Tag Archives: Abbie Jury

A freestyle garden

WisteriaShiro-Kapitan’ with alstromeria, perennial forget-me-nots and aquilegia

A friend came out to help with a garden task this week and she gave some advice that has had me thinking ever since. To be clear, I am fine with receiving advice from friends who have experience. I may or may not follow it.

“Your perennial garden needs structures in it,” she said. ‘To encourage people to go in and view it.” My immediate response was ‘nooooo’ but it has stayed in my mind. She was referring to the Iolanthe garden, a bit of an experiment on my part and the last of our new summer garden series. I pondered the fact that I was really pleased when Mark had said the previous day how much pleasure the Iolanthe garden was giving him and I thought about why I rejected her advice as an immediate response. There are two reasons.

The first is that my friend was still thinking in terms of a garden that is open to the public. That is why people needed to be ‘encouraged’ to leave the driveway and venture into that area. She had a large garden herself that was open to the public until a few years ago when they sold up and retired to a smaller city garden. At that level she is right; structure and focal points draw one in to a space.

At last I have a place for hefty plants like foxgloves – but none of the common dark pink one. White or pastelle, please. With Chionocloa flavicans and an equally hefty, obscure lobelia.

But we live here. It is our garden. We don’t need such aids to draw us in. And I realised that at some point in the seven years since we closed, I stopped gardening for show, for public display when the garden is open. I now garden solely for our pleasure, our delight. That is probably why it has been such a shock to me over the last few months to go back to preparing the garden for opening this week. It is a very different focus. I don’t feel I have been gardening. I have been tidying, titivating, garden grooming – and I really don’t find that fulfilling.

The combination of Mark’s hybrid arisaemas with self-sown parsley, lychnis and bluebells amuses me. In this somewhat chaotic planting. There are also a few trilliums and Paris polyphylla with the rhubarb and Joe Pye weed.

Secondly, I realised that the Iolanthe garden didn’t make sense to her and that was interesting. She saw it as ‘a perennial garden’. No, I said, it is a transitional perennial meadow and she didn’t accept that the place for a meadow – transitional or not – is so close to the cultivated, defined areas near the house. Meadows, I pointed out, don’t have structure and focal points as more formal gardens do. I would never plant a straight perennial garden as I have planted this area.

I must accept that in terms of a garden that is open to the public and therefore needs to have some coherence that is easily understood by a reasonably perceptive garden visitor, the Iolanthe garden falls short. Amongst other things, if we were still open for most of the year, it falls short on design. The paths are so narrow that they are single-file and, at this stage, there is no through path for visitors so they must exit the same way they entered. Plans are underway to move the propagation houses which will allow for more flow and a wide central pathway but that will take another year or two.

This colour combination offends me greatly

But none of this matters because we are no longer open, bar the upcoming ten days. My greatest concern at the moment is the disastrous combination of this dusky pink bulb with the cheerful, if garish, calendulas. I think the bulb is a tritonia – maybe T. squalida, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong. I planted them but the calendulas are volunteers. It will be easier to discourage the calendulas from that particular location than to lift the bulbs.

I am not sure yet whether the combination is going to offend me so much that I cut the flowers off the bulbs for our opening. If you are planning on visiting us next week, you may like to step off the driveway and into the area to see.

It is the first year for this garden so it is still getting established but what I envisage is a casual sea of flowers, heavily populated with bees and butterflies, from spring to autumn.  With some grasses. Straddling the lines of a perennial garden, a cottage garden and a meadow – so a transitional meadow. That makes sense to both Mark and me, at least, even if this freestyle planting confuses others.

Our garden will be open from Friday 31 October until Sunday 8 November from 9am to 5pm daily as part of the Taranaki Garden Festival. We are not open outside these days.

A short story in four photos

Lloyd was trimming the lollipop michelias at our front entrance this week, to have us looking smart for opening the garden on Friday. We only trim them once a year.

At the end of the day I looked and was surprised to see that he hadn’t finished. The only reason I was surprised is because he is very task-oriented and likes to finish whatever he is doing. Mark and I tend to flit all over the place, multi-tasking, so his focus is a good foil in our team. There are six lollipops clipped from Fairy Magnolia Blush and one and a half umbrellas from the unnamed seedling we have by the courtyard entrance.

