Week six of lockdown already but gardening continues

Te mounga – Mount Taranaki – with its first major snowfall of the year this week

The first wintry blast struck this week and our mounga has put on his winter coat. In our part of NZ, these early cold blasts are generally brief – two days this week – and we are now back to mild, calm and sunny autumnal days. This settled weather can often continue through until the shortest day, which is only six weeks away now, when we settle into proper winter. By mid August we will warm up again and spring will be here so we mustn’t complain about a full-on winter that only lasts about 7 or 8 weeks.

Flooding in the sunken garden soon after the upper garden beds were removed 

Flooding has not been a problem once the grass was well established

Eighteen months ago, I wrote about the unexpected consequence of flooding the sunken garden when we stripped out the surrounding garden borders that had clearly soaked up the rainfall in the past.  Fortunately, we did not rush into major work to rectify the situation because it turned out to be temporary. When the grass was fully established, the flooding issues disappeared. It is an interesting lesson in the importance of vegetation – even just grass – in preventing water run-off. Presumably all the roots create small channels, enabling the water to be soaked up by the ground where it falls. Bare soil is not good. It is a shame that the Council has never learned this. They still send out contractors to spray the roadsides, under the delusion that bare, denuded road verges channel the water away quickly, solving flooding issues. All it does is concentrate the flooding issues at the lowest point and prevent the ground from absorbing and filtering the water long before it gets to that lowest point.

Stipa gigantea – I removed maybe six plants from this section to give the remaining ones room to spread to their natural form

I have also been thinking about the lessons I am learning in the new grass garden. Even with quite a bit of gardening experience, I thought I was planting at final spacings in the new grass garden when in reality, I was planting for immediate effect. I am now going through removing overplanting – just about every second Stipa gigantea at this stage. Many plants, especially grasses, look better to my eyes when they have their own space without competition. It is then possible to enjoy the shape of each plant rather than the massed effect where shapes become enmeshed. Maybe next time, I will have learned enough not to repeat the same mistake of overplanting. It is even more important with trees and shrubs which are not as easy to thin as perennials.

Lloyd is back!

As we dropped down a lockdown level to 3*, Lloyd was able to come back to work. Physical distancing is not a problem here. I was very pleased to see him back. I do not drive the quad bike or the tractor – nor indeed the fancy lawnmower – and cannot manage a trailer so cleaning up after cutting back and clearing areas is much more problematic without him. With both his wife and son-in-law being medical professionals, he is extremely mindful of safe practices and the dangers of getting careless with regard to Covid, so we feel quite safe about him joining our home and workplace bubble.*

(*For overseas readers: we have our own Covid vocabulary in NZ and, thanks to the very clear communication from our prime minister, we all know exactly what bubbles and levels are and we have swapped out ‘social distancing’ for the more accurate ‘physical distancing’. With daily Covid cases down to one or two only, some days none at all, we are on track to eliminate the virus from our shores as long as we maintain border controls and quarantine. What happens longer term is as yet unknown but in the present, we are still alive and well, bar a few unfortunates.)

An autumn morn this week

Can I give a shoutout to our travel agent and the company she works for – Hello World? Against all expectations, she negotiated a full refund of both our long-haul airfares on Qatar Air and the travel insurance we took out for our cancelled trip to Greece and the UK. The money appeared back in our bank account yesterday. This was by no means a sure thing and many others have been left with airline credits, heavy penalty fees and financial loss. I am deeply relieved. None of us know when the world may open up again but in the medium term, we have our fingers crossed that the border with Australia may open soonish so that we can see our three children and grandson again.

16 thoughts on “Week six of lockdown already but gardening continues

  1. Angela

    The first owners of our garden planted an abundance of pittosporums which I’ve had to turn into trees, or chop down, in order to gain some low growing planting space. Timing was a bit rubbish though as the following hot, dry summer did no favours for the small grade plants I attempted for underplanting. Didn’t help the cause that all the large beds had been covered with vile weedmat and large hunks of bark! Now our two overseas trips are not going ahead we’ll have plenty of time to work more on the garden. Silver lining?

