Tag Archives: Abbie Jury

The Barricades

The remaining stump doesn’t look very large in the photo but the poor abies was between 60 and 70 years old.

I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when the last of the Cyclone Dovi major damage was cleared and repaired. The abies that fell over the high bridge in the park has been cleared; Lloyd has reinstated the stopbank which had been ripped apart by the tree roots and the he has repaired the bridge.  

The bridge was beneath the tree

The challenge with the abies was what to do with it. Mark had no interest in the timber for firewood. We have plenty already and abies is a lighter wood that does burns quickly so was not desirable. Had it been somewhere with vehicle access, we would have given it away but it was too much of a challenge to try and get it back up the hill when the only access was by our baby tractor or Lloyd’s quad bike and trailer.

Installations, maybe.

The job of cutting it up fell to Zach. Given it had fallen right across the stream, we are lucky that we have had a dry late summer and autumn with low water flow because he spent a few days working around the water with gumboots that are no longer waterproof. He burned the foliage on site as he went. The wood was cut to manageable lengths. A few were used nearby as ‘installations’, we might say. Most of it, he carted halfway back up the hill to build what we have come to call The Barricades.

The Barricades

For readers not into musicals, this is a reference to ‘Les Miserables’. Of course it is. Zach is a fan of musicals and we have been been a Les Mis household ever since our second daughter played Little Cosette in the stage show at the tender age of 10.

That is a Bardo Rose dendrobium freshly planted in the wood

Meet our barricades. Essentially, they are a way of dealing with surplus wood while giving some structure and height in a casual woodland area. Over the years, they will rot down but, in the meantime, they give all sorts of cavities in which to grow plants as well as being not so much a trendy hotel for insects, as an entire insect resort. Or condominium. Zach started with planting a few orchids in it and we will continue to add more plants as suitable candidates become available.

Early March after the initial clean up in the Avenue Gardens

Meanwhile, the rate of recovery in the Avenue Gardens has been rewarding. When Dovi hit, this area was completely covered by fallen pine and the lower canopy of jacaranda, camellia and cordyline. After it had been cleared, it was a bare wasteland with everything tramped into the ground by heavy boots dragging out the debris. We covered it in the woodchip mulch – of which we had small mountains heaped around the area and this was how it looked on March 5.

Early May. The poor jacaranda is unlikely to rally again but the rest is recovering.

Two months on, in autumn, it has already recovered to this point. We are still missing the middle canopy layer, but it looks as if the perennial groundcover will return afresh.

Further along the damage zone, the plants are already softening the length of trunk we decided to leave where it fell. In a few years’ time, Cyclone Dovi will just be a memory.

I wrote about Mark’s hippeastrum hybrids back in 2019. Another one has opened and is positively glowing in the Rimu Avenue. Everyone that has bloomed so far is red. It would have been nice to have had more variety, given that one parent is H. papilio. But what is more interesting is their random blooming. H. aulicum flowers like clockwork for us in September, H. papilio in October. These hybrids are popping up the odd flower any time of the year. It will take a few more years to see if they settle down to a predictable seasonal pattern but, in the meantime, it is quite delightful to come across unexpected, over the top blooms glowing in the woodland gardens.

After more than two years – a trip away

The foreshore in Ulladulla

Our trip to Australia has been, done and gone. In pre-Covid times, a trip across the ditch was not a major one. For us it is just two flights with a total of about 4 hours in the air. Four hours can get you a long way in Europe but for New Zealanders, it gets us to our closest neighbour. We fly longer and further than anybody else to get to most places so it is not long haul until it is a 12 hour flight and that only gets us into Asia or Los Angeles.

But times have changed with Covid and this trip to Australia to reunite with our children felt like a major event. It was between two and three years since we had seen them in person and that was our focus. We met up in Ulladulla first, a beach town three hours’ drive south of Sydney. What a pretty coastline that is, full of attractive bays, golden sand and an unthreatening ocean – though it was too autumnal for any of us but the five year old grandson to go swimming.

Look at that range of fish species! The quality of fresh fish on the eastern coast of Australia is exceptionally good, even down to beachside fish and chips.

Where we live in Taranaki, our beaches and coastline are grand and wild west coastline with unpredictable seas, big surf and vast expanses of dramatic black sand. That Australian coastline seemed benign and user-friendly in comparison. Ulladulla had a vibe that was vaguely reminiscent of Cornwall fishing villages to us.