This morning he explained. He only just noticed Mama Blackbird in time and he didn’t want to destroy her home and kill her babies. This is exactly how both Mark and I would have responded, too. So if you are visiting our garden during the Taranaki Garden Festival, that is why one bush right at the entrance is only half-clipped.

I remembered this happening before, when I took this photo in the same plant, and in other years. Because the photo is dated back to 2012, I googled the life expectancy of a blackbird. I wondered if they lived long enough for it to be the same bird returning to her favourite position. FIFTEEN YEARS. Blackbirds can last 15 years, presumably if not predated by a cat or anything else. So it may indeed be the same Mama Blackbird raising another clutch. We can accommodate her in relative safety here.

The 2020 election in flowers. Mostly.

 

Red, of course for the Labour Party and Jacinda Ardern with a resounding vote of confidence that exceeded the hopes of even their own supporters. That is Rhododendron ‘Noyo Chief’.

(Red – centre left)

Green for the Green Party. I put the giant red pepper mill that our son bequeathed to us before he headed overseas (and a very good pepper mill it is, too) beside it yesterday. It was not a premonition, more serendipity but today it stands for the resurgent Māori Party who won a seat against the odds.

(Green – left wing with a strong focus on the environment and social justice. Red – but a darker shade than Labour red and with black – for the only party whose prime focus is on Māori affairs)

The yellow Doronicum orientale daisy is for the Act Party – one star and now nine additional members of parliament, some of whom must be as surprised as the rest of us to see themselves there.

(Yellow – our most right wing, libertarian party)

Bluebells, wilting, past their prime and going to seed for the National Party. But, like bluebells, they will rise again, refreshed, at some stage in the future.

(Blue – centre right but leaning more right than centre lately).

And the black ashes of defeat for the demise of New Zealand First. No matter one’s personal opinion of its leader, Winston Peters, it seems sad to witness the demise of such a characterful and long-serving MP in such an inglorious manner.

For overseas readers, we have proportional representation in NZ and a history of very stable coalition governments. This is the first time since we opted for this system that a single party has received such an overwhelming mandate that they can govern alone without needing the support of other parties. It remains to be seen whether the Labour government will choose to govern alone or whether they will opt for a cooperative approach which would see them bring the Greens and probably the Maori Party onto the government benches.

 

And that is a wrap from what seemed like an interminable election campaign in this year of Covid.

Golden orbs

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Every time Edgeworthia gardneri blooms and I sniff the waxy, golden orbs of fragrance, I remember a customer from our mail order days. One who put the cuss into customer, as Mark is wont to say.

New Zealand Gardener magazine carried a full-page photo of a single golden orb and the accompanying text named us as one of very few suppliers of this plant. It is not common in NZ gardens and not that easy to propagate. A full-page photo should give a hint as to the problem. It was considerably enlarged in the image.

A reader rang, desperate to order one of the few remaining plants we had. One of the staff took the call and didn’t check to make sure she knew what she was buying. I am not saying Mark or I would have checked, but we might have. The staffer instead sold her an additional random plant as well to meet our minimum order of $35 and her plants were packed and despatched.

I have no idea what the woman’s name was but I can remember she lived in Palmerston North (here’s looking at you Palmerstonians – she was yours, all yours). On receipt of the plant, she rang to express her extreme disappointment. The flower, you see. She had no idea the flower would be so small. It looked much larger in the photo. I mentally sighed and agreed to take the plants back if she returned them in good condition. She had clearly destroyed our packing because in due course, the plants arrived back in a carefully constructed cardboard cage, with windows and air vents, even. As I recall, it cost her $27.50 to send us back $35 worth of plants. I deleted her from our data base.

Edgeworthia gardneri is the tall, willowy, multi-stemmed shrub behind the orange clivia

But every year, as I enjoy the plant in bloom, I smile wryly at the thought of what she missed out on because it is lovely. It is willowy in its growth so light and graceful, adorned by many golden orbs with good scent in late winter and early spring. It is evergreen and hails from the forests in the Himalayan foothills and is, I have just discovered, just as good if not better for the making of high quality paper as its better known, deciduous, shrubby cousin, Edgeworthia papyrifera syn chrysantha (which bears the common, though inaccurate, name of the yellow daphne).

