Panic in the myrtles

It seems highly unlikely that we will see the end of our coastal pohutukawa to myrtle rust

Myrtle rust – words to strike terror to the heart? We are erring more on the side of a watchful eye at this stage. There is no doubt it is a worry but we have yet to see that it will be a catastrophe that will change our landscape forever, as predicted by some.

The catastrophic predictions are not been helped by the media referring to it as “deadly myrtle rust” and from there, hypothesizing that we could see the manuka honey industry under threat, the loss of our defining landscape pohutukawa trees and, horrors, the ubiquitous home fruit tree, our beloved feijoa. The deadly bit has yet to be proven. But the tone is one of unrelenting high drama. Indeed, the old warhorse, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants heads to roll. He has called for the resignation of the Minister of Primary Industries for failing to stop the arrival and spread of myrtle rust.

A future without feijoas seems far-fetched 

The hardy Chilean guava, Psidium littorale, is another myrtle 

A single isolated outbreak in Keri Keri (which is heading up to the most northerly part of New Zealand, for overseas readers) could possibly have been contained. As soon as it was found in nurseries and a garden centre in Taranaki, it raised every red flag for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and indeed for us. That brings the rust to within 5km of our place. I am sure the first thing MPI did was to find out whether there was any link between the Keri Keri and Taranaki outbreaks. Had any plant material been shared or anybody visited? It appears not.

The discovery of rust at another three locations in Taranaki, including private gardens, changes the picture entirely. There is a lot to find out yet, but odds are that it is widespread and established here already so the possibility of eradication has passed.

Myrtus luma, often grown for its attractive bark, is another member of the large myrtacae family

The fact that the locations include four nurseries and a garden centre has given rise to some downright stupid comments that I have read. It is not the nursery industry spreading the disease. The rust affects juvenile plants with fresh foliage and that is what nursery plants are. It is also a great deal easier for a vigilant nurseryperson to spot the tell-tale signs on plants in tidy rows.

There are equally stupid comments about our border control and not just from the aforementioned political opportunist. Myrtle rust is carried by light-as-air fungal spores. As soon as it got to the eastern seaboard of Australia, New Caledonia and Raoul Island, it was only a matter of time before it reached here. It could presumably be transferred on a traveller’s clothes as well as being blown across. It started in Central and South America but it is also in the Caribbean, Florida and Hawaii so it is not some deadly new phenomenon – just new to this country.

It is early days, but we think it is likely that it is something we will have to learn to live with.

The ever-handy Wikipedia tells me there are nearly 6000 different species spread across over 130 different genera in the myrtacae botanical family. It is really unfortunate that it includes our beloved pōhutukawa and rata and the economically important crop of mānuka along with feijoas and guavas. But all is not lost. The rust does not affect all myrtle family members equally. Nobody has had time to research which of our myrtle members could be badly affected.

There are many variables at stake – whether there are different strains of the rust known as Austropuccinia psidii, which of our core plants it will affect badly enough to impact their growth, flowering and seed set, how it will behave in the range of our climatic conditions here and more.

Backhousia citriodora – the fragrant lemon myrtle

What is known from the Australian experience (and they have a seven year jump-start on us with this unwanted organism) is that it does not appear to have a major impact on mature trees. We are not likely to see the wholesale death of established trees before our very eyes. The impact is on young plants (but only of some myrtle species, as already stated, not all of them) so the long term effect may be the failure of plantings in the wild to regenerate.  If this is the case, then there is hope that over time more resistant specimens can be selected for propagation because there will be variation in how individual plants respond, even within the same species.

The Ministry of Primary Industries is posting information almost daily on myrtle rust and the Department of Conservation is also keeping their website current on this issue. If you want to know more, there is information from Australia. I just scanned the NSW biosecurity site which also points out that “myrtle rust spores require darkness, moisture and temperatures of 15–25°C to germinate. The first symptoms become visible within 3−5 days of initial infection. The new pustules can mature to release spores in 10–12 days. Spores can remain viable for up to three months.” I am no scientist but if that applies in NZ, I would have thought that was a fairly short life expectancy for the spore, especially when combined with a relatively high germination temperature. I note that no country has ever managed to eradicate it.

Of course we could have done without myrtle rust in New Zealand. But maybe it is time to take the finger off the panic button and  stop mourning the impending mass death of huge pōhutukawa trees and the end of feijoas in this country. It is way too early to catastrophise and point fingers of blame.

