Out and about, in a very limited, local way

Ixias by the railway track near Lepperton

I flashed past these eye-catching ixias (corn lilies) at speed and promptly thought that I should have stopped and photographed them. I then thought I couldn’t be bothered until a couple of kilometres down the road when I turned and went back. Are they not pretty? They are growing on wasteland beside the railway in Lepperton and the sight of them stopped me being grumpy about something else that had happened.

There is nothing choice or rare about ixias. We have them in the twin borders in several colours and they show up each year on one of the mass bulb suppliers’ catalogues. But as a wildflower, their charm seems greater to me. I was glad I had dug some to put down in the Wild North Garden where they may recreate the simple charm of the railway siding.

The rare sight of a camellia hedge in full bloom, though now past its peak

I also stopped to photograph a camellia hedge because a mass flowering camellia hedge is a rare sight for us in these days of the cursed camellia petal blight. This one is down the road from us (in a rural sense – maybe 5km down a different road entirely to the one we live on but still ‘down the road’). We used to have mass displays of larger flowered camellias in informal hedges but they are a thing of the past here. The plants haven’t gone; it is the flowering that is a memory. This particular hedge is in an extremely open situation, exposed to both full sun and wind from every direction. It confirmed for me that the extremely sheltered microclimate we have in our own garden has exacerbated camellia petal blight to be some of the worst in the world. Fungi thrive in a protected situation. It is a trade-off. That microclimate enables us to grow many other plants that would not otherwise thrive but at the expense of the japonica and hybrid camellia flowers.

Camellia ‘Waterlily’
Camellia ‘Les Jury’ to the left and Felix’s ‘Waterlily to the right. Something that had finished flowering but appears to be white at right angles in the centre.

It was Mark who drew my attention to the fact that it is Camellia ‘Waterlily’, one of his father’s early cultivars. We have the original plant in the garden here. Next to it, to the left, is a clipped hedge – now at the end of its flowering season – of Camellia ‘Les Jury’. It is the best red his Uncle Les bred so they have the Jury camellia brothers right and left of the gateway.

Each spike is a cluster of a huge number of individual flowers with long stamens on the xeronema

We don’t have a whole lot of native plants that carry gardeners’ bragging rights with them but the Poor Knights’ lily – Xeronema callistemon – is one. It grows on the rocky cliff faces on the Poor Knights islands, often washed by sea water and never drying out but never getting waterlogged. According to Wikipedia, those offshore islands of New Zealand which few people ever get to visit but are a treasure trove of unique flora, were so-named because their shape reminded the early Europeans of a bread pudding popular at the time, the Poor Knights Pudding.  There is a random piece of information for you.

Xeronema callistemon in the central row on a bank in Waitara, thriving in a regime of benign neglect

Their natural habitat is not easy to re-create in a garden situation which is why they carry some bragging rights. I am pretty sure they are also frost-tender and it takes a long time for them to reach flowering size. Despite all that, there is fine display of huge plants on a shady bank in my local town of Waitara. Prostrate rosemary festoons down the bank below them and they are flanked by some pretty scruffy trachycarpus palms but eat your heart out, gardeners who have failed with the xeronema at home. Finding a suitable spot and then allowing benign neglect seems to work better.

Poor Knights lily and Marlborough rock daisy in our swimming pool garden. Maybe they feel at home because we have a salt water filter on the pool and they can smell the salt? Or maybe not.

Our best plants are just coming in to flower. I admit we groom the plants a bit – removing spent leaves. I like the combination with the Marlborough rock daisy (Pachystegia insignis) – another cliff dweller but this time from a location which must be close to 1000km south of the Poor Knights Islands.

Trimming the hedges here is largely done by Lloyd. If you look carefully, there is tape on the bamboo to mark the desired heights and he also checks with a string line.

Meantime, it is all go on preparing the garden for the Taranaki Garden Festival, opening on October 29. We have our fingers crossed that we stay at level two which enables it to go ahead. We will be awfully miffed if we get Covid Delta in Taranaki with a last-minute cancellation after all this work.

Kia kaha. Stay sane and stay safe in these trying times.  We are living through an event that will become a significant point of history for future generations to study. It is not a comfortable position for anyone.

7 thoughts on “Out and about, in a very limited, local way

  1. Paddy Tobin

    Goodness, you have shown some, to me, very unusual, uncommon and beautiful plants this week. Fingers crossed that all goes ahead for the open day. Your special day of vaccination was well reported on our news programmes here today while we have hints that, perhaps, restrictions will not be fully lifted next weekend – as we had over 2,000 new cases today! I’m thinking of locking the gate permanently and living on online shopping!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Open day? It is a ten day haul! But thanks for your kind thoughts.
      The vaccination day was actually quite remarkable. It was very ‘down home’, unsophisticated – naive, even – and remarkably successful. Like every other country, we had vaxxed the willing but it is the ones who are reluctant, haven’t got around to it or are hard to reach that are hard to rally and yet vital to getting vax numbers up. It appears many were vaxxed yesterday. And on top of that, it changed the mood of the nation from fractious, divided and critical to united in amusement that an old fashioned event modelled on the Telethon charity fundraisers of the 1980s with live coverage and running tallies could be both engaging and amusing while being successful. The incentives were very small and organised locally – a free doughnut, a rotisserie chicken, a ten dollar grocery voucher, a pizza, a hangi meal (hangi being the traditional Maori way of catering for large numbers, cooked in earth ovens) but the combination of food, local music and saturation coverage turned out the numbers.
      Our nation was plunged into despair at 70 cases in a day. We are not ready for 2000! My heart goes out to you.

  2. Wendy Bogue

    When l lived in Ardmore l had a xeronema growing very successfully in an old green toilet as its pot. I had been told they like their roots constricted. Over the years it flowered well on mostly neglect, except for some sea water that l brought home from the beach most years during the summer, so it could have a few drinks over the following weeks. Garden visitors were always impressed!

  3. Christine Bebarfald

    The picture of Lloyd working on the hedge made me smile, the contrast between his luxuriant hair and beard growth and his precision trimming of the hedges as you described.

  4. Alison Turner

    Love your blogs especially living up here in Auckland and our travels are restricted to this area I have never been to you garden but one day will make it if open during another garden festival
    I envy the soil of Taranaki It is hard gardening in clay areas but have improved the soil over many years.
    All the best for the festival Send heaps of photos particularly to the starved gardeners of Auckland who would normally visit Taranaki at this time of the year
    Stay safe

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Oh Alison – we really hoped Auckland would be open again but clearly that is some way off. My heart goes out to you and others in Auckland. Thank you for your very kind wishes.

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