Behold Doryanthes palmeri! The giant spear lily from eastern Australia. It has never flowered for us before so the three metre, sturdy flower spike is a thrill even though it has yet to open. This particular plant is a nursery relic, by which I mean that it was not planted in this position. More, cast aside from nursery crops (we once produced a few to sell) and left to its own devices. Now the grass garden is planted beside it and it looks quite at home. This is just as well; each pleated leaf is about one and a half metres long and I don’t fancy moving it. I am hoping the flowers will open in the next week or so.
From the massive to the tiny, it is snowdrop season here. We are not really-o truly-o good snowdrop territory and Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ and G. elwesii are the two main varieties that perform consistently well and multiply for us. Mark would dearly love some later flowering ones to extend the rather short season but while he went through a stage of gathering various different varieties, none of the later ones have thrived. Undeterred, he is trying some hybridising to see if he can get some variety but these projects, you understand, never yield instant results. It is more like a ten or twenty year plan, all to get the extended snowdrop season.
It was a full month ago that I wrote about luculias. The bright pink ‘Early Dawn’ is well finished, white ‘Fragrant Pearl’ still has a few blooms but the main specimen plant needs some attention (a bit more judicious pruning and more light – it has flowered better in the past). But ‘Fragrant Cloud’ has been in full flight ever since and still looks good. This is the very best I have ever seen it and the scent is divine.
Equally fragrant are the daphnes in full bloom. We grow a number of different daphnes but a fair amount of them are our own ‘Perfume Princess’. Mark has bred other plants that are showier and more spectacular (especially the magnolias), but this obliging daphne represents a breeding breakthrough in some aspects and may well end up as the one he is best known for internationally. It is certainly the one that enabled us to retire early. Given that, we are deeply relieved as each year it proves itself again as a garden plant and a superior daphne which will stand the test of time.
I admit that as this post goes live, we are far from Tikorangi. Well, not that far. Just ‘across the ditch’, as we say, in Australia. While we need passports to travel to Australia it never feels overseas as further, oft more exotic, destinations do. It is just that all three of our children live in Australia these days and we are all joining the celebration of the second birthday of our only grandchild. So not a garden or plants-focused visit but I am sure we will find matters botanical of interest on the way. While I love the place we live, I have been missing the stimulus of travel this year. I need to find somewhere interesting and new for a trip next winter. By the time we arrive home, we should have the first colour showing on Magnolia Vulcan and M. campbellii should be in full bloom in the park. Winter will feel as though it is on the wane.
Before we left, I made another jar of salted lemons, having noticed a heavy crop and smaller fruit on our main tree. Smaller fruit fit in the jar better. I prefer to make salted limes but the lime tree is having a year (or two) off fruiting. They are dead easy to do, store for many months in the fridge and are very tasty as a flavour addition. They can make couscous flavourful (though I have gone off couscous since I realised how highly processed this product is), add taste to rice and all manner of stuffings or savoury dishes. I resorted to buying lemons one year, in the absence of a good lemon crop at home, but if you are buying fruit, pour boiling water over them and stand them for a few minutes first. Some are, I read, coated (in wax?) to help their storage life and you need to get rid of any coating or spray residues before preserving them.
Just looking at the jar is like looking at a ray of Italian sunshine on a winter’s day in Tikorangi.