*Having just listened to yet another anxious news story about it all, I wonder whether MPI should take responsibility for the tone. In trying to impress upon us all how important it is to identify possible myrtle rust so they can track its spread, have they fed the paranoia and angst? Maybe their comms people could tone it down a little? 

We think it likely that history will prove that these Waitara riverside pohutukawa are at far greater risk from the chainsaws of the Taranaki Regional Council than myrtle rust (a reference to earlier stories). 

 

 

Reinterpreting inspiration. The new garden progresses.

The resident cat at Bury Court in 2014. We plan to visit this garden again next month.

I have been planting what I loosely refer to as “my grass garden”. I wrote about this back in February and progress is being made. I have been asked whether this garden has been planned on paper and for a while I felt somewhat shamefaced to admit that it has not. Now I just think experience and instinct will serve me better than a paper plan. Trained garden designers learn to plan on paper and good ones know how to relate open space and proportions to paper measurements. Amateurs do graph paper gardens and then, when religiously followed outside even though proportions don’t translate well, these remain forever looking like graph paper gardens. I have seen this mistake made in other people’s gardens.

This is part of a much larger area that we are gently bringing in to an entirely new garden and Mark did draw up the entire space to get the proportions right for the separate sections. He also staked out the area with bamboo sticks to define the spaces visually before any earth-moving and planting started. The first plants to go in were the structural ones which will give a formal backbone – Fairy Magnolia White in two rows to be pleached in due course, underplanted with Camellia Fairy Blush to be clipped tightly as a hedge. String lines were used to make sure that this formal green structure was straight.

Work starts. A man with a rotary hoe can be a wonderful thing.

My patch is like passage-way to the side of all this, albeit a passage-way in full sun that is about 10 metres wide by 30 metres long; at around 300sqm it is larger than some urban dwellers get in life.  The idea of a “grass garden” has somewhat morphed into “grasses and other plants with long, narrow foliage and spear-shaped foliage”. The plant palette is broadening substantially as I go but still restrained overall, by our standards. “You are not copying the Bury Court garden, are you?” asked friend and colleague, designer Tony Murrell. Well, no.

The grass garden at Bury Court

The hallmark of Bury Court was the sharp edged, geometric design filled with billowing grasses – a signature style of English designer Christopher Bradley-Hole. No hard-edged design in mine. We want even the path to meander informally without sharp definition.

From memory, Bury Court’s garden is fully deciduous in that English and Northern European style. We just don’t do fully deciduous gardens in New Zealand. Our climate is milder but also our native flora is almost 100% evergreen so we think in terms of foliage and flowers all year round. My ratio is probably closer to 60% evergreen and 40% deciduous.

Not exactly Bury Court but planting has started

Bury Court’s garden was, I am guessing, big budget. What we lack in budget, we have, I hope, made up for in sustained thought and discussion over a fairly long period of time, along with the trialling and analysis of most of the plant material. At the back of my mind, I keep repeating some of the points made by Tim Richardson in the book I reviewed recently. “Immersive, not pictorial”, I say to myself. These are not twin herbaceous borders. They are an antipodean interpretation of the New Perennials movement and I chant like a mantra the words ‘rhythm’, ‘drifts’, ‘billowing’, ‘repeats and echoes’. It is a whole new approach to composing with plants for me.

Because we are not buying in the plants but relocating them from other areas in the garden and from small accumulations in the nursery, it is more work digging and dividing than simply knocking out of pots. But I am also starting with larger plants and with the luxury of plenty of plant material. I repeat again, a lot of thought has gone into the plants to be used – a few years of thought and observation.

We have never seen gardening as instant gratification and there is much work to be done in this new area before we are ready to share it in a few – or maybe several – years’ time.

Radio Live has now set up a separate site with Tony Murrell’s Home and Garden Show audio and photos so it is a whole lot easier to find than before. Last Sunday, Tony and I were talking about hybrids and species. Coming up this Sunday, we are discussing cottage gardening. I tell you, I leap down the stairs as my alarm rings 6.23am, make myself a cup of tea and am sitting wide awake and firing on all cylinders for when the phone rings at about 6.32. These are relatively extended discussions we have and it takes quite a bit of combined concentration, especially at that hour of the morning. For me it is a new skill to be focusing my mental energy on a radio discussion rather than on writing – often the ideas are similar but the process and skills in communicating them are very different. It is probably why I have not been writing as much recently.

Finally and entirely unrelated, I give you flowers for no reason except to share the pleasure. It is tree dahlia season again.

