Tag Archives: Magnolia Milky Way

Staying local in my neighbourhood

More about the bridge further down the page

Our world has shrunk again to a very small, very local area. Mark left the property this week for the first time since the Delta Covid outbreak started on August 17. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how he would cope with this new era of compulsory mask-wearing and scanning but he managed just fine. And if my Mark can cope with masks and scanning, so can everybody else. I know the rest of the world has been masked for the better part of the last 20 months but it is very new here, though I had our range of reusable, pretty masks at the ready.

On my weekly shopping trips (I am not just the designated shopper here, I am and always have been pretty much the only shopper), I have been amazed at the exceptional levels of compliance in our local areas. Everybody is not only masked, scanning and maintaining physical distancing, they are doing it with patience and good grace. Melbourne son keeps saying to me that New Zealanders are compliant people. I was surprised when he first said this because I do not think that we have a particularly compliant culture. Upon reflection, I don’t think what is happening here is unquestioning obedience. I think it is more about a shared vision and a strong sense of community and for that, we can thank the very clear messaging and communications from our government.  

Fingers crossed that this Delta incursion over our border can be eliminated in good time so that our garden festival can go ahead in just over seven weeks. I am hoping we can do it without needing to mask but, if necessary, we will mask and not complain.

In the meantime, special thanks and acknowledgement to Aucklanders. Yet again, Auckland is bearing the brunt of lockdown measures to keep the rest of the country safe and free from Covid and it is really hard. The rest of us need to be very grateful to them. The alternative of having Covid running through our country is grim, indeed.

My eyes have been focused locally on my once-a-week trip out to get essential supplies. Somebody had been clipping hard but with great precision on this driveway sited on the crest of small hill across the river from here. I don’t even know what those trees are. I didn’t get close enough to inspect but they certainly make a sharp statement. Are they incongruous in their rural setting or a really interesting contrast? I lean to the latter.

Rhododendron Kaponga

I spotted this red rhododendron last week and went back to have another look yesterday because I regretted not stopping at the time. Last week it was glowing brightly in the light, not quite so much yesterday but still bold and vibrant. It is a local selection of R. arboreum which is named ‘Kaponga’, renowned for its high health. When it comes to rhododendrons, those big ball trusses are not my personal favourite, but I couldn’t fault this handsome plant. The fact the property owners stained their fence dark rather than leaving it in its tanalised state helps show off all the plants to advantage.

In my local town, I stopped to photograph this handsome pair of red cordylines (cabbage trees) which look very sculptural in front of a fairly plain house. There are a number of named red forms available, but they are generally just selections of our native C. australis ‘Purpurea’. True, close up the foliage looks as chewed as all other NZ cordylines but that is because it is a native moth whose caterpillar munches on the leaves.

Almost opposite was a new garden which was really quite amazing. I think we could describe it as largely Italianate with a touch of pre-Raphaelite. I will say no more except to note that it has been constructed and furnished with much care and attention to detail and is clearly a source of pride to its owners.    

You do need to line up carefully. There is not a lot of room to spare.

Finally, back to the bridge at the top. It is the historic Bertram Road bridge, not far from us. I have a bit of a thing for bollards so I was delighted to find @WorldBollard on Twitter. It is the official account of the World Bollard Association (who knew?) and clearly over 30 000 other people have an interest in bollards, too.

There are eight bollards standing guard and all of them look something like this. Oh, the stories they could tell.

Bollards play an important role on this bridge. When it was restored and reopened to vehicle traffic, maybe back in the 2000s, the bollards were not quite as resolute as these current ones. But a stupid driver of a heavy transport truck thought he would ignore the warning signs and take a short cut over the bridge, demolishing the sides and a fair amount of the decking. Personally, I think he was lucky to get the truck off the bridge without it collapsing into the river because he far exceeded the allowable weight.

