Tikorangi Notes: Friday July 9, 2010

1) July 7, 2010: Vireya rhododendron saxafragoides is flowering this week – a distinctly obscure and different vireya species.
2) July 7, 2010: In the garden this week (and why citrus and avocado are essential home orchard trees here)
3) July 7, 2010: Bravely attempting to demystify rose pruning in our latest Outdoor Classroom.
4) July 7, 2010: Counting down to our annual Taranaki Garden Festival.
5) July 3, 2010: Camellia Diary number three where we celebrate Camellia Waterlily, a cultivar which I think could be described in the vernacular as an oldie but a goodie.

Rhododendron augustinii - a bit of a triumph in our climate

Probably the most exciting aspect of our gardening environment is the huge range of plants we can grow here. We have never been able to understand the mindset of those who favour mass plantings and the so-called restrained plant palette. Mark has been known to ask why on earth anybody would want to mass plant when there are so many interesting plants in the world to grow. So our mid-winter garden pictures this week are of Rhododendron augustinii and zygocactus.

The winter flowering chain cactus - more fun than polyanthus

I am not sure which form of augustinii this is (possibly the Medlicott form) and frankly we are just delighted that it is still alive with us because it much prefers a colder climate than we can give it here. On their day, you can not beat the species and augustinii is one of the loveliest species of all. The bronze beetle attacks the foliage (pretty well every leaf outside the photograph is notched all round), thrips can turn the leaves silver and there are smarter, neater garden plants but we rejoice when those lovely blue flowers appear each winter.

By way of contrast, the exotica of the chain cactus or zygocactus (schlumberga?) lightens up the dark woodland areas and is maintenance free and undemanding. We grow them as epiphytes, nestled into forks of trees or positioned on top of tree fern stumps. They have to be frost free and are generally grown in house plants throughout the world and they add a splash of cheering winter colour which I prefer to polyanthus.