Pink and white detail – species cyclamen.

It takes a fair number of cyclamen to create a carpet but it can be done over time

Even though we garden on a large scale across 10 acres, the little pictures are as much a delight as the big ones. For many months of the year, the species cyclamen give us charming detail. Over the years, Mark and his father before him gathered up all the different species they could find. When it comes to showy and proven garden performance, we now rely on four different ones which take us through most of the year – C. hederifolium flowers from January to late autumn, C. coum which takes us through winter, C. repandum for spring and C. purpurascens which flowers on and off all year round. C. graecum also flowers well but does not increase readily.

Cyclamen coum

There is a world of difference between the dainty species and the big hybrids which are sold primarily as house plants. Those are mostly bred from C. persicum, which we also grow but in itself it is not a stand-out performer in our conditions. I am not a fan of the hybrids, even less so when they are used as garden plants. To my eyes, they lack the charm and refinement of the species. They have been bred for a different purpose and have flowers which are much larger, often in different hues and sometimes selected for novelty value in flower form. But that is all a matter of taste.

Cyclamen graecum

A key to understanding cyclamen is knowing where they come from. This explains why C. libanoticum failed to establish as a garden plant here. It is native to the mountains of Lebanon – hardly conditions we can replicate. As it has the most beautiful flowers of any cyclamen I have seen, I was disappointed – though Mark tells me he still has it growing in his nova house (best described as his private but chaotic treasure house of obscure and curious plant material which may or may not transition to the garden, eventually).

Naturalising hederafolium by scattering seed

C. hederifolium (formerly known as neapolitanum) has been the easiest to naturalise for us – to the extent that we can even claim that we have carpets of it. It has a wide distribution from southern France through the Mediterranean to western Turkey, growing in range of conditions from rock and scrub cover to woodlands. We find it is happy in both full or partial sun on the edges of woodland areas but it needs good light levels so is not so satisfactory in shade. Some years ago, Mark scattered seed across grassy banks in our park and now we have it naturalised in meadow conditions. C. hederifolium sets lots of seed which is easy to germinate as long as it is sown fresh and not stored. The seed pods form on the end of corkscrew spiral stems. If you know somebody growing it, you may be able to request some seed.

Cyclamen purpurascens

If only C. purpurascens would set seed as freely, we could use it much more extensively. It is one of the more hardy, European species, occurring naturally as far north as Poland. It is also a terrific performer, evergreen and flowering much of the year. But it sets very little seed and that seed does not germinate readily so it is not an easy plant to increase and naturalise, despite its unfussy ways once it is growing.

Cyclamen hederifolium tubers with trowel to give scale

Cyclamen grow from flat, disc-like tubers. While hederifolium tubers can get very large – I have measured up to 15cm across on old specimens – our more delicate coum and repandum stay small. I can’t recall ever seeing a repandum tuber much larger than my little finger nail and they are mostly smaller than that. While they still set good-sized blooms, it does mean that you need a fair number of them to have much impact. Siting is also critical. They are not a suitable option where ground is being cultivated. No matter how careful you are, the tiny corms look too much like soil when they are dormant and are therefore easy to discard or dig in too deep. Nor do they like companions which can overshadow and overpower them. Our main patches are on woodland margins, particularly as ground cover beneath tall, limbed-up evergreen azaleas. We leave them undisturbed and they reward us with low carpets of bloom, sometimes combined with snowdrops (galanthus) or the little, dwarf narcissi.  Excellent drainage is also vital. All tubers will rot out in wet or heavy soils.

Hederifolium again

Generally, cyclamen show the typically heart-shaped leaves, usually marbled white or silver and a distinctive flower with upswept petals. They come in white and all shades of pink from palest through to deep cerise. Almost all of them are fully deciduous and like to sit on or in line with the ground surface, rather than being buried.

 

 

Shades of Cyclamen hederifolium

As to whether  the family name is pronounced “sike-lamen” or “sick-lamen”, we go with the former though Wikipedia tells me that is the American pronunciation whereas the latter is the British version. Take your pick.

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

“A garden is really the gardener”

The woman on the left looked a little underwhelmed by Sissinghurst too

I have always felt I needed to whisper rather than shout that, while we enjoyed our one and only visit to Sissinghurst, it did not inspire us to return. Considering the huge influence this English garden has had throughout both the UK and, more surprisingly, little ol’ New Zealand, I have wondered if we were being overly critical, maybe “gardened-out” when we visited it.