When the bridge was reinstated, the bollards were moved in to narrow the space further. Judging by the state of them, they have inflicted quite a lot of damage in the last few years as people have found their vehicles – particularly the modern twin cab utes – are too wide to fit. They are renowned too, I am told, for taking out wing mirrors.

It is just a question of lining the car up to stay very close on the driver’s side, keeping very straight and taking it slowly. Personally, I have never even brushed one of those bollards. Our Sydney daughter declared she would not be risking it herself when I took her over the new narrowed version on her last trip home.

From our neighbourhood to yours, stay safe. Fingers crossed for positive progress this week on dropping Covid case numbers down to low single figures.

Magnolia Milky Way – a Felix Jury hybrid – out the front of Pat’s place on the drive home
  • For overseas readers: we had one Covid incursion that escaped our border quarantine and that one single incident has so far produced 902 community cases. We know they all came from that one single infection because all cases are genomically sequenced in NZ. New daily infections had dropped to just 11 on Friday so Saturday’s 23 cases were a disappointment. That is over the entire country but we want it back to zero again. We are playing the long game here, playing for time to get the population vaccinated and also to see how Covid is going to pan out internationally before we risk opening the border without the current tight quarantine. ‘Learning to live with Covid’ still looks pretty undesirable when we have been so successful in learning to live without it.
Milky Way again

Felix’s magnolias on a glorious spring morn

After posting my piece on petal carpets this morning, it was such a gorgeous spring day I headed down to the park with camera in hand. And today, it was Felix’s magnolias that were at peak glory. It’s often an odd feeling living on a family property steeped with the history of earlier generations. Not ghosts, more like an enduring presence. And I wanted to pay tribute to Felix’s little collection.

Felix Jury in 1985, photo by Fiona Clark

I have recorded the history often enough here  so today is just the pleasure of the sight of so much in bloom. Sure, some have been superseded over time but these were ground breaking hybrids in the 1960s and created a special place for New Zealand in the world of magnolias. They also provided the platform for Mark to build on with his next generation hybrids.

The purity of ‘Lotus’, Felix’s best white, is hard to beat on its day.

‘Apollo’ was Felix’s best purple. This and the other magnolia photos were taken this morning. Did I mention what a glorious spring day it has been?

This one was never named and is the only unnamed seedling I am including today because at its peak, it is so very pretty. We just refer to it as “Apollo’s sister” because it is from same cross and batch of seed.

Magnolia ‘Athene’. There was a certain classical theme running through the naming of some of these cultivars.

Magnolia ‘Atlas’, which appears to perform better overseas than it does here. The flowers are huge and very pretty but it weather marks badly in our rains and wind.

‘Milky Way’ and I am not sure what inspired Felix to use that as its name bar the fact it is predominantly white.

‘Iolanthe’ which remains one of our flagship varieties and a superb performer year in and year out.

Magnolia ‘Mark Jury’ – not one of Felix’s own hybrids but a seedling that arrived here from Hilliers that was meant to flower as ‘Lanarth’. It was the secret weapon that Felix used in the majority of his new hybrids and he named it for his youngest son.

The only two not in bloom today are Magnolia ‘Serene’ which has yet to open and ‘Vulcan’ which has finished already for this season. But here is a photo I prepared earlier of the latter at its peak three weeks ago.

Felix died in 1997, but his spirit and his presence remains very much part of our lives here, never more so than at peak magnolia season.

Tikorangi notes: hellebores (again), fallen tree (another one), the daffodil show and Heart of Darkness

Hellebore Anna's Pink

Hellebore Anna’s Pink

In the garden, I have been slogging my way along the hellebore border removing pretty well all the old plants and replacing them with Mark’s hybrids which he has been cultivating in the nursery. I mentioned how much the border has gone back in an earlier post. What is interesting is how many clumps I am digging up which have only one or two leaves but below ground is a chunky mat of dormant eyes. I say dormant, not blind, because it appears that if these were divided up and put into good conditions, most eyes would sprout into a fresh plant. It must be what happens to hellebores over time and this border has not had a major rework in 30 years.

