Festival gardeners have not been slacking inside during winter. Much of the preparation work is carried out while others huddle by the fire. In Waitara, Alathea Armstrong has finished her structural alterations – widening borders and altering shapes, much aided, she says, by a mild winter. Currently she is keeping track of her emerging delphiniums after the Attack of the Slugs last year. It would be a brave slug that ventured near the plants now. She has been planting a new bed using the two roses Lavender Dream and Mum in a Million and she is most enthusiastic about the Mum rose which she grew last year and describes as being absolutely gorgeous.
Down the road, Margaret Goble says she is back on track with garden preparation after a rather bad garden accident in February took her out for some time. Family and friends rallied around, much to Margaret’s gratitude because hers is a large and detailed garden to manage singlehandedly. Rose pruning has been completed (an enormous task with her huge rose collection which is meticulously maintained) and lime and BioBoost have been added to the soil. Her window boxes and handsome hanging baskets are planted and she is eyeing up the concrete which has turned green over winter.
Up the hill a little from Stratford, at Mountside Betty Brunton has joined the league of Gardeners on Crutches after recent surgery and is trying to work out how she can get around her garden with the spray unit while only semi mobile so that she can get Vapourguard onto her recently pruned hydrangeas, fuchsias and roses. She wants to protect the fattening buds from getting frosted. Her hellebores are looking fantastic and evoke memories of the late Jill Kuriger who was a fine plantswoman, a Festival stalwart for many years and a wonderful gardening identity. Betty says her trilliums are just pushing through the ground and she is hoping that my Mark will hurry up and have some plants of the related paris ready to share soon.
Still in the Stratford area but across the other side, Bruce and Lorri Ellis at Te Popo had their garden routines disrupted when recent high winds swept through taking out two trunks of a triple trunked Montezuma Pine. As the tree was around 100 feet tall (or over 30 metres), this type of damage is not for the faint hearted. One trunk catapulted to earth landing with force in Lorri’s pink garden where it caused huge damage but at least that was better than the second trunk which became wedged half way down in a 50 foot (15 metres) claret ash. The surviving trunk also had to removed because it was now unstable and a threat to nearby buildings so specialist arborist services were required. Something unforeseen like that can really blow the budget and take up time. Here at Tikorangi it was one of our tawa trees we lost about the same time but at least it fell cleanly and didn’t do too much damage to the big leafed rhododendrons below.
In New Plymouth, Alan and Cath Morris at Pukemara describe their garden activities as fine-tuning in preparation for their first Festival experience. They have finished the pruning round somewhat earlier than usual because they are having some time out in August. Alan has constructed a park bench out of marcrocarpa and sited it in their Gully Garden so that visitors will be able to have a rest and admire the outlook. They have also relocated a bed of azaleas which had been getting too shaded by adjacent rhododendrons. In fact they are quite pleased with how the garden is looking even though it is wearing its winter cloak and plan to keep it that way up until opening time at the end of October. At this stage, there does not appear to be any garden angst or panic in the Morris household.
Also in New Plymouth at Nikau Grove, Elise Lind says her current challenge is learning to garden in shade. As all their plantings have grown, the character of the place has changed and where once there was sun, now there is overhead canopy. This is exactly what they wanted, especially on the waterfall bank but there is an ongoing process of having to find under planting suited to the changing conditions. At least, Elsie notes, there is the indubitable bonus that weeds tend to be sun lovers so they are far less of a problem these days.