Tag Archives: trilliums

When the detail brings delight, not the devil

Tulipa saxatilis and simple cream freesias in the rockery this week

Bulbs play a major role in our garden. We use a huge range of bulbs, many no longer available commercially. Some never were readily available. Very few of those we grow are the larger, modern hybrids which are generally what are on offer these days. We prefer the simpler style of the species or at least closer to the species.

Added to that, seventy years of intensive gardening across two generations has built up the numbers most satisfyingly. Most of our cultivated gardens have bulbs incorporated in the plantings. Or at least bulbs, corms, tubers or rhizomes to cover the range.


We have a fair few that are fleeting seasonal wonders in our climate but we just adjust our expectations. The cute erythroniums – dog’s tooth violets – are maybe a 10 day delight and can be taken out by untimely storms but that is just the way things are.

Meet Beryl. Narcissis ‘Beryl’ with cyclamen, nerines and even a Satyrium coriifolium in the bottom left corner

I don’t grow any in containers now although the same can not be said of Mark. His bulb collection is currently sitting in limbo for us all to see the scale as his inner sanctum – his Nova house – is currently being relocated. He hasn’t taken good care of them in recent times but he is determined to keep some of the rarer, touchier varieties alive. It is possible to maintain a more comprehensive bulb collection if you are willing to faff around with growing them in containers in controlled conditions. I am not so dedicated. My interest wanes if we can not grow them in garden conditions.

Gladiolus tristis popping up unexpectedly in our parking area

It is the random bulbs beyond the gardens that are currently bringing me pleasure. Some of these have been planted. Some have popped up from our nursery days. When trays of bulbs were being repotted, Mark had a strict rule that fresh potting mix was to be used (granulated bark was our chosen medium). Hygiene, he would explain. The old potting mix was spread around the place and at times it had seed or tiny bulbs within it. I am guessing this is how the Gladiolus tristis, a species gladiolus, came to be at the base of a cherry tree. I certainly don’t remember planting it there and I can’t recall it flowering before.

Ipheions at the base of an orange tree

When we plant bulbs beyond the cultivated garden areas, we try and select spots where they can establish in fairly undisturbed conditions. At the base of trees is good, as long as there is plenty of light. Around old tree stumps, on margins that don’t get mown often, or in little spots where we can walk past and be surprised to see them in bloom.

Trillium red with bluebells down in the park meadow
And trillium white with Lachenalia aloides tricolor and snowdrops to the right on the margins by a stump

We have rather too many bluebells now, to the point where I often dig out clumps to reduce overcrowding. The Spanish bluebells or the ones that are crosses between the vigorous Spanish and the more refined English species are definitely rampant, bordering on weeds. That sea of blue is very charming in their flowering season but sometimes it is the one seedling escape flowering bravely on its own that makes me smile as I pass.

The simplicity of a self-sown bluebell
Common old Lachenalia aloides where a tree stump used to be

It is both the transient nature and the detail that makes bulbs so interesting in a garden context. Far from simplifying our own garden as we age, the more we garden, the more we like to add fine detail. That is what keeps it interesting for us.

Bluebells and narcissi at the base of gum tree
Narcissus bulbocodium with bluebells

Counting down to Festival – 25 days to go

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Admiring the scale of the Monstera delicoosa climbing a massive rimu tree

We had a film crew in this week, complete with *actors*. The garden was just a venue – the filming is for a major community funding trust but it was more fun than I expected. I was impressed by the gusto shown by the willing participants, if somewhat amused to hear one admiring the ‘snowdrops’ as he walked past a pretty clump of white Dendrobium (orchid) ‘Bardo-Rose’.

In the sunken garden they whipped out their phones because, as they declared, that is what garden visitors do nowadays and how right they are. I don’t do Instagram because it is geared to mobile phones and we lack phone reception here so I continue to use a camera, not a phone. But here we have the videographer filming the visitor photographing the other visitors photographing the blue Moraea villosa.

I was riveted by the drone and hope we may get to see the drone footage at some stage. Now I know who to get in to do some drone footage next year when the magnolias are in full bloom – a time when I am guessing we would be looking our most dramatic and colourful from above.

What was particularly affirming was the wildly enthusiastic response to the new summer gardens where we finished the paths this week. I look at this area and I see gardens filled with plants that I hope will do a whole lot of growing before we open in a month. They looked at the whole and went ‘wow’. One of the crew declared that it reminded him of Hamilton Gardens. This was a compliment. I do not doubt that for a moment. I was just a bit taken aback because I had not thought we were emulating the themed gardens that are enormously popular public gardens in the city of Hamilton. We are a private, domestic garden. This has been achieved on a shoestring budget by three people, albeit with a lot of experience.

Trilliums in meadow conditions

Sometimes I feel as though I am living with a pixie. In this case, a pixie who has been out planting trilliums in the meadow. It is of course Mark who has both raised the plants and then planted them. Last year I spotted a couple. As I tidy up the park in preparation for opening, I must have come across about 20 of them this week.

We have trilliums in the garden. Growing them in long grass is an experiment but so far it is working and they are continuing to get a little larger each year, rather than fading away.

There is a lesson in this. If you want to experiment with choice plants in a meadow, it helps to raise them yourself. You wouldn’t want to be buying a score – or more – of them to experiment with.