The thyme lawn was not a crowning glory when we visited Sissinghurst

It seems not. I was just going to share the link to English landscape designer Dan Pearson’s latest blog  on our garden Facebook page  but then I thought there is a bigger context for this interesting post of his. Pearson is writing about his advisory work with the head gardener at Sissinghurst to re-personalise that famous garden, restoring some of the energy and also the intimacy of what started out as a very personal garden. Over time, Pearson observes, “The way the garden became was ultimately driven by the need to provide for increasing numbers of visitors and, in so doing, the intimate sense of place was slowly and gradually altered.”

And there is the conundrum when a private garden enters the public domain following the deaths of its creators. If it is successful and well-resourced, the expectations of the visiting public play an ever-larger role in determining how the garden will be presented and maintained.

… but the Sissinghurst tower did not disappoint. However, it is structural and therefore a permanent feature

I had been reading some debate about this in the book by Tim Richardson, “You Should Have Been Here Last Week”. As far back as 2004, he was sounding the alarm bells about Sissinghurst. Writing for the Garden Design Journal, he said: “Every day, coachloads of people turn up at Sissinghurst to experience Vita Sackville-West’s garden, yet what they get bears no relation to the original in terms of content or atmosphere”. Further on in the book is his 2015 update, welcoming the appointment of Troy Scott Smith as new head gardener with Dan Pearson in an advisory role.

We have watched with interest the developments of the “regional gardens” in Taranaki – the ratepayer funded gardens of Tupare and Hollards (both created as very personal visions with owners long dead now) and Pukeiti. When the takeover was first being promoted by the regional council, I wrote several strong pieces for the local paper (see below), frankly alarmed at what was being proposed, let alone the budget. In the years since, we have backed off expressing our views publicly about what is happening in these gardens. All I can say is that in my last visit to Hollards, I felt that the originators, Bernard and Rose Hollard, had pretty much disappeared, bar some faded photographic display cut-outs of Bernie.

The faded life-size cut-out of Bernard Hollard is a little poignant

I don’t think these gardens are a victim so much of their own success – we simply don’t get enough garden visitors to Taranaki to put extreme pressure on gardens. I think they are a victim of the drive to attract numbers of general visitors to justify the expenditure. If that means sacrificing the original ambience and character of these gardens, then so be it.

Matched by faded information boards, purportedly written in the first person. Was the term “food forest” even heard of when Bernard Hollard was still alive?

Mark knew Bernie, as he was known to his family and friends, personally and is adamant that he would never have grown yams in an old tractor tyre and indeed his tidy vegetable garden was hidden away from public view

Pearson captures it in a nutshell, when he writes: “Even when the blueprint is strong, gardens can easily assume a different character, for a garden is really the gardener.”

Hollards’ modest home was demolished to make way for a visitor centre, designed in the style I call “Utility Department of Conservation”

Earlier published columns on the topic of regional gardens:

1) A letter from a ratepayer. Published July 2010 I am not sure I would be brave enough to publish this piece in the newspaper these days. I must have been more fearless back then.
2) A tale of Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust and ratepayer funding Published March 2010.
3) Taranaki Regional Gardens Part 1 – first published late 2004
4) Taranaki Regional Gardens Part 2 – first published, apparently January 2005 – the best piece of writing for those who can’t be bothered wading through the lot.
5) And Taranaki Regional Gardens Part 3 – which rather tells about the treatment of an unsolicited submission. (first published 2005). When in doubt, levy accusations of self interest.

You Should Have Been Here Last Week by Tim Richardson

The subtitle is “Sharp cuttings from a garden writer” but eagle-eyed readers may notice that the secateurs on the front cover look as if they have been through the compost heap and are anything but sharp

Tim Richardson first came to our notice with his lavish book The New English Garden. We used it as a guidebook for our last garden visiting trip in that country because we wanted to see more contemporary work.  “You Should Have Been Here Last Week” is a much more modest publication and as a result, a great deal more convenient for reading. It is a collection of writings for various publications – Country Life, Daily Telegraph, Gardens Illustrated and half a dozen others. And what an interesting collection these are.

