Tag Archives: garden quotes

My farewell message to Waikato Times readers

No longer wanted at Waikato Times newspaper….
057 - Copy - CopyIt is time for me to bid farewell to Waikato readers. This will be my last garden page. The new-look garden page will be rolled out next Saturday but I will not be part of it. I have really enjoyed writing for this publication over the past 3 ½ years and would like to thank readers for reading it. Thank you also to those of you who have emailed and even written proper letters and cards.

I have an online presence for anyone who wishes to keep following – on Facebook under thejurygarden, on Twitter as @Tikorangi and a blog at http://www.jury.co.nz. I won’t stop writing. Eventually I may manage to compose my piece on the point where heavily ornamented gardens cross over to folk art (and, scarily, where they don’t). This will, however, will remain a mystery to readers of this page.

Thanks, goodbye and good gardening.

???????????????????????????????“I shall stop being queer,” he said, “if I go to the garden. There is Magic in there – good Magic, you know, Mary, I am sure there is.”
“So am I,” said Mary.
“Even if it isn’t real Magic,” Colin said, “we can pretend it is. Something is there – something!”
“It’s Magic,” said Mary, but not black. It’s as white as snow.”
They always called it Magic, and indeed it seemed like it in the months that followed – the wonderful months – the radiant months – the amazing ones. Oh! the things which happened in that garden! If you have never had a garden, you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden, you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all the things that came to pass there.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (1911).

Garden Lore Friday 23 January, 2015

The form of the orange-tree, the cocoa-nut, the mango, the tree-fern, the banana, will remain clear and separate; but the thousand beauties which unite these into one perfect scene must fade away; yet they will leave, like a tale told in childhood, a picture full of indistinct, but most beautiful figures.
Charles Darwin The Voyage of the Beagle (1839)
???????????????????????????????Garden Lore: standard bay trees
I have been guilty of describing Buxus sempervirens (the common box hedging) as the dullest plant in the world. But I was wrong. In a moment of hyperbole, I declare that Laurus nobilis can wear that crown. At least standardised laurels planted as formal, ornamental features. How many bay leaves can you use in the kitchen? I severed the top knot of my lollipop bay tree because it had become twiggy, over-large and infested with thrips. Again. What is more, it suckers badly from the base and needs frequent attention to keep it looking even half-way respectable. I figure I will keep it clipped to a mound closer to ground level where I can pass over it with the hedge clippers more easily.

There is nothing choice or special about Laurus nobilis, even when it is trained to a lollipop standard. It is handy in the kitchen as a flavouring and it is reputed to repel pantry moths in the food cupboard. The trouble is that we get such a bad infestation of sap-sucking thrips that there are months on end when I struggle to find clean leaves to use. It might be handy to make leafy garlands and laurel crowns were we to hold family games in the manner of Ancient Greece.

It is probably better in a colder, drier climate than we have. When it comes to formal lollipop plants, I much prefer the small leafed camellias which keep better foliage, michelias or even our native matai and miro which can be clipped to tight balls over time. Even buxus makes better balls than bays.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Garden lore: Friday 16 January, 2015

062 - Copy - CopyIf it were of any use, every day the gardener would fall on his knees and pray somehow like this: “O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o’clock in the morning, but, you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and the others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants – I will write their names on a bit of paper if you like – and grant that the sun my shine the whole day long, but not everywhere (not, for instance, on spiraea, or on gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron), and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven. Amen.”
Karel Capek, The Gardener’s Year (1929)
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Garden Lore: trees and power lines
Despite the intense and not always good natured rivalry between New Zealand and our closest neighbours across the ditch, there are some things they do better in Australia . Mandatory country of origin labelling on food is one. Though it was with wry amusement we noted a bin of avocados on sale in Canberra proudly bearing the placard “Produce of Australia”, while each fruit bore an irritating little sticker telling us they were in fact New Zealand avocados.

What also caught our attention were the efforts the lines company was willing to make to keep large trees in Sydney. I took this photo on the street where our daughter lives in Bellevue Hill. It would be a baking hot concrete and tarmac environment without the trees. A window has been cut through the canopy where necessary to accommodate the lines and there are spacers and insulation on the lines to guard against storm damage. Of course it must cost more money but it is a very different mind-set from this country where lines companies rule supreme and want a clearway free of trees around every set of power lines up and down the country. I have yet to see an example here where power lines and large trees are allowed to coexist so it was interesting to see that it is possible. Large trees are not replaceable in the short to middle term and play an increasingly important role both in urban settings and in producing the oxygen we breathe.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Garden Lore: Friday 9 January, 2015

“I always think of my sins when I weed. They grow apace in the same way and are harder still to get rid of.”

Helena Rutherford Ely A Woman’s Hardy Garden (1903)

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Garden Lore: tree puning

This is not pruning. It is, alas, tree amputation verging on butchery. The poor tree is outside the charming, little country church near where I live. I drove past and saw three elderly gents whom I know, all members of the congregation and retired farmers, carrying out the assault. I don’t dispute that the tree may have needed to be cut back but there are better ways to achieve this. It can be done so that it is barely visible, even immediately after pruning.

The first cut to each branch takes the weight off and that weight can rip down the bark and first layers on the underside as the branch falls, visible to the left in the photo. If they had followed up that first cut with a tidy up, trimming the branches not quite flush to the trunk, you wouldn’t even notice what has been done over time.

