On the right track, at least

I came across the sight of this bulb drift in town and had to stop and look more closely because it seemed so unexpected. It is on Marsland Hill, for local readers. All credit to Council for putting it in and braving local flower thieves, but as I walked around it, I thought it was a good example of how it could be more exciting. My photos are less than ideal, sorry, on account of my mobile phone being a cheap one with a utility camera.

The paperwhite narcissi are gorgeous and deliciously fragrant but they aren’t exactly mass flowering in comparison the amount of foliage. I think they may be interplanted with other varieties that will come into bloom later which is good planning. But if that is the case, the paperwhites could have been concentrated in maybe four separate clumps with others planted between. It would give more visual oomph.

The combination with Dutch iris is a really good idea. But the selection of a pale variety in pastel shades is a bit insipid from a distance, though pretty enough close up. I saw a blue bud and my eyes lit up. But when I found one open, it was not a good blue. In fact, I would deem it an awful colour combination of yellow, purple and brown that should never have been selected in the first place.

Purple, yellow and brown to the left… our blue to the right

I am no expert on Dutch iris and we don’t have many in the garden. But we do have a pretty blue. It was a bit coarse and out of scale in the rockery (they are not a plant of great refinement) so I relocated them to the new perennial borders where they are right at home, multiplying satisfyingly and putting on a pretty show at this time of late winter. And it is a much prettier blue than the murky mix of the one in the planting I was looking at.

I feel I am learning constantly so I enjoy analysing what I think works and doesn’t when it comes to plantings. And while this planting was sufficiently delightful to make me stop and turn the car around, I think it would have worked better with concentrated patches of paperwhite narcissi interplanted with purer blue Dutch iris. Now I am going to have to go back in the next few weeks to see what comes into bloom next and how it changes through the spring. I will take my good camera with me. And I do hope that rogue flower pickers leave it alone so we can all enjoy it.

14 thoughts on “On the right track, at least

  1. Patricia Deveraux

    All credit to the Council indeed.
    Ours in Masterton has gone all “water efficient” with native grasses and ground covers – we locals are not impressed, we want our flowers back!

    Reply
    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      The problem is that councils these days have often stripped out the skills base. Of course there are many flowers that will grow with very low water requirements – think of prairie wildflowers – but there needs to be someone on staff who knows these things.

      Reply
  2. pcsecretary

    I always enjoy Abby’s columns. Today I am surprised at her criticism of the dark blue iris that excites me.
    I love the central concentration of the blue/purple becoming gentler towards the edge of the upright petal. (I’m getting very forgetful of specific words when I need them).
    I also love the bright yellow lips on the lower petals.
    I’d love to know this variety’s name and where it is available for sale.

    Reply
      1. Abbie Jury Post author

        I only object when this it is done deliberately as an act of passive aggression – as happened once with a senior Council employee.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Each to their own. I would have liked it more, had it been blue. But it was indubitably purple with bright yellow and the trouble with those two colours is that where they mix, the result is brown. And it was the brown that made me think it was really not attractive at all. This being Council, it is most likely to be supplied from a mainstream bulb nursery – aren’t there a couple that put out annual catalogues, often free of charge, with this type of bulb on offer?

      Reply
  3. Tony Murrell

    the main thing is you stopped to notice, I know what its like to go from one thing to the next and miss things that are a little bit special and not around for long, saying that I am really enjoying the Magnolias right now and headed to the south Island in October as far south as Blue Skin bay and back up through Wanaka, Tekapo and Ashburton to see Alan Trott’s new garden

    Reply
    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      The magnolias are a joy at the moment. South Island trip sounds like a good one. I keep thinking we should venture south to have a look again – especially at some of the interesting gardens in Central Otago.

      Reply
  4. tonytomeo

    There used to be so many naturalized exotic flowers around Montara, where my Pa lived years ago. They were abandoned cut flower crops. There was a particularly nice meadow of paperwhite narcissus that would have seemed to be so natural if the row pattern had not still be apparent in it. A home was build on the top edge of the site, and for no apparent reason, all the paperwhites were bulldozed out. The house was built to be sold, so there was no one living in it to be allergic to the narcissus.

    Reply
      1. tonytomeo

        I really don’t know. I never met them, and probably never will. It baffles me that people move here with no appreciation for what ‘here’ is.

      2. pcsecretary

        That happens in all walks of life. People like what they see as potential, move in and immediately start trying to make it like what they moved away from.

      3. Abbie Jury Post author

        I remember reading somewhere that the average life expectancy of a woody tree or shrub in NZ is just 10 years. As a nation we move house often and people move in and gut the existing the plantings to carry out what they see as *improvements*. I am not sure of the validity of the ten year figure, when I think about it, but it would be true to say that not a lot is ever left to reach maturity.

      4. tonytomeo

        It was done by whomever built the home, which was built to be sold. There was no apparent reason to remove the narcissus.
        One of my old clients in Milpitas had ALL the old oaks removed from her parcel before the house was built, and then spent hundreds of thousands of dollars moving mature, but non native oaks in where the originals were removed. It did not go well. The new oaks kept falling over and dying.

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