From a tsunami threat and Covid to calliandra and Mark’s low meadow

I would like to suggest that Dudley is asking NZers not to be grumpy moaners but really he was wondering whether it would be worth the effort to follow me down to the Wild North Garden. Not one for wasting energy, he decided it wasn’t.

It has been a discombobulating week. Not at a personal level, but nationwide. The tsunami threat on Friday rather capped it off. In a country where the majority of people live within a few kilometres of the coast, the potential catastrophe of a tsunami on the scale of the 2004 Boxing Day one in the Indian Ocean is very real. Three large earthquakes to the north of us were seen as having the potential to create such waves.

For overseas readers, this resulted in major evacuations across wide areas (“get to higher ground or head inland”), a general warning to coastal residents around the rest of the country and wall to wall coverage on all major media for several hours. Fortunately, the threat passed with no tsunami –  just some unusual wave and current activity – and we all learned that our Civil Defence protection is efficient and effective in the face of real threats. That, at least, is reassuring.

Calliandra flowering this week with ox-eye daisies and Stipa gigantea in the Court Garden

As we are coming up to the first anniversary of Covid in NZ, Auckland is just coming out of another week of Level 3 lockdown. This is comparable to the general level of lockdown in many other countries but somewhat short of the Level 4 lockdown of last year when we managed to get the country Covid-free. It was also for one week only, to isolate the latest community cluster which has been kept to just nine people – against all odds given that it is the highly contagious UK strain. The thing about lockdowns is that they bring out the best in many people and the worst in a strident few and that makes them even more wearing.

Honestly, NZers whinging about being ‘sick of lockdowns’, ‘suffering from Covid fatigue’, and bleating that ‘we can not keep yo-yoing in and out of lockdowns’ are so selfish when you look at the rest of the world, most of which has been in some form of lockdown for the better part of the last year. The whole world is ‘sick of Covid’ but it is not going to end any time soon and we NZers have had more freedom than almost every other country. But there is a price to pay for the freedoms we take for granted and that price is doing what is required to keep Covid out of our communities.

Just please, stop complaining, grit your teeth and keep your eyes on the goal of a return to those freedoms of activity and movement over the next week or so. And keep watching what is happening in the rest of the world and be grateful for where we are.

When everything looks to be going to hell in a handbasket there are still flowers – the pink candyfloss calliandra

I was delighted to see the calliandra in flower this week. I wasn’t sure how it would perform in a garden situation here, given that it is native to Arizona, Texas and Mexico and that it was a very neglected specimen when I planted it. Now I feel I should go and retrieve the remaining neglected specimens languishing in an unloved state in the former nursery area. Maybe I could revive them and have more of these starburst wonders in the hot Court Garden.

We have a large front lawn, now Mark’s low meadow

Mark was almost chortling in delight – except that he is not generally a chortler- at the candyfloss piece about letting your lawns grow on TV’s Seven Sharp show this week. Mark asked Lloyd to stop mowing our large front lawn after Christmas. Lloyd is too discreet to express an opinion on this matter but I suspect it galls him to look at it as he mows the other lawns. Mark was curious to see what would happen if we let it grow and he is quite delighted by what he calls his ‘low meadow’. The quail, who enjoy the clover, are equally pleased. There are areas carpeted in white clover flowers and yellow from the lotus major but more patches than carpets of blue from the self-heal (Prunella vulgaris). I was hoping for more blue.

Equal parts lotus major, clover and lawn grass with some self heal
It would have photographed better had the grass on the mown paths and edges been caught rather than left to lie

After a few weeks, I asked Lloyd to mow a strip around the edges and paths through the middle and that gave it a more acceptable definition – more meadow than neglected, rank grass. There is still an open verdict here on the merits. It is certainly more environmentally friendly. As far back as 2006, I have been writing about the environmental travesty that is our obsession with ‘perfect’ lawns. We will mow again when the flowering finishes and the first cut may be more like making hay. In the meantime, it is not a look that will appeal to everybody but we are interested in experimenting with gentler ways to garden. And at least we are in good company with this concern.

We are in good company – the best in fact. RHS Rosemoor Garden in Devon where they have stopped mowing all the grass all of the time.

15 thoughts on “From a tsunami threat and Covid to calliandra and Mark’s low meadow

  1. GayeL Downes

    “Just some unusual wave and current activity” you mention is the tsunami, just not a big one. A small tsunami doesn’t look much from the land but it could be dangerous if you are in or near the water.

  2. tonytomeo

    Dang! I did not hear bout the tsunami threat until after it was over with. Someone at work told me about it. (Honestly, I avoid the ‘news’.)
    The Covid situation there is commendable. People here do not take it seriously, and many even protest restrictions, and then wonder why it got so bad!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      This was the biggest tsunami threat I have seen here (huge underwater earthquakes and many aftershocks still coming) but all has ended fine and we know our warning systems work.

  3. Angela

    Coincidentally we were on a road trip around East Cape and thankfully had already picnicked on all the lovely coastline, walked the wharves, completed our stay at Lottin Point, Hicks Bay where the first waves were due, and had reached a farm cottage in Waitawheta, not far from Waihi, when the earthquake struck and woke us with sustained shaking at 2.30am. And we thought we were smart having avoided Level 3 as it started whilst we were away from Auckland!
    I’m guessing from your meadow pics that you are lucky enough to not have Kikuyu? Alas our lawn, from being away, can in no way be described as a meadow.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Well I think you deserve to be congratulating yourselves on exceptionally good fortune! I remember camping at Loggins Point when the children were small – a lovely spot.
      Indeed our lawn is free from kikuyu. The meadow approach would not be good with that.

  4. Paddy Tobin

    We have a very small area left to “meadow” – its size doesn’t really merit the name – and love the variation of wildflowers which appear as though from thin air; from deep soil, really I suppose. One year we expanded on the idea and left a larger area uncut but felt is changed the feel of the whole garden in a way we didn’t enjoy; it closed in the garden, we felt, filled it up rather then the blankness of plain cut grass which gives openness. The experiment in this area only lasted one season.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      That is interesting. We still have an open verdict on this but you never know until you have tried something, as you found out.

  5. Robin Dowie

    I was pleased with the item on Seven Sharp as we have started a small area of wild flowers in the lawn. We are very happy with it . We sowed wildflower seed and are waiting to see how it self sows for next season.

  6. robynkiltygardensnz

    Congratulations on your long lawn/meadow. Looks so much better than mown lawns with awful stripes, although I know some like that look. To me it just smacks of control!!

  7. Elizabeth

    I love the look of meadows and am interested in trying this on a large area to increase biodiversity, maybe an acre. I read in another post that you use a sickle bar mower to do the cut. When you cut the long grass does the cut grass smother the growth of next seasons grass or does it rot fairly quickly? Thank you for your amazing posts!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      We used the sickle bar when we were only mowing once a year. There was so much grass that it had to be raked off. Now we are mowing twice a year – in late January and in July, we can manage to do it with the ride-on and leave the grass in place. Not traditional meadow’ management but much more labour saving in our conditions.

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