Tag Archives: Taranaki Rhododendron and Garden Festival

Countdown to Festival: October 15, 2010

• With only two weeks left before Festival starts, I am sure we could all have done without the savage winds early this week. In our case it felled yet another massive Lombardy poplar along with the power lines which service a fair number of properties along the road. We are desperately hoping that is the end of any of our trees committing hari-kari before the chainsaw wielding men get to the vulnerable ones straight after Festival. But as we waited for the Powerco crew to arrive, our trees festooned in broken power lines, Mark and I were deeply shocked to see a pair of visitors come out from the garden. They had found the honesty box and the directions and taken themselves around, presumably stepping over and under power lines. We have informed our two dogs that they failed entirely as an early warning system when it could have really mattered.

• Chris Goodin, who gardens around Pungarehu way on Mirihau Road, is very excited about the exhibition of flower paintings by Auckland artist Karl Maughan which she is having in her home this festival. Because the artist will be overseas during the event, they are planning a small exhibition opening at daughter Nicci’s florist premises in town this coming Wednesday, 20 October when the artist can be present. If you are interested in attending, call Chris on 7828 160 or Nicci Goodin on 757 2233. The paintings have all been inspired by Taranaki with a particular link to Pukeiti.

• At La Rosaleda in New Plymouth, Coleen Peri’s best laid plans have been disrupted. She had been feeling confident and well on track until the really awful early spring. She lost two weeping silver pears in one gale and has had to resort to some reasonably expensive, specialised metal staking for her tall standard roses as she feared they could snap in the wind. However, despite the cold, wet and windy conditions, her roses are well advanced and she says most will be flowering for festival. While Coleen describes herself as an impatient gardener, her delight that her Phlomis tuberosa is about to bloom after about three years would suggest that she has more patience than some. She is hoping the Crambe cordifolia will follow suit and finally flower.

• In Waitara, Margaret Goble reports that her roses are already starting to show colour so there should be a splendid display from this experienced rosarian during festival. She is really pleased with how her window boxes are looking – a froth of lobelia and pansies – but her hanging baskets are letting the side down and languishing behind. They need some warmer weather to hurry them along in time. The bearded irises (Margaret has a substantial planting of these and was kind enough to give me some of a pure blue one I admired greatly) are spiking up right on cue this year. Margaret is keeping mum on the design changes she has made in her garden this year (though she did let me into one secret) – you will just have to visit and see for yourself.

• At the time of writing, it seems like a distant memory but Maree Rowe had the sunblock out last week after she unwittingly burned herself the previous day. Weeding has been keeping her very busy. As a certified organic property, she does not use weedkillers but does it all by hand. Readers of the Weekend Gardener should have spotted the feature on Havenview Vegetable Garden in the issue which came out last week.

• How apt to see that the winner of the Early Bird Prize Package (that is the garden visitor’s equivalent of a goody bag) is none other than Stratford’s Shirley Greenhill. Shirley is a renowned gardener herself who opened her large garden as part of the Festival for many years before she retired and downsized. Those of us who know Shirley will be looking forward to seeing her out and about the gardens wearing her complimentary hot pink and white festival tee shirts.

