Tikorangi Garden Diary number 2, June 3, 2011

A magic run of autumn weather has seen all three of us out in the garden every day. Temperatures remain very mild even though we are now technically in winter. I am nearing the end of my marathon on the Avenue Gardens – another two weeks of reasonable weather and it may be done. We are not big on measuring (and counting plants does not even enter our orbit – we can never believe people who boast that they have 245 roses or 415 rhododendrons. Who can be bothered counting?). But reading a brag book boast by somebody else, I had to pace out the Avenue Gardens to see if I was exaggerating my current task. It measures somewhere over 4300 square metres which I think converts to over an acre of intensive garden. No wonder it is a major task.

Dividing the streptocarpus

Dividing the streptocarpus

Today has been lifting and dividing streptocarpus – members of the gesneriad family. We are not big on bedding plants here but the streptocarpus survive well in reasonably hard, woodland conditions. They have tiny root systems and seem to muddle on very successfully despite benign neglect so I am hoping they may thrive in freshly tilled soils. They are frost tender and more commonly grown as house plants (like their siblings, gloxinias) but add a touch of the exotic as garden plants.

Mark has been doing a weeding round. He is the Chief Weed Controller here and takes his role very seriously. In a large garden, weed control is the first line of defence against the encroaching wilderness that hovers forever on the boundary, waiting to make inroads. We admit to using glyphosate. There is no way we could maintain the garden without it. The push hoe is fine in summer for the veg garden and for emergency intervention, but glyphosate is indispensable. Mark lives in fear that research may one day rule that it is unsafe, but as long as we can believe that it is not an environmental threat, we will continue its use. The aim here is always to avoid any going to seed. Good weed spraying should be as close to invisible as possible, which means getting the weeds when they have just germinated and never, but never, spraying edges. Various edging tools were designed to get clean, crisp edges, not weedkiller which leaves an unsightly dead fringe.

Bigger is better when it comes to walnuts. Standard walnuts to the right, what we think is Freshford Gem to the left

Bigger is better when it comes to walnuts. Standard walnuts to the right, what we think is Freshford Gem to the left

We are drying walnuts and have a good crop from our large walnut this season. As far as we know, it is Freshford Gem, an Australian selection. It is far more rewarding to work with big nuts, rather than the standard size so if you have a choice when it comes to buying trees, chose the ones that boast very large individual nuts.

I was just ever so slightly put out this morning to read the garden pages of our local paper (until last week, I contributed the bulk of copy) and to see that my beloved Plant Collector column has been replaced with indecent haste – by a shopping reporter. Sigh. Gone is the freedom I had to write about any interesting or appealing plant, regardless of whether it was available to purchase or not. Now garish synthetic clogs are the order of the day. It must be a sign of the times. The Philistines have taken over.