The summer gardens in midwinter, Boris Johnson and pineapple lumps.

‘the english/european “dead stuff” look’

I was casting around for topics this week when a gardening friend emailed: “Was wondering if you could post on your website a couple of shots of the grasses at this time of year – interesting to see the “winter look” – will you be cutting them back or going for the english/european “dead stuff” look?” I see she is not that keen on using capital letters.

As with everybody else, my world has shrunk to be very home-based in this time of pandemic. This is the week that Mark and I were meant to be looking at the summer wildflowers of the Pindos Mountains of Greece and I had thought I would be sharing photos of Lilium chalcedonicum (the beautiful red Turk’s cap lily with reflexed petals) in its natural environment. So disappointed was I, that I looked out the times we were to be making our journey and marked my Monday to Wednesday with the progress of our journey that wasn’t – flying to Auckland on Monday, leaving Auckland for the long haul to Doha (very long at 17 hours 40 minutes non-stop because we New Zealanders do very long hauls), the layover in Doha and then the quick 5 hour leg to land in Thessaloniki in the early afternoon. But if one is going to be confined to home, I am deeply relieved that life dealt me a hand that sees me living in what is currently one of the safest countries in the world with the greatest level of personal freedoms restored.  Life is back to normal here, except for the absence of international visitors and the sanctions on overseas travel.

The court garden right on midwinter in the morning light at 8am

So back to the mid-winter garden. We refer to the new perennial gardens as our ‘summer gardens’ though really they are the spring, summer and autumn gardens. There isn’t a whole lot happening in them in winter but they are not bare.

Planted June 2019 – this garden is just ending its first year

We will go through the Court Garden in the next week or two and cut down all the miscanthus, the six remaining Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ and the salvias. A frost this week finally hit the foliage of the salvias the day after I took these photos. The calamagrostis is evergreen but very scruffy at this time of the year and I think it will look better in spring with all fresh foliage.

Mark has offered to cut the grasses down. He can do it in a jiffy, he tells me, with the chainsaw. He wants to keep some of the grass for his strawberry patch and is making his annual jokes about taking up thatching. Would I like a thatched shelter in the garden he asks, and we laugh merrily while knowing that the chances of him ever whipping up a little thatched shelter are nil.

The twin borders in midwinter

The twin borders are a good example at this time of year of how gardening here differs from the northern hemisphere. So much of the plant material we use is evergreen. Not for us the garden beds which are levelled to the ground with a strimmer or weed-eater and then covered in a blanket of mulch.

Lily border to the right, caterpillar garden to the left

The lily border is the only garden bed we have devoted to a single plant family that disappears entirely in winter. Well, almost limited to one plant. Fairy Magnolia White forms the backdrop to the border and is in bloom while Camellia yuhsienensis is placed at wide intervals to give some winter interest and is coming into flower.

Looking back from the other end of the caterpillar garden

The caterpillar garden is a mix of evergreen and deciduous perennials. We have just given the Camellia microphylla hedging a heavy prune and shape now that its short flowering season is all but over. And I did a full dig and divide on several of the bays. We have to dig, divide and thin in our conditions and the asters and ox-eye daisy were too congested. I also cast out entirely the Eupatorium sordidum I had used in a central enclosure. It was growing well and its blue flowers fitted the colour theme but overall it was just too big and strong in foliage and flower and looked out of scale with the other plants. I have replaced it with hydrangeas, mostly serrata, which are finer in appearance.

Memories of midsummer

On a lighter note, I offer you a clip of UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Shocked I was, I tell you, shocked by this blatant product placement of Tim Tams. But then I discovered that *Penguins* were not, as I thought, paperback books from a respected publisher. NO! THEY ARE A CHEAP CHOCOLATE CANDY. Given that penguins are a southern hemisphere bird (bar the Galapagos few), it felt like cultural appropriation – or maybe, as one wit suggested, ‘faunal appropriation’ to purloin our southern penguins to brand a chocolate candy biscuit. If the future of post-Brexit Britain is dependent on exporting Marmite and Penguins to the Antipodes, it does not look bright.

