Tag Archives: Tikorangi: The Jury garden

Aaand… we are open again

Day one of the garden festival opened not with a whimper, but with a hiss and a roar. The cars started rolling in just before 9am and by 9.10am the main lines of our modest but usually adequate carpark were full. I had gaily told our volunteers that we wouldn’t need them before 9.45 or 10.00 but I was wrong. We were scrambling from the start and didn’t draw breath til the lunchtime lull.

The first line of carparking
Opening up to new lines of carparking. That was soon full to overflowing. It appears we can actually park 54 cars and campervans but that may be our full capacity.

Numbers are not a problem in the garden. We actively garden and open about seven acres and we can sink a lot of people into that area without it feeling crowded. It is the carparking that can be a problem because we have to get vehicles off the road so we manage it carefully. We were directing cars into our second and third parking lines which was fine until one visitor managed to get their vehicle marooned on a large tree stump. This is a feat that nobody else has achieved since Mark’s mother did the same thing on the same stump in the 1970s. It completely blocked the exit for half the vehicles.

A feat unmatched in close to fifty years…
The offending stump

Lloyd to the rescue, though even the normally unflappable Lloyd was a little stressed by this situation. He didn’t want to pull it off with the tractor because that would have pulled the whole front bumper off the car so, ever resourceful, he sent the owner around the garden while he carefully and laboriously jacked up the car using timber bracing until he had it sufficiently clear to enable him to back it off, with no visible damage to the car. I think the visitor was grateful.

My free garden tour at 11am attracted rather too many people for me to manage it as well as I can with smaller numbers. Mark has always been in awe of my ability to take a tour around the garden and to emerge an hour later with more or less the same numbers with which I started. The group this time was too large so I did lose some along the way but it is not compulsory to stay to the end.

Led by the pied piper of Tikorangi, yours truly

Gloria and Pat are mostly managing the gate and we are proud of the 100% cooperation rate with scanning or signing in. Dr Ashley would be proud of us, we feel. It seems that people will forget or neglect to scan unless reminded but everybody agrees that we want to keep NZ free from Covid so they are happy to scan the QA code when specifically requested. For overseas readers, this is the tracing app the government is encouraging so that in the event of a new case, everybody who may have been exposed can be contacted immediately.

Music from 1pm tomorrow (Sunday)

Day one saw numbers that were four times higher than our ten year average for the same day but that was eclipsed this morning. Since then, torrential rain set in so it remains to be seen how the day pans out but the hardy and determined are still out and about and the forecast is much improved for tomorrow. I am hoping that will be the case because we need at least fine-ish weather for the gentle and melodic guitar music by Dominique Blatti from 1pm onwards.

What is affirming is the overwhelmingly positive response from visitors. We were nervous about the meadow – would people relate to it or would New Zealanders see it as full of weeds? Fortunately the reactions have been the former and if anybody at all has thought the latter, they have been too polite to tell us. Ditto the new summer gardens – would people see them as part of the interconnected whole of the garden or would they see them as disconnected, too jarringly different in character? The former option triumphs. This is all music to our ears.

Eight more days until we close the gates again to visitors.

A freestyle garden

WisteriaShiro-Kapitan’ with alstromeria, perennial forget-me-nots and aquilegia

A friend came out to help with a garden task this week and she gave some advice that has had me thinking ever since. To be clear, I am fine with receiving advice from friends who have experience. I may or may not follow it.

“Your perennial garden needs structures in it,” she said. ‘To encourage people to go in and view it.” My immediate response was ‘nooooo’ but it has stayed in my mind. She was referring to the Iolanthe garden, a bit of an experiment on my part and the last of our new summer garden series. I pondered the fact that I was really pleased when Mark had said the previous day how much pleasure the Iolanthe garden was giving him and I thought about why I rejected her advice as an immediate response. There are two reasons.

The first is that my friend was still thinking in terms of a garden that is open to the public. That is why people needed to be ‘encouraged’ to leave the driveway and venture into that area. She had a large garden herself that was open to the public until a few years ago when they sold up and retired to a smaller city garden. At that level she is right; structure and focal points draw one in to a space.

At last I have a place for hefty plants like foxgloves – but none of the common dark pink one. White or pastelle, please. With Chionocloa flavicans and an equally hefty, obscure lobelia.