Topics range widely and the writer does not hesitate to put forward a measured opinion, at times well apart from the Establishment. People, places, trends, theories – he will analyse the lot. His critique of the New Perennials movement, the Sheffield School and modern directions in planting struck a particular chord with us and conveyed with clarity where he considers it has developed beyond the Northern European/Piet Oudolf movement (‘Immersive not pictorial’ was particularly succinct). But if that is not your interest, maybe the politics of self-sufficiency, gay gardening, the efforts to “Re-Vita-lize” Sissinghurst and the perils of public ownership of formerly private gardens will catch your interest. Those who are aware of my opinions on the matter may laugh when I say I feel totally vindicated by his critique of the stranglehold the Arts and Crafts garden style has held over gardens for too long. Modern design does not escape his scrutiny either – his views on Suburban Modernism (Sub Mod) gives some very good advice to those who live on smaller, town sections.

There is lots of meat (or maybe high quality protein, if you prefer) in these short pieces – plenty to think about, discuss, and to challenge your thinking about gardening. And he is a good writer rich in quotable passages, sometimes cutting, controversial even.

It is worth buying, this book and it is not even expensive. I wish there was more garden writing of this quality. I did a brief search on the author and came up with this gem:

Tim Richardson, author of Sweets: The History of Temptation, is the world’s first international confectionery historian. He also writes about gardens, landscape and theatre and contributes to the Daily Telegraph, Country Life, The Idler, House & Garden, Garden Design Journal and Wallpaper. He lives in North London.”

It is an unverified Wikipedia entry and I understand he no longer writes for the Garden Design Journal – sacked, or “let go” as they say, over a satirical paragraph in a column that was too hot to handle for that publication. If you want to read the previously unpublished column, it is in this new book. Being a bit of a flibbertigibbet, I was entranced to think of him doubling as the first international confectionery historian.  He is clearly a man of many talents.

You Should Have Been Here Last Week by Tim Richardson. Pimpernel Press 2016

Treading more lightly on the land

The onions are not the main purpose of this story – more on those a little later. They are just more visually appealing than the sight of rubbish sorting at its most basic level.

I mentioned in last week’s post the heartening sight of how little landfill waste was generated by the 50 members of the IDS when they lunched here.   This week it was a coachload of Massey University environmental ecology students who visited. I put out my labelled pots for the waste, curious to see how they would respond. They passed with flying colours. Of course they did. What else would one expect from these young people on whom rests so much hope for the future?

I now realise what I have failed to do is to photograph the lunch food laid out for these large groups. Therein lies the key to minimising inorganic waste. With the IDS, the menu included quiches cut in squares, small filled rolls, green salad and fresh watermelon for dessert. And coffee, tea and chilled water served from large jugs. All the food came out on china or wooden serving dishes. The only disposable items used were the cardboard ‘plates’ and bamboo forks.

The students had an expansive range of options from which to assemble their own filled rolls and sandwiches with fresh fruit to follow. Plus the option of yoghurt and treats like muesli bars which admittedly generated individual waste. But the bulk of the food was in multi-use plastic containers and even the butter came cut in individual cubes from a large block so there was no packaging needed and no wastage. The students had been told to bring their own water bottles which they refilled from a nearby tap.

I have learned two things. If you set up a situation where individuals are expected to sort their waste, they do it but most waste is reduced by the steps taken in the catering. We have become so used to individually packaged portions – marketed as being both convenient and hygienic – that many people have forgotten that it used to be done differently and sometimes that is better. A sandwich or filled roll prepared on the spot to one’s own tastes is hugely preferable to getting one somebody else prepared four hours earlier and then left to sweat in its own plastic cling-film wrapping.

Soy beans! Part of the Tikorangi soy bean crop

Waste is much on our mind here. Hence the onions seen above. And the delight at a successful soy bean harvest. Why onions and soy beans when they are extremely cheap to buy, you may wonder. Why not grow the higher value crops? We grow those too, or at least Mark does. Space is not a problem for us. But commercial onions are reputed to be one of the most heavily sprayed crops and we know ours are spray-free. And soy beans may be cheap as chips but they also come with very high food miles. The food miles are on our soy beans are zero. Besides, when it comes to taste treats, freshly picked edamame beans steamed and sprinkled with a little rock salt is right up there as gourmet food.

Not all crops are worth growing. The peanuts gave a really good yield last year but were so tedious to de-husk by hand that even Mark decided they weren’t worth the effort. He is quite happy to prepare the beans, seeing his attempts to produce as much food as he can from our own property as a worthy challenge. Not only does it hugely reduce the amount of waste we personally produce but we also know the origin of our food, the conditions in which it has been grown and the age of the produce.

This all feels like a return to where we were at back in the 1970s, though we are more lined and more experienced now. If more of us had stuck with that rejection of consumerism back then, maybe the world would not be in such a parlous state.

