Giving thanks for when midwinter turns to the cusp of spring

I was going to limit myself to a theme of red and yellow but te mounga (the mountain, Mount Taranaki) was looking so very beautiful, I wanted to share the glorious sight again

I have twice heard our government give a strong message to New Zealanders to get home urgently while they still can. The first time was in March last year when then deputy prime minister, Winston Peters, said it and it was certainly chilling. At the time, I wondered if he was being overly dramatic. He wasn’t. Within days, flights had slowed and then they stopped entirely for a time.

We heard the same message from our Prime Minister on Friday, this time aimed at New Zealanders in Australia. It was just as chilling. Get home in the next seven days or risk being stranded indefinitely.

And Magnolia campbellii is coming to its peak flowering

I saw a tweet come down my line from a journalist that made me laugh – in that ‘if you don’t laugh, you will cry’ sort of desperation. I went to look for it this morning to screenshot it for this post but it has gone. She must have decided it was too flippant when there are thousands of our citizens in Australia scrambling frantically to find flights and then get negative Covid tests within the required time frame. It showed two small boats with people on them and the caption read: ‘Is this our Dunkirk moment?’

Covid is not done with us yet. Even though Mark and I are Pfully Pfizered, as I say, I am deeply grateful to be in one of the very, very few countries in the world that has no Covid past the border and my gratitude for how our government has managed it so far remains strong. I just wish we didn’t have so many whingers and moaners looking for fault. Just look beyond our borders to see how bad it could have been here, too.

Narcissis Twilight – blooming their little hearts out down in the park

On a perfect morning like yesterday, I could not think of a better place to be. Magnolia season has started, the narcissi are coming into bloom and we are at peak snowdrop. It may still be midwinter here but we are on the cusp of spring. All I have to offer is colour. And flowers.  

Magnolia Vulcan – where the passion for red magnolias started here
Magnolia Felix Jury followed
And then came Burgundy Star, shown here, and Black Tulip which is not yet showing its full colour

We always get the best red shades on the earliest blooms each season and we get the very best shades of red overall. They don’t look this colour in all climates and soils across the world.

Mark’s Lachenalia reflexa hybrid

While the red magnolias dominate the early season, when it comes to lachenalias, it is the yellow and oranges as well as red that bloom first. We have to wait for later in the season to see the less vigorous but arguably more desirable blues, lilacs, pinks and whites.

Hippeastrum aulicum

Still with the bulbs, the first hippeastrums are opening. We don’t go in for the hybrids much, preferring the evergreen species of H.aulicum and H. papilio which have settled in very happily to their permanent homes in the woodland.

Camellia impressinveris

It is, of course, camellia season. I spent some time this week writing a piece about camellias for an overseas publication so I am a bit camellia-d out but the yellow species never fail to thrill, even if they are not as floriferous as the more usual varieties.

One of Mark’s seedling vireyas

The big-leafed rhododendrons down in the park are just starting to break bud and show colour but the sub-tropical vireya rhododendrons in the upper gardens flower intermittently all year so we always have some in bloom. This a scented red which Mark raised for the garden that has never been named or put on the market.

In the chaos of the wider world, home has never looked safer or offered more solace for the soul.

12 thoughts on “Giving thanks for when midwinter turns to the cusp of spring

  1. Paddy Tobin

    I would never tire of looking at your beautiful mountain. I think there is something in the contrast of sunshine and snow along with the magnolia flowers which is perfectly beautiful.

    There has been a change in the language around vaccination here. Over 60% of adults are now fully vaccinated and the programme is progressing at an admirable pace, having started with the oldest of the population the vaccine is now being offered to teenagers and plans are in place to vaccinate children. At the same time, we have seen a great increase in daily numbers of Covid cases, over 1,000 per day, up to 1,400, over the past week with most cases in those aged under 40. However, a significant proportion of those affected have been vaccinated so we are being told that the vaccine does not guarantee immunity from Covid but gives “protection” so that the infection is lower grade and unlikely to result in serious illness, a need for hospitalisation or death. The vaccine offers protection against the worst effects of Covid but not complete protection. We feel the need to continue to life a careful lifestyle though I also feel that this is more and more in contrast with that of the general population.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I do not envy you your situation at all with the petrie dish of infection that England has chosen to become right next door to you. It is becoming clearer that vaccines are not a magic bullet that will solve the problems but that, as you note, they mitigate the worst of it. This pandemic has a long way to run yet and there is no clear picture or clear path out of it yet. We have been warned to expect border restrictions (limited entry and managed quarantine) to stay in place here for some time to come – likely into 2023. When you add in climate change impacts, it is pretty clear that our past lifestyles have actually gone in this new era of rapid change. It is just that many people can’t accept that this is our new reality.

