Tag Archives: white sapote

Tikorangi notes – winter, reversions and grubby knees

IMG_8604‘tis the winter solstice today. This marks the point where the days will start to lengthen again, which is always encouraging. However, it usually marks the point where we descend into the worst of winter weather from here through July. But I tell myself that a winter so brief is not too bad, really.  We are still enjoying plenty of autumn colour – which is more early winter colour here – and more camellias are opening every day. The spring bulbs are pushing through the ground.

Casimiroa edulis

Casimiroa edulis

The absence of any significant frost means the tree dahlias and luculia flower on and we are eating the white sapote crop (Casimiroa edulis). Now there is a taste of the tropics in mid-winter.

IMG_8616I had been meaning to photograph this reversion on a dwarf conifer. Many plant selections, especially amongst the conifer families, are sports or aberrations on a parent plant. Part of plant trialling is to test that sport for stability but even so, you may often see reversions to the original plant. Generally, it is going to be much stronger growing so if you don’t cut it off, over time it will dominate. A quick snip with the secateurs was all that was required on this little dwarf in the sunken garden. The major growth that Mark removed from the top of the variegated conifer in the centre of this photo required a tall ladder, some tree climbing and a pole saw.

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IMG_8619Reversions are also apparent in these perennials. The silver leafed ajuga to the left is showing reversion to plain green. While that particular ajuga is not my favourite (the silver reminds me a bit much of thrip-infested foliage on rhododendrons), it is better than the boring green which barely blooms. I weeded out an ever-growing patch of the plain green. The other little groundcover must have a name but I have no idea what it is. The clean white variegation is sharp and smart but it has a definite inclination to revert to its plain green form, which is much stronger growing. The same rules apply where variegated hostas are reverting to a plain colour. If you want to keep the variegated form, cut out the reversion or you will end up with just plain foliage.

I like the yellow polyanthus with blue corydalis but the polyanthus need relatively frequent lifting and dividing to stay looking good

I like the yellow polyanthus with blue corydalis but the polyanthus need relatively frequent lifting and dividing to stay looking good

I have been much preoccupied with digging and dividing perennials. Still. This may be ongoing but the good news is that the more you dig and divide, the easier it is because the soil doesn’t compact as hard. Over time, I am sure I may cast out some of the plants that need very frequent digging and dividing to stay looking good (particularly polyanthus) but at this stage, I am fine with grubbing about in the garden borders on my hands and knees. Mark laughs at me. Even though I use a kneeling pad, I am a grubby gardener. There are no two ways about that. Mark can come in from the garden, wash his hands and be relatively clean. I come in and have to soak clothes in a bucket of cold water, to loosen the dirt before washing them.

Why so much digging and dividing? Because I am on a steep learning curve with perennials. In the main, I would say that we are pretty knowledgeable about gardening with trees, shrubs and bulbs. But gardening well with perennials is a whole different ball game. I went looking at local gardens a few years ago and it was a revelation to me how badly otherwise-reasonably-competent gardeners managed underplantings. There is so much to learn – not only what perennials like which conditions (that is the easiest bit), but which perennials combine well together, have compatible growth habits and stay looking good over a long period of time. Landscapers usually take the easy path – mass plant a large area with a single variety that will like the conditions. But that is not our style. It is the combinations that make it interesting and take the garden through the seasons.

January 27 this year

January 27 this year

And on June 20

And on June 20

Because we have some big plans for all-new perennial gardens, we have both been turning our attention to learning more about the specific  requirements of many varieties and how best to manage them. This is not a six month project. More like a six year one, at least. But with perennials, the results are quick. I lifted much of the messy swimming pool garden in late January (mid-summer and I didn’t water because there is no tap nearby) and replanted a block with Dietes grandiflora and an ornamental taro. For a while they sat around wilting in the extended autumn heat. But look at it now, in mid-June. The dietes haven’t moved but still have green foliage so they are biding their time for spring. The taro looks great. When a combination works, it is hugely satisfying. When it stays working all year and into the next few years with minimal attention, that is even better.

When perennial plantings work well - Curculigo recurvata with Ligularia reniformis (also in the pool garden)

When perennial plantings work well – Curculigo recurvata with Ligularia reniformis (also in the pool garden)

In the Garden: Friday August 6, 2010

We are harvesting our white sapotes now

  • If you can grow orange trees or avocados, you may like to try the white sapote or casimiroa edulis – an exotic taste of Mexico whose fruit ripens at this time of the year. I would describe it as a cross between vanilla icecream and creamy custard in flavour and texture. It will tolerate light frosts only but you can get a good crop in our coastal areas and it is an attractive plant, tropical in appearance.
  • In case you are wondering after looking at our Outdoor Classroom this week, Mark sowed a rye and fescue grass seed mix for our lawn. He also added microlina – a fine native grass which he tries to encourage, for which he harvests his own seed. There are experts in grass seed mixes around if you wish to seek out good advice. Turf rye appears to be a good option for shady lawns but sandy lawns (which turn brown in summer) remain problematic if you don’t want to use kikuya.
  • Esteemed colleague Glyn Church advised last year that all winter pruning should be finished by the time birds start nesting. Some readers may need to start panicking – it is clear that the birds are gathering nesting materials here and our first clutch of ducklings is imminent. Give grape vines and kiwifruit priority if you have them. Their sap starts to run early.
  • If the tastes of Italy are what you covet, you can get Franchi seeds mailorder from Italian Seeds Pronto – the catalogue is available at http://www.italianseedspronto.co.nz or you can buy seeds off the shelf at Vetro or Fresha. These are large packets of seed with plenty to share and a range of Italianate goodies which go beyond the common tomato, capsicum and lettuce varieties.
  • Keen veg gardeners will be champing at the bit to prepare the ground for planting out (dig in green crops and start cultivating the ground) and sowing seed in trays or pots to keep under cover in order to get an early start in a few weeks time. You don’t gain anything by trying to get summer seed sown or plants out before the soils have had a chance to start warming up and the risk of frost is past. If you really want to try and push the pace, get a cloche or build a cold frame from old windows. However, carrots, onions, parsnip, beetroot, peas and brassicas don’t mind the cold if you want to be out sowing and planting. Get early crop potatoes in now – by the time they come through in three weeks time, you can mound them over to protect them from late frosts.
  • We gave the All Round Bad Idea of the Week Award to the recommendation in a national gardening publication that your wheelie bin makes a great container for growing potatoes (just drill holes in the bottom first, we are advised). Not only do few of us actually own our wheelie bin, as a container for growing potatoes it is miles too deep, will take far too much dirt or potting mix and that doesn’t address how one is supposed to get the harvest out from the bottom later in the season. If you can’t grow them in the ground, try stacks of tyres though why anybody would prefer to fiddle with potatoes in containers eludes us.