Tag Archives: Mark and Abbie Jury

Blurred lines

One of the access paths linking the park to the avenue gardens

When you garden on a town section, boundaries are usually clearly defined, most often by fences or hedges. Some lucky gardeners are in a situation where they can visually *borrow* a wider view of the neighbours or maybe some bush or landscape to draw the eye out from the rigidly confined boundary. More often, the situation imposes limitations that mean the garden has to be inward looking and confined to its allotted space. Some people like that sense of a contained space, accentuating it further with tall fences. Whether you see that as security and privacy or self-imprisonment depends on the individual.

It is different when you garden in the country and that clear definition of an end point is arbitrarily imposed on a larger landscape. Or not, as the case may be.

Scadoxus to the right, calanthe orchids to the left along with self-sown ferns and tree ferns – subtropical woodland, I guess

I had never really thought about what Mark was doing in one area where our avenue gardens meet the area we call the park. I had vaguely noticed that he was drifting down the hill with some plantings of pretty choice material like some of the interesting arisaemas, calanthe orchids and scadoxus, but in a casual, naturalistic manner. We were in that area together recently when he commented that he was attempting to blur the line between highly cultivated garden and wilder areas, to transition seamlessly. It was like a penny dropping for me. Of course that is what he was doing.

Arisaema dahaiense!

This inspired me to get into that area where I have never done anything  before, bar the occasional quick tidy-up. It was a perfect place for a few clivia plants. I am trying to rehome the last of the clivias red, orange and yellow that had been potted up by the last of our nursery staff and that must have been back in 2011. They are amazingly resilient plants. Some were in very small planter bags and all that has happened in the intervening years is that the pots have been moved out of the former nursery area and beneath trees. They have not been fed, let alone nurtured and loved but still they are green (some more greenish than dark green), many are flowering and seeding. Enough is enough, I thought. These need to planted out.

Having seen the occasional garden that suffers from the ABC syndrome (another bloody clivia, mass planted), I have been trying to drift them through the shaded areas, mostly areas that are loosely maintained at best. It takes longer to plan a drift than a mass planting and drifting a couple of hundred clivia plants without making them a mass takes a while.

Yellow seeds from last year’s flowering, visible here, will flower yellow.

Not for us all the yellows in one area, oranges in another and reds elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with that. I have seen it done and it is what I describe as the ‘landscaper look’, usually done with plants that have been purchased and are identically matched, being the same clone. It is just not our style. We prefer a looser look, using seedling raised plants so there is subtle variation,  the mix of colours being more suggestive of the gentle hand of Nature enabling plants to seed down in situ. Which they will do over time – we have clivia seedlings popping up around the garden but to leave it all to Nature will take longer than we have left. We are just hurrying the process along by a decade or two when we use established plants.

If you are going to raise your own seed, it pays to start off with the best parents. This means selecting the ones that flower well every year and have the best flower heads of the type you want. For showy garden plants, we want ones with fuller heads rather than too many with the hanging bells. The red clivia seed will eventually bloom orange and red; yellow clivias come from yellow seeds. True. I am not sure what colour seeds the peach ones have (we only have a few in the new peach shades) and we don’t have any of the green and white clivias in the garden yet.

When I think about it, blurring the lines are the tool we use to get to a seamless transition between different garden spaces. The soft transitions within the garden are all part of refining our thinking about how important it has become to us, personally, that we garden confidently with a strong sense of place, as referenced in this piece I wrote in March last year.  

 

Starting with a paper plan

Mark has been laughing at me and calling me Gertrude. This is a reference to Gertrude Jekyll so I will take it as a compliment. It is all on account of my working on a planting plan. On graph paper, with coloured pencils.

The Oudolf rivers at RHS Wisley in the UK

This is a new exercise for me, but then so is planning out the plantings for a new garden that is currently a blank canvas. Added to that, the style of planting is different for us too and I need to know how many plants I am going to have to source from elsewhere if I want to get it planted up next autumn. This is the court garden where we eventually – and reluctantly – ruled out initial plans for a meadow-style garden. Practical considerations headed us instead to the idea of an immersive experience of walking through tall grasses with just a few tall flowers. Rivers of grasses, I said. In my mind’s eye, I saw the Oudolf rivers of planting in his twin borders at Wisley – a planting that we have loved and that has proven remarkably stable without huge maintenance demands for over fifteen years now, I think. But with taller plants, many more grasses, with wandering paths not a wide central path and of course we are working on flat ground without the view from above that Wisley has. So not at all like the Oudolf borders in fact, bar the idea of rivers of plants flowing diagonally across the whole space.

