, buy one or more on the spot if you want them. You can always hold them in a container until you have their garden position prepared. You may not see them again if you wait until you are ready. The only alternative is to go back to the ways of an earlier generation and learn how to do your own grafting.

 

Yours truly in the Kunming Botanic Gardens (photo: Tony Barnes)

Yours truly in the Kunming Botanic Gardens (photo: Tony Barnes)

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

Baotai (24)

Garden urns, pots and fonts

From statuary to urns – my mind is still on garden decoration.  I looked up the definition of an urn – “a tall, rounded vase with a stem and base” so I am stretching the limits with some of my squatter pots but they add to the garden ambience theme.

S3700216These are the genuine article when it comes to terracotta urns – Greek oil jars. I spotted them just lying about looking absurdly decorative out the back of a shed on a tiny island just off Patmos. It was not until I saw Greek oil jars that I ever considered the different shades of terracotta that come depending on the local clay. On the eastern isles, the terracotta was quite pale with a white powdery finish which I find much more attractive than the more usual orange shades. If I could have shipped some lovely oil jars home, I would have.

250SettringtonHardly urns, but a handy segue on how attractive older utility gear can be, forcing pots, just hangin’ about waiting to be used again in the vegetable garden. Placed over vegetables that need blanching (rhubarb, kale, white asparagus, celery and the like) they produce more tender shoots. We saw them in more than one English garden. I think they are available in New Zealand but with a hefty price tag that will ensure they are used as ornament, not their designated purpose.

IMG_5468If you are going to have an urn, or a font, maybe, and have a property that is of a suitable scale, then you might as well make it a B I G one. This is at Castle Howard in Yorkshire with Mark standing beside it. I am not sure what is growing in it but it did not really enhance the Experience of the Urn. It may have been more effective left empty.

IMG_4496When it comes to lidded urns that bear a slight resemblance to a certain style of funeral urn, the same principle may apply. If you are going to have one, it may well look considerably more dramatic if you have many, as in this interesting and contemporary small Auckland garden.

Gresgarth (21)Gresgarth (41)Still with the greys, these two handsome urns are from Arabella Lennox-Boyd’s garden at Gresgarth. The squatter pot was nestled into the garden by the stream, making a charming scene to be viewed at close quarters. The use of a plinth makes the taller pot a statement all on its own. I admired it enormously, even more so in its understated meadow setting.

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Grey-black can be an attractive colour in a modern garden, as in this pot which was just gently and effectively decorating a blank area. I liked its understatement. It didn’t need to be filled with red pelargoniums or similar colour. The terracotta pot is mine. Bought as a “temple pot” and not, sadly, a high quality Burrelli pot as some have assumed. But it is not unattractive and serves a useful function as a holding place for bamboo stakes in that area of the garden. These tall pots are a classic design that has endured because it is a visually pleasing shape.

Barnetts (3)Barnetts (60)I feel some gardeners haven’t quite taken on board the message that some pots are sufficiently elegant to exist simply as a decorative pot, without a plant in it. Very deep pots can drain poorly – some even come without any drainage holes in the bottom at all – meaning that the roots are going to be very wet all the time. A tall pot on a narrow base is not the most stable design. Adding in a tall plant will make it even more top-heavy. Further, to keep container plants healthy and growing well, they really need to be completely repotted in new mix at least every second year, if not annually. Getting a plant out of a pot with a narrow top is a mission and usually involves either damaging the plant or breaking the pot.

431This modern urn filled with copper foliage (posssibly a  cirsium -one of the ornamental thistles) sat on a plinth in an otherwise austere setting – the stable yard, I think it was – in a private Yorkshire garden. One of a pair or maybe even more, I am sure they were not cheap to buy but they were very effective. I thought from one of my photos that they were marble, but looking at the others, it appears they may be a composite stone that is made to resemble marble and the run-off from the copper is giving a subtle patina over time,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANobody does cheerful urnage like the Spanish and the Portuguese. At least nobody that I have seen. I photographed these two in Seville because they were so shamelessly flamboyant. The amazing thing is that these pots can be placed in a public area and not be smashed as they would likely be in this country. But honestly, I think it is very difficult to transfer this sort of decoration away from that bright light and cultural context of southern Europe without running the dire risk of it simply looking, well, vulgar. The only time I have seen something similar done successfully was by Lynda Hallinan in Auckland. Her elaborate pot sits empty, you will notice (filling it would really be over-gilding an already gilded lily), nestled in amongst lots of foliage and flowers where it caught my eye.

