In the Garden January 9, 2009

  • Many succulents and cacti are easy to multiply. Cacti need a very free draining mix which is not rich in nutrients or humus. Succulents can be grown from snapped off stems. Make a clean cut and leave them to dry for a day or two, then replant, staking if needed to keep them upright. It does not take long for them to put on new roots. If everybody knew how easy it is to put roots on aeonium Schwarzkopf (the black-maroon plant of rosettes which is still very popular and greatly overpriced as a result), the market for it would die quickly. Crassulas (jade plants) can be increased in the same way. Just keep these types of plants on the drier side because if you water them too much, they will rot instead of rooting.
  • If your wooden outdoor furniture is looking greyed and as if it will soon produce splinters, a deep conditioning treatment helps to protect the wood and make it last longer. You can buy products at hardware stores but we still use a mix of good old fashioned linseed oil and turps. The mix is not exact – usually about 60:40. The turps helps thin the oil for easier application and absorption. It does darken the wood and if you want to keep it closer to the original ginger colour of new outdoor furniture, you are better to pay the extra for the considerably more expensive proprietary products. But if your furniture is already weathered grey and dry, it does not make a lot of difference. If you have algae or lichen growing on the furniture, kill it with diluted household bleach before treating the timber.
  • Deadheading renga renga lilies makes them look better and confines their spread.
  • The noxious weed undergoing eradication on our coastlines and referred to only by its common name of Chilean rhubarb on the front page of Wednesday’s paper is Gunnera tinctoria. While it is highly prized in the UK as a spectacular ornamental which they go to considerable lengths to protect through winter, it is a menace and an extremely large thug here and gardeners should be acting responsibly and eradicating it entirely, no matter how much they like it.
  • Waitara is at its very best at this time with pohutakawa numbering into their hundreds flowering. It is worth a drive to admire the display. Once you have your eye in, you can see big differences in colour. Some are rather brown while the stand out trees are more to the orange or coral red colours. The yellows are not as showy. Some of us may even call them insipid. If you plan to grow some from seed, identify a good coloured form with a mass display of blooms. Seed is ready to gather around May.
  • It is the last chance to get deciduous cuttings such as viburnums or roses in. Hydrangeas and grape vines also root easily for the home gardener from summer cuttings.

In 1870, Frank J.Scott wrote (a little pompously, perhaps) in The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds:

It is unchristian to hedge from the sight of others the beauties of nature which it has been our good fortune to create or secure.

We are guessing that he did not live in a windy area and he had good neighbours!