A multitude of dormant growing tips on hellebores with only a leaf or two showing above

A multitude of dormant growing points on hellebores with only a leaf or two showing above

I watched a debate on a UK gardening site about whether hellebore seedlings are worth saving and, as an aside, references to never digging and dividing anything. Hmmm… all I can say from our experience is that self-sown Helleborus orientalis seedlings are not worth keeping. There are huge numbers of them, for these are promiscuous plants, and the vast majority will revert to murky colours. I am deadheading as I replant and will continue to deadhead hellebores because we don’t want the seedlings. The chances of a brilliant self-sown seedling are remote whereas controlled crosses are hugely more successful. Mark has been working to get strains which hold their flowers up high and are sometimes outward facing which obviously improves the display.

As an aside, it appears that the new releases from the UK – Anna’s Red and Anna’s Pink – are both sterile which is to their credit. Not only do the blooms last longer, but this eliminates the need to deadhead and weed out seedlings. They are worth buying.

When it comes to digging and dividing perennials, I would comment that you can only get so far if you refuse to dig and divide. Over time the thugs take over and eventually you get to a point where even they start to go back. Feeding alone is not enough. It is the below ground root competition that takes its toll. You can go a decade or two without digging and dividing anything, depending on the plants you are using, but the treasures are likely to have given up the ghost by then. There will come a time when you will look around and think “this used to look so much better”. We think about ten years is all we can expect of the hellebore border before it will need major work again but an easy-care nine years is good.
IMG_4575The latest natural garden feature arrived last week as the dead Pinus radiata we refer to as Glenys’s tree snapped off, fortunately leaving the lower few metres intact so we hope Glenys the Gecko will remain in residence. As is our practice, we will clean up the paths and damage but leave the body of the trunk in situ and garden around it.
IMG_4579I am pretty sure that the next tree in the row is developing a bigger lean and will likely fall sooner rather than later, but Mark is unconvinced. I like to remind him that I was right last time and those were smaller, younger trees. This leaning tower of Pinus radiata is probably 45 metres tall so we have to wait for nature to take its course.
IMG_4792We went to the North Island daffodil show last Saturday. There is a larger album of photos posted on our Garden Facebook page. There is no denying that our personal tastes lie with the less celebrated dwarf and miniature varieties which I have been systematically photographing this season. We are all about garden varieties, not show blooms. But like any genus of show blooms, the breeding directions are unveiled in a major display – lots of split coronas, colour combinations and pinks still coming through.

I decided we should be sourcing the dwarf hybrid named ‘Rapture’, the white N. cantabricus (which looks very similar to a bulbocodium) and I really would like some N. poeticus even if we have to go to poeticus hybrids. But, I was as much delighted by the whole event. The stalls! The competitions! I think these were the result of the involvement of the local branch of the horticultural society. Truly, I did not realise that the craft of crocheting edges to pictorial tea towels is not only alive and well, but also a competitive activity.
IMG_4790Nothing to do with gardening, but I still have a strong mental image of an acquaintance many years ago, earnestly crocheting aqua coloured edges to white face cloths. “I think it is nice for guests to have special face cloths,” she said with a high degree of self-satisfaction. I looked around her home – a large and cavernous turn-of-last-century villa which had been cut in pieces and relocated but not restored. The walls were scrim, the facilities and decor still more or less original. It was truly grim. And I thought to myself, you poor woman. You think guests won’t notice the surrounds if they have new face cloths? It was all so evocative of Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, where the rituals of civilisation are all that keeps the chaotic universe at bay and without those, what is left is “the horror, the horror”. It had the makings of a short story, but instead I became a garden writer.

Next Tikorangi Notes may bring you an insight into the lost art of waxing camellias which, I have only recently found, is not a lost art at all but almost certainly sits alongside pictorial tea towels with hand crocheted edges.

And because we are at Peak Magnolia, here is Milky Way

And because we are at Peak Magnolia, here is Milky Way