Tag Archives: Rhododendron nuttallii

Tikorangi Notes: underplanting, gardening with perennials and the magnificent nuttalliis

Pretty Rhododendron Yvonne Scott (nuttallii x lindleyi x dalhousiae) with a named clematis but I have lost its name – relevant to the last para on this post and a prettier photo to lead with than the mishmash of a garden bed below 

Not good at all. The addition of roses was a particularly ill-considered decision

I spent a good four or maybe five days taking this unsuccessful garden bed apart. It was first planted about 14 years ago and the original idea was that it continue the theme of the driveway border – mixed shrubs with predominantly hellebores as underplanting. It has never thrived and over the years, its treatment has followed a pattern that many will recognise – random attempts to spark it up that have made it messier and more disjointed.

I lifted everything except the Queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana), an attractive Viburnum sargentii ‘Onondaga’ and Camellia minutiflora. The location is too sunny for the hellebores and they were not thriving, so I planted them elsewhere. And I found why the plants at one end had never thrived. I could only get the spade half way in before I hit what might as well be bedrock. It was the old driveway with very heavily compacted road metal. I recalled that Mark had got the nursery staff to plant that bed when it first went in. Now, our nursery staff were whizzybang at speed-potting plants and doing the hard graft of keeping a production nursery going but gardeners, they were not. I am guessing they chiselled holes just large enough to fit the plants in. No wonder so many failed to thrive. There was nowhere for them to get their roots down.

The aim is to have a carpet of harmonious under planting by the end of summer

I took out any larger stones and rocks I could get out, dug the soil and incorporated compost at a rate of a small barrow-load per square metre. There is still not a great depth of soil but what is there should be better and I won’t try growing any more deeper-rooted plants at that end. When it came to choosing what to replant, I fell back on my mixed border philosophy. When there is a mixture of shrubs in the upper layer, it is better to choose some uniformity in the ground cover layer. The opposite is also true: where there is uniformity in the upper layer of shrubs and trees, it is more interesting to use a mixture of plants at the ground level. It may be a sweeping statement (well, it is) to say that only landscapers, non-gardeners and novices go for regimented simplicity of matching upper layer plants and a single choice ground cover – tidy, visually effective in the immediate stage but essentially dull.

A totally reliable stoeksia that is particularly amenable to being divided and transplanted

Given the feature shrubs and palm are interesting in their own right and the presence of assorted seasonal bulbs, I chose to replant at ground level with the reliable, long flowering blue stokesia which thrives with us, a ground-hugging blue campanula and two forms of our native brown carex grass.  The upright form is Carex buchananii , I think, but I am not sure what the fountaining version of it is called. They are to form the carpet. I like the combination of blue and the mid-brown carex. Then I mulched it all. Now all it has to do is to grow.

May 2019

November 2019

It is quite gratifying to see how much the grass garden has grown since I planted it at the end of May. I am hoping that it will have closed up quite a bit by the time autumn comes. There have only been a small number of deaths amongst the plants – all were  Astelia chathamica and fortunately, I have more plants to hand that I can move to the gaps. The advice from colder climates is not to move perennials in winter because they are not growing and the risk is that the roots will rot out over winter. With our mild winters, this advice does not generally apply here but that may be the case with the astelia. The divisions all had roots when they went in but it may be that some did indeed just rot out before they came back into growth in spring.

My main task in this new garden is staying on top of the weeds. Considering it is new ground, there is not a big weed problem at all and I am determined to keep it that way as it gets established. Weeds getting a hold amongst the fibrous roots systems of perennials and grasses can be a maintenance nightmare. It is better by far to keep them out from the start, as far as humanly possible. Because it is all ground that has been freshly dug this year, it is easy to hand pull those pesky weeds that do try and make an appearance.

Eighteen months to fill in seems a quick result

Even more rewarding is to see the caterpillar garden hitting its stride – nicely filled out, floriferous already, weed-free and colour-toned as I want it. It has taken about eighteen months to get it to this stage. Gardening with perennials is very different to gardening with trees and shrubs. As long as you have plenty of divisions and the ground is well-prepared, the plants can rocket away and fill spaces quickly.