Tupare (16)And the modern take on the baptismal font? This is in the middle of the raised beds at Tupare Garden in New Plymouth. I am not sure it is a good enough piece to take centre stage. It may have looked more at home were it in grey stone but that sort of modern take on mellow Cotswold stone is not so much at home across the world. But I guess it comes down to personal taste.

“Not exactly the Trevi Fountain” – statuary in the New Zealand garden

The real thing, the Trevi Fountain

The real thing, the Trevi Fountain

The slowdown in posts of late is not an indication of lack of active gardening here. Far from it. But I subscribe to a few gardening blogs and have come to the conclusion that there is a limit to how interesting it is to read the day to day minutiae of somebody else’s garden. When I had to come up with three new stories a week for the Waikato Times, I was constantly alert to potential topics and thinking ahead. Without that discipline, my attention has wandered.

However, my Sunday morning conversations with Tony Murrell on Radio Live have me focusing my thoughts again. I have to. Going to air live at 6.30am means I must rise with some thoughts already formed. We agree to a topic or two in advance but then allow the conversation to flow as it may. This morning it was about sculpture, garden decoration and the difficulty of placing these well in a garden setting.

The whole topic of garden decoration is enormous, of course. But it did have me thinking about the difference between sculpture and ornamentation and searching out some of my many photos to send to RadioLive. For someone who owns a garden that is very light on decoration, I sure have a lot of photos of examples of these from other people’s gardens. Today’s post brings you the good – and the bad – of people. We have no human figurines in our garden, let alone larger figures which may pass as statues. “There is,” as Mark says, “nothing armless, legless or white in our garden”. The same cannot be said of Eden Gardens in Auckland. Maybe their figures were bequests, as much of that garden depends on memorial bequests.

Armless and white in Eden Gardens

Armless and white in Eden Gardens

The armless or legless white figures presumably allude to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, though the debt is rather distant. I have only seen the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum and did not look at them that closely but I have seen Italian marble sculptures up close and personal. Some created by Bernini, even. They were so astounding in their exquisite execution that I just had to touch them to make sure they were marble. It is a mystery to me as to why some gardeners think that this style is appropriate to reproduce in the palest of pale and coarse imitations across the world in the antipodes many centuries later. After all, it is not as if New Zealand gardens have anything at all in common with the likes of the Trevi Fountain.

abbie statuesMuch of the white domestic garden figurine decoration here probably has a closer debt to the pre Raphaelites and Victorian sentimentality, but personally, I remain unconvinced as to what it adds to home gardens. Especially as so many garden owners appear to feel the need to repaint their figures every year or two, to maintain that pristine whiteness. Each to their own, is all I can say.

Gresgarth (37)Gresgarth (39)

 

It took a visit to Gresgarth, the wonderfully romantic garden of Arabella Lennox-Boyd in Lancaster, UK, to make me reconsider statuary. Her two figures in a sloping meadow were quite simply charming. And subtle. They didn’t shout “look at me! Look at me!” They sat so comfortably in their setting and added interest without dominating the area. Would they look better scrubbed free of their patina of age and lichen and painted white? I think not.
IMG_4430In a similar mould, I think I could even find the right spot for this unloved figure of the harvest maid that is marooned in the area serving some equally unloved apartments in Auckland. By the Countdown Supermarket on the corner of Dominion Road in Mt Eden, if my memory serves me right. But Mark may disagree. “Why,” he says, “must we import the art and history of other countries? Can we not evolve our own?”

Barnetts (10) Barnetts (11)
Evolution into a modern time and place can be seen in the two figures in the Barnett Garden near New Plymouth. These are one-offs, sculptures by an artist. In a large garden where the owners are very family-focused, they are delightfully apt and contemporary with just that touch of edgy tension in their balance.

021Similarly, the Holyoakes in New Plymouth are strongly family oriented and told me that their large Lego man makes them smile and acts as a constant reminder of the delights of child rearing. While uncompromising as a piece of garden sculpture, they have placed it in a small courtyard visible only from their living room, surrounded by the grandeur of the very large bird of paradise plant – Strelitzia nicolai.

IMG_5749By no means can all garden statuary be called sculpture. Some is more akin to craft than art although at its best, crafty efforts can cross over to folk art (more on this another time). Figures made from terracotta pots are found relatively frequently, usually created by the garden owner. This is affordable garden decoration, not sculpture or art.

Finally, I offer you the flat planes of figures. Whether you find the first charming and the second amusing is entirely a matter of personal opinion. Indeed whether you even find them decorative in a garden setting, adding to the scene, is similarly determined by personal taste. I could not possibly comment.

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Finally, as a complete afterthought, I give you Headless in Giverny. Not in Monet’s garden but at the converted millhouse where we stayed.

