Category Archives: Tikorangi notes

Tikorangi Notes: underplanting, gardening with perennials and the magnificent nuttalliis

Pretty Rhododendron Yvonne Scott (nuttallii x lindleyi x dalhousiae) with a named clematis but I have lost its name – relevant to the last para on this post and a prettier photo to lead with than the mishmash of a garden bed below 

Not good at all. The addition of roses was a particularly ill-considered decision

I spent a good four or maybe five days taking this unsuccessful garden bed apart. It was first planted about 14 years ago and the original idea was that it continue the theme of the driveway border – mixed shrubs with predominantly hellebores as underplanting. It has never thrived and over the years, its treatment has followed a pattern that many will recognise – random attempts to spark it up that have made it messier and more disjointed.

I lifted everything except the Queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana), an attractive Viburnum sargentii ‘Onondaga’ and Camellia minutiflora. The location is too sunny for the hellebores and they were not thriving, so I planted them elsewhere. And I found why the plants at one end had never thrived. I could only get the spade half way in before I hit what might as well be bedrock. It was the old driveway with very heavily compacted road metal. I recalled that Mark had got the nursery staff to plant that bed when it first went in. Now, our nursery staff were whizzybang at speed-potting plants and doing the hard graft of keeping a production nursery going but gardeners, they were not. I am guessing they chiselled holes just large enough to fit the plants in. No wonder so many failed to thrive. There was nowhere for them to get their roots down.

The aim is to have a carpet of harmonious under planting by the end of summer

I took out any larger stones and rocks I could get out, dug the soil and incorporated compost at a rate of a small barrow-load per square metre. There is still not a great depth of soil but what is there should be better and I won’t try growing any more deeper-rooted plants at that end. When it came to choosing what to replant, I fell back on my mixed border philosophy. When there is a mixture of shrubs in the upper layer, it is better to choose some uniformity in the ground cover layer. The opposite is also true: where there is uniformity in the upper layer of shrubs and trees, it is more interesting to use a mixture of plants at the ground level. It may be a sweeping statement (well, it is) to say that only landscapers, non-gardeners and novices go for regimented simplicity of matching upper layer plants and a single choice ground cover – tidy, visually effective in the immediate stage but essentially dull.

A totally reliable stoeksia that is particularly amenable to being divided and transplanted

Given the feature shrubs and palm are interesting in their own right and the presence of assorted seasonal bulbs, I chose to replant at ground level with the reliable, long flowering blue stokesia which thrives with us, a ground-hugging blue campanula and two forms of our native brown carex grass.  The upright form is Carex buchananii , I think, but I am not sure what the fountaining version of it is called. They are to form the carpet. I like the combination of blue and the mid-brown carex. Then I mulched it all. Now all it has to do is to grow.

May 2019

November 2019

It is quite gratifying to see how much the grass garden has grown since I planted it at the end of May. I am hoping that it will have closed up quite a bit by the time autumn comes. There have only been a small number of deaths amongst the plants – all were  Astelia chathamica and fortunately, I have more plants to hand that I can move to the gaps. The advice from colder climates is not to move perennials in winter because they are not growing and the risk is that the roots will rot out over winter. With our mild winters, this advice does not generally apply here but that may be the case with the astelia. The divisions all had roots when they went in but it may be that some did indeed just rot out before they came back into growth in spring.

My main task in this new garden is staying on top of the weeds. Considering it is new ground, there is not a big weed problem at all and I am determined to keep it that way as it gets established. Weeds getting a hold amongst the fibrous roots systems of perennials and grasses can be a maintenance nightmare. It is better by far to keep them out from the start, as far as humanly possible. Because it is all ground that has been freshly dug this year, it is easy to hand pull those pesky weeds that do try and make an appearance.

Eighteen months to fill in seems a quick result

Even more rewarding is to see the caterpillar garden hitting its stride – nicely filled out, floriferous already, weed-free and colour-toned as I want it. It has taken about eighteen months to get it to this stage. Gardening with perennials is very different to gardening with trees and shrubs. As long as you have plenty of divisions and the ground is well-prepared, the plants can rocket away and fill spaces quickly.