Species selection of R. sino nuttallii, singled out for its unusual pink flush

However, no perennial can compete with the sheer magnificence and stature of the nuttallii rhododendrons that flower for us at this time of the year. These are not often commercially available – at least not the sino nuttallii species. You may sometimes find some of the hybrids around that are nuttallii crossed with lindleyi, sometimes with the addition of dalhousiae. If you find ‘White Waves’ on offer in New Zealand, it is proving to be one of the best of the hybrids we grow – reliable and a good survivor as well as very showy indeed. “Mi Amor’ is also available for sale. The hybrids have smaller leaves than the nuttallii species and are not all as strongly scented  but you may just have to take what you can find if you want to try growing these choice rhododendrons.

Rhododendron nuttallii x sino nuttallii – so the Tibetan form crossed with the showier Chinese form




Tikorangi Notes: Friday 18 November, 2011

The fragrant nuttallii rhododendrons are late season bloomers here

The fragrant nuttallii rhododendrons are late season bloomers here

Latest Posts: Friday 18 November, 2011
1) Plant Collector – the showy Geranium madarense

2) Yet another NZ book best left on the booksellers’s shelves. I call it candyfloss gardening.

3) What’s in a name? Quite a bit, sometimes. Abbie’s column.

4) Grow Your Own – carrots this week

5) In the garden this fortnight

6) Future success predicted for Fairy Magnolia Blush – in Australia.

7) On the case with Grandma’s violets – a step by step guide on digging and dividing congested groundcover.

The area we refer to as "the park"

The area we refer to as "the park"

The two most admired areas of our garden are the rimu cathedral walk (“under the rimus” as we call it) and the informal park area in spring time. The park is somewhere over 4 acres in size with the upper waters of the Waiau Stream meandering through. We have deliberately kept the area quite open and informal, featuring specimen trees and an abundance of seasonal colour from magnolias, then prunus, rhododendrons, azaleas and other flowering shrubs. It is that very informality that seems to appeal to garden visitors. Only the very observant pick the detail which underpins such a casual appearance. Bulb meadows don’t just happen of their own accord, at least not in our climate. Nor do clear flowing streams stay that way without some intervention – our torrential rains see flood waters full of suspended silt on a regular basis. But it all seems worthwhile every spring when the park is in bloom and with our unseasonably cool season this year, that flowering has extended by weeks. The nuttallii rhododendrons are in full bloom now, as are the later season maddeniis.

Our garden remains open. If we are not around, we leave an honesty box out. However, plant sales have well and truly finished and we have taken to the end of retail like ducks to water. We would much rather be gardening.

I was, however, disconcerted by the garden visitors earlier this week – an older couple who came out of the garden, making the usual positive comments of how lovely it all was, when he came out with an extraordinary statement: “It must all be such a heavy burden for you.”

I think it said more about him than us!

Tikorangi Notes: Saturday 5 November, 2011

Mark's "Platinum Ice" is just opening

Mark's "Platinum Ice" is just opening

And "Coconut Ice" is looking a picture

And "Coconut Ice" is looking a picture

Latest Posts
1) From designer trend to cliché in the blink of an eye – Abbie’s column

2) The wonderfully brazen Azalea mollis in Plant Collector this week.

3) Grow it Yourself: lettuces with particular reference to Misticanza di Lattughe (available from Franchi Seeds, or Italian Seeds Pronto in New Zealand).

Tikorangi Notes: Saturday 5 November, 2011

There has not much (indeed, any) gardening going on here this week. As we host the large majority of our annual visitors in one ten day period, we get to spend 8 or even 9 hours a day standing on concrete doing the meet and greet. It is very tiring but also enormously affirming to have so many people come and enjoy the garden. Little do they realise that this means our Lloyd was out mowing the park at 6.30am this morning. I admit it was as late as 7.00am before I was out and about doing the clean up of our public welcoming areas.

The later season rhododendron display is just coming into its own – the wonderful nuttalliis and the later flowering maddeniis. We are still running at least a week behind on the blooming season.

Our annual garden festival finishes on Sunday. Monday will see us back in gardening clothes, probably mooching about in solitary silence achieving very little but focussing our attentions back on the garden. It is a source of amazement to garden visitors that we manage a garden this size with just ourselves as gardeners and our one staffer, Lloyd, on the mower, mulcher, tractor, weedeater and generally assisting. While we would enjoy having additional assistance, visitor numbers in New Zealand are not high enough to pay the wages. However, in the final analysis, we garden for our own pleasure and the visitors are a welcome bonus.

The wonderful fragrant nuttalliis are coming into flower - this one is Floral Legacy (nuttallii x sino nuttallii)

The wonderful fragrant nuttalliis are coming into flower - this one is Floral Legacy (nuttallii x sino nuttallii)