One man has indeed made a good start on the annual a-mowing of the meadow

Applying related principles of lightening our footprints on the land to the ornamental garden is an entirely different topic because there is the added factor of aesthetics. We are spending a lot of time discussing and experimenting here but in the meantime, I can tell you that one man went to mow, went to mow the meadow. With our smart new sickle-bar mower because that is all that could handle the mountains of meadow grass. So much grass, in fact, that Mark was wondering if we should be teaching ourselves the old skills of building haystacks. This current and most major mowing is just the latest instalment of an ongoing experiment.  How far can we change our gardening habits and tread more lightly on the land yet still be happy with the high aesthetic values we strive for in the garden? Time will tell.

Tikorangi notes: the calm before the storm

Mood photo as we wait in the calm before the storm. It is the neighbour’s dead tree

It has been a discombobulating day. Since late yesterday, the entire country has been subjected to saturation warnings about the impending Cyclone Cook. I have never seen such a massive advance warning campaign and mobilisation of emergency services prior to an event happening. Be prepared, we have been told, for the worst weather event in the last 49 years. This includes urging us to have at least three days of food and drinking water to hand, to have prepared our own personal evacuation plans – including pets, not to plan on travelling anywhere until the storm has passed even though it is Easter, to tie down trampolines and to put away anything that can be blown around, including the outdoor barbecue.

So this morning has seemed quite unreal here as the weather has been dead calm, quiet and grey. Only now are the rains starting in Taranaki, although the east coast is getting heavy rain falling on land already saturated from last week’s downpours. The cyclonic winds have yet to arrive. I think they are due this evening.

(Post cyclone update – it hit the east coast. We are on the west coast so escaped everything but rain. Not as devastating as feared though there are plenty of roads closed, trees down and power lines down in the eastern areas.)

The shades of nerines currently in bloom

In the meantime, summer has long gone here. Every season has its own rewards and autumn brings us the nerines. In the company of Cyclamen hederafolium and the other autumn bulbs, they are a highlight every year. Less predictable are the brunsvigias which don’t bloom every year for us. The first to flower this year, I was reliably informed on Facebook, is not, as we had thought, one of the species but in fact an amarygia – a hybrid between Brunsvigia josephinae and an amaryllis (otherwise known as a belladonna). So now we know.

The amarygia!

Brunsvigia litoralis

The second one, opening now, is Brunsvigia litoralis. I counted 36 individual florets ready to open – which they will do in sequence over the next few weeks.  These are more South African bulbs where the growth is triggered by summer rain.

Autumn is also feijoa season. I keep optimistically checking beneath our trees but our fruit have yet to start dropping (the sign that they are ripe). This is a curious fruit that central and northern New Zealand seems to have made its own, despite its South American origins. It is one of the few fruiting trees (though a large shrub, really) that can be planted and just left without any further attention. It thrives under benign neglect. In fact it crops so well that it can lead to an edge of desperation. I saw a tweet the other day from somebody who bought a property with seven feijoa trees on it “and now I pick up 20kg every two days which I try to give away”. It is feast or famine with feijoas. They have a short shelf life so are not a good commercial option but almost everybody seems to grow them so rehoming surplus can be problematic. That said, if ours don’t start falling in the next day or two, I may have to buy a bag from a roadside stall I passed the other day.

With our garden closed to the public these days, we don’t accept many tours or groups but the New Zealand chapter of the IDS (International Dendrology Society) was an exception a few weeks ago. Of all the horticultural societies we have encountered over time, the IDS remains our favourite. It attracts the most interesting and knowledgeable people and we really enjoyed their visit. There were 50 in the group and they ate lunch here.

A very small volume of non-recyclables on the right

I show you the waste because I find this very affirming. I put out three receptacles labelled compostable, recyclable and non-recyclable. The right-hand pot of non-recyclable waste was barely a quarter full. All credit to the caterer who set up a situation that generated next to no waste and to the group who were happy to cooperate. Over the years, we have hosted many groups and the volume of waste left behind used to be a real problem for us when we didn’t have a rubbish collection service. Now we have that service but we don’t really need it. It is possible for a large group to move around, eating and drinking on the go, and not leave a whole lot of inorganic waste to mark their passage. This is a good sign. At least, I think so because these things are of increasing importance these days.

  • Dendrology, to save you asking or Googling – is the study of woody trees and shrubs. The thing about dendrologists is that the vast majority are interested in ALL plants, not just woody ones, as well as ecology, natural habitats, gardening and even design.