Species selection of R. sino nuttallii, singled out for its unusual pink flush

However, no perennial can compete with the sheer magnificence and stature of the nuttallii rhododendrons that flower for us at this time of the year. These are not often commercially available – at least not the sino nuttallii species. You may sometimes find some of the hybrids around that are nuttallii crossed with lindleyi, sometimes with the addition of dalhousiae. If you find ‘White Waves’ on offer in New Zealand, it is proving to be one of the best of the hybrids we grow – reliable and a good survivor as well as very showy indeed. “Mi Amor’ is also available for sale. The hybrids have smaller leaves than the nuttallii species and are not all as strongly scented  but you may just have to take what you can find if you want to try growing these choice rhododendrons.

Rhododendron nuttallii x sino nuttallii – so the Tibetan form crossed with the showier Chinese form

 

 

 

Farewell Noble Fir

Abies procera glauca – a handsome tree in the wrong place

Farewell Blue Noble Fir. The Abies procera glauca is no more. This was not a decision we reached lightly. The tree was almost as old as our house, planted in the early 1950s. It started life here as a pleasingly pyramidal tree in the rockery but when it soon showed that it was not going to remain suitably compact, Felix moved it to a new location beside the driveway. It was placed so it did not block any sun from the house, though it did cast shade over the washing line. And it grew and grew.

Abies procera cones – several barrow loads fell every year

Abies procera is native to USA, particularly north west California and Oregon and it can grow to 70 metres high, some recorded even at 90m. I do not think Felix checked its potential height when he planted it or he would have put it down in the park. In its 65 years here, it reached maybe 25 metres and it was not stopping growing. Mark began to express anxiety about it several years ago. It took me a while to come around to the idea of removing such a handsome specimen. As it grew taller, its spread also increased and Mark was getting worried that the enormous cones – up to 20cm in size – would soon start falling on our fragile roof tiles. They would crack every tile they hit. We have never had either person or vehicle hit by a falling cone but that is more by good luck than good management, given its prime location.

Oh look! There it is in the rockery in the 1960s before being moved further (but not far enough) from the house

More worryingly, the weight of the tree was on the side closest to the house which meant that if it came down, it would fall on the house. It would, in all likelihood, demolish much of the house. With growing experience of falling trees here and mindful of the high probability of increasingly severe and frequent weather events, it just wasn’t a risk we were comfortable taking any longer. We have many trees, some very large, but this was the only tree that threatened the house.

This was a job for a specialist Because of its sheer size, its location close to the house, surrounded by some rather special plants we wanted to save, stone walls, pond, septic tank and other considerations, it was going to need to be dismantled and taken down branch by branch. We discovered we had an arborist up the road and asked for a quote. The price came in at considerably less than I had feared and we crossed our fingers that he knew what he was doing. He did.

The location and flat grown meant a cherry picker could be used, for the lower 17.5 metres at least

The operation took two days. On the first day, he used a cherry picker with a reach up to 17.5 metres to remove almost all the side branches and foliage. Goodness, the cherry picker makes an arborist’s job much easier, faster and presumably safer. We watched in admiration as he was able to control dropping branches in the few, available clear spaces before he had to move onto roping and then lowering larger pieces by winch. It was only the top eight metres he had to do by climbing into the tree.

On day two, he dropped the last length of stripped trunk in one piece. He and his assistant – on this occasion, his wife – cleaned up as they went, chipping the branches and foliage so that we now have two truckloads of fresh garden mulch. When he left at the end of day two, everything was cleaned up except the wood that is to be split for firewood. All the mess had been raked up and the paved areas cleaned with a leaf blower. The total damage was limited to holes in the lawn where heavy branches had hit and one camellia that is a little smaller than at the start. Given the tight space he was working in, we were super impressed.

If anybody local wants a skilled (and cheerful) arborist, contact me. We are happy to recommend him.

For those of you curious about the firewood: yes, there is plenty of it but it is really just like soft pine so fine for burning but not top quality.

Picea omorika is the narrow tree in the centre. It, too, will have to be felled before it falls of its own accord

The Picea omorika still has to be dropped. Again, we hesitated but it will fall too, and probably sooner rather than later. It is a good example of a tree that was not kept to a single leader in its infancy. It grew with three trunks. Two have split out in storms in recent years, which is why we think the remaining trunk will also go. If we get it dropped, the damage can be controlled and I can still keep the essential bottom two metres to which the washing line is tied.

