Countdown to Festival August 27, 2010

  • In Stratford at Merleswood, Erica Jago has been enjoying her drifts of little English snowdrops beneath the deciduous trees. Their flowering season is now pretty well over for the year but the winter display of the cornus is more lasting. Cornus alba has bright red stems while Cornus stolonifera “Flaviramea” has lovely yellow stems. Erica has them planted in her pond garden and the cooler climate of Central Taranaki accentuates the colour. Cornus are otherwise known as dogwoods and the reference to stolonifera just means that plant suckers along below ground.
  • Just down the road at Te Popo, Lorri Ellis has been waging war on surplus tree ferns. Lorri has come to the conclusion that tree ferns sneak in under the radar and manage to grow before she even realises they are there, though she is willing to admit that this may in part be her failure to differentiate them from more desirable ferns in the early stages. If you want to shock English and northern European visitors, tell them how we cut down ponga ferns willy nilly – they pay mega bucks for them at home and value them greatly, taking great care to over-winter them though the closely related Tasmanian tree fern is more commonly available than our NZ species. Lorri and Bruce have also been reconstructing their low wall of sawn timber logs which edges an area near their pond. But as the mondo grass (ophiopogon) which softens the hard lines has spread (it, too, is stoloniferous), to get it out has involved digging out all the irises, tulips and daylilies as well to disentangle them. The day lilies and irises will appreciate this lifting and replanting exercise and should romp away with renewed vigour.
  • Around the coast past Okato, Chris Goodin is feeling pretty relaxed about this year’s festival, now that she knows what they are in for after being first-time openers last year. Chris has finished making her quota of wedding and opera dresses for the time being and is now into gardening mode. She is particularly thrilled to have just had it confirmed that Auckland artist Karl Maughan will be exhibiting some of his paintings, particularly of rhododendrons, at the Goodins during festival. There is an added incentive to visit. Chris tells me that in the latest Next magazine (the one with Petra on the cover), on page 59 there is a photograph of a fancy woman standing in front of one of Karl’s paintings. Just remember page 59 for the next time you are waiting in line at the supermarket checkout and you are not looking at the fancy woman but at the picture on the wall behind her.
  • In town, Mary Vinnicomb was relieved to have finished pruning the climbing roses – she says her knees don’t really appreciate climbing up and down the ladder repeatedly. Many other gardeners will have knees which would go out in sympathy with that sentiment. Her Magnolia Lanarth has done its flowering dash for the year but Mary is grateful that it is still alive after its near terminal encounter with spray drift from somebody else’s property last year. Magnolia Burgundy Star is opening its flowers and Camellia Our Melissa has been an absolute picture along the front fence. Mary says it is quite fun to be working out of sight in the garden and to hear people admiring Our Mel as they walk past. She is worried, however, that her early narcissi (jonquils and daffodils) seem to be reducing in number, not increasing, and she wonders if it is due to the nasty narcissi fly which lays it eggs in the crown of the bulb so the larvae wriggle down to feed.
  • At Havenview Vegetable Garden, Maree Rowe is frequently accompanied by her son’s characterful dog, Smoke. She is willing to overlook Smoke’s inclination to snooze on freshly dug beds because this dog has developed a taste for grass grub. She is in fact so keen on them that she will actually dig up the lawn looking for them and Maree says it is like having a chook at her feet whenever she is digs – the dog is waiting and looking for delectable grubs. I am sure this is not natural behavior, but at least they are organic grass grubs in this garden.