Countdown to Festival, July 9, 2010

At Paradiso in town, creative veg gardener, Denise Wood, thinks this may be her last year opening for Festival so is determined to make the most of it. She is preparing the ground now for sowing and planting as early as possible and her baskets in varied colours are coming along well. The new theme in her garden this year is pink flamingos but I don’t think we are talking real ones here. Denise donates all proceeds from her open garden to animal rescue.

I recall crowning Havenview’s Maree Rowe as the compost queen last year. She reports this week that she feels her life is compost, compost, compost, moving endless barrow loads of it around her fruit and vegetable plants. I think you can be pretty confident that she makes her own compost and it does not come in a heavy duty plastic bag from any garden retailer. She has just moved her chooks out of the second hot house where they had been happily scratching around, ridding it of bugs and pests while enriching it with their own contributions – she prides herself on good natural controls. Maree has now put in a layer of silage and compost and the house is ready for planting. She is also busy planting riparian plants along the areas of waterway on the farm and wishing the rain would stop for longer.

Around the coast, Vandys’ Maria van der Poel is highly motivated and out with her spade moving plants around. In fact, some have several rides in the wheelbarrow before she feels she has it right but the many clivias her sister in law gave her found a home immediately and filled a shaded area. They are such a convenient shade plant, are clivias, as long as you don’t have severe frosts. Maria is delighted at her new garden and storage shed, which freed her instantly from competition for space in the woodshed, and she is revelling in her new-found orderly storage. Next she is hoping that her new hot house is going to eventuate and make wintering over cuttings and germinating seed much easier. However, she is sad to see her favourite garden centre, The Girlz, closing down and says she will miss being able to pop in there on her way home down the coast.

At La Rosaleda, Coleen Peri is one of the first gardeners who are serious about their roses to report that she has completed the annual prune. In her own words: “… a fine day!!! Was out there and finished the rose pruning, such relief. This is always the time of year I question my sanity with having over 300 roses – I am battered, scratched and bruised, but satisfied! I tend to clear the bases of the roses and get rid of weeds in the immediate vicinity at the same time as pruning…. The larger roses are always the hardest – Sally Holmes is my nemesis this time of year, with 23 of them all along the pool fence, right at the back of the borders – I have to fight my way through the roses in front just to get to them, then manoeuvre myself amongst the very closely planted thugs – definitely not a task for the faint hearted. I used to really give them a good hard prune, but they have won the battle and now I prune fairly lightly just to keep them in check (size wise and to a nice shape), and to get rid of any significant dead wood. Oh well, come summer all will be forgiven!”

In Central Taranaki, Merleswood’s Erica Jago is feeling cheerful at the sight of spring bulbs appearing (her daffodil lawns are a feature) and with the shortest day now past, spring seems to be waiting in the wings. She spent a goodly part of June tackling her seventy metre hedge of the rugosa rose “Scabrosa”, pruning it and taking out all the dead wood. This was a much heavier prune and clean up than usual and she is delighted with the effect of freshening up the front garden and allowing views through to the mature rhododendrons behind. She comments that her snake bark maple, Acer Esk Flamingo is only now dropping the last of its autumn leaves and it has provided a spectacular autumn finale. This is a good example of how much better autumn colour is inland where the change in temperature is sharper. The Acer Esk Flamingo I can see out of my window is very pretty in spring but its autumn colour is non-existent in our milder, coastal conditions.

Here at Tikorangi, we have been enjoying a superior class of morning tea. Our neighbours, Chris and Lloyd, are doing food for our garden visitors during Festival weekends and Chris has been refining her recipe choices and trying them out on us. She is accomplished at baking and we think quite capable of holding her own in those ghastly TV competitions. The pumpkin and prune cake was particularly delicious though I also nurse fond memories of her Greek lemon cake which was a tour de force. I, alas, am not a good baker but at least we are an appreciative tasting panel.