Tag Archives: mature garden

The times, they are a-demandin’ change

Currently a bit forlorn, but give it a few months and it will look very different

The rose garden has gone. Gorn forever. Henceforth this area will be known as the sunken garden. Because the centrepiece is the sunken garden area – Felix and Mimosa’s DIY colonial Lutyens effort, as I have described it. It is all fashioned from granite, marble and brick. Mark once water blasted it and it came up an alarming shade of white.

An undated photo but best guess is around the mid 1950s. The marble lining is still white

I, too, could get it looking pretty but it took a lot of work and it didn’t stay looking pretty for long enough to warrant the effort

It was the rose garden because it used to house Mimosa’s old rose collection. I think I can recall it as being fantastically opulent, voluptuous and romantic with the air hanging heavy with scent – but only for a couple of weeks in spring. The rest of the time, it could look pretty scruffy. By the time I came onto the scene here in the eighties, it was already past its peak.  This particular garden has probably had more attention lavished upon it in the last 30 years than any other area. Major makeovers, not just regular maintenance. At least four major makeovers that I can recall doing myself. And no matter how hard I tried, it looked okay in winter, really pretty for a few weeks in spring but scruffy in summer and autumn. I could not keep it looking good all year and it finally reached the point where I avoided looking closely, preferring to skirt around the outside rather than walking through it.

We have a date on this photo – 1961

Felix, down  to his woollen singlet but still wearing his tweed hat putting in the stone millwheel table and benches. The wheel is the inner, turning centre of the mill, used for grinding papa to make a low quality brick on a neighbouring  farm. Felix traded two sacks of potatoes for the wheel. The date of this photo must be mid to late 1950s

It is obvious what the problem is when I look at the old photos. When Mimosa started and had the area at its peak in the late 1950s and 1960s, conditions were very different. It was open and sunny and the plants grew without competition. In the 70 years since she started, the backbone rimu trees have doubled in size and their root systems have grown to match. Half the area is now always bone dry, sucked out of nutrients and plants have to compete with the rimu roots. The area has also become enclosed, very sheltered and the sunshine hours have been reduced by a whole range of perimeter plants.

I wrote about this area back in March  when I was into full-on stripping out. It would have been easier had I been composting the plants but I recycled most of them. It would also have been easier had I not planted quite so many bulbs through it over the years. Clearing the area was a major operation and has generated many, many more square metres of ground cover than I started with to use elsewhere. There is much to be said for digging and dividing. The good picking roses have been relocated to the vegetable garden where it does not matter that they get black spot and suffer from defoliation. I can at least pick the flowers. We do not have a good climate for roses.

Finally, the last plants were gone at the weekend and the area was bare. Lloyd, our extraordinarily handy and obliging man about the garden, has moved in extra topsoil and raked and levelled to get it ready for sowing in grass. The eight camellias and two maples will stay and be shaped into gnarly, character, feature plants. We normally avoid growing plants in mown lawn areas and I know I will have to hand-trim the grass around the trunks but I am willing to do that. We do not like the weed-sprayed brown look of lank grass around trunks and I have no desire for the tidy, suburban look of encasing each trunk in a tidy round concrete circle planted with pansies. For those of you who want to know what the camellias are, two are the gorgeous species C. yuhsienensis, two are Mark’s ‘Pearly Cascade’ (C. pitardii hybrid) and the four standards are one of Mark’s hybrids that we never released but we refer to as ‘Pink Poppet’.

I am anticipating that once the grass grows we will have something far more sculptural to look at. And that seems a more appropriate look for the next era of this garden. Gardeners must look forward, not try forever to recapture the recalled magic moments of the past.

Again, this must be 1950s – the planting of the azalea bed that provides the far boundary to this garden, butting up to the rimu trees

Match the two horizontal branches in the preceding image to how they look this very morn. After 60 years, the trees have more or less doubled in size

The same Kurume azaleas as they look today, this time viewed looking from the other direction, underplanted with cyclamen. 

Dealing with maturity (in garden terms)

First published in the spring issue of “Our Gardens”, the quarterly magazine of the Garden Clubs of Australia

Sculpted kurume azaleas

Sculpted kurume azaleas

In gardening terms, I guess most people would agree we are blessed. Our climate is mild, never very hot and never very cold. We have regular rain all year round, good sunshine hours and the soils are friable and volcanic. Added to that, we are fortunate to be on a family property where the oldest trees were planted by Mark’s great grandfather in 1880. These give a wonderful mature backbone to the garden and how obliging of him to have planted an entire avenue of our majestic native rimu trees.

Notwithstanding the big trees, the majority of our plantings date back to the 1950s and having a mature garden offers its own challenges. Finding space for new plants can be problematic, even though we have reasonable acreage (we open about seven acres to the public). But the biggest challenge of having a mature garden is to stop it all melding together and becoming walls of foliage which choke out the less vigorous plants. Increasingly we find ourselves doing more lifting and limbing, shaping and clipping.

We like to use plants as focal points and features. Our garden is light on ornamentation. You won’t find anything armless, legless or white lighting up a dark corner. We prefer to place garden seats where we will sit on them, rather than using them as focal points. When sculpture is used in gardens, we think it becomes the dominant feature, forcing the garden setting and the plants into the background. We want the plants to be the stars.

There is no shortage of candidates for clipping or shaping but we do not want the Italian formality where almost every plant is manipulated. This is not about topiary so much as it is about finding the natural shapes within the plants and featuring them.

Clipping Mine No Yuki

Clipping Mine No Yuki

Maples can develop a wonderful form over time which just needs cleaning up. Loropetalums also clip and shape well. We keep our small flowered Kurume azaleas limbed up so that it is possible to look through them. The trunks naturally grow white lichen and, in season, the undulating tops of the azaleas form a carpet of colour, while we have species cyclamen planted beneath around the white trunks.

Camellias are wonderful for clipping because their growth rates are not too fast and, if you make a mistake, they will sprout again from bare wood. We have a massive plant of the white sasanqua, “Mine No Yuki”, which looks wonderful with its pristine white blooms until we have a heavy downpour to turn them to brown sludge. These days we regard any flowers as a bonus and the plant justifies its garden space because of its shape. We keep it tightly clipped into layered mounds – generally referred to as cloud pruning in a technique associated with Oriental gardens.

The finished product

The finished product

Fairy Magnolia Blush

Fairy Magnolia Blush

Michelias also lend themselves to shaping and the lollipop Fairy Magnolia Blushes at our entranceway are a more recent addition. A light pruning twice a year with secateurs keeps them to a tidy shape and we have been able to stop them getting too large.

It is all much more fun than weeding and gives us the detail and focal points we want.

Mark and Abbie Jury garden at Tikorangi, The Jury Garden in Taranaki on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Like his father before him, Mark is a plant breeder, probably best known in Australia for his Fairy Magnolia Blush, Camellia Volunteer, Magnolias Black Tulip and Felix Jury and his joint venture plant with his father, Cordyline Red Fountain. Abbie is a garden writer for national and regional publications. Their garden opens for the magnolia display at the start of August and remains open until the end of March.
Website: http://www.jury.co.nz
Facebook: facebook.com/thejurygarden
Twitter: @Tikorangi