Giverny (230)Giverny (231)

Post-postscript. I will stop soon. But I have just found Armless, Headless and Legless but not entirely lacking in body parts in an Auckland garden I visited during the Heroic Garden Festival.
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The start of a new gardening year – Magnolia campbellii

The very first blooms on the M.campbellii in our garden

i in The very first blooms on the M.campbellii in our garden

The start of a new magnolia flowering season has come to mark the start of a new gardening year for us. No matter that this occurs in July, in the depths of winter. It coincides with the earliest of the japonica camellias, the start of snowdrop season and the blooming of Narcissus bulbocodium citrinus, but it is the heady sight of the first big pink blooms on Magnolia campbellii in our park that signals to us that spring is just around the corner.

In the most urban of settings in central new Plymouth

I lookn the most urban of settings in central new Plymouth

Before our plant of M. campbellii opens, we notice the row of 4 or 5 plants breaking bud on Powderham St by the Huatoki Stream in New Plymouth. These open in early to mid June, even before all the leaves have dropped but are at their peak right now. Being in the city, surrounded by concrete and tarseal, the temperatures are warmer than our country garden. We still have only the very first few flowers open.

I was interested to discover that the pink form of campbellii which is all around our district is unusual. In the wild, white forms are apparently far more common. The species has a wide distribution from eastern Nepal through the northwestern areas of Sikkim and Assam in India, southwestern China and as far down as the north of Burma. We saw it earlier this year on Mount Baotai in China but couldn’t tell whether the plant was naturally occurring there or had been relocated.

The 'Quaker Mason' form of M.campbellii in Taranaki

The ‘Quaker Mason’ form of M.campbellii in Taranaki

The pink form we have in Taranaki is commonly referred to as the ‘Quaker Mason’* form and originates from around Darjeeling. As early as 1915, Duncan and Davies Nursery were listing this plant despite huge difficulties in propagating it – it had to be done by layering and it was not easy to do that successfully, either. Our own specimen was one of the first trees planted here by Felix Jury and will date back to the start of the 1950s.

Tupare's white form of M.campbellii this morning

Tupare’s white form of M.campbellii this morning

Tupare (18)Tupare Garden in New Plymouth has one of the oldest white forms of campbellii in our area, though the tree is not a particularly strong grower. It has a different provenance which the late Jack Goodwin relayed to Mark. Alas Mark did not write it down at the time but his recollection is that Russell Matthews, who created Tupare, bought it as a seedling grown plant from a local nurseryman who had imported seed, probably in the 1940s. This may have been James or Francis Morshead. M. campbellii is renowned for taking many years before it sets flower buds and an anecdote from another source relates the huge disappointment Matthews felt when the first blooms opened white, not pink. More a collector of status plants than a plantsman, he was apparently delighted when Victor Davies – of Duncan and Davies Nurseries – assured him that the white form was most unusual and therefore a real treasure. Only history puts this into context – that the white form is unusual for Taranaki because of all our Quaker Mason pink plants, but not at all unusual in the wild.

Quaker Mason by the Anglican church in our local town

Quaker Mason by the Anglican church in our local town

On my way home from New Plymouth this morning, I detoured past the campbellii outside the church of St John the Baptist in my local town of Waitara. Sure enough, it too is in full bloom and looking glorious and is also the Quaker Mason form. Local readers may be gratified to know that one of the very finest specimens of M.campbellii – the Quaker Mason form again – is actually in Stratford, in the garden owned by Hugh Thompson.

These are all Magnolia campbellii var. campbellii. The other form of the same species, known as Magnolia campbellii var. mollicomata, originates from areas further to the east and flowers several weeks later. Our fine specimen of ‘Lanarth’ (or Magnolia campbellii var. mollicomata ‘Lanarth’, to be pedantic) will not flower until halfway into August.

Finally, in case you are wondering for whom this handsome magnolia species was named – plant collector Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (though I don’t think he was knighted at the time he was plant hunting) named it for Archibald or Alfred (some uncertainty on his first name) Campbell, who was an enterprising and powerful representative of the British government in Darjeeling in the north of India from 1839 onwards. He is possibly better known for starting the tea industry in that area, although magnolia enthusiasts around the world continue to use his name. And we celebrate the coming of spring with the magnolia named for him.

* Quaker Mason – or Thomas Mason, to give him his correct name – was an early gardener and plantsman in Wellington. From his arrival as a new settler in 1841, he played a major role in early horticulture in the area through until the end of the century.

Postscript: while we are in the depths of winter with the shortest days and coolest temperatures, we do still get bright, clear light and very blue skies – no photo enhancement involved. This is a Tikorangi winter.