      1. Paddy Tobin

        I see scenes on television news programmes of people socialising – eating and drinking outdoors at pubs and restaurants and huge crowds these days at the seaside and there is a certain thought that they can’t all be wrong and that my grasp/understanding of the situation is not correct but when I see the daily figures – 1126 new cases today, 123 people in hospital and 22 in Intensive Care – I wonder if they have all lost their minds or intelligence and are failing to see how serious and dangerous this situation is. I will continue, no doubt, to worry and to live in a manner that helps me feel safe. Stay safe and well.

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        They are in denial, Paddy. Worn down by seemingly endless restrictions which did not work because they were not carried out properly. As my son has pointed out, if the whole world had shut down for 3 or 4 weeks back at the start, we would have got rid of it. But half-hearted lockdowns merely prolong the misery. Statistically, some will get away with it and not lose anybody close to them or have to see people suffering. But too many others won’t. That is reality. Also, as humans we expect to be in control so too many don’t realise that the virus is in control of this situation, not humans. Stay safe! Humans, however, do control the second issue of climate change that is hitting us now as a double whammy with the virus but too many humans deny that too!

  2. Tim Dutton

    Your post has highlighted something that has always had me wondering. Your snowdrops and ours are in full bloom at the same time, yet our Magnolias are many weeks behind yours. It seems to me that the snowdrops have come out at exactly the same time every year since I planted them, regardless of how mild or cold the autumn or winter have been, but almost every other plant in the garden starts into growth and flowering based on the temperature. You are quite a bit warmer than us, so your Magnolias flower earlier than ours, as do your Narcissi.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Do you know which varieties of snowdrops you are growing? For massed displays, we are entirely dependent on ‘S Arnott’ and G. elwesii. If others would thrive with us, we could extend the season but try as we did, we only found two successful.

      1. Tim Dutton

        They were just sold as the plain species G. nivalis. You have to trust that the supplier had them correctly identified, though I have sometimes bought bulbs that turn out to be something different from what was advertised, which can be intensely irritating.

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        As far as I know, Maple Glen down near Winton, or somewhere, has the best collection in the country and sometimes sells bulbs, I think. If you want to try other varieties.

  3. Glenys

    In 2019 BC (before Covid) we chose New Zealand as the destination to celebrate our 75th birthdays in 2020. Plans were made, plans were postponed until November 2021. We are Pfully Pfizered (thanks for the pfhrase) and now we are seeing 2023 in long term planning?!?!? Oh my. Keep the garden blogs coming as that seems to be as close as we can get. Of course, it is selfish on our part to bemoan our travel plans when matters of life and death are at stake. Nevertheless, vaccines are available and it is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Back to the garden, our oasis.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      There are still too many unknowns, Glenys. The Delta variant in particular has changed the previous risk assessments. I don’t know what country you are in? We are in the midst of a mass vaccination push which seemed slow to start with but with no Covid in the community, both NZ and Australia were not exactly high priority for vaccine supply which has been grabbed by the richer, more powerful nations around the world. It won’t be a pandemic of the unvaccinated until everybody in the world has had the opportunity to be vaxxed and we are a long way off that. I think we are scheduled to have everybody who is willing fully vaccinated by Christmas. But now there is talk of a third dose being necessary for better protection. At some stage, presumably in the next year, the government is likely to introduce a different set of rules for entry by fully vaccinated people but in a pandemic, there are no guarantees of anything. It isn’t helped by the fact that to get to NZ from the northern hemisphere, it is necessary to transit a third country and that is worrying as pretty much all the transit options are pretty riddled with Covid still. At least we have our gardens!

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