Spring is in the air ♫ ♫ ♫

Mount Taranaki is an active volcano but the dark above its crater is cloud not smoke

I was prophetic. Just two weeks ago I commented that bringing in a film crew from outside the area to capture our view of Magnolia campbellii and Mount Taranaki was fraught with problems, that we could go ten days without being able to see it. In fact it was fourteen days this time – a period of cloud and intermittent rain which kept te mounga shrouded. Yesterday was fine and sunny and the cloud over the peak cleared in the afternoon. Is there a lovelier sight?

As I walked around the garden with my camera, it was clear that, midwinter or not, the plants are telling us that spring is here. Is it earlier this year than usual? We are reserving judgement; these things tend to even out over time though this winter has been relatively mild There have only been a handful of days when it has been too bad to be outside for at least a few hours.

Magnolia Vulcan – the ragged flowers to the right will have been chewed by kereru

Magnolia season is probably our showiest with the grandeur and vibrancy of blooms against the sky, complemented by drifts of snowdrops and dwarf narcissi below. Vulcan has opened its first blooms, showing the colour intensity we get here in the garden of the breeder (Felix Jury) which is rarely matched in colder climes in the northern hemisphere where it can be smaller and more of a murky purple.

Magnolia Felix Jury

So too Magnolia Felix Jury (bred by Mark) which opens red for us. It, too, tends to colour bleach in colder climates so is more a rich pink but with its magnificent size and flower form, it doesn’t seem to matter. Nobody complains about it to us and we only get rave reviews from around the world.

Hybrid cyclaminues narcissi with their swept back petals making them look perpetually astonished

With the rush of spring, comes a rising sense of urgency. This anxiety has yet to afflict Mark but I am feeling it. Opening the garden at the end of October takes planning. I have no idea what preparing a small garden for opening is like but I know a lot about preparing a large one. Timing is everything. Unlike routinely maintaining a garden – and we routinely maintain ours to a level that makes us happy – opening for a festival means having it all ready at the same time.

Major work includes laying a path surface in the new areas. Mark’s Fairy Magnolia White with Camellia yuhsienensis in front. The pink at the back is Prunus campanulata.

My plan is to have all major work and the first round of the entire garden completed by the end of August. That leaves about seven weeks to do the second round which is more about titivating and detail. The final week is then about cleaning public areas and doing the last-minute presentation stuff (including, believe it not, cleaning the house windows). I think we are on track but it feels like there is a lot to do. Well, there is a lot to do.

The big-leafed rhododendrons flower now, not at the beginning of November. This is Rhododendron protistum var. giganteum.

We have never targeted our plantings to the annual garden festival. I think that is more a small garden approach. Back in the days when we used to retail plants (and that is a long time ago now – over a decade) most locals who opened their gardens for the festival would only buy plants that we could assure them would flower in the prescribed ten days. They actually geared their entire garden to peak over that ten day period. Each to their own. We garden primarily to please ourselves and we like flowers and seasonal interest all year round. So there is always something of interest in bloom but also plants that have ‘passed over’, as we say, and plants that ‘yet to come’.

We are currently at peak snowdrop

There is a lot ‘coming’ right now and that brings us great pleasure, even if sharing it is done vicariously. It will look different when we open for festival – not better, not worse, just different. Probably tidier, though.

A school of chocolate fish

Finally, in my occasional series on reinterpreting New Zealand confectionary in flowers, I give you the chocolate fish. I was a bit disappointed when I cut into the fish. I am pretty sure that the marshmallow interior used to be a richer pink shade – raspberry-ish even, but I have taken some floral licence.

Cyclamen coum, schlumbergera, azaleas and camellias on a bed of Acer griseum bark

10 thoughts on “Spring is in the air ♫ ♫ ♫

  1. Tim Dutton

    I too wonder when spring actually starts. At the moment our garden seems to be in a state of seasonal anarchy. We have many winter-flowering plants in flower, of course, and the earlier spring plants too: some Camellias and Azaleas as well as the earlier bulbs such as Crocus and Iris reticulata. The big poplars still have about 25% of their golden leaves left to fall (they never change colour until early winter here), so we are still doing leaf collecting. And just outside the front gate we have an Agapanthus ‘Streamline’ and a dark orange Arctotis ‘Fireglow’ flowering in winter rather than summer. Having an all-year-round garden makes life interesting and enjoyable.

    Oh yes, I love the chocolate fish floral interpretation.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      We are always hesitant to declare a season as abnormal because things tend to even out over time and checking records over a number of years (which is generally date-stamped photos these days) generally shows that off the cuff human interpretations are not accurate but it does seem that some of our magnolias are a couple of weeks early. It has been a mild winter this year for us without much in the way of major storms.
      Glad you liked the chocolate fish!

  2. Sue Trivett

    As someone living in the Dordogne, SW France, on a windy hilltop where afternoon temperatures have been between 40°C and 49°C (we havea min/max thermometer on our SW facing terrace) and where a lack of rain for weeks means we not only have a garden baked to concrete but are in a drought vulnerable’ area with threatened water usage reductions…your garden looks totally amazing and wonderful. Long may it last.

  3. Paddy Tobin

    Mount Taranaki is truly a majestic and fabulously beautiful view for you and the fact that it doesn’t appear every day makes it all the more appreciated, I imagine. Magnolia ‘Vulcan’ is one of those breath-taking trees – even performing less well, as you say, here in the northern hemisphere. We have also witnessed the practice of people growing only those plants which will perform for the open-garden season. We opened for one season, over 20 years ago (NEVER again!), and I still recall the disappointed/critical comment that there were some bare patches under trees and shrubs. I simply couldn’t bring myself, at the time, to explain that those were the locations of hundreds of snowdrops which flowered in spring. No, better to garden for our own happiness and enjoyment.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Ah! My 99% rule. That 99 out of every 100 visitors to the garden will be appreciative and a pleasure to host but the one that sticks in the memory is the 100th visitor who is not.

  4. tonytomeo

    Ah, the chocolate fish.
    The magnolias are too grand to complain about variations of color. I think that consumers understand. Some flowers are more variable, such as bearded iris.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Some understand. There is a lot of history behind Vulcan not performing in the UK particularly. One self-appointed *expert* decided there were two clones on the market and recommended people pull out the inferior clone and replace it with the superior form. There weren’t. Some magnolias that are brilliant here just do not perform as well in other conditions. And vice versa.

      1. tonytomeo

        It would be difficult for those with very discriminating taste. Because I do not do well with colors anyway, I can not be disappointed if something is a bit off from what it should be. It is a fun way to try something unexpected.

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