Out and about today

The writing muse has forsaken me in recent weeks, hence the absence of new posts. Truth is, I have been gardening instead. But a trip to town today, camera in hand, made me focus my attention beyond the immediate confines of the garden. The purpose of the trip was dull enough – food – so I will ignore that.

IMG_6363IMG_6369I have been meaning to stop and photograph this watsonia growing wild down the road. Mark tells me it is a species but I have yet to put a name on it. The dusky apricot colouring appeals to me. Some may call these weeds but oh, when I compare these roadside plants to the ugliness and environmental unfriendliness of scorched, sprayed earth, all I can say is give me these weeds which make a contribution to the eco-system. It is such folly to think that spraying roadsides is desirable. All it does is to create a vacuum where less desirable weeds will re-colonise the area and, in the interim, all the water flows away, washing residual spray and road residues into our waterways. My column in the January issue of NZ Gardener is on the topic of roadside plantings. We often talk about this as we drive and we despair at the ugliness and the willy nilly use of weed spray in this country of ours. Clean and green New Zealand? Not in reality.

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IMG_6381More cheerfully, the so-called Australian frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum) growing by the road halfway to town has been delighting me for several weeks. Many flowering trees are glorious on their day – but you can count their flowering season in days, rather than weeks. Not so this hymenosporum. It is not even a close relative of the frangipani, though it is scented. It needs frost free conditions to get established and good drainage but is worth growing for its late spring, early summer blooming.

IMG_6384IMG_6390I don’t swear on this blog (though I admit I am not so restrained in real life) so you will just have to fill in the missing letters when I describe this as an example of f*** off utility urban design. Clearly nobody wants to even try and grow plants here (and conditions would certainly be difficult to get anything established, let alone looking good), but could nobody come up with a filler idea that was less hostile than this?

IMG_7230I much prefer the old concrete and stone wall, constructed a long time ago in my local town of Waitara. Someone took a lot of care over this.

IMG_6400Pohutukawa! Often called the New Zealand Christmas tree. What a wonderful sight they are at this time of the year. As I looked at all the trees coming into bloom along New Plymouth’s water front, a mere two short blocks down from the main street, I felt a pang at the loss of 28 (or was it 29 in the end?) mature trees beside our Waitara River. I even contemplated making Christmas cards for all our Taranaki Regional Council elected officials and senior staff who were responsible for the casual removal of the trees. I thought it could feature the flowers on the front with a message inside saying “Seasons Greetings from the 29 Waitara pohutukawa chainsawed down this year”. But it is a lot of effort to go to for something they would just throw in the bin. Better instead to admire the beauty of trees still standing.

IMG_6401The public amenity planting in New Plymouth can be delightful and appropriate. On the exposed west coast, there are limited plant options that will grow right beside the sea. That is why the sturdy pohutukawa is so important. But also our native flaxes. They are in flower and how lovely do the flower spikes look silhouetted against the big sky and the big sea we get here?

IMG_6372Finally, coming home, I stopped to record the effective trimming of this Cupressus leylandii down the road. It was just an ordinary shelter belt until the lower canopy was recently lifted, exposing the trunks. The fact the branches have been trimmed reasonably flush helps but it adds a whole new dimension, being able to look through. It has turned an unmemorable shelter belt into something much more graceful and distinctive.

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