Alas poor kereru

We certainly felt sad to fell a mighty Noble Fir. We felt even sadder when on day two of the process, a kereru (our lovely native wood pigeon which is regarded as vulnerable, though not endangered) flew straight into an upstairs window and died. We had wondered why birds did not hit those windows when they hit the other upstairs windows, but now realise that it must have been the proximity of the tree that slowed their flight. I went to town the next day and bought a curtain rail and sheer curtains to screen the windows. While we would prefer not to have screened windows, the threat to birds from our double-glazed windows which turn into mirrors on the outside, outweighs our personal indoor preference. Bird strike is not a problem when windows are open because of the change in angles, so we hang screening curtains on curtain hooks and rail (as opposed to curtain wire) so they can easily be pulled to one side when the windows are open.

Maybe the key point of our late Abies procera, is that when planting trees, it pays to look to the future – not 20 years but 50 or more. A miscalculation by the previous generation can leave a vegetable time bomb for the next.

Trees – some for removal, some that should never have been removed and one that is not going to be removed

Abies procera – sadly, reluctantly for the chop. I took this photo from our bedroom window – imagine the impact of this tree crashing into the house.

Trees have been much on my mind this week. Tomorrow an arborist team is due in to take down the Abies procera close to our back door, limb by limb. I shall take photographs and report on progress next week. It is a large and handsome tree but the risk of it falling so close to the house is now just too high. It could potentially take out most of the house.

The good burghers of Mount Albert in Auckland have whipped themselves into a frenzy this week over the planned removal of 345 exotic trees from the recreational area that they know as Mount Albert but more correctly referred to as Ōwairaka. I had a look at the list of trees marked for removal and while there are a few that may be of merit, most are banksias, eucalypts, cherries (likely seedlings of P. campanulata), willows and olives. All have their place, but they are probably not worth getting too upset about. The plan is to replant with natives to extend the native trees already growing on the site.

Talk of removing exotics to replant with native species is enough to wind up some sectors of the populace with talk of ‘PC gone mad’. And indeed, I felt a little defensive myself. I am, after all, a Jury and our defining tree is the exotic magnolia. But then I read this piece on The Spinoff and I decided that I did not need to have an opinion on this matter. Those iconic landscape markers referred to as ‘mountains’ in Auckland – defunct volcanic cones that are definitely small hills now as opposed to proper mountains – are privately owned by iwi of Tāmaki Makaurau and they generously allow continued public access to this land. They are not public reserves. These maunga have spiritual and sacred significance for Maori and if they want to clothe their land in purely native trees and re-create the pre-European landscape for these landmarks, that is their right and that should be respected.

I can not help but suspect that some of the loudest voices may come from people who would happily fell a tree on their own land because it casts shade, breaks up concrete or drops acorns that are, allegedly, dangerous. That last link leads to a story of another application in Auckland to remove a protected oak tree that was clearly growing for many, many decades before the current house was built so the owners must have known the protected tree was there when they purchased the place. They want to remove it and are offering to replace it with… (drum roll, please) a feijoa which is more a shrub than a tree. Personally, I would have thought that fallen feijoas would be more hazardous than fallen acorns.

All I can say is that Urenui has changed a little since we lived there. The hair house used to be a craft shop and the Ngati Mutunga offices were the local convenience store.

Our eldest child came home for a visit this week, bringing our only grandchild with her. He is only three so we had several days out and about, combining adult and small person interests. A fish and chip lunch at a nearby seaside settlement named Urenui was on the agenda. This was for purely sentimental reasons. We used to live in Urenui and it is where our children spent their early and middle childhood years so it is a place full of memories.

The grandson’s enthusiasm for swimming waned somewhat in the face of light rain and a chill wind but we looked across to the riverside reserve that bounded our old property. It is eroding. Of course it is. Much of New Zealand’s coastline is eroding and even 25 years ago when we left, the erosion potential was fully understood.

