Tag Archives: campanulata cherries

Tui, kereru and korimako

Tui in the cherry tree

Tui in the cherry tree

It is the time of the year when I spend a great deal of time trying to get the perfect images of the scores of tui we have feeding in the Prunus campanulata. Because we have a number of trees, the birds migrate between them but never sit still long enough for us to count.
Too many to count. All the black shadows are tui.

Too many to count. All the black shadows are tui.

These early flowering cherry trees from Taiwan get a mixed reception in New Zealand. There is no doubt that our native birds find them hugely appealing. In an environment filled with food sources, it is the campanulatas to which they head en masse. But, and it is a huge but, most campanulatas set prodigious amounts of seed and because these form as little cherries, tasty to our fruit-eating native birds, they are spread far and wide. Indeed, seedling cherries are one of the worst weeds we have in our own garden and it takes constant management to stop the spread. So bad is it that the councils further north have banned seeding campanulata varieties and some folk would like to see total eradication across the country.

Shy korimako in Prunus Pink Clouds. It was soon banished by the bullying tui

Shy korimako in Prunus Pink Clouds. It was soon banished by the bullying tui

We would be very sorry to see all campanulatas banned but certainly the future lies in sterile selections. Sterility means that they don’t set seed so they won’t spread but we get to keep the mass blooming and the tui – and indeed korimako, our shy bellbirds – get to keep their favourite food source. Pink Clouds and Mimosa are both sterile varieties which date back to the work Felix Jury did on them, but the sugar pink colour is often less favoured to the cerises and reds. Unfortunately, the good compact growing, dark flowered variety named for Felix by Duncan and Davies – Prunus Felix Jury – is not sterile.

Acrobatic tui in a campanulata that is sterile but much too large for most gardens

Acrobatic tui in a campanulata that is sterile but much too large for most gardens

We have a sterile cerise red which is a great performer but at over 12 metres tall and 10 metres wide, it is far too large for domestic gardens. But there is hope. Mark has identified one which is sterile, has good colour and does not look as if it will get anywhere near as large.

Kereru feasting on Magnolia Vulcan buds

Kereru feasting on Magnolia Vulcan buds

“Now look ‘ere, Mr and Mrs Kereru, we need to have words about this latest taste treat you have found. This just won’t do at all. There is plenty of other food here for you but magnolia buds are off limits, especially the first flowers opening on Magnolia Vulcan.”

Poor kereru died after flying into a window

Poor kereru died after flying into a window

I would make jokes about Mr and Mrs Kereru dicing with death on this latest escapade, but some sensitive soul would take me seriously. Kereru are our large native wood pigeon and were a valued food source for Maori in times past. But they are very slow breeders and are suffering from habitat loss so are now totally protected. 056There has been a bit of a scandal recently about kereru being served as part of a traditional feast – did the Parliamentarians know they were eating kereru? – so it is poor form to even make jokes about eating them. Besides, even when a beautiful plump specimen died before my eyes after flying into one of our house windows, we could not bring ourselves to try cooking it. Instead we bought window decals from Bird Rescue to try and prevent such a thing happening again.

Apparently Vulcan scores highly on the kereru taste test

Apparently Vulcan scores highly on the kereru taste test

In the garden this fortnight: Thursday February 9, 2012

A fortnightly series first published in the Weekend Gardener and reproduced here with their permission.

The only justification for growing seeding campanulata cherries - feeding the scores of tui in late winter

The only justification for growing seeding campanulata cherries - feeding the scores of tui in late winter


A rash of germinating campanulata cherries

A rash of germinating campanulata cherries

We are very cautious about invasive plants here. I know there is an old cliché that says a weed is just a plant in the wrong place but in a large garden, we can’t afford to have out of control triffids. If a plant starts to look dangerous, it probably is. If it is a prolific seeder and the seed is dispersed by birds, it is even more problematic. The campanulata cherries fall into this category and if it weren’t for the scores of tui they attract to the garden each spring, we would do away with them. The seeding bangalow palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) is also a source of angst. The same goes for the Himalayan Daphne bholua which doesn’t just seed. It also suckers below ground. If we lived near a national park or adjacent to a native reserve, we would feel morally obliged to review our hospitality to these ornamental plants.