Learning from the mistakes of version one

Take one was to draw it up on graph paper and put in the central paths, which I did as a two metre wide figure of eight. I then laid out some squares of colour in diagonal lines running across the space. And I could see immediately that I was instinctively drawing a plan that was gardening in stripes. Child-like design.

Mark has a better eye than I have when it comes to design. He pointed out three things. The first was that Oudolf’s rivers were wide bands, each containing about five different plants, not single rows in stripes. It seemed so obvious when he said that. Next, he commented that he envisaged waves not rivers and he thought the paths should also be informal and meandering, not a formal shape. I knew he was right.

Thirdly and most importantly, he observed that designing a garden on graph paper gives a bird’s eye view, not the ground level view that is what will be experienced. That is the critical take away point from this and, I think, the reason why amateurs (and even some professionals) get it wrong and end up with a garden that, well, always looks like a graph paper garden, best viewed from above. There is a part of the process that requires the ability to translate the bird’s eye view on paper to the actual experience at human eye level on the ground. I assume professional training teaches you how to do this but it is not always achieved. We watched coverage of a major new garden on UK television where the glory of the design could only be shown by putting a drone up and getting the aerial view. It is what I think is wrong with the new garden installation at Pukeiti which they call Misty Knoll but that is referred to by others as the twin bomb craters. I am sure it looked better on paper than in real life.

Posted without comment. The Misty Knoll garden installation at Pukeiti Gardens

We went outside to look at the court garden space yet again, and I started afresh. Waves, not rivers. Waves to create an immersive experience. I measured the space with a tape measure, not by pacing it out. I also measured the area each plant needs in order to stand in its own space when mature because we don’t want the herbaceous border look where the plants knit together. Neither do we want spacings that are so wide that it looks as if we were too mean to buy enough plants to fill it. Each 5×5 square on the paper represents a square metre.

We are not going to be planting until autumn, but at least I will know this week how many plants I need to locate. We have most of them here already to work with, but I will need to buy some extras in. The foundation plantings are to be in six or seven grasses. The uniformity of filling the whole space in just one cultivar is not for us.

Looking down from above on the rockery in front of our house

Because there is so little to show so far on that new garden, I give you the bird’s eye view and the ground level view of our rockery yesterday. Because we have a two storied house, we get an elevated view of some areas of the garden. And looking down on the rockery from above shows the pure 1950s design of this garden feature. Shapes and design, not detail so it is the big picture look.

At ground level, the construction of the island rockery beds varies from ankle height to knee height to thigh height – sometimes all in the same island bed. The paths have also been lowered which accentuates the garden elevations. Truth be told, the lowering of the paths was probably in part to get soil to fill the raised beds but it is a detail that is less obvious from above.

I get enormous pleasure from the rockery because it is a highly detailed space immediately in front of the house and there are always pockets of seasonal interest within it. Because so much of the planting is bulbs, there is always dying foliage too, but that is just part of the nature of this style.

Yesterday, on a grey day, I looked at some of the views within the rockery and was delighted that it was like an Impressionist meadow, albeit in miniature.

An unexpected consequence

At the end of March this year, I wrote about gutting the old rose garden and making the sunken garden more of a feature in a simplified scheme. Reader, as the grass has grown I have been meaning to update with a suitably flattering photo of the new configuration. I have been delighted with how effective it is, despite Mark commenting that he liked the previous borders. He didn’t garden them, I replied tartly.

Sometimes there are unforeseen consequences. And we did not forsee this one. Clearly, the cultivated garden borders that were there before soaked up a lot of water. As soon as we cleared them and levelled the ground, the sunken garden started flooding. It is the lack of vegetation, we thought. When we get heavy rain, it is turning the soil to a smooth surfaced, muddy area that sheds the water immediately rather than absorbing it. When the grass grows, it will be better. But no.