It was for precisely that reason that Mark planted pohutukawa trees at generous spacings along the river reserve. He did it properly – first getting permission from the Council and then involving local residents in the planting in order to establish some sense of community ownership of the trees. And he selected cultivars with different flower colours – albeit all shades of orange and red – to give variety and interest. The wide spacings were so that they would not block residents’ water views. Mark’s plan was that the trees would act both as markers for the eroding bank and also provide some stabilising against that very issue. Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) are particularly well adapted to growing right on the coast with massive root systems which can stabilise crumbling banks.

Mark’s pohutukawa forming a buttress against the erosion caused by tidal rise and fall

It must be at least 15 years ago that Council decided, in their wisdom, to remove some of the trees and relocate them to Waitara. The official story was they were *saving* the trees from falling into the river but we knew that was a nonsense. It is far more likely that a local or two complained that they were starting to block their views because the removals were randomly spaced.

I distinctly remember that a tree was removed from this spot and oh, look. It has eroded so badly now that it needed a rock retaining structure installed to protect the road

One or two trees were removed from this stretch

and more erosion further along the bank.

Ironically, as we ate our fish and chips across the river, we could see the surviving trees that Mark planted and it is clear how well they are retaining the banks around them. Where the rock retaining wall has now been put in on the corner is the exact spot where one of the trees was removed. I remember this well because Mark and I went out to have a look at the time and the tree removal had already damaged the bank and it was visibly crumbling. If they had left the tree in place, it might well have saved the need to install a rock retaining wall instead.

Prunus Pearly Shadows a week ago

and the petal carpet beneath two days ago.

Finally, I give you the delight of falling pink snow – the petals of Prunus Pearly Shadows this week. The flowering has been a little later this year but the charm does not fade with familiarity. It is on the edge of our visitor carpark. Even though no fewer than three cars have reversed into this tree over the years, we have no plans to remove it. It is extremely visible and in a large space so we put the unfortunate incidents down to driver inattention.

Tikorangi Notes: a folk art garden, bearded irises, macadamia nuts and a bit of advice

Pat and Brian’s garden 

Either Pat or Brian – or both – like a bit of symmetry in places

I called in to see a local friend and as we walked around her garden, I figured that what she creates is a form of folk art. Hers is a heavily ornamented and decorated garden and regular readers will know that this is not my style at all. But I find Pat’s creative instincts charming in context. Many of her garden pieces have a story to them and they all have meaning for her. She doesn’t just buy something and place it in the garden. She repurposes, restyles and recycles items that others would dump and they bring both her and her husband a great deal of pleasure.

Rusty old cream cans repurposed to grow air plants 

Washing machine bowls reused as strawberry planters

Pat does not know the names of any of her plants and she has no botanical curiosity. But, and it is a big but, she has an eye for good plants and she has always been willing to buy plants that take her fancy. While she may not know the names, there are some interesting plants and a wide variety within her garden.

Above all, I think I like her garden because there is personal joy in it for both her and Brian. It is not a show garden but they keep it very tidy indeed because that is how they like it. I have been into a few gardens in my time that I would describe as joyless places, done for show and admiration from others, but more like a chore for the owners than a source of personal delight. Give me Pat’s folk art instead any day.

My blue-purple bearded irises are all in bloom. We are not bearded iris territory – they are better in drier climates with hotter summers than we get – and it is not easy for me to find good places for them. I was given a number of excellent named varieties several years ago but I see I only have one variety left and I have lost the name of it. It has a large flower and is very pretty, arguably much more so than the smaller flowered, robust one that forms most of my patch. But that is looking at the blooms as specimen flowers. Grown as a bed of several square metres, the plain Jane, utility variety is a way better performer. The big powder blue needs staking or it starts to lean and then the blooms get damaged very quickly. There is a lesson there if you are buying bearded irises. If you want to grow them as single specimens and are willing to stake and support them, then go for the big flowers if that is what appeals to you. If you want to do a bed of pretty colour, choose smaller flowered varieties that can stand up straight on their own.

Decorative pink racemes of macadamia flowers. The white flowered forms we have are nowhere near as eyecatching. 

Our macadamia trees are flowering and the nuts are dropping. There are reasons why these nuts are expensive to buy and it is to do with the cracking of them, I am sure. Astonishingly, the rats can bore into the rock-hard shells but it takes careful positioning and a sharp hammer blow for humans. We have tried a range of different macadamia nut crackers but they are tedious to use when you have to load the nuts one at a time and then separate them from their shells.

