Tag Archives: Rhododendron Van Nes Sensation

Out and about

I must get out more. Well, I say that but truth is that there is nowhere I would rather be than in the garden here. What I miss is the outside stimulation of looking at different ideas and the absence of a Big Trip this year. The only travel we have done has been to see our children in Australia.  I am contemplating something more adventurous next year. In the meantime, a trip to town must suffice.

Van Nes Sensation

When I say a trip to town, I mean New Plymouth. It is a small city of 75 000 people, 22km away from where we live. I was in town yesterday on a more leisurely schedule than usual so stopped to take a few photos. Behold Rhododendron Van Nes Sensation, looking, well, sensational on a suburban street.

Van Nes Sensation was one of the big trussed rhododendrons that was very popular here in the late 1980s and early 90s. I had assumed it was one of the big, showy hybrids out of USA from that era but the ever-handy Greer’s Guidebook to Available Rhododendrons tells me that it dates back to 1925 and was the work of C.B van Nes & Sons so it is of Dutch origin. There are prettier pink rhododendrons but it is hard to beat this display on its day. It was a nicely pruned and shaped specimen, too. 

As I was photographing from the footpath, the neighbour was washing her car in a very tidy front yard. “Lovely, isn’t it,” she said before adding, “shame it makes such a mess”. And there were a few pretty pink florets that had blown on her drive. A mess? I wasn’t sure how to reply.

Down near one of the city beaches, I saw this very colourful front garden on a steep slope. I wrote a piece back in early 2013 about city gardening on a steep slope and I see it still comes up in internet searches. This one is clearly a big challenge, right by the beach, so subject to salt winds and the house is at the top of the section. The access driveway was so steep that it had steps up the centre of it, between the wheel tracks. It is also what I describe as a generous garden. It is not as though the owners will use this outdoor space for recreation. It exists primarily to bring pleasure to passers-by and the owners have worked very hard to achieve this colourful and lush view. The section has been terraced, retained and permanent steps made to give access. It may not to be everybody’s taste but it takes a keen gardener to create and present a garden well in such an exposed and unpromising situation. And it certainly eclipsed the hanging garden of Strandon on the neighbouring property.

Purple and acid yellow atop a substantial, unadorned concrete block retaining wall.

There was another scene of a very tidy, pretty, palest yellow front fence with a roadside planting of nasturtiums but my photos in full sun do not do it justice. I had seen it first in the soft gold of early evening light and it caught my eye.  I have never seen common nasturtiums used in a bedding plant setting before, but it was very pretty. I have been wondering about growing nasturtiums again because I once followed the advice to pickle the seed heads and buds as a substitute for capers. It worked brilliantly though it takes a long time to pick a jar full of nasturtium seeds. They are just a bit … determined, are nasturtiums, when it comes to having them in the garden.

Finally, it was back to the graveyard (aka Te Henui Cemetery) because Sydney-based daughter was with me and she expressed a desire to see it. It is so pretty, so vibrant, and so unexpected. It is part of the garden festival this week. I asked one of the volunteers yesterday how it was going with garden visitors. “They seem to like it,” she said, in a self-deprecating way. “They arrive with very low expectations since it is a cemetery, so it is not hard to please them.” It is better than that. Do visit, if you are in the area.