Generally unenthused by green flowers and other garden observations

Mark has never been a fan of green flowers. I asked him why and he replied with utter simplicity, “because I like colour”. As I have observed before, green is colour neutral in a garden situation. Maybe Hippeastrum papilio passes muster because it has quite a bit of red in it and has some hefty flower-wow-power but his preference lies with the glowing red of H. aulicum.

Hippeastrum papilio

I am pleased with H. papilio. We started with a single bulb and now have two good sized patches of it with a profusion of flower spikes this year – at least a dozen on the point of opening in one area alone. It is just patience, time and lifting and dividing that gets a single expensive bulb to a significant block – or an extravagant budget if you want a quicker response. We grow our hippeastrums in woodland conditions because the narcissi fly stay out in the sun so the bulbs don’t get burrowed out by narcissi fly larvae.

We have plenty of green hellebores – Helleborus ‘Sternii’, H. argutifolius and H. foetidus feature heavily in the woodland Avenue Garden – some green arisaemas and a single green orchid but generally I see Mark eyes glaze over with disinterest when green flowers are praised by others. He will go as far as white fading to green or white with streaks of green – but predominantly white, thank you.

Helleborus sternii
I think I was having difficulty getting a good photo in the garden of Helleborus foetidus and, to be honest, it looks more exciting staged
Just the one green orchid but it has a certain grace and style
Yellow clivias, we have a few. Quite a few really.

Some readers may remember when the first yellow clivias became available here, retailing for up to $50 a plant, as I recall. I think about this as I pull out the self-sown seedlings and discard them as surplus to requirements. If you want to raise plants from seed, if the seed is yellow, the plant will flower yellow. Red seed gives orange or red flowered plants. Now the fashion appears to be for the new green flowered varieties, but not here, for reasons already stated. I wouldn’t mind some richer yellow ones but I have only seen one in another garden. The pale yellows can be a bit insipid en masse but really sing when combined with orange and red clivias. Pretty peach clivias would also be a nice addition and are now available but haven’t come our way yet.

The trimming of the Podocarpus parlatorei in the summer gardens

Our focus is entirely on getting the garden ready for opening. Mark is trimming the Podocarpus parlatorei to pillar shapes and he is welcome to this job. It has to be done with secateurs and loppers more than clippers to get the main shape formed. Hopefully it can be done with electric clippers in the future once the shape is defined and the plants have bushed out so it is foliage that needs to be trimmed and not woody branches. The top knots are because he wants to stretch them over to form an archway in time. There are six of them and as the chief shaper is currently incapacitated by a bad shoulder and a cracked rib, it is taking him some time. Notice the old shade cloth spread beneath to capture the mess. Lloyd does the same when he is trimming hedges. It only takes a moment to spread a drop sheet (old sheets or curtains do the same job) yet it makes the clean-up so much faster.

My goal today is to finish down in the park. It is all about tidying in that area, but selective tidying because we like a looser, more natural look in that area. Then it is back up to the top gardens for the final round with fingers crossed that we get no major storms between now and October 30.

Down in the park tidying up so I get to enjoy the wisteria, bluebells and rhododendrons
Rhododendron ‘College Pink’ is both very large and very pink
Following the pink theme, ixias in the new borders
Finally, the bird bath – well used, particularly by tui. It is the outer mill wheel from a grain mill. I used to worry that it wasn’t level until Mark pointed out that is to that small birds can also use it without fear.

11 thoughts on “Generally unenthused by green flowers and other garden observations

  1. Paddy Tobin

    I continue to be amazed at the (to us) tender plants you can grow in your garden – Hippeastrums and clivias, and Velthemias recently. I have always though of the climate of New Zealand as quite similar to ours here in Ireland but, obviously, yours is considerably warmer.

    Preparations for the opening are going at a pace and the garden visits will be a great success.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Ireland would be much closer to the temperatures in the southern part of the South Island. Where we are never gets particularly hot but it is rarely cold so we can grow a wide range of subtropicals.

      1. Paddy Tobin

        It allows you to grow a wonderful range of plants – and green is an appealing colour also! It’s the Irish colour!

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        On my one trip to Northern Ireland, I could not help but notice the verdant green landscape which was so similar to here. In North Taranaki we are that vibrant green all year round, too – regular rainfall and all year round growth. But with higher light levels. When I first moved to Taranaki with Mark 40 years ago, I worked at the city art gallery and what struck me was the dominant theme of green in most of the local art I saw. Coming from the south where the dominant landscape colours reflected strongly in art were golden brown hues, the difference was stark. Maybe because our environment is so green, we appreciate the other colours in flowers.

  2. tonytomeo

    For a while in the early 1990s, my colleague down south wanted to grow black flowers. There are not many. I thought they looked weird. However, since I prefer white flowers, I noticed that some black flowers happened to look weirdly appealing with their white counterparts, such as bearded iris, pansy and petunia.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      This reminds me of one of my few British royal family stories told to me by the party addressed: at Chelsea, I think it was Princess Michael, Duchess of Kent but it may have been one of the other lesser known royals who was being escorted around by our friend. She addressed him: “So tell me, Mr N….. What can I grow in my black garden.” He struggled to answer. Black gardens tend to be affectations by novelty gardeners, in my harsh opinion.

      1. tonytomeo

        HA! YES!
        And actually, that was what I found to be SO annoying about the white garden fad that also happened (again) back in the early 1990s. White has always been my favorite color, so I was annoyed when it became a fad. I loathe fads; but was perceived to be subscribing to one. When I get back into gardening at home, I will do so with many white flowers of course; but will also grow my black bearded iris with one of the white bearded iris (which matches it best). Although I do not grow bedding plants, I could grow a few black and white pansies through winter, and a few black and white petunias for summer.

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        And that is another reason why Mark is determinedly unimpressed by green flowers – another faddish affectation. Also, I remember that white garden phase very well. Spawned many, many psuedo, pretentious, suburban, mini-Sissinghursts where the only qualification a plant needed was pure white flowers (no pink flush or lemon touches allowed).

      3. tonytomeo

        Because it was such a fad, it was replicated by those who knew very little (or nothing) about horticulture. (Real designers do not pursue such fads.)

  3. Tim Dutton

    When we read your blog post Mel laughed at Mark’s comment about colour and said ‘Just like you!’. It is true, our garden boasts many more red, yellow and orange flowered plants than Mel would have planted otherwise. But there are greens that are almost yellow, such as many Euphorbias, that shine out like a beacon, and those greens I love too.
    Bad luck about the bad shoulder and cracked rib, a gardening accident perhaps? Certainly would slow things down and not a great time for it to occur.
    I love those Ixias. We had one appear spontaneously in the garden years ago and now have several clumps of them. I don’t suppose it is a known species or hybrid by any chance?
    I managed to get one of our peach Clivia seeds to germinate last year and am looking forward to seeing one day what colour that will be.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Typical male, Tim! When we used to retail plants, colour was very gender-defined. Men like red, women prefer pastels. In defence of Mark, he likes ALL colours. I have always found it interesting that UK gardeners appear to treat euphorbia – and indeed alchemilla mollis – as colour neutral when it comes to colour-themed plantings.
      I don’t have a name on the pink ixia. I see Terry Hatch doesn’t either in his bulb book where it is captioned ‘Ixia, pink form’. I have various different colours – a pink and white bicolour, red and yellow, white, straight yellow and of course, viridiflora. The bright pink seems to be the best performer all round.

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