A simple mat but a gamechanger when it comes to cracking macadamia nuts

I love social media. It makes my world larger, as I say. It was Twitter that delivered me a recommendation last week that is a game-changer when it comes to cracking macadamia nuts. Get one of the doormats with round holes in it, was the advice. We just happen to have what I assume is calf matting that serves the same purpose – holding the nuts in place so they don’t skitter away or worse – fly into windows and break them (this has happened before). Now, we can crack up to 100 nuts at a time and have them stay in place. True, it takes 100 hammer blows to crack 100 nuts but then lift the mat, remove the kernels and sweep away the shells and Bob’s your uncle. I am picking up the falling macadamia nuts with a great deal more enthusiasm.

Finally, two pieces of seasonal advice. In New Zealand, the weeding round right now (that you may or may not be doing but we certainly are) is arguably the most important one of the year. The weeds are romping away but not many are setting seed yet. If you can get them out now – right now – you will reduce future weeding. And get mulch onto any bare soil before it really starts to dry out. That will also contribute in a major way to stopping more weeds from germinating.

We don’t clip many plants but this little camellia collection makes a focal point at our entry

If you are pruning or clipping, keep a close eye out for birds’ nests. Our feathered friends go to a huge amount of trouble building nests and while I may moan about the sparrows and blackbirds, there is something very sad about committing the ornithological equivalent of infanticide. We are currently doing the annual clip and shape on the camellias and michelias that we like to keep as defined forms. Hedges were done last month.

Mine No Yuki received her annual trim this week

Tikorangi notes: this, that and the next thing too.

A beginner’s class in botanical art, day two

A reminder about the botanical art workshops being offered in our garden next weekend , November 2 and 3 with an intermediate class the following weekend, subject to enrolments. More details here if you are interested.

Last week was busy. In this life of ours, we are always active and on the move but generally free from external commitments, in charge of our own pressure points. But last week we had two tours through. Despite the garden being closed, we still accept the occasional group.

The IPPS group. I was too busy to take any photos at all of the Oregon Hardy Plants group.

First up was the IPPS conference (the NZ chapter of the International Plant Propagators Society) so former colleagues, essentially. They were followed by the Oregon Hardy Plants  tour where we like to go the extra mile and roll out the welcome mat, given the huge distance they have travelled.

It takes a bit of work to lift the garden back to opening standard. I start about six weeks out and do a complete round of the garden – all weeds out, dead plants removed, any bare patches sorted and the major tidy up. Lloyd does the big annual clip on the hedges – with a string line, powered hedge trimmer and hand clippers – and he removes any piles of garden debris we (mostly *I*) have accumulated around the place. Two weeks out, all three of us start the second round of the garden attending to the details that make it look sharp including edges, sweeping and motor-blowing, leaf raking woodland tracks, scooping up sludgy camellia blooms on the lawns, mulching where necessary and a final weed. Other projects have to go on hold at this time.

The  interview was filmed indoors as rain was threatening outdoors

We put physical energy into preparing for tours but that can pale beside the mental energy that goes into hosting them in person so the day after the Oregon people, I headed into town for a pleasant luncheon with friends. I knew we had a film crew coming in that afternoon but I wasn’t worried. We were not the subject of the filming and the garden was to be just a back drop. They were filming a documentary on a good friend of mine who is an artist and she had asked me if I would be interviewed. I expected a low-key crew of maybe two enthusiastic young people filming something that not a lot of people would ever see. I was wrong. When they arrived, it was way more major and professional than that. That’ll l’arn me. I had thought they might just talk to me casually for five or ten minutes but it was closer to a full 45 minutes of filming me talking and then filming us walking around the garden. I am delighted to see this external recognition of my friend, Fiona Clark. I was just surprised that the filming was not the low-key event I had anticipated. I am assuming (hoping?) that the footage of me will be edited down to maybe 3 minutes in the final documentary but I felt I had earned a stiff gin at the end of it.

Now it is back into the garden, between the pesky showers that dog our typical spring. And any pressure is self-imposed. The greatest pressure is the thought that we are entering the stage when it has been too cold and wet to enjoy planting out suddenly morphing into the point when it is too late before temperatures rise, the sun is strong and the winds too drying to risk it any longer.