We get heavy rains here, torrential at times. I usually observe that in a climate with relatively high sunshine hours and a relatively high rainfall of 150cm, it means that the rain tends to be heavy and then the skies clear and the sun comes out. We also have excellent drainage; surface water is absorbed within twenty minutes of the rain stopping. But this does not solve the sunken garden problem. The pond is filling with mud, the goldfish are unhappy and the little raised gardens which are in the sunken area are full of treasures that are threatened by the sodden soil.

What to do? For technical reasons (mostly to do with the roots of our enormous rimu trees), we can not recontour the lawn to shed the water in the opposite direction. We debated installing drains but the water still has to go somewhere and it would mean creating a sump nearby. Should we make a low barrier to stop the flow of water over the sides but how would that look and would we then be channelling the excess water down the steps? We are still thinking.

While I really like the look of the top edging being on the same level as the lawn – the status quo – that is not an option. At this stage, we are thinking that creating a whole new top edging sitting just 2.5cm above the level of the lawn will be the solution. I considered doing it in pavers but concrete will give a crisper, cleaner line.  That is a summer job because it will involve boxing up and pouring concrete. It is not an easy option because the top edging has a small lip that gives a better finish rather than keeping it flush with the walls. Our Lloyd, who does all the concreting, can’t quite work out how Felix did it in the first place (the slabs were clearly poured in situ) but he is thinking through how best to redo it 60 years later.

Fresh concrete is very stark and white and sticks out like a sore thumb in an old garden. Fortunately Lloyd is equal to this. He adds some black colouring to the mix to get a more aged grey tone and after it has been poured and levelled, he sprinkles sugar on top of the smooth surface, hosing it off when nearly set. This takes off the fine top layer so what we finish with is exposed aggregate in darker grey shades. He has done it elsewhere here and the new melds very quickly with the old.

It is a lot of attention to detail but this new look garden needs that attention to make it appear a seamless blending of original with new. Or perhaps I should say, we strive to make the new appear old from the start

Vireya rhododendron himantodes is charming, different and a comparatively rare species, not easy to propagate and grow but thriving in the sunken garden. We do not want to lose it to wet feet, as we call sodden root systems.

For reader Pat, who commented on this technique – this is the exposed aggregate look which, when combined with some dye in the concrete, makes new concrete look aged from the start rather than the glaring white of freshly laid concrete.

Conference garden tours, then and now

We hosted the Camellia Society conference tour last Monday, the first big group we have allowed in to the garden since we closed five years ago. There is a long-standing connection between the Jurys and the Camellia Society, even though neither Mark nor I are active members, so we wanted to honour that history. It takes quite a lot of work to host a large group and we were somewhat out of practice but it all comes back again.

I baked cakes. Quite a few cakes but only of three different types. I calculated that each cake could be cut into twelve pieces so that each piece was large enough to appear generous without being overwhelming. Ninety people so I baked eleven cakes, to allow for anybody who might take two pieces. I tell you, it was a mathematical exercise. And I found we still own sixty coffee cups which seems an awful lot for a household of two.

The conference attendees were extremely considerate at the casual, morning tea station

On the day, we were praying that the weather forecast would be wrong and the rains would stay away for the morning at least. And they did, which was just as well. The rains that came in the afternoon were simply torrential and we were awash and flooded. We can fit maybe 60 people under cover but over 90? Probably not.

Conferences are smaller these days and in the end, we really enjoyed the experience and so did the attendees. It is very affirming to have so many people appreciate one’s gardening efforts and hospitality. Maybe we will open the garden again in the not too distant future. There were just two coaches and a few cars which was quite manageable in terms of parking logistics.

Lloyd and Mark erected our small marquee for the occasion to provide additional cover. Look at the blue sky the day before the visit.

I remembered with some nostalgia a tour from the American Camellia Society. Mark’s mother was still alive so it must have been the early 1980s. The touring Americans were greater in number than they are these days and always charming, courteous and enthusiastic guests – somewhat different to our perception of Trump’s America today. But the image that stays in my mind is how we waved goodbye to them on the coach and walked back to the house for a cup of tea. And there, on the doorstep, was the cane washing basket with Mark’s mother’s pink, nylon bloomers draped over it to dry. She had forgotten to take them in and every visitor must have seen them displayed in all their glory. She was mortified, I recall, but had the grace to laugh at herself.

