I flashed past these eye-catching ixias (corn lilies) at speed and promptly thought that I should have stopped and photographed them. I then thought I couldn’t be bothered until a couple of kilometres down the road when I turned and went back. Are they not pretty? They are growing on wasteland beside the railway in Lepperton and the sight of them stopped me being grumpy about something else that had happened.
There is nothing choice or rare about ixias. We have them in the twin borders in several colours and they show up each year on one of the mass bulb suppliers’ catalogues. But as a wildflower, their charm seems greater to me. I was glad I had dug some to put down in the Wild North Garden where they may recreate the simple charm of the railway siding.
I also stopped to photograph a camellia hedge because a mass flowering camellia hedge is a rare sight for us in these days of the cursed camellia petal blight. This one is down the road from us (in a rural sense – maybe 5km down a different road entirely to the one we live on but still ‘down the road’). We used to have mass displays of larger flowered camellias in informal hedges but they are a thing of the past here. The plants haven’t gone; it is the flowering that is a memory. This particular hedge is in an extremely open situation, exposed to both full sun and wind from every direction. It confirmed for me that the extremely sheltered microclimate we have in our own garden has exacerbated camellia petal blight to be some of the worst in the world. Fungi thrive in a protected situation. It is a trade-off. That microclimate enables us to grow many other plants that would not otherwise thrive but at the expense of the japonica and hybrid camellia flowers.
It was Mark who drew my attention to the fact that it is Camellia ‘Waterlily’, one of his father’s early cultivars. We have the original plant in the garden here. Next to it, to the left, is a clipped hedge – now at the end of its flowering season – of Camellia ‘Les Jury’. It is the best red his Uncle Les bred so they have the Jury camellia brothers right and left of the gateway.
We don’t have a whole lot of native plants that carry gardeners’ bragging rights with them but the Poor Knights’ lily – Xeronema callistemon – is one. It grows on the rocky cliff faces on the Poor Knights islands, often washed by sea water and never drying out but never getting waterlogged. According to Wikipedia, those offshore islands of New Zealand which few people ever get to visit but are a treasure trove of unique flora, were so-named because their shape reminded the early Europeans of a bread pudding popular at the time, the Poor Knights Pudding. There is a random piece of information for you.
Their natural habitat is not easy to re-create in a garden situation which is why they carry some bragging rights. I am pretty sure they are also frost-tender and it takes a long time for them to reach flowering size. Despite all that, there is fine display of huge plants on a shady bank in my local town of Waitara. Prostrate rosemary festoons down the bank below them and they are flanked by some pretty scruffy trachycarpus palms but eat your heart out, gardeners who have failed with the xeronema at home. Finding a suitable spot and then allowing benign neglect seems to work better.
Our best plants are just coming in to flower. I admit we groom the plants a bit – removing spent leaves. I like the combination with the Marlborough rock daisy (Pachystegia insignis) – another cliff dweller but this time from a location which must be close to 1000km south of the Poor Knights Islands.
Meantime, it is all go on preparing the garden for the Taranaki Garden Festival, opening on October 29. We have our fingers crossed that we stay at level two which enables it to go ahead. We will be awfully miffed if we get Covid Delta in Taranaki with a last-minute cancellation after all this work.
Kia kaha. Stay sane and stay safe in these trying times. We are living through an event that will become a significant point of history for future generations to study. It is not a comfortable position for anyone.