Countdown to Festival: September 17, 2010

  • Southwards in Hawera at Puketarata, Jennifer Horner has been looking on the positive side and enjoying those spring days which have been lovely (as opposed to sodden). While the early daffodils and Magnolia Vulcan are looking a little weather beaten, (though Jen says Vulcan has been spectacular this year), Rhododendron Bibiani is in full flower and has escaped damage and the pretty Prunus Awanuis are just opening. The lawns have responded most gratifyingly to an application of potash and Jennifer is feeling that she is on top of the pruning, fertilizing and mulching but the vegetable garden is calling.
  • Also down in Hawera, one of Festival’s most experienced openers, Mary Dixon is dashing out in between the showers trying to get jobs done – weeding, moving plants, deadheading and getting rid of the winter moss buildup. She is still worried about the possibility of late frosts, so is cautious about rushing to fill the gaps left by earlier frost damage. However the delight of the early spring display of magnolias, flowering cherries, daffodils, violas and pansies, different hellebores and primulas more than compensates. Mary gardens for twelve months of the year but likes to have her garden peaking to perfection for Festival at the end of October.
  • Moving northwards, June Lees of Cairnhill Garden, Stratford has been waging war on liverwort, the bane of all our lives in our climate. She is hoping it will be invisible by the time Festival opens. June is also having fun with her new playhouse, as she calls her tunnel house. It may seem an extravagant home for her hanging baskets, but it has made life much easier for both June and said baskets. In the past she has had to house them in her glasshouse where she kept bumping into them so leading her to move them out too early to the patio. So at this stage, her new tunnel house gives room for a glorious line of hanging baskets and no doubt, over time, June will find a whole host of other uses for her tunnel house and she will wonder how she ever managed without it.
  • Joyce Young has been in Festival for a very long time indeed but more recently has moved to a small garden in town – a mere 480 square metres, she says. This is an interesting opportunity for Joyce to manage a sustainable gardening model from scratch. She has installed a rain water tank with gravity fed soak hoses to water her vegetable garden – the gentle soaking is far kinder and does not lead to as many mildew problems as overhead watering. Her worm farm has been in operation for a full two years and while her three bin compost system is a commercial structure, it is an efficient and simple option for a retired person for whom the manual labour of a more traditional compost system is a challenge. Joyce is well known for her pottery (particularly pukekos) but of late she has been really enjoying getting to grips with painting with pastels and has just moved on to flower subjects – magnolias, this week.
  • Also in New Plymouth, David Clarkson and Valda Poletti at Te Kainga Marire are despairing at the damage being wrought on the black mamaku (ponga) tree ferns, they say by the dreaded Indian mynah birds. Apparently they eat the unfurling leaf buds and the neighbours’ pongas have already succumbed to sustained attack. David and Valda are fighting off the mynahs to try and save their 30 year old pongas, moving Valda to express the wish that people would stop encouraging these pest birds by feeding them household scraps.
  • Here at Tikorangi, the mynah birds are a minor issue and the pongas are perhaps too plentiful but we could have done without the ginormous Lombardy poplar that crashed to the ground without warning in our park. At about 80 years old and 80 feet tall, it was perhaps fortunate that it fell inwards to our property and not outwards to the road. It is such a shame that poplar wood of no value either for firewood or timber but in its descent to ground level, it clipped the Magnolia campbellii which is now about half of its former size and magnolia is a good timber. Our rhododendron Loderi King George also bit the dust but considering the size of the tree, the damage was not too bad overall. Now that it is all cleaned up, we are looking at an unexpected new area to plant up.