We are nowhere near as tolerant of wayward perennials and annuals. Forget-me-not may be pretty but it is aptly named. We have been weeding it out for years here and still it stages a comeback. The orangeberry (Rubus pentalobus) had to go when it formed an impenetrable mat after just one year then started climbing and leaping to extend its territory – but never fruited. Some of the ornamental tradescantias (wandering willies) are also invasive. We have a very pretty blue flowered form but it sets prodigious quantities of seed and is popping up in thickets many metres away. The remains of the arum lily Green Goddess still require regular attention to get rid of the last remnants of tiny rhizomes out of the ground.

Where we have plants which set miles too much seed, like the granny bonnets (aquilegias) and the sweet williams (dianthus), we try and deadhead straight into a bucket. From there, they either go to the bottom of a hot compost heap, out with the rubbish or on the burning heap. Composting alone does not kill seeds unless you manage your compost in a way that generates considerable heat. While we don’t mind a certain amount of seeding down of pretty plants, we like to keep them confined to particular areas and don’t want to spread them everywhere when we use the compost as mulch.

I am very fond of eryngiums

I am very fond of eryngiums

Top tasks:
1) Persuade Mark to head out with the chainsaw and cut down some of the self seeded pongas. We don’t regard these as weeds because they are native, but we end up with too many of them. We have them as raised beds in the rimu avenue, where some are now 50 years old. I want to extend the constructions along further and feature more bromeliads. I have never learned to use a chainsaw and am terrified of them. Mark is equally worried by what I could do with one if I became confident so has never encouraged me to learn.
2) Mark has been raising perennials from seed in the nursery and I need to get onto planting these out. I was particularly pleased to see a tray of eryngiums – blue sea holly. It is a little bit prickly but so very pretty. Blue flowers are my absolute favourite. It would have been better had we got onto planting these out earlier but they are perennial so should grow on to star next summer.

Ponga (tree fern) trunks, used to make raised beds andwhich have lasted for five decades already

Ponga (tree fern) trunks, used to make raised beds andwhich have lasted for five decades already


In the Garden: August 13, 2010

Prunus Pink Clouds - bringing in the tuis

Prunus Pink Clouds - bringing in the tuis

• Spring has certainly made her presence felt this week and our tui have returned to the flowering cherries, including one distinctive golden brown tui in its third season here. It is the campanulata or Taiwanese cherries in flower at this time which attract the native nectar feeders. Try and buy sterile, named forms if you are planting them because some can seed too freely.

• With the warmer weather, there will be an explosion of germinating weed seeds so be vigilant and try and eradicate this crop before they get established and seed further. Spreading a thick enough layer of mulch will suppress weeds as well as retain moisture levels for when drier weather sets in but lay your mulch after you have done a weeding round, not on top of existing weeds.

• Slugs and snails are also getting more active. If you are looking for alternatives to poisonous baits, you can try baker’s bran in reasonably thick circles or mounds (irresistible to the slimy critters who then get picked off by the birds). Alternatively, ring plants in sand, grit or masses of crushed egg shell – it is not bullet proof but it helps discourage them. Or make traps from the time-honoured hollowed out orange skin or half empty cans of beer – but you do have to go round and squash them after you have encouraged them to congregate. Getting out with a torch at night, especially after rain, can show up quite a number of them too.

• Spare a thought for permanent container plants. They need their potting mix replaced every two years and they need feeding at least once a year in spring. You may need to hose all the old mix off the roots and trim the roots to fit back into the same pot. It is less stressful to the plant to do it now rather than when it starts to look very sad in summer.

• I read a hint in a gardening magazine to trample down green crops before you dig them in to the vegetable garden. The crushing process hastens the breakdown. It seems to make good sense. Get onto digging in any green crops without delay.

• If you still plan to plant fruit trees this season, get right onto it now. The sooner they go in, the better chance they have of getting established. The same applies to all trees and shrubs for the ornamental garden.

• And a bouquet this week to Todd Energy who have started the process to put in screening plantings to block their Mangahewa-C well site from public view. Living as we do in green countryside peppered with ugly, albeit small, industrial sites, we applaud this new move and hope that other energy companies will follow the lead. These sites can be rendered almost invisible to ground level view by simple plantings but it has taken a long time before one company has decided that this is an appropriate priority. By planting the right species, they can contribute to the environment as well.