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Pittos make good firewood, if you have a fire. As far as I am concerned, weedmat sales to home gardeners should be banned. It has its place in a nursery situation abut it is always an abomination in a garden setting.

  2. Elaine Bolitho

    Lovely post thank you Abbie. You must have one of the shortest winters in the country!

  3. Paddy Tobin

    While you had your first snow, we had our warmest day of the year yesterday with an afternoon temperature of 22C and we spent the day planting out our dahlias.

    It is wonderful to read that N.Z. has the Covid virus situation well under control – your Prime Minister has received great praise in our press for the manner in which she has managed the situation.We are now 8 weeks at home – in the cocoon! – and I reckon it will continue for another while. State exams for children at the end of their pre-university schooling have been cancelled but there are talks of an easing of restrictions in the next few weeks. I think we will continue to be cautious. Best wishes with the gardening. Your sunken garden is very beautiful.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Our mid autumn temperatures are still sitting around 18 or 19 most days so I am not complaining.
      Stay safe, Paddy. While opening up is happening around the world, much of it does not seem to be very safe – driven more by loud demand than sound practice. With elections here in four months, the attacks on our Prime Minister are winding up to a particularly unpleasant and vicious level. She may be widely admired overseas and indeed opinion polls here show enormous support for her, but the campaign against her is particularly strident. We are up for an unpleasant few months.

  4. Paddy Tobin

    Yes, there is great danger when politics drive decisions rather than science or medical advice. Best wishes.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Sociologically, it is interesting to watch. Our PM and top health official front day after day with clear policy based on science and she managed to keep the nation together for a full five weeks (“We are a team of 5 million”) with approval ratings in the mid 80th percentile. It is only in the last week that the cracks have formed and the Opposition has decided there is political capital to be made from exploiting those cracks and sowing seeds of doubt. I guess the miracle is that the unity lasted five weeks!

  5. tonytomeo

    So much of the language associated with this ‘situation’ is so baffling. Heck, I do not even know the name of the epidemic, pandemic, virus, illness or whatever it is. COVID 19 or Coronavirus? Social distancing’ strikes me as an oxymoron. Should it not be ‘antisocial distancing’, or something like that. ‘Personal distancing’ makes sense. Well, no rant.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      There speaks an American! At least you didn’t used your president’s preferred term of “the China virus”. Covid 19 pandemic, Tony, is what most of the rest of the world refers to it as because ‘corona virus’ is a catch all term that includes the common cold and flu strains and is not specific to this particular virus. The messaging in the US certainly appears to be mixed and inconsistent. I think it was an internal decision in this country to swap out the international term of ‘social distancing’ for the more specific term of ‘physical distancing’ because there was a lot of messaging about keeping in touch with vulnerable people who were isolated alone in our tight lockdown phase and social distancing sent the wrong message.

      1. tonytomeo

        “China virus”?! How embarrassing. I am pleased that I have avoided the news.
        There were actually people here who earlier believed that the disease was caused by Corona beer. I think they were drinking too much beer to believe that. Some in Southern California believed that it originated in Corona in Riverside County. My old Corona shears were made there in 1985! Goodness! Corona shears.

  6. Tim Dutton

    Totally agree about grass spacing being best to let them stand alone in all their glory. Like you we planted up our grass garden too close: it seemed the plants were impossibly far apart when I put them in, tiny little things they were. 12 months later I’ve had to move them twice as far apart as they were. Still, we are in good company, because Monty Don did the same thing with Stipa tenuissima in his new paradise garden.
    Very glad the sunken garden hasn’t flooded any more, it looks a lot better without brown water in the middle :-). And I’m very pleased for you that Lloyd is back. I wish we had a Lloyd…

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      It is reassuring to hear that I am not alone in planting too closely! And believe me, everybody who has a large garden would appreciate a Lloyd. He is A Treasure. Not a gardener but today he is starting on rebuilding the wisteria bridge in the park because, after 25 years, the macrocarpa is rotting.

  7. Tim Dutton

    I remember the Wisteria bridge from our only visit 12 years ago. Macrocarpa isn’t the most long-lived timber, so 25 years is pretty amazing.

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