It is just that the flower heads are the size of pingpong balls, not tennis balls, or maybe even the larger ball size used in softball and baseball.

Spring pinks

Pink froth of Prunus Awanui  currently at its peak

I am a big fan of pink and not just in flowers, but my theme this week came because of two pink plants in bloom.

The balls of viburnum are at the front of the vase

The first is one of the Virburnum × burkwoodii cultivars. I am not sure which one it is but we have it planted beside the drive where it is largely anonymous for 51 weeks of the year. In the 52nd week, it opens its flowers to rounded balls of exquisite fragrance – strong enough to hang in the air several metres away. We would be lucky to get a full 7 days out of it but I am sure it does better in other climates – it probably wants it drier and colder. I picked a few balls to put in a vase with pink bluebells and late flowers of Mark’s Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ (which still has flowers and has had since late March). It was lovely but the viburnum flowers promptly died overnight. They last longer than that on the bush, though not by much.

The view with our morning cuppa

Magnolia Serene

A prodigious carpet of petals beneath

The second pink to give me daily delight is Magnolia ‘Serene’ – bred by Felix and the marker of the end of the deciduous magnolia season for us. As we sit having our morning cup of tea, it is framed in the corner window of our bedroom. Not this morning, though. With daylight saving, it was a bit dark at 7am to see it so that may herald the end of that particular seasonal pleasure, too.

Rhododendron Coconut Ice

I am not the world’s biggest fan of the ball truss type of rhododendron but ‘Coconut Ice’ was looking particularly pretty earlier this week. Sadly, it is browning off already. Flowering is an ephemeral pleasure. Mark observes that the delight of rhododendrons lies in watching the buds for a long period of time before finally opening over a period of a couple of weeks. There is then a week, maybe 10 days, of full glory – sometimes cut shorter by an ill-timed storm – and then it is time to dead head it. In practice, we don’t dead head all our rhododendrons – just those that set large amounts of seed which can weaken the plant over time.

My rhododendron preference is for those with looser trusses that are sometimes so abundant that they can cover the plant.

Rhododendron Anne Teese

It took a couple of goes for Mark to remember the name of this beauty – Rhododendron Anne Teese. It is an Australian-bred hybrid coming from the Teese family (in this case the father, Arnold) who are well known through their nursery, Yamina Rare Plants in Monbulk, Victoria. Mark thinks it was named for the mother, presumably married to Arnold. Whatever, it is very lovely and I would be happy to have it named for me. It is a Maddenia hybrid (R.ciliicalyx x R.formosum) so scented and with a heavier petal, more weather resistant than ‘Charisma’, a similar R.ciliicalyx selection that used to be widely available here.

Rhododendron Floral Gift in a swathe of bluebells

With one notable exception – Magnolia ‘Felix Jury’ – Mark doesn’t name his cultivars for people. Or when he does, it is by oblique reference at best so an in-house tribute only. So this, his most fragrant rhododendron is ‘Floral Gift’, not ‘Abbie Jury’. It takes a while to get established but it is lovely and can be seen performing really well at Pukeiti Rhododendron Gardens. There are a whole lot of hybrids in this genre of scented, white flushed pink loose trusses; the best known is ‘Fragrantissimum’.  What sets ‘Floral Gift’ apart is the large flower and the very heavy petal texture giving it good weather resistance.

The reason I often reference weather resistance is because our spring flowering coincides with the spring equinox when we get the most unsettled weather, as evidenced this weekend – which, for us, means very heavy rain and wind which can wipe out fragile flowers in a matter of hours. And a few more pinks to finish off – this is one of the Dendrobium ‘Bardo Rose’ group of orchids which thrive in our open woodland areas. They flower for a long time and the scale is right for detailed woodland plantings – by which I mean, not as big and dominant as the cymbidiums.

Fairy Magnolia Blush

Fairy Magnolia Blush has a good, long flowering season, currently at its most charming stage of peak bloom. More lilac than pink, it is pleione orchid time. This is another group from the orchid family that thrives in pretty laissez-faire woodland conditions (in other words, benign neglect) but the flowering season is much shorter than the dendrobium ‘Bardo Roses’.

And the final bar of pink can be left to the evergreen azaleas. We have so many different ones that we get many months in flower but they are currently at their showiest.