Countdown to Festival: October 15, 2010

• With only two weeks left before Festival starts, I am sure we could all have done without the savage winds early this week. In our case it felled yet another massive Lombardy poplar along with the power lines which service a fair number of properties along the road. We are desperately hoping that is the end of any of our trees committing hari-kari before the chainsaw wielding men get to the vulnerable ones straight after Festival. But as we waited for the Powerco crew to arrive, our trees festooned in broken power lines, Mark and I were deeply shocked to see a pair of visitors come out from the garden. They had found the honesty box and the directions and taken themselves around, presumably stepping over and under power lines. We have informed our two dogs that they failed entirely as an early warning system when it could have really mattered.

• Chris Goodin, who gardens around Pungarehu way on Mirihau Road, is very excited about the exhibition of flower paintings by Auckland artist Karl Maughan which she is having in her home this festival. Because the artist will be overseas during the event, they are planning a small exhibition opening at daughter Nicci’s florist premises in town this coming Wednesday, 20 October when the artist can be present. If you are interested in attending, call Chris on 7828 160 or Nicci Goodin on 757 2233. The paintings have all been inspired by Taranaki with a particular link to Pukeiti.

• At La Rosaleda in New Plymouth, Coleen Peri’s best laid plans have been disrupted. She had been feeling confident and well on track until the really awful early spring. She lost two weeping silver pears in one gale and has had to resort to some reasonably expensive, specialised metal staking for her tall standard roses as she feared they could snap in the wind. However, despite the cold, wet and windy conditions, her roses are well advanced and she says most will be flowering for festival. While Coleen describes herself as an impatient gardener, her delight that her Phlomis tuberosa is about to bloom after about three years would suggest that she has more patience than some. She is hoping the Crambe cordifolia will follow suit and finally flower.

• In Waitara, Margaret Goble reports that her roses are already starting to show colour so there should be a splendid display from this experienced rosarian during festival. She is really pleased with how her window boxes are looking – a froth of lobelia and pansies – but her hanging baskets are letting the side down and languishing behind. They need some warmer weather to hurry them along in time. The bearded irises (Margaret has a substantial planting of these and was kind enough to give me some of a pure blue one I admired greatly) are spiking up right on cue this year. Margaret is keeping mum on the design changes she has made in her garden this year (though she did let me into one secret) – you will just have to visit and see for yourself.

• At the time of writing, it seems like a distant memory but Maree Rowe had the sunblock out last week after she unwittingly burned herself the previous day. Weeding has been keeping her very busy. As a certified organic property, she does not use weedkillers but does it all by hand. Readers of the Weekend Gardener should have spotted the feature on Havenview Vegetable Garden in the issue which came out last week.

• How apt to see that the winner of the Early Bird Prize Package (that is the garden visitor’s equivalent of a goody bag) is none other than Stratford’s Shirley Greenhill. Shirley is a renowned gardener herself who opened her large garden as part of the Festival for many years before she retired and downsized. Those of us who know Shirley will be looking forward to seeing her out and about the gardens wearing her complimentary hot pink and white festival tee shirts.