Oh look! How very 2020. My 1950s washing line (a single wire held up with a bamboo prop) with washable facemasks hanging like bunting and two linen tea towels that were sold as a fundraiser in aid of the Australian bushfires last summer. It is not that we are wearing masks at this time, but that our scientist daughter has crafted masks for her parents in two styles with added, optional, washable filters. I was washing them before putting them safely to one side – prepared, just in case.

For overseas readers, NZ has reachieved its status of no community transmission, with any Covid cases caught in quarantine at the border – so most of the country is free from all restrictions on movement and crowd sizes again. We have our fingers crossed that we remain free from any Covid cases in the community for the garden festival at the end of the month and hopefully well beyond. If one is going to be confined to one’s home country with no overseas travel, New Zealand seems to be one of the best places to be at this difficult time. May you all stay safe, wherever in the world you are.

Finally a few photos of the season. I struggle to get good photographs of the swathes of bluebells here. We are just past peak bluebell and they are so pretty even if the Spanish bluebells and hybrids are inclined to be so enthusiastic that they border on being problematic in some areas.

I finally got down to tie in the wisteria to the high bridge. They are quite a bit reduced in size this year as a result of the work we undertook on the bridge but still very pretty. I use black twine because, of all the ties I have tried over the years, synthetic black twine lasts the longest and is the least distracting the eye.

Rhododendron Noyo Chief

We flower rhododendrons more or less from August to the end of November. This is Noyo Chief. It is an undeniably handsome red, even if big reds are not my personal favourite. It is certainly a good performer on a healthy bush and what more can one ask?

Tikorangi notes: Iceland poppies are not from Iceland, naturalising trilliums, bluebells and escaping root stock

I have never been a fan of Iceland poppies. They were the one flower I remember my mother buying  when I was a child – a bunch of stems still in bud. She would burn the stems and then put them in a vase where they would open to what seemed garish and unappealing flowers to me. Tastes change and in recent years, I have found my eyes drawn to mass displays of these simple blooms. This patch is on a traffic island which holds the very modest clock tower in my modest local town of Waitara and it makes me smile when I pass.

The Waitara clock tower in a traffic island 

Ironically, on the opposite corner was this stand of fake flowers outside a Gold Coin shop.

Iceland poppies do not come from Iceland. I finally checked and in fact they come from the chilly areas of Europe, Asia and North America – sub polar territory, so presumably alpine meadows.  In the wild, Papaver nudicaule  (nude because of its bare stem which makes it a good cut flower) are pretty much all white or pale yellow. The other colours are recessive genes which have been brought out by plant breeding – presumably line breeding which is selecting down the generations of individual plants to pick out the stronger colours until those coloured genes have come to the fore.

Puketarata Garden near Hawera

This is not a plant I have ever felt the need to grow myself but there is a simple appeal to a mass display. I remember being quite charmed by their use in the clipped buxus formation at Jen Horner’s garden, Puketarata, one spring. It is hard to beat the simplicity of a single poppy, or indeed a daisy flower.

This poor little white one survived being taken off at the base with the strimmer last spring

These trilliums represent a minor triumph in Mark’s experiments with plants he can establish in meadow situations. We have plenty of trilliums in our woodland gardens but establishing them in a cultivated garden is different to getting them to naturalise on his bulb hillside. When I say “naturalise”, I mean that they are now sufficiently well established to return each year, able to compete with the grass and uncultivated soil. They are not actually increasing yet but they are at least established.

Mark has raised more seed and has about 70 pots of them in flower in the old nursery area. He is disappointed that most of them have come up white and said that he wants the red ones for planting in the meadow and he asked that the pale yellow ones be kept together as a group in one area. For him, this is all part of blurring boundaries in gardening again. He really likes the idea of trilliums thriving in managed garden conditions and then, as the garden becomes looser and more informal further out, the same plants popping up as wild flowers. Especially when it is something as choice as trilliums. Maybe I could surprise him with the surplus Paris polyphylla making an appearance on the bulb hillside, too.

I photographed this small flowering growth on Prunus Pearly Shadows as an example of unwanted root stock shooting away, even on a very well-established tree. Many plants are budded or grafted onto other rootstock so that the desired cultivar can utilise the strength of strong growing root stock. Which is well and good when the rootstock is compatible and doesn’t escape. If you don’t cut off the root stock, it can overwhelm the grafted selection so it is best to see to it as soon as you spot it. How do I know it is rootstock? It is a single white; Pearly Shadow is a fluffy pink double and is not yet in flower.

Prunus Pearly Shadows

This particular tree is a splendid example of what is described as a ‘vase-shaped form’. It has not been shaped. It grows naturally in that upward Y shape. It is in our car park area and has so far attracted three reversing cars. I am not quite sure how people fail to see it in their rear vision mirrors.

It is peak bluebell time in the park and even if these can be weedy, the drifts of colour are very pretty. Bluebells should, in our opinion, be predominantly blue. But the addition of a few white or pink ones amongst the blue gives a contrasting accent of colour that can lift the blue. The pink is also a strong grower, the white less so. We don’t want bluebells everywhere so I am removing them from some areas of the garden they are attempting to infiltrate but we are happy to let them spread in our meadows.