Geranium madarense – white(ish) to the left, the more usual cerise pink to the right

When I was given the Geranium madarense, I was pleased. We have plenty of the common cerise form seeding around but the white sounded interesting. Because it is not a pure white, it is not as interesting as I hoped. It may even be deemed a little insipid. At least I can afford to let it seed around so time will tell if it has merit.

Ever so small at this stage, but I have high hopes of the one veronicastrum 

This is what I am hoping for, photographed at Le Jardin Plume in France. We even have the thalictrum to the left as well, although it is currently somewhat smaller in stature, too.

European readers will laugh at my delight at the plant of Veronicastrum virginicum that I am carefully nursing through. It is a mainstay of UK gardens in particular. New Zealanders who have come back from seeing this handsome, large plant in gardens overseas but rarely here, may appreciate our efforts. The seed is so fine that it looks like specks of dust and we only managed to get one plant to germinate. The bamboo cage is to protect it from rabbits. I have no idea if our pesky bunnies will actually eat it but I am not willing to risk it. I was talking to Kate Jury of Seaflowers Nursery on the IPPS visit and we agreed that there are good reasons why it is not seen much here. It is not an easy plant to get started. I assume once it gets going, it may romp away but I had a bad moment in winter when it disappeared altogether as I had not realised it was fully deciduous. I see it now has more than one growing shoot so I am hoping it will be a dig and divide type of perennial once established. Gardeners learn to thrive on optimism and patience as well as perspiration.

‘White Waves’, I think.

At this point of mid spring, it is all about the rhododendrons and clivias. I am guessing that this handsome rhododendron that we relocated from the old vegetable garden six weeks ago is ‘White Waves’. It is one of the easier, scented nuttalllii hybrids to grow (R. nuttallii x {R. lindleyi x dalhousiae}) and a quick net search tells me it is still available for sale in NZ.  We are very fond of the big nuttallii trumpet types though they are too tender for cold climates.

The bamboo gatherers are coming in to do the final pick of the season so I gathered a few to prepare for ourselves and they made a welcome addition to a stir fry last night. I have frozen most of the prepared shoots but am also trying pickling one jar, just to see whether we like them pickled.  I may report later if they are delicious.

The top blew out this morning 

At least it fell considerately, mostly on the grass paths and not so much on the garden

Today is too windy with a cold southerly for me to garden but it snapped off another of our old man pines (P. radiata). As our treemageddons go, this is not a major one and most of it fell on the grass paths. We were drinking our morning coffee in the house when we heard it fall. In conditions like this, we do not linger long beneath these swaying, towering behemoths. We get through a prodigious amount of firewood each winter but I feel we should be onto storing away for the winter of 2022 by now.

Tikorangi notes: Iceland poppies are not from Iceland, naturalising trilliums, bluebells and escaping root stock

I have never been a fan of Iceland poppies. They were the one flower I remember my mother buying  when I was a child – a bunch of stems still in bud. She would burn the stems and then put them in a vase where they would open to what seemed garish and unappealing flowers to me. Tastes change and in recent years, I have found my eyes drawn to mass displays of these simple blooms. This patch is on a traffic island which holds the very modest clock tower in my modest local town of Waitara and it makes me smile when I pass.

The Waitara clock tower in a traffic island 

Ironically, on the opposite corner was this stand of fake flowers outside a Gold Coin shop.

Iceland poppies do not come from Iceland. I finally checked and in fact they come from the chilly areas of Europe, Asia and North America – sub polar territory, so presumably alpine meadows.  In the wild, Papaver nudicaule  (nude because of its bare stem which makes it a good cut flower) are pretty much all white or pale yellow. The other colours are recessive genes which have been brought out by plant breeding – presumably line breeding which is selecting down the generations of individual plants to pick out the stronger colours until those coloured genes have come to the fore.

Puketarata Garden near Hawera

This is not a plant I have ever felt the need to grow myself but there is a simple appeal to a mass display. I remember being quite charmed by their use in the clipped buxus formation at Jen Horner’s garden, Puketarata, one spring. It is hard to beat the simplicity of a single poppy, or indeed a daisy flower.