Countdown to Festival, September 10, 2010

  • Mary Vinnicombe is not alone, I am sure, in being heartily sick of the recent rains. While Mary and Barry’s town garden, Thorveton, has just enough change of level within it to add interest, it is located on a hill. In one of the recent downpours, Mary felt considerable chagrin to watch her topsoil, mulch and Bioboost washing down into the neighbour’s property and she wondered why she had bothered feeding all her garden beds. If only the next neighbour up the hill had been as dedicated, then the Vinnicombe’s garden would have maintained its status quo despite the water flow. The heavy rains we experience here, combined with our light volcanic soils, make gardening easier in many ways but also leach out valuable nutrients from the soil which is why continuing to add compost, humus and some sort of fertiliser is an important part of the gardening cycle.
  • Out at Gordon Dale Gardens on the Forgotten World Highway, Jan Worthington says there is a life beyond the garden. She went out to a golf meeting and then lunch with a friend, arriving home later in the day to find her daughter, Amy, had done the hanging baskets and planted out the flower seedlings in the garden. Jan is looking forward to seeing how a border of dwarf cinerarias combines with her roses, heucheras and aquilegias. Alas this wonderfully cooperative daughter is headed off overseas next week so the extra pair of hands is of very limited duration.
  • While on a golf theme, the appropriately named Manaia gardener, Margaret Putt, has been dividing her time between her twin loves of golf and gardening. She was in Dunedin with her junior golf team last week and, with hindsight, felt great relief that it was earlier on Saturday night when they transited Christchurch airport on the way home so the quake did not affect their travel. Margaret is well into her major first round on the garden, getting all the rough stuff out before she does the intensive final grooming circuit on her hands and knees. She was, however, complaining about the cold wind last Sunday afternoon when she was out weeding amongst the self seeded Livingston daisies around her letterbox.
  • Around the coast, Chris and Steak Goodin have netted in the wisteria. The Attack of the Sparrows last year was so bad that Chris’s wisteria had next to no flowers left. At the time she was thinking that a return of sparrow salmonella might not be a bad thing, even if they had to gather up the little corpses, but she is not leaving it to nature this year. Chris thinks that the white netting will be less noticeable than the black bird netting they have used previously. Steak has also affixed chains along the pergola which makes tying in the climbers much easier.
  • In at Festival HQ, Lisa Haskell is pleased with the strong interest coming from Australia this year. TAFT representatives have been at the Melbourne Flower Show promoting our festival for the last couple of years but it was a talkback radio garden host from Brisbane who interviewed Lisa about our event last week. It takes repeated efforts to get into new markets and Australia is a big one for us. Ironically, it is just as cheap for people to fly in from the east coast of Australia as from down south. In the interests of being their usual wonderful hosts, Festival gardeners are practicing leaving their Aussie jokes for the privacy of their own homes behind locked doors and closed curtains.

Countdown to Festival, September 3

• Down in Kakaramea, the self-styled Angelina Jolies of the chicken world (that is Jacq and Mich Dwyer of Te Rata) are pleased that their now pampered chickies are starting to lay again. These are 10 rescue birds – hence the Angelina reference – poor featherless things when adopted, who now live in the lap of luxury and fortunately know how to show their appreciation. Jacq reports that Mich has planted three types of potatoes so far. She splits the bags with neighbour Emma who reciprocates later in the season when they plant the next crop. Jacq has enclosed her rose garden in an electric fence as a temporary measure to keep out the marauding possums which are capable of taking off every new shoot overnight.

• Te Popo gardeners, Lorri and Bruce Ellis have been making paths safe. First up, the attractive but dangerously slippery brick path from the back door had to be lifted. Lorri says the gravel may not look quite as pleasing aesthetically but it is at least safe. In a damp climate, anything that becomes slippery when moss grows is a hazard – Lorri notes that they have also learned that large river stone steps are very treacherous. With a very steep section linking the bottom of their dell to a bridge constructed from wharf piles, Bruce has had to use a plastic product recommended for cattle races and also recently installed on the track from the car park at Dawson Falls to Wilkes Pool. The material is laid down, secured and then the cavities are filled with fine stones and gravel. Lorri is pleased with the result. She says it is hardly visible but your feet feel very secure and it stops the surface from scouring out when it rains.

• At Havenview Vegetable Garden, Maree Rowe is fed up with the rain but at least she has managed to get her Jerusalem artichokes and yacon dug up and the best tubers replanted. I had to look up yacon – a starchy root vegetable prized in the Andes. I had mentally placed it as Japanese but that of course is the daikon which is something radish-y, not to be confused with a brand of heat pump. The yacon sounds more interesting. Maree’s garden is to be featured in the Weekend Gardener soon as part of the lead-in to this year’s festival. She just wishes her potager had more to show but it is at least weed-free and tidy and by the time the actual event arrives, the seeds should be sprouting in abundance.

• In Hawera at Puketarata, Jennifer Horner has been worried about her lawns and about getting the timing right for doing work on them so they look improved by the end of October. She was disconcerted to see the tops of her pohutakawas down the driveway get tickled up by frost this year but they will be flushing with new growth shortly. Apparently Hawera received a doozy of a frost this year which more northerly gardeners escaped entirely.