But we live here. It is our garden. We don’t need such aids to draw us in. And I realised that at some point in the seven years since we closed, I stopped gardening for show, for public display when the garden is open. I now garden solely for our pleasure, our delight. That is probably why it has been such a shock to me over the last few months to go back to preparing the garden for opening this week. It is a very different focus. I don’t feel I have been gardening. I have been tidying, titivating, garden grooming – and I really don’t find that fulfilling.

The combination of Mark’s hybrid arisaemas with self-sown parsley, lychnis and bluebells amuses me. In this somewhat chaotic planting. There are also a few trilliums and Paris polyphylla with the rhubarb and Joe Pye weed.

Secondly, I realised that the Iolanthe garden didn’t make sense to her and that was interesting. She saw it as ‘a perennial garden’. No, I said, it is a transitional perennial meadow and she didn’t accept that the place for a meadow – transitional or not – is so close to the cultivated, defined areas near the house. Meadows, I pointed out, don’t have structure and focal points as more formal gardens do. I would never plant a straight perennial garden as I have planted this area.

I must accept that in terms of a garden that is open to the public and therefore needs to have some coherence that is easily understood by a reasonably perceptive garden visitor, the Iolanthe garden falls short. Amongst other things, if we were still open for most of the year, it falls short on design. The paths are so narrow that they are single-file and, at this stage, there is no through path for visitors so they must exit the same way they entered. Plans are underway to move the propagation houses which will allow for more flow and a wide central pathway but that will take another year or two.

This colour combination offends me greatly

But none of this matters because we are no longer open, bar the upcoming ten days. My greatest concern at the moment is the disastrous combination of this dusky pink bulb with the cheerful, if garish, calendulas. I think the bulb is a tritonia – maybe T. squalida, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong. I planted them but the calendulas are volunteers. It will be easier to discourage the calendulas from that particular location than to lift the bulbs.

I am not sure yet whether the combination is going to offend me so much that I cut the flowers off the bulbs for our opening. If you are planning on visiting us next week, you may like to step off the driveway and into the area to see.

It is the first year for this garden so it is still getting established but what I envisage is a casual sea of flowers, heavily populated with bees and butterflies, from spring to autumn.  With some grasses. Straddling the lines of a perennial garden, a cottage garden and a meadow – so a transitional meadow. That makes sense to both Mark and me, at least, even if this freestyle planting confuses others.

Our garden will be open from Friday 31 October until Sunday 8 November from 9am to 5pm daily as part of the Taranaki Garden Festival. We are not open outside these days.

A short story in four photos

Lloyd was trimming the lollipop michelias at our front entrance this week, to have us looking smart for opening the garden on Friday. We only trim them once a year.

At the end of the day I looked and was surprised to see that he hadn’t finished. The only reason I was surprised is because he is very task-oriented and likes to finish whatever he is doing. Mark and I tend to flit all over the place, multi-tasking, so his focus is a good foil in our team. There are six lollipops clipped from Fairy Magnolia Blush and one and a half umbrellas from the unnamed seedling we have by the courtyard entrance.

This morning he explained. He only just noticed Mama Blackbird in time and he didn’t want to destroy her home and kill her babies. This is exactly how both Mark and I would have responded, too. So if you are visiting our garden during the Taranaki Garden Festival, that is why one bush right at the entrance is only half-clipped.

I remembered this happening before, when I took this photo in the same plant, and in other years. Because the photo is dated back to 2012, I googled the life expectancy of a blackbird. I wondered if they lived long enough for it to be the same bird returning to her favourite position. FIFTEEN YEARS. Blackbirds can last 15 years, presumably if not predated by a cat or anything else. So it may indeed be the same Mama Blackbird raising another clutch. We can accommodate her in relative safety here.

The 2020 election in flowers. Mostly.

 

Red, of course for the Labour Party and Jacinda Ardern with a resounding vote of confidence that exceeded the hopes of even their own supporters. That is Rhododendron ‘Noyo Chief’.

(Red – centre left)

Green for the Green Party. I put the giant red pepper mill that our son bequeathed to us before he headed overseas (and a very good pepper mill it is, too) beside it yesterday. It was not a premonition, more serendipity but today it stands for the resurgent Māori Party who won a seat against the odds.

(Green – left wing with a strong focus on the environment and social justice. Red – but a darker shade than Labour red and with black – for the only party whose prime focus is on Māori affairs)

The yellow Doronicum orientale daisy is for the Act Party – one star and now nine additional members of parliament, some of whom must be as surprised as the rest of us to see themselves there.

