Spring Festival is one of the prettiest in flower this week though spring is still a way off here
Tikorangi Notes: Sunday June 19, 2011
Our mild autumn continues though technically we are now well into winter. It may be wet but it is not generally cold. The ski fields inland and south seem to be getting nervous (and I am wondering whether the Christmas gift of a season lift pass to our snowboarding son was badly timed for the one season in a decade when the snows will be patchy and unpredictable) but it does mean that we are enjoying great gardening conditions. Except for last Friday which was cold (calm but cloudy and cold), daytime temperatures remain in the late teens and night temperatures are not dropping much below 10 degrees Celsius.
Lachenalia bulbifera, naturalised beneath a large pine tree
Magnolia Vulcan is opening its first blooms on the various plants we have around the property. Mid June is early. We usually expect peak flowering later in July. A hail storm last night damaged those early buds and blooms but there are plenty more to come which will be undamaged. The early lachenalias are open – red L. bulbifera, the yellow of Mark’s L. reflexa hybrids and the common L. aloides. The first of the snowdrops are in flower. We never get snow here but Galanthus S Arnott is wonderfully successful on our climate and there are few plants as pretty as the simple snowdrops. The sasanqua camellias are passing over and the japonicas and hybrids are taking over. Spring Festival is particularly pretty this week. With petal blight already hitting before many varieties have even opened, it is probably time to be a little more meticulous in recording which varieties show less damage and still put on a good show. Petal blight is probably here to stay. It will take breeding and selection to find a way past the ravages.
Just one new post this week – our Tikorangi Diary which records Mark’s unsuccessful efforts so far to extract olive oil with a zero carbon footprint and plans for our designated Citrus Grove.
We have been discussing our citrus trees here – somewhere around 20 different specimens which are very well established (as in some are probably around 50 years old now) and I have plans for a series of posts on growing fruit trees and the aim for self sufficiency and variety and how realistic this is in our climate.
The first blooms on Magnolia Vulcan were hit by hailstones last night
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Dainty little camellia species minutiflora
The reticulatas, in this case Glowing Embers, are good value in the garden, despite the ravages of petal blight
In years gone by (that is, in days pre-dating rampant camellia petal blight), now would be the time when we would be enjoying mass flowering in the japonica camellias. That has gone. But the reticulata camellias have come into their own. Because most are red, petal blight does not show up as badly and with such huge blooms, the spoiled flowers fall cleanly to the ground. And they still mass flower for us, even if we measure their flowering season in weeks, not months. Reticulatas have become hard to source these days. Few grow on their own roots so they have to be grafted and in this day and age, that is a skill which has all but died out. Most buyers can’t tell the difference between a grafted plant and one which can be mass produced with little skill and great ease so they don’t understand why the former plant should be so much more expensive than the latter. It is a good argument for home gardeners learning the more advanced skills needed to produce these plants at home for themselves. Most of the retics in our garden were grafted by Mark’s father Felix, back in the 1950s and 60s – now they are small trees.
Spring Festival - pretty as a picture
The other group of plants which continue to last the distance in the garden are the miniature flowered varieties, both hybrids and species. Any miniature flowered variety worth its salt should have masses of buds and flowers so it doesn’t matter if petal blight attacks after two or three days because there are so many fresh buds opening and individual blooms rarely last longer than a couple of days. Spring Festival is an American hybrid registered 35 years ago but I wish it had been one of ours because it is as pretty as a picture – a particularly pretty shade of pink with an attractive flower form, plenty of flowers, good pillar growth and a pleasing glaucous cast to the leaf colour. Camellias are a bit like roses – far too many are named and registered and don’t stand the test of time but a few last the distance.
It is also clear that in terms of garden appearance, red camellias are a better bet than pale ones when it comes to petal blight. The reds do not look anywhere near as unsightly in the early stages when the blooms are showing speckles of brown.
Camellia minutiflora is just starting to open. It is a gem of a species with very dark foliage and dainty flowers. We have put a hold on most of the plants in the nursery as we ponder its suitability for formal hedging.