• At La Rosaleda in New Plymouth, Collen Peri is a great deal more relaxed about opening this year now that she knows what to expect. She has done her first round of fertilising – mostly blood and bone and Bioboost, following up with a mulch of Grunt. None of her plants should feel hard done by after that lot. She says she is a novice when it comes to her little vegetable patch but she does like to grow strawberries and cherry tomatoes for her little fellow Will to pick and her Moneymaker tomatoes astonished her last year with their ability to thrive and crop despite complete neglect. This spring will be an exciting one for Coleen at her iris patch which is located away from her garden. She bought a large (very large, actually) collection of bearded irises from a mail order nursery closing down and this spring, she will get to see the whole range in flower.

Countdown to Festival August 27, 2010

  • In Stratford at Merleswood, Erica Jago has been enjoying her drifts of little English snowdrops beneath the deciduous trees. Their flowering season is now pretty well over for the year but the winter display of the cornus is more lasting. Cornus alba has bright red stems while Cornus stolonifera “Flaviramea” has lovely yellow stems. Erica has them planted in her pond garden and the cooler climate of Central Taranaki accentuates the colour. Cornus are otherwise known as dogwoods and the reference to stolonifera just means that plant suckers along below ground.
  • Just down the road at Te Popo, Lorri Ellis has been waging war on surplus tree ferns. Lorri has come to the conclusion that tree ferns sneak in under the radar and manage to grow before she even realises they are there, though she is willing to admit that this may in part be her failure to differentiate them from more desirable ferns in the early stages. If you want to shock English and northern European visitors, tell them how we cut down ponga ferns willy nilly – they pay mega bucks for them at home and value them greatly, taking great care to over-winter them though the closely related Tasmanian tree fern is more commonly available than our NZ species. Lorri and Bruce have also been reconstructing their low wall of sawn timber logs which edges an area near their pond. But as the mondo grass (ophiopogon) which softens the hard lines has spread (it, too, is stoloniferous), to get it out has involved digging out all the irises, tulips and daylilies as well to disentangle them. The day lilies and irises will appreciate this lifting and replanting exercise and should romp away with renewed vigour.
  • Around the coast past Okato, Chris Goodin is feeling pretty relaxed about this year’s festival, now that she knows what they are in for after being first-time openers last year. Chris has finished making her quota of wedding and opera dresses for the time being and is now into gardening mode. She is particularly thrilled to have just had it confirmed that Auckland artist Karl Maughan will be exhibiting some of his paintings, particularly of rhododendrons, at the Goodins during festival. There is an added incentive to visit. Chris tells me that in the latest Next magazine (the one with Petra on the cover), on page 59 there is a photograph of a fancy woman standing in front of one of Karl’s paintings. Just remember page 59 for the next time you are waiting in line at the supermarket checkout and you are not looking at the fancy woman but at the picture on the wall behind her.
  • In town, Mary Vinnicomb was relieved to have finished pruning the climbing roses – she says her knees don’t really appreciate climbing up and down the ladder repeatedly. Many other gardeners will have knees which would go out in sympathy with that sentiment. Her Magnolia Lanarth has done its flowering dash for the year but Mary is grateful that it is still alive after its near terminal encounter with spray drift from somebody else’s property last year. Magnolia Burgundy Star is opening its flowers and Camellia Our Melissa has been an absolute picture along the front fence. Mary says it is quite fun to be working out of sight in the garden and to hear people admiring Our Mel as they walk past. She is worried, however, that her early narcissi (jonquils and daffodils) seem to be reducing in number, not increasing, and she wonders if it is due to the nasty narcissi fly which lays it eggs in the crown of the bulb so the larvae wriggle down to feed.
  • At Havenview Vegetable Garden, Maree Rowe is frequently accompanied by her son’s characterful dog, Smoke. She is willing to overlook Smoke’s inclination to snooze on freshly dug beds because this dog has developed a taste for grass grub. She is in fact so keen on them that she will actually dig up the lawn looking for them and Maree says it is like having a chook at her feet whenever she is digs – the dog is waiting and looking for delectable grubs. I am sure this is not natural behavior, but at least they are organic grass grubs in this garden.