We stopped on a walk to see what this man was doing beside a fish-cleaning station on the breakwater
He was attracting the ginormous stingrays in closer. It looks like a shadow in the water, a rocky area maybe, but I can assure you it was one of three excessively large stingrays attracted in close to shore by an easy feed.

The sight of the most enormous stingrays we have ever seen was a reminder that it is not as benign as it appears. I was not at all sure I would want to swim amongst monsters like that. The Australian Museum site tells me that ‘The Smooth Stingray is the largest of all Australian stingrays (Family Dasyatidae). It grows to 4.3 m in length, 2 m disc width and a weight of 350 kg.’ I have no idea if we were looking at smooth stingrays but it does confirm that my memory is not playing tricks on the astonishing size of the ones we saw.

Cordyline fruticosa – easy to propagate, easy to grow and right at home in areas with hot summers and mild winters

While the temperatures felt very similar to those we had been experiencing at home, the common garden plants told us that the climate is warmer than ours. We have seen Cordyline fruticosa (formerly C. terminalis) growing wild on the roadsides of Bali but unless you have a very favoured spot in NZ, preferably in the more sub-tropical north, it is a house plant here. It was in every second garden in that area of coastal New South Wales. What it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for with its exotic tropical vibe.

Those are NZ cordylines but I have never seen them looking that good in NZ

Australia has its own native cordylines but gardeners there embrace all manner of different species and cultivars and, galling though it is to admit it, our native NZ cordylines look better as garden plants there than here. That is because our plants get attacked by a native caterpillar – Epiphryne verriculata – which gives our plants a perpetually motheaten, chewed appearance.

Tibouchina – another indicator of a warmer climate than home

The splendid tibouchinas in full bloom also featured strongly. Commonly known as lasiandra in Australia, these are tropical plants originating from Central America – mostly Mexico, Brazil and the Caribbean. Again, these are conditions that can only be replicated in the warmest areas of northern NZ so we don’t see them like this in Taranaki. Some may think they are garish but there aren’t too many plants that are a blaze of glory in mid to late autumn.

There did seem to be a choice limited to either purple or candy pink in the tibouchina range

While this pink one was highly visible from the road, I stopped to ask the garden owner if I could photograph it because I thought it may worry her to see a random stranger photographing the front of her place. I did take more arty photos of close-ups of the flowers, but I quite like it in the context of the whole front garden, which had its own flavour. The owner was so thrilled by my request, she took me round the back to show me the purple one above.

Australians love their sasanqua camellias and they were looking very pretty everywhere but I came home with not a single photo featuring them, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Another cordyline derived from NZ species but with the clean foliage they keep in Australia as compared to here. And lo, there is a sasanqua camellia – albeit a pretty ordinary variety.

After Ulladulla, we relocated a little further south to Bateman’s Bay. This was entering bushfire territory from the summer of 2019-2020, now referred to as the Black Summer. That was haunting but the story of 37 000 hand-knitted wattle flowers commemorating the event will have to wait for my next post.

The Court Garden in early autumn

Forming the archway with Podocarpus parlatorei which leads into the Court Garden

Today, fingers crossed, all going well, negative RAT tests and no flight cancellations, we are winging our way across the Tasman to reunite with our three children and only grandchild, all of whom live in Australia. It feels momentous because it will be the first time we have seen them all for between two and three years. The small grandson is literally twice the age he was we last saw him. We are all meeting up in Bateman’s Bay, a few hours’ drive south of Sydney. I mention this because there won’t be a post next Sunday and I was chastised by a loyal reader for skipping a couple of weeks recently.

And a close-up of that view through the podocarpus archway – mostly Chionochloa rubra and helianthus

Just occasionally, I look at part of the garden and utter a sigh of utter joy and contentment. It is that glorious feeling that everything is just right, a vision realised at that moment in time on that particular day. When it is a garden that has been my vision, my plant selection, my plant combinations and largely my efforts, the feeling of deep satisfaction is even more rewarding.