Back in the day, as we say, NZ conferences used to be much larger. That is the 1980s when the Camellia Society annual conference comprised five large coaches and a contingent of cars. Goodness knows where we parked them but I assume I can’t remember because we just didn’t worry about it. Times were simpler and we had flat(ish) road verges rather than the steep, inhospitable sides we now have. Nowadays, we have to get all vehicles off the road and we could never hope to park five full-sized coaches.

Rhododendron Floral Dance

The Rhododendron Association conferences were a little smaller – more like four coaches and the accompanying cars. But it was a rhodo conference that sticks in my mind. I am pretty sure it must have been 1986 because it was the year we first released Rhododendron Floral Dance. It was our fifth year of mail-order sales and the ‘catalogue’ was just four sides of A4 paper. We had no retail sales and the nursery was entirely Mark’s domain so only he understood which plant was which. The first hint we had that we may be totally unprepared was when Mark’s sister-in-law arrived, announcing that she had come to help because we would need it. The group had visited her garden in the morning.

Mark’s father was stationed in the garden, Mark in the nursery and I stood at the ready to welcome people and head them round the garden first. Picture me, flapping my hands ineffectually, trying to split the group as they poured off the coaches and out of the cars, determined to get to the nursery first. We were inundated. For the next hour or so, Mark ran from side of the nursery to the other, frantically hand writing labels. Older NZ readers will know Bill Robinson from Tikitere Nursery who graciously circulated, recommending plants left, right and centre. At the same time a new gardener who shall remain nameless (he went on to establish a large garden that made up in scope what it lacked in detail), whose bank balance was considerably larger than his knowledge, strutted around in very large chequered trousers  cut from the same cloth as the finish flag at a race track, big-noting in his determination to buy what everybody else was buying but in multiples. Mark’s sister-in-law and I took the money in a single plastic icecream container. It was the days before eftpos so it was all cash and cheques.

It was a feeding frenzy. At the end of 75 minutes, the icecream container was overflowing and the small nursery was stripped bare. Remember, this was 1986. We took $4500 in that time, when the rhododendrons were priced between $11 and $13 each (or a massive $20 for Floral Dance). We were like stunned mullets. As the coaches left, we waved goodbye and walked back to the house. The conference organisers were dismantling the trestle table laden with wine (cardboard casks of wine, it being the 1980s) which they had been serving on the back lawn. Mark told me that wine was a feature of the rhododendron conferences at that time. I have no idea how many went straight from plant sales to the wine without taking in the garden in-between. A few, I would guess. Whatever, it was an experience that we have never forgotten and neither was it ever repeated.

Conference tours in this day and age are a great deal more sedate and from the point of view of a garden owner, a great deal more enjoyable for that.

The rains, when they came in the afternoon left us awash

A visit to Sydney Botanic Gardens

A campanulata hybrid in full bloom at Sydney Botanic Gardens. Our season has also started at Tikorangi.

On our recent visit to Australia, we made a return visit to Sydney Botanic Gardens. We are not city people so tend to seek out green spaces and gardens. We did at least get to grips with the public transport system to get around. This is greatly preferable to driving and you do not need the details of the dramas on the final Monday morning when it came to returning the rental car we had hired to drive to Canberra. Let it just be said that the internet and sat nav are decidedly less than perfect when it comes to inner city driving and we spent a truly traumatic 90 minutes trying desperately to find the rental car business which saw us taking motorway links first to the airport and then across the Harbour Bridge! Fortunately our flight was delayed several hours which was about the only blessing on an otherwise stressful morning. Public transport is a breeze by comparison and amazingly cheap in Sydney. Buy a transport card at one of the airport shops when you arrive, is my advice.

Lytocaryum weddellianum

Sydney Botanic Gardens are not huge compared to others we have visited but immaculate, focused on plants they can grow well and in a superb, inner city location by the harbour. It is a lovely place to spend a few hours. It is not a botanic garden that aims to be all things to all people with a comprehensive collection of everything that can be grown. I found on an earlier visit that they don’t appear to do deciduous magnolias. But the palm collection is superb. My knowledge of palms is perfunctory at best but Mark was terribly impressed and browsed through, looking at more mature specimens of ones he has planted here. I was slightly alarmed at the size of Lytocaryum weddellianum, often referred to as the wedding palm. I have planted a fair number of these through our rimu avenue and they are looking very charming after a few years but my mental image was of a palm that would stay somewhat smaller. Fortunately, they are not likely to grow as large as the Sydney specimen in our temperate climate.