This poor little white one survived being taken off at the base with the strimmer last spring

These trilliums represent a minor triumph in Mark’s experiments with plants he can establish in meadow situations. We have plenty of trilliums in our woodland gardens but establishing them in a cultivated garden is different to getting them to naturalise on his bulb hillside. When I say “naturalise”, I mean that they are now sufficiently well established to return each year, able to compete with the grass and uncultivated soil. They are not actually increasing yet but they are at least established.

Mark has raised more seed and has about 70 pots of them in flower in the old nursery area. He is disappointed that most of them have come up white and said that he wants the red ones for planting in the meadow and he asked that the pale yellow ones be kept together as a group in one area. For him, this is all part of blurring boundaries in gardening again. He really likes the idea of trilliums thriving in managed garden conditions and then, as the garden becomes looser and more informal further out, the same plants popping up as wild flowers. Especially when it is something as choice as trilliums. Maybe I could surprise him with the surplus Paris polyphylla making an appearance on the bulb hillside, too.

I photographed this small flowering growth on Prunus Pearly Shadows as an example of unwanted root stock shooting away, even on a very well-established tree. Many plants are budded or grafted onto other rootstock so that the desired cultivar can utilise the strength of strong growing root stock. Which is well and good when the rootstock is compatible and doesn’t escape. If you don’t cut off the root stock, it can overwhelm the grafted selection so it is best to see to it as soon as you spot it. How do I know it is rootstock? It is a single white; Pearly Shadow is a fluffy pink double and is not yet in flower.

Prunus Pearly Shadows

This particular tree is a splendid example of what is described as a ‘vase-shaped form’. It has not been shaped. It grows naturally in that upward Y shape. It is in our car park area and has so far attracted three reversing cars. I am not quite sure how people fail to see it in their rear vision mirrors.

It is peak bluebell time in the park and even if these can be weedy, the drifts of colour are very pretty. Bluebells should, in our opinion, be predominantly blue. But the addition of a few white or pink ones amongst the blue gives a contrasting accent of colour that can lift the blue. The pink is also a strong grower, the white less so. We don’t want bluebells everywhere so I am removing them from some areas of the garden they are attempting to infiltrate but we are happy to let them spread in our meadows.

The magnoliafication of our local town

Our flagship magnolia, ‘Felix Jury’

Back in our nursery days, we used to send our reject plants down to be given away, sometimes sold for just a dollar or two, at a local op shop that a good friend was closely involved with. There are always reject plants that don’t make the grade to sell – usually due to being poorly shaped or sometimes over-produced –  and it seemed a good solution. Our local town of Waitara is what is often politely described as ‘lower socio economic’. There isn’t a lot of spare cash in the community and no local plant retailers so we saw it as a means of encouraging planting in an area where most people wouldn’t buy plants.

In the early days, we had more reject plants of Magnolia Felix Jury than we would have liked so quite a few of those went down to be dispersed and I quipped at the time that if only a quarter of them grew, they would make their mark. The magnoliafication of Waitara, I used to describe it.

Iolanthe to the left, Felix to to the right

This year was the first year I have really started to notice Felix in bloom locally. It is unmistakeable with its enormous flowers so I drove down just a few streets, Felix-spotting, when I went to the supermarket yesterday. I doubt that the locals know that it was bred locally, named for a long-term resident and is now our flagship magnolia internationally but that doesn’t matter. It is just pretty spectacular and will continue to get better year on year. Magnolias are long-lived plants if they are allowed to be. I was a week too late to catch them with the best colour, but you can see what I mean.

Best colour – it fades out with age as the season progresses

We can get deeper and richer colour here than in some other parts of the world. Why? We don’t know whether soils, seasonal weather or climate affect it. All Mark is willing to say is that the stronger the plant is growing, the better the colour it achieves. I am loathe to recommend piling on the fertiliser; we never do and we don’t think it is good practice. We plant well, keep them mulched and will feed with compost if a plant needs a boost. Other gardeners like to manage feeding differently but the advice from the breeder is to get your plants established and growing well and you may find the colours are richer.

Next year, I shall get around a week or two earlier to catch the local plants in peak bloom. By then, I will have canvassed local friends to find the location of more trees.

Poor light and nearly finished, but another local Felix