Calamagrostis ‘Overdam’ at the front with self-sown Verbena bonariensis, Elegia capendis with Dahlia ‘Conundrum” in the mid ground and Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ at the back

I experienced that feeling this week in the Court Garden. While it is part of the new area we call the Summer Gardens, it really stars in autumn. I wanted this area to be a wrap-around, enveloping experience –  where we are IN the garden, not looking AT the garden. And this week, I felt that it had all come together.

I like the combination of Elegia capensis and Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’

Of course there are areas that I will tweak further. Zach has been reducing the size of the Elegia capensis and one of the patches of black phormium (flax) this week. I need to give the Chionochloa rubra more space if they are to be left to gain their full potential glory. I am still learning about which plants we will need to manage and control and how often this will need to be done. But this week I sighed with pleasure.

The concept works. It is an immersive experience. It is generally low(ish) maintenance – certainly lower than other areas of the Summer Gardens. It is very different to all other areas in our garden. The fact that it looks okay in winter, good in spring and summer but it really stars alone in autumn is a bonus.

Gaura with Stipa gigantea and Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’

These photos were all taken in late afternoon on a grey day with lower light levels. It looks spectacular on blue sky days as the autumn sun is lower in the sky and highlights the plumage of the grasses in flower. On a windy day, it is full of movement but even on calm days, the slightest breeze will catch the tall plants and they will gently wave.

In fact, it works just as I hoped it would.

Autumn flowering self-seeders

Cyclamen hederafolium gently drifting itself in a most rewarding fashion

Over the years, we have tried growing any and all of the cyclamen species we could find. I see there are 23 species but we wouldn’t have had that number available to us. Most of them come from dry parts of Europe and North Africa, often with cold, dry winters – conditions that could not be further from ours. This is why we have only ever succeeded in naturalising three different species. Coum is our winter cyclamen, repandum in spring but it is the carpets of hederafolium that are delighting me in autumn.

Cyclamen grow from round, flattish discs that start tiny but can get steadily larger over the years. This is just one tuber, about the size of a saucer, with a big show-off display of flowers.

We didn’t plant all these hederafolium in pretty pink and white. We probably started this area with maybe three or four tubers but, over time, they have gently spread. That is what I mean by naturalising. We have them growing in cultivated conditions all through the rockery and in other garden beds and also growing in grass in the park meadow. I thought this drifting area was interesting because of the conditions where they have spread and the showy display they make.

For context, this is the wider view of the drift of cyclamen in the top photo. That ground is never fed and never watered so is very poor and dry but cyclamen are adapted to such conditions

They are growing in extremely poor ground, bone-dry and bereft of goodness because the enormous rimu trees suck up all the available moisture. There is also a natural carpet of rimu needles covering them. But, there is no competition from other bulbs or shade loving perennials. This means they never get swamped or crowded out by other plants or so wet in the shade that the tubers rot when dormant. And when the seed spreads, it has a fair chance of germinating and growing because the whole area is largely left undisturbed. Hederafolium sets seed freely and Mark has been pleasantly surprised when he has scattered the seed further afield and found cyclamen flowering there a few years later. It is best sown or scattered fresh, though. Gather the ripe seed and spread it at the same time rather than storing it for later.

Moraea polystachya gently seeding its way around

While on bulbs naturalising, I don’t mind the lovely blue Moraea polystachya seeding down in even less hospitable conditions – the cracks in the old concrete. It gently seeds itself through the rockery but not at an alarming rate and it cohabits happily with other plants. Also, the corms are large enough to find easily if I want to move them. It also has the longest flowering season of any of the autumn bulbs because it keeps flowering down the stem. They are iris-like in appearance and if you trace back the family tree, you get to what most of us might call the broader iris family.

Windflowers or Japanese anemones

Also spreading alarmingly are the Japanese anemones which aren’t even from Japan, commonly known as windflowers. I love them and am prepared to wage ongoing war on their spreading ways but they should always come with a warning. Don’t plant them anywhere near treasures of a more refined disposition because they will swamp them. It is best not to plant them near trees and shrubs because they spread below ground and you will have them all through the root systems of other plants all too soon. If you can, define a space and keep them to it which means having a clear area around them so you can see when the roots are popping up growing tips beyond their allotted space.

Japanese anemones

Naturally, I haven’t done this myself – at least not on these clumps which are in the Iolanthe cottage garden/meadow. I know I will regret it but I still have a sentimental fondness for them at this time of the year.