The indoor vertical garden

I failed to photograph the new coffee shop attached to the education centre, which had a curious and not particularly convenient design. But in the education wing was the largest vertical garden I have ever seen. It was indoor, hence the shadows from the struts of the building, and the main attraction in a display about the importance of pollination in nature.

A novelty, but no less charming for that

I did, however, photograph the tri-coloured abutilons threaded through the ground display. Novelties they may be, but they were very cute. If you want to try this at home, you need three small seedlings of a similar size. Plait the flexible trunks and keep them to a single leader each. They will also need a stake. If you are in NZ, I noticed Woodleigh Nursery selling a range of eight different abutilon varieties in a range of reds, orange, purple, yellow and white so you too can try this at home. Start with small plants so that the root systems are also small and you can get the stems close together at the base.

Alcantarea imperialis

I made Mark pose beside the Alcantarea imperialis to give some sense of scale. These are widely available in NZ and much loved by northern landscapers but our efforts with them failed. We must try again because they are very showy and worth growing.

Aechmea blanchetiana

I was less convinced by the yellow Aechmea blanchetiana but this may be because I have seen bromeliads grown in more marginal conditions showing this colouring as a result of deep stress. To me they look as though they are starved though, being bromeliads, this will not be the case. They were certainly eye-catching.

Aerial roots on Ficus macrophylla

Trees feature throughout the garden. There is nothing rare about the Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla). It is an Australian native and grown widely, despite the inclination of the roots to break paving and to break drains. I just liked the fine example of aerial roots reaching to the ground.

More aerial roots on Monstera deliciosa

Similar aerial roots were evident on the Monstera deliciosa and I admit I was grateful that our somewhat rampant plants of this at home are not quite as determinedly rampant as they appear to be in a hotter climate like Sydney.

Araucaria cunninghamii

I showed the Sydney Botanic specimens of the Wollemi pine last week. I was also taken by another tree native to New South Wales, Queensland and New Guinea – the Araucaria cunninghamii or hoop pine. It must have been at least 25 metres tall and those little tufty pom poms will be its natural form. Nobody has been up an extension ladder cloud pruning it.

The stand of flowering cherries in full bloom drew the crowds and proved yet again that humans like colour and blooms, preferably in abundance. It is a locally bred hybrid, a cross between the wild cherry Prunus avium and Prunus campanulata, named ‘Yvonne Matthies’. I have no idea if it is available in NZ and, of more importance, whether it is sterile or not. I imagine with all their bats and birds in Australia, they are not so keen on potential weed cherries that are spread by birds.

I particularly appreciated the tour group with the three women who, by pure chance, toned so perfectly with the blossom. They were equally delighted and took many (many, many) photos.

Finally, the sign in each toilet cubicle spoke volumes about the sheer number of overseas visitors these gardens must attract. Toilet etiquette and requirements vary throughout the world. A Twitter friend was more worried by the fact that the roll of toilet paper is depicted round the wrong way. it should be unrolling from the top, not from underneath. That is all I will say on this matter.

The weight of epiphytes

Over a century of epiphytic build up

When branches fall here, they often bring down a mass of epiphytes with them. It seems likely that, in some cases, it is the weight of those that causes the branch to fall. A combination of mature trees and a benign and humid climate means that epiphytes are a significant feature of our canopy. ‘Widow-makers’, Mark says, utilising the term for things that have the potential to fall from above and kill. It is a gender defined term, which I guess comes because it has a longstanding application in forestry which remains a traditionally male occupation.

There is an entire self-sown and self maintaining environment in this one tree

One of the characteristics of New Zealand native forest is the high incidence of epiphytes which are simply organisms (in this case, plants) that grow on the surface of another plant, getting moisture and such nutrients as they need from the air and rain and then from the debris that builds up around them. Because these epiphytes are perched up trees, they are vulnerable to drying out so are more commonly found in areas protected by other trees rather than on solitary specimens standing in exposed isolation. We also get regular rain here and have high humidity levels no matter the season. Add to that the fact that our native forest and bush is almost entirely evergreen. There are very few deciduous natives – a total of only 11 different species that are fully deciduous in winter. Most New Zealand gardens use a wide range of evergreen plants and shrubs, usually outnumbering the deciduous selections. So we have situations that are hospitable to epiphytes.