(Yellow – our most right wing, libertarian party)

Bluebells, wilting, past their prime and going to seed for the National Party. But, like bluebells, they will rise again, refreshed, at some stage in the future.

(Blue – centre right but leaning more right than centre lately).

And the black ashes of defeat for the demise of New Zealand First. No matter one’s personal opinion of its leader, Winston Peters, it seems sad to witness the demise of such a characterful and long-serving MP in such an inglorious manner.

For overseas readers, we have proportional representation in NZ and a history of very stable coalition governments. This is the first time since we opted for this system that a single party has received such an overwhelming mandate that they can govern alone without needing the support of other parties. It remains to be seen whether the Labour government will choose to govern alone or whether they will opt for a cooperative approach which would see them bring the Greens and probably the Maori Party onto the government benches.

 

And that is a wrap from what seemed like an interminable election campaign in this year of Covid.

Generally unenthused by green flowers and other garden observations

Mark has never been a fan of green flowers. I asked him why and he replied with utter simplicity, “because I like colour”. As I have observed before, green is colour neutral in a garden situation. Maybe Hippeastrum papilio passes muster because it has quite a bit of red in it and has some hefty flower-wow-power but his preference lies with the glowing red of H. aulicum.

Hippeastrum papilio

I am pleased with H. papilio. We started with a single bulb and now have two good sized patches of it with a profusion of flower spikes this year – at least a dozen on the point of opening in one area alone. It is just patience, time and lifting and dividing that gets a single expensive bulb to a significant block – or an extravagant budget if you want a quicker response. We grow our hippeastrums in woodland conditions because the narcissi fly stay out in the sun so the bulbs don’t get burrowed out by narcissi fly larvae.

We have plenty of green hellebores – Helleborus ‘Sternii’, H. argutifolius and H. foetidus feature heavily in the woodland Avenue Garden – some green arisaemas and a single green orchid but generally I see Mark eyes glaze over with disinterest when green flowers are praised by others. He will go as far as white fading to green or white with streaks of green – but predominantly white, thank you.

Helleborus sternii
I think I was having difficulty getting a good photo in the garden of Helleborus foetidus and, to be honest, it looks more exciting staged
Just the one green orchid but it has a certain grace and style
Yellow clivias, we have a few. Quite a few really.

Some readers may remember when the first yellow clivias became available here, retailing for up to $50 a plant, as I recall. I think about this as I pull out the self-sown seedlings and discard them as surplus to requirements. If you want to raise plants from seed, if the seed is yellow, the plant will flower yellow. Red seed gives orange or red flowered plants. Now the fashion appears to be for the new green flowered varieties, but not here, for reasons already stated. I wouldn’t mind some richer yellow ones but I have only seen one in another garden. The pale yellows can be a bit insipid en masse but really sing when combined with orange and red clivias. Pretty peach clivias would also be a nice addition and are now available but haven’t come our way yet.

The trimming of the Podocarpus parlatorei in the summer gardens

Our focus is entirely on getting the garden ready for opening. Mark is trimming the Podocarpus parlatorei to pillar shapes and he is welcome to this job. It has to be done with secateurs and loppers more than clippers to get the main shape formed. Hopefully it can be done with electric clippers in the future once the shape is defined and the plants have bushed out so it is foliage that needs to be trimmed and not woody branches. The top knots are because he wants to stretch them over to form an archway in time. There are six of them and as the chief shaper is currently incapacitated by a bad shoulder and a cracked rib, it is taking him some time. Notice the old shade cloth spread beneath to capture the mess. Lloyd does the same when he is trimming hedges. It only takes a moment to spread a drop sheet (old sheets or curtains do the same job) yet it makes the clean-up so much faster.

My goal today is to finish down in the park. It is all about tidying in that area, but selective tidying because we like a looser, more natural look in that area. Then it is back up to the top gardens for the final round with fingers crossed that we get no major storms between now and October 30.

Down in the park tidying up so I get to enjoy the wisteria, bluebells and rhododendrons
Rhododendron ‘College Pink’ is both very large and very pink
Following the pink theme, ixias in the new borders
Finally, the bird bath – well used, particularly by tui. It is the outer mill wheel from a grain mill. I used to worry that it wasn’t level until Mark pointed out that is to that small birds can also use it without fear.