Finally, unrelated in subject matter, but the recent cyclone opened up a view of the sunrise that we can see as we sit companionably over the pre-breakfast cup of tea. It is an ill wind etc

Three books (one of which has absolutely nothing to do with gardening)

Almost to the day, it is two years since we first went into lockdown in this country, when we realised – well, most of us realised – that Covid was real and like nothing we had dealt with before. Life changed for most of us. Lynda Hallinan’s book ‘The Joy of Gardening’, came out late last year but appears to have its genesis in the earlier lockdown days. It is a book firmly anchored in our Covid present.

I have written before of myself that ‘I garden so I have a lot of thinking time’. The same is true of Lynda. Most of us know her as an irrepressible, bright, bubbly person who is genuinely keen on gardening and plants. This book is more intimate, more reflective at this time when our focus is closer in, more defined by our immediate environment as we try to make sense of a world that has changed.

There is a soft focus to this book, quite a bit of nostalgia and thoughts about what gardens and plants mean at a personal level, leavened by the author’s irreverent humour. There are lots of of romantic, soft-focus photos by Sally Tagg but we know these are just mood-setters because all the photo captions are banished to the last two pages of the book and then just recorded as plant names. That is a case of a book designer thinking that the look is more important than reader convenience. That aside, it is a beautiful hardback and I do love me a book with a built-in book marking ribbon.

Lynda is a journalist and it shows. She has an immensely readable style and the words flow with confidence. While divided into ten sections (Making Memories and Love & Loss are two), each section has a number of separate pieces loosely related to the theme. It means you can pick up the book and read a page or two and it stands on its own. I have been known to refer to this as loo reading but you may prefer to think of it as coffee-break reading. It can detract from a sustained reading session because those short bits are so short and snappy but there is a surprising amount of good information included. I think it is a charming book, best savoured in smaller bites and particularly relevant at this time.

I know very little about Ethiopia which only seems to reach our news when there is famine or civil war. It did of course give us Haile Selassie with the odd spin off of the Rastafarians but well before that, it was an ancient civilisation where humans were first recorded in modern form and an early Christian nation. It is also one of the fastest expanding economies in the world today, with a predominantly rural population. This has led to major deforestation which is the subject of a book by Kieran Dodds titled ‘The Church Forests of Ethiopia’.

It is predominantly a book of photographs of the local people and the environment in Amhara Province with a lot of aerial shots showing the agricultural deserts where the only remaining native forests are patches of green surrounding churches. The Tewahedo Orthodox Christian churches are a distinctive round shape like domes or saucers and the reason why the small patches of remnant forest around them survive is because they are sacred. Think miniature gardens of Eden in a desert. It is a unique landscape.

The book is a fundraiser to support the organisations and groups involved with replanting to extend the existing forests and particularly creating links between the forested areas which enables native animal and insect life to move from one area to another. You will be supporting critical environmental work if you buy this book but also, you may enjoy having this rather gentle pilgrimage through the church forests of Ethiopia in your bookcase. The one thing it lacks is any information on what the dominant native plant species are but I guess if you want to know more, you could Google ‘woody flora of dry Afromontane areas in Ethiopia’.

Ukraine bus shelters and yes, we may well wonder if they are still standing

Nothing whatever to do with gardening, but a book I felt belonged in my bookcase in a totally random manner is ‘Soviet Bus Stops’ by Christopher Herwig. It is what it says – a collection of photographs of bus shelters throughout the former Soviet Union. These shelters date back to a time when private cars were a luxury, when the dreary conformity of the Brezhnev years spanned the era from the 1960s through to the start of the 1980s. This is apparently known as the time of stagnation and these bus shelters are a memorial to the triumph of individual creativity and flamboyance in a repressive regime.

Architects, artists and designers could unleash themselves – within a budget – and unleash themselves they did with marked regional differences and varying materials. I feel I owe it to Ukraine to show their shelters which are charming but not of the same level of flamboyance and scale as some other areas – favouring form over function as one of the brief introductory essays says. There aren’t just a few of these bus shelters, there are many although I am not sure yet whether I feel the need to buy the second volume of this odd phenomenon.

It is a quirky little book but also a record of the triumph of human spirit, even more so in the context of what is happening in that part of the world right now.

What on earth were they thinking at the time in Kyrgyzstan?
and indeed in Kazakhstan