Add in to that mix, maturity. Because we have many well-established trees here, some dating back close to 150 years, there has been time for epiphytes to get a grip on their hosts.

Drooping spleenwort and leather leaf on the trunk of a tall queen palm

Where do these plants come from? Mostly a combination of wind and birds. Some of our trees have entire mixed colonies growing in them. The dominant epiphyte here is the collospermum, C. hastatum, but we have other species of both collospermum and astelia perching up high too. Also assorted ferns, particularly the native climbing ferns, Pyrrosia eleagnifolia or ‘leather-leaf’ fern and Asplenium flaccidum or ‘Drooping Spleenwort’ which is prettier than it sounds. We even get native orchids appearing in these epiphytic colonies but NZ native orchids are perhaps best described as being very subtle in appearance.

The host tree is leaning badly, the twining vines and thicker trunks are all southern rata

The rata is to the South Island what the pohutakawa is to the North Island, though we do have the northern rata as well. These are all the same family (so all metrosideros) but different species. Think of them being like cousins, perhaps. So the South Island rata is M. umbellata. That rata is an epiphyte, relying on an established tree to climb. Unlike most of the perennial types of epiphyte, it can eventually kill its host. In forest conditions, the rata is so well established by then that it can stand on its own, forming a hollow-trunked tree (the hollow centre being where the host tree has decayed away). We think it far more likely that our rata will not be sufficiently anchored to the ground to stay standing. The nearly deceased host tree – a eucalypt – has developed a definite lean and we think the whole shebang may fall sooner rather than later.

Like an octopus, Prunus yedoensis ‘Ivensii” with epiphytic collospermum

I did get the ladder and do some tree climbing to take out most of the collospermum from the Prunus yedoensis ‘Ivensii’ because I like this flowering cherry and I could see the collospermum were getting the upper hand rather than maintaining an equilibrium.

Generally, we just leave the epiphytes alone. Sometimes the weight will get too much and massive clumps will fall, often bringing down branches on the way. They are usually so heavy we have to dismantle them to remove them. In times gone by, Mark used to follow the Orchid Society practice of gathering up the decaying gigi (fallen collospermum) to use as potting mix for the growing of orchids. That was before the days of granulated bark potting mixes. Left to their own devices, epiphytes are just a part of nature – a naturally occurring matrix in fact. It adds an upper layer of interest to the garden while also creating its own ecological environment quite independent from human intervention.

Whenever we have to do a clean-up that involves fallen epiphytes, we just relocate the largest pieces we can manage to the back areas of woodland where they can continue to provide habitat and add diversity.

Mark is surveying a sizeable branch brought down by the heavy burden of epiphytes

In the meantime, there is another branch waiting to fall…

Garden thoughts

Just another heavy transporter passing along one of our road boundaries. A particularly noisy one this Sunday morn.

I garden. A lot. So I have a lot of solitary thinking time. Never more so than this week when it has taken every ounce of my inner strength to maintain some equilibrium in the face of relentless heavy traffic from the gas well site on the farm across our bottom road. The company is ‘demobilising’ the workover rig that has been on site and that has generated as much, maybe even more, heavy transporters along our two road boundaries than at the peak of the bad days from 2011 to 2013. Once the rest of the rig gear has been moved out, the ‘well stimulation’ equipment will all be trucked in for four weeks of intensive fracking and flaring. Super! Yes we still carry out open air flaring and extensive fracking in this country. Worries about climate change apparently lie with somebody else, anybody else – a concern divorced from current, high-level activity.

This is why our garden is still closed to the public. Fortunately my coping mechanisms are better than they were during the bad old days, but it does take a lot of mental energy to keep some positivity and inner serenity, I tell you. Especially for one who is not naturally of a serene disposition.

The gnarly trunks of the aged Kurume azaleas. In the background, Mark has draped old shade cloth over the newly sown areas of grass to discourage the pesky rabbits and sparrows.