The NZ pineapple lump, now manufactured in Australia. It seems unlikely that any actual pineapples were harmed in the making of this confection

Tim Tams may be Australian, but I understand the pineapple lump is a New Zealand confection, in origin at least. For readers in other parts of the world, this is a pineapple-flavoured chewy centre coated in chocolate. Regular reader, Tim, who expressed a sudden desire for marshmallows after last week’s post, motivated me to repeat the exercise but in yellow and brown. Inspired by the pineapple lump, on a bed of spent magnolia leaves we have yellow blooms of midwinter. Left to right: calendula, some yellow leafed shrubby plant I have little interest in so do not know the name, the first jonquil, corydalis, ligularia, salvia, primrose, the last of the dahlias, tubes of kniphofia, clivia seed, hemerocallis and vireya rhododendrons.

Next week may bring to you the delights of the jaffa, chocolate fish or maybe the endangered snifter. Other suggestions from NZ citizens are welcome.

9 thoughts on “The summer gardens in midwinter, Boris Johnson and pineapple lumps.

  1. Pam

    Loving your columns and inspired by them, and envious of so much colour. Are you open for visits, maybe worked into a trip to the Rhodo Festival later this year? Pam, Wellington

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Hi Pam, we are actually opening for the festival this year but only for those 10 days. I think the programme comes out on July 16. Do plan a visit. Best regards,

  2. Tim Dutton

    I was struggling to resist temptation when you mentioned Pineapple Lumps in your reply to me recently, but now you’ve gone and published a photo too! I can’t risk buying them as I find them totally addictive, a bit like the old pear drops I remember having as a child in the UK. My current sweet treat of choice are RJs Licorice Choc Twists, which I resort to for energy boosts before each session in the garden, but a couple at a time is usually enough. I think a photo of them would have to be accompanied by a floral photo board that includes Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, dark-leaved Phormiums and Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’ or Iris ‘Before the Storm’.

    We have noticed how much tidier your winter borders are looking than ours do. We seem to have had rain far more often in June than is usual and the winter tidy-up is very much delayed as a result. We’d normally be starting to spread fresh compost on the beds by now, but this year it is still cutting back and weeding, plus leaf collecting from lawns and paddocks to make leaf mould: our big poplars don’t start to fall until the end of June and at the moment there is still a lot of gold on those trees.

    Boris does seem to be a fan of New Zealand: he keeps copying Jacinda’s ideas for dealing with the virus. Of course we get Marmite here (the real original) rebranded as ‘Our Mate’ due to the Marmite trademark having been used by Sanitarium for a rather sweet and, to our mind, poor imitation of the original, but I haven’t seen Penguins. Tim Tams are more to my taste.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Hahaha! I did buy a bag of licorice a while ago and couldn’t help but notice that it lasted a lot longer than sweets or chocolate!
      Our borders are looking particularly tidy because we are already working with an eye to being open at the start of November for our garden festival. And because part of that requires laying a path surface sooner rather than later so I got most of the messy work done in anticipation. I am not sure they would be so tidy otherwise.
      I can’t say I recall UK marmite from our visits there. It is Milo that we miss the most – our evening drink of choice. Maybe we could export them Milo instead of their Ovaltine?

  3. tonytomeo

    ‘Pineapple lumps’ do not sound much more appealing than they look. I would stick with marshmallows . . . although mallows from a marsh do not sound much better than pineapple lumps.

  4. Susan Oliver

    thanks Abbie (I of the ‘no capitals” email – just too lazy to stretch the fingers on the keyboard on a cold morning some days). The winter look was inspiring – I did like the combination of the greenof daisies, brown of grasses and yellow of salvia. The photo-board is gorgeous. I also particularly enjoyed seeing the variety of edgings you have used for the gardens – the curvy tree branches perfectly echoed the caterpillar hedging. Haha to the marshmallows/pineapple lumps/snifters commentary.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Cut down the salvias and the calamagrostis today and starting on the miscanthus. Plants are in growth already and we have the first narcissus in flower. I cut all the foliage off that grass you gave me when I divided it and planted it and it is already showing fresh, green growth. I don’t think it will look bare for long.

Comments are closed.