Tikorangi Notes: Thursday July 29, 2011

New Zealand Woman's Weekly on magnolias - Burgundy Star, Black Tulip and Fairy Magnolia Blush in the photos

New Zealand Woman's Weekly on magnolias - Burgundy Star, Black Tulip and Fairy Magnolia Blush in the photos

I think I have only bought the NZ Woman’s Weekly twice in my life – both times because I knew gardening stories of interest to us were included. It bills itself as “NZ’s No.1 Royal Mag” and I just think I am not amongst their target demographic. But it is very popular so the colourful double page spread on magnolias this week, written by Denise Cleverley, was gratifying to see, given that it focuses quite heavily on our Jury magnolias.

Schefflera septulosa - distinctly worse for the frost

Schefflera septulosa - distinctly worse for the frost

An abnormally heavy frost this week has left us ruefully contemplating the damage. In colder climates, plants are better acclimatised to lower temperatures but here it tends to be so mild that they are not hardened off and extreme events can cause a lot of damage. How much is damage which the plants will outgrow and how much is loss by death will become clearer soon. It is not so bad in the garden where there is a lot of protection afforded by the trees but under the shade cloth in the nursery and out in the open, it is a bit of a sorry sight. Schefflera septulosa does not normally sport the brown velvet look. I think Mark ranks it as the second worst frost he has ever seen here – a ground frost of around -5.5 degrees.

Mark has been experimenting in his glasshouse with passive heating. He hopes to apply this on a larger scale in the near future (I think this means a much larger glasshouse in a new location) partly because he is determined to grow more tropical fruit including his beloved pineapples. He has moved in some largish containers of water and has built a compost heap from dung and straw in the glasshouse. Fortunately it no longer smells and it does appear it is working to raise the temperature and to prevent it losing all the heat overnight. I am just looking forward optimistically to future harvests.

The white sapote - now a winter fruit staple here

The white sapote - now a winter fruit staple here

However, we don’t need a glasshouse for the white sapote or casimiroa edulis which we can grow in a protected position outdoors and which rewards us with a very good crop of ripe fruit in mid winter. They have the texture of a ripe rock melon and taste a little like vanilla custard – delicious.

The weekly blurb on plant sales highlights Hippeastrum aulicum this week (I felt the need of something bright and cheerful on the coldest day of the year) and one of my most favourite camellias – dainty little C. minutiflora.

And on a very cheerful note, yesterday I was offered a new garden writing contract. Not with our local paper, the Taranaki Daily News, which is determined to press on without me but that is fine because the new contract offers a much better platform. Until it is signed and sealed, I won’t say with whom but it feels good to be back in the mode of thinking about regular contributions and deadlines. It will be three pieces a week which will then appear as a regular feature on our website.

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