Back to gardening. I mentioned last week that I was doing a clean-out of the Rimu Avenue. I still am, though I have broken the back of it and am now working more on the margins, including the bed of venerable Kurume azaleas which are underplanted with cyclamen. This is another area that can be left pretty much to its own devices for extended periods of time but it looks better when I get in and clear out the regenerating growth from the base of the azaleas, take out dead wood and shake out the accumulation of leaf litter from the trees above that builds up in the canopy.

It is not really self-sustaining gardening. More like lower-input gardening. For those who like a bit of substance to your gardening reading, you may enjoy Noel Kingsbury’s latest post on the subject of so-called ‘natural gardening’. He is an English writer and a specialist in that new wave style of perennial gardening led by Piet Oudolf.

We have never talked about ‘natural gardens’. Naturalistic, yes, and we have played around with various other descriptors. Enhanced nature, romantic gardening, gardening WITH nature rather than trying to control it but maybe the one we use most is sustainable gardening. We try hard to reduce the negative inputs (spraying, chemical fertilisers, really high input labour practices, use of internal combustion engines for routine maintenance and suchlike). For us, sustainable gardening is also about being able to manage this place as we get older in the next couple of decades. We have no plans to leave in our old age. I anticipate that, like his father before him, Mark will be carried out in a wooden box and hopefully that will not be for another 20 years. So we have to be mindful of how we manage our acreage and what expectations we have of the garden.

Fairy Magnolia White has opened her first, fragrant blooms this week.

Mark sees it in simple terms. He thinks that we all like to be surrounded by pretty things and that is why he loves flowers and always has done. It is the prettiness – sometimes even astounding beauty – combined with nature that feeds his soul, and indeed mine.

It is perhaps the dearth of homegrown gardening TV programmes and Monty Don and BBC Gardeners’ World taking a break from our screens that drove him to start recording ‘Best Gardens Australia’. This is not gardening as we see it. In fact it has very little indeed to do with gardening. The plants are mostly added in the manner in which scatter cushions and a stylish throw might be added to complete the picture of a stylish sofa. It has a heavy infomercial component and big budget outdoor spaces, mostly dominated by the mandatory swimming pool, additional water features, hard landscaping on a grand and permanent scale (no matter how small the site) and… pavilions. Garden sheds, washing lines, wheelie bins and storage for bikes are not in evidence, but pavilions rule supreme. Along with ‘resort-style living’. In New Zealand, resort-style gardens tend to mean the intimacy and tropical look of small, Balinese hotels. In Australia, it means something very different – the Miami look of lots of stark, hard-edged white plaster and concrete.

The children’s summer house in a handsome Yorkshire garden

England has its summer houses and garden rooms and very charming many of them are, too. In New Zealand, we are generally more modest and less permanent and the gazebo is most common. I am not a fan of the gazebo as a general rule, with its tanalised pine construction and trellis decoration. We call them gazzybows. They are usually bought in kitset form and too often used as a ‘garden feature’, rather than to enhance the outdoor living experience.

The typical off-the-shelf gazebo

I am not sure at what point a gazzybow crosses over to a pavilion. I suspect you need a budget at least 10 times larger (maybe 20), space in similarly inflated proportions and block or concrete construction (plastered, of course). By the pool. With a full second kitchen, a dining set that can accommodate a minimum of 12 people to a sit-down meal and a barbecue that can roast all the cuts of meat from a beef beast to feed the many (many) friends that the pavilion owners have assembled. Mark was a bit stunned by the pavilion shown with a drinks fridge that would rival most upmarket hotels.

Never have we felt more like the poor relatives across the Tasman than when faced by the ostentatious wealth of ‘Best Gardens Australia’. We are more in synch with the gardening philosophies of the aforementioned Noel Kingsbury.

French style. My photo library is entirely lacking in images of contemporary Australian pavilions.

So in the spirit of sweeping generalisations, I tell you that if you are a modest New Zealander, you have a gazebo. If you are nouveau riche Australian, you have a pavilion. If you are British establishment, you have a summerhouse or garden room. If you are French, you have a little, aged, shabby chic café table and chairs.

Finally, the late afternoon light falls upon our maunga or mountain on the winter solstice – a sight which keeps us anchored firmly to this place where we live and garden.