Leaving protruding branches – the coathanger effect – is an ugly look.  Usual advice is to leave a small collar where the branch meets the trunk rather than trimming flush but that collar is a mere centimetre or so. Using clean cutting equipment is important. Some people like to seal the cuts – Bacseal is a proprietary, pink product for this purpose – but we just make sure it is done on a fine day so the wound can dry out and we don’t get disease problems. This tree is an Australian lillypilly or syzgium for those who want to know, so neither rare nor choice, but it didn’t have to look like this.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission. a

Garden lore January 2, 2015

“Jack used to curse the front lawn as if it were a living thing…[He] hated the front yard because he thought it was against him. There had been a beautiful lawn there when Jack came along but he let it wander off into nothing. He refused to water it or take care of it in any way.
Now the ground was so hard it gave his car flat tires in the summer. The yard was always finding a nail to put into one of his tires or the car was always was always sinking out of sight in the winter when the rains came on.”

Richard Brautigan The Revenge of the Lawn (1971).
???????????????????????????????Garden lore: lemon problems
If your lemons look like this, you have problems. We have problems. Not only did much of the fruit rot and fall, but the tree has also lost rather a lot of its leaves which is not good for it. The plant relies on having foliage to keep it well and growing strongly. There are a number of reasons for rotting fruit and defoliation including Brown Rot and anthracnose but the first call of action is to reach for a remedial copper spray. Had our lemon tree been given its preventative winter copper spray, it would not have looked like this.

One dead branch is often an indication of borer damage. We tend to deal with this simply by cutting off the offending limb but we have never had to deal with it threatening the entire tree. It is of course the burrowing larvae that cause the damage (as they do in wisterias), not the flying insect. If you see sawdust either on the ground below or on a branch, it is a sign of an active grub. You need to find the hole and pour in some treatment. Some recommend diesel or kerosene but we are not so keen on putting those into the plant. I have used both cooking oil and CRC (the can of the latter comes with a handy long tube to direct it) which smothers the grub. Flyspray can work. Mark prefers Decis which is one of the safest insecticides, being a synthetic pyrethroid which is also the active ingredient in fly spray.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Garden lore: a Flower Fairy Christmas

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The little Christmas Tree was born
And dwelt in open air;
It did not guess how bright a dress
Some day its boughs would wear;
Brown cones were all, it thought, a tall
And grown-up Fir would bear.

O little Fir! Your forest home
Is far and far away;
And here indoors these boughs of yours
With coloured balls are gay,
With candle-light, and tinsel bright,
For this is Christmas Day!

Fairies of the Trees by Cicely Mary Barker (1940)
???????????????????????????????Garden lore: A Flower Fairy Christmas
Despite having an English mother, the flower fairy books were not a part of my childhood. It took Mark and his mother to introduce them to our daughters. A friend squealed in delight when she saw them again and commented that she learned all she knew about wild flowers and native plants of Britain from them in her childhood. Today’s quote is from this little series of seven books.

Our own little sweet pea fairy with her Nana Jury from three decades ago

Our own little sweet pea fairy with her Nana Jury from three decades ago


To be honest, the poetry isn’t great by any manner of means and it is very girly-girly. These days there is an entire industry of fairy memorabilia spawned by the series. At its best, that memorabilia is ethereal-faerie in nature, at its worst it lacks both charm and subtlety. But the books holds special memories for our family. I have a photo of our eldest aged 3 at the Playcentre Christmas party dressed as the sweet pea fairy. A few years ago she made me a quilted Christmas table runner based on the flower fairies and every year it makes me smile as we look at the fairies of winter in a New Zealand summer Christmas.

Happy Christmas to readers. Maybe there is somebody out there with greater poetic skills who could do a flower creatures book for our native flora?

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Garden Lore

“The word ha-ha comes from an Anglo-Saxon word which I believe is spelt haugh, but anyway is pronounced how and means a ditch…. I thought it was a silly Victorian word and was given this explanation by an amateur archaeologist who was also my mother-in-law. She was extremely knowledgeable about ditches, embankments and fortifications which she kept an eye on for the Department of Ancient Monuments, so I guess she was right.”

Personal letter from a Waikato Times reader in response to my recent post about a ha-ha.

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Garden Lore: The Christmas Poinsettia

Is there a container plant both more seasonal and disposable than the Christmas poinsettia? It is a Mexican euphorbia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, believe it or not, and the presentation of it as a colourful houseplant is through clever growing techniques. If you have ever tried planting one out in the garden after Christmas, you may have found that it soon became a somewhat leggy, scrubby plant without the brilliant colour and compact growth. It can reach maybe 4 metres in height and is a shrub.

The brilliant red appears in leaf bracts. The flower itself is an insignificant structure. It comes in other colours from white through green, orange and pink but the association with Christmas means that the reds are the most favoured. The growing requirements to get the leaf bracts to colour well are very specific and require a period of nights which are pitch black and days filled with bright light – about 12 hours of each, in fact. Given that this plant became associated with Christmas in the northern hemisphere a long time ago, the fact that we see so many plants offered for sale remarkably cheaply here in the southern hemisphere is because the crop is grown en masse in controlled conditions under cover. It is a uniformly high quality product, but it is also the most disposable of house plants. If you feel inclined to indulge in a spot of plant torture, they can apparently be turned into effective bonsais and if you are of a mind to do this, you will probably be inclined to attend to the darkness and light requirements as well.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted with their permission.