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Friday, 20 April 2018

Church garden day!

Ok must get up to St Giles and get this garden sorted. It is the shady side of the church full of overgrown camellias, griselinias, cast iron plants, pseudopananax, cordylines, day lillies, and now clivia that need to be planted.

I need to plant a hoya and get some hibiscus, hydrangeas and rose cuttings started. (Not sure about them roses, actually) . Each time I go to work and we need to remove or cut back plants and then put them into green waste I think oh no that could make a good cutting, if only I had the time and space to grow them. But we are so busy maintaining that it just gets thrown out. Ack.

Thankfully I don't need to mow lawns or trim hedges that's the last thing I want to do on a peaceful Saturday morning. After a headache inducing day yesterday of weed eating, mowing and blowing for three hours straight, I'd had enough and decided I wasn't going to do anymore power tools. My boss came and found me quietly deadheading hydrangeas. I'm sorry I have a headache, I explained. The earmuffs weren't helping. Well, he was going to have his way and said I needed to have earplugs instead. Safe gardening right? Actually I was going to suggest either abstainence or we get electric tools instead of noisy gas ones.

Possibly earplugs are a brilliant small and slow solution, but I seem to be going deaf and numb from it all. I don't want to be slave to a lawn but it seems like that is what I've become and I'm really tired of it. Sometimes we aren't even mowing grass but weeds and rubbish. Oh and picking up dead leaves...I am quite certain Adam and Eve never had to do that before the fall.

So anyway that is what I will be doing this Saturday so don't just drive past and yell that I'm doing a good job why not lend a hand and help me get this church garden sorted. You won't be doing it on your own after all you have wonderful yours truly to talk to and possibly even have a cup of tea afterward.

Remember your job description - Keep New Zealand Beautiful.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

How does your garden grow?

I think mine is still recovering from the storm. Dad decided to minimise any hazards by lopping back the apricot tree close to our house, although the peach tree seemed to survive the wind. I put the arch back up but am loathe to prune the hardenbergia as it's just coming into flower.

Some bulbs shoots are now appearing and I'm hoping to complete some beds - the camellia bed needs to be totally weeded out where the driveway is and groundcovered with pratia or leptinella. I have rearranged it so several plants have come out and it is now with gardenia radicans, fuschia, and ferns.
I am trying to get the colour scheme right but nothing really matches with the camellia which I did not plant and am very annoyed as I can't just rip it out. Also the soil is only a few inches deep cos underneath is that horrible black plastic, rock hard clay and stones. I've pulled out as much plastic as I can but can only put shallow rooting plants there that like it somewhat damp.

Another bed that looks like a dogs breakfast at the moment is the one I look at from my window. I've decided the bog salvia does really well there and you'd think it would be easy to obtain more from the garden centre but no, they only sell the salvias that like it well drained. Every plant label for all the other perennials says ' likes well drained soil ' and I'm thinking well where are all the plants that like mud???
Apart from building a 3 feet high tower bed and bringing in a truckload of soil I'm just waiting around for the miracle plant that adores clay or maybe I could just plant Kauri trees there as that was what was originally here before. I was surprised that the pink cabbage tree,  that was meant to be for Mary up and died, as that was supposed to be native to the area. I thought you just couldn't kill cabbage trees.

It rained again on our planned St Giles church working bee so only managed to offload a few clivia on the side bed to be planted next Saturday. I did a quick weed in the rain but my body was telling me to stop already and have a nap. I have to ignore all pleas to do the Woodside community garden now because other gardens desperately need my attention. I went all the way to Papakura to pick up plants, so it has to be worth it. Thankfully I have accomplished that mission the only thing is now the rains have saturated the soil and it's hard to dig anything at the moment. I hear squelch squelch and it's mud.

Joanne and I tidied up the Baptist church garden last week but we could not dig anything at all in one bed as it was hard as rock. So the snapdragons are not going in and now are residing at my place. However they might have a chance next week, if there are no more storms. The perils of living in clay country.

The neighbours tidied up the tree that had fallen down on their roof but they should have just chipped it and given it to me because pine needles make really good mulch. I have my eye on some newspapers in the garage to build a no-dig garden if I can also get me some lucerne hay. Dad claimed they were special newspapers as he seemed to be hanging on to ten copies of the day Princess Diana died but I reckon you can just read that on the internet or look that up on the microfiche plus why would you want to remember that anyway wouldn't it be more fitting to bury her in the garden and grow...English roses? It could be the Princess Diana memorial garden except well, I think she wasn't into gardening all that much. She was a brave lady walking over all those hazardous landmines though which is what my place would be if I didn't garden it. Here we are just walking over fallen feijoas which reminds me I need to make a feijoa pie tonight.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Storm und Drang

You know that trees can kill people right? I met a lady the other day who claimed she was almost killed by a coconut. Was not sure that I believed her as she'd lived most of her life in England where I'm pretty sure coconut palms do not grow, unless they are really vicious at those village fairs over there playing coconut shy. But then she was alive to tell me this so obviously survived. I wondered if she'd reported this health and safety hazard to the Head Gardener, of whatever garden she was in, because we must all now do this for work once a month with our Health and Safety meetings and go through all the hazards and risks, to isolate, minimise or eliminate them as much as possible.

We need to identify hazards and look over the Hazard Register, assess risks with a Risk Assessment Form, keep Special Data Sheets of all hazardous chemicals, report Accidents and Incidents, make sure we are wearing our Personal Protective Equipment, and ensure with each tool we are following Safe Operating Procedure, and before we even start work that we are fully inducted on Health and Safety at each site.

The storm last night made it hazardous to do any gardening at all for our oldies garden group, and the power went out, which meant they could not even have a cup of tea today until the cafe owners boiled water on their gas barbecue. My garden arch had fallen over the driveway this morning and the neighbours had their tree fallen onto their roof, my friend picked up 368 cabbage tree leaves, the Woodsiders also had no power because a tree had fallen over their power line, and those 190 km/hr winds decimated our bedding displays. We fixed up some dangerously leaning standard roses and restaked feijoa trees, picking up broken branches and palm fronds and compost wheely bins that had fallen over and spilled their contents. Maybe God was just stirring things up just a tad. Yesterday we were warned with thunder and lightening bolts that made my boss scream, and driving rain, but last night I just slept right through it. My workmate had to go home to notify his landlord about four broken windows, and there was a smashed clock at the Waitakere Gardens, but otherwise, it was rather tame. At least our garden wasn't totally killed by frost.

I don't think anything could faze me about Auckland weather now we've had four seasons in one day. and apart from the odd earthquake, volcano and tsunami risks our team ventured forth gardening as usual while everyone cheered and admired us for our bravery.

Sunday, 8 April 2018


My favourite part of the Waitakere Gardens where I work is the fernery. I like breathing in the cool oxygenated air and the quietness of the green bush punctuated by the rustle of the wind and birdsong. When you live in a city that's growing everyday by leaps and bounds, the need to be still and quiet and just to breathe is something that I found is necessary for my spirit.

I had only recently discovered a place called Fernglen in Birkenhead, the North Shore, and resolved to take my sister Glennis there. Mum came a long too, so we hopped on the motorway and kept going past the Orchards retirement village where I also work, to Kauri Road. I was surprised to learn that the North Shore, like West Auckland was once all Kauri forest, and only recently was destroyed I mean 'developed' to make way for Nappy Valley (i.e. Glenfield) where the baby boomers could reproduce to their heart's content.

However one Bill Fisher had a heart for saving the ferns and the Kauri and friends and so his 12 acres of fern filled gully he left untouched. He also collected natives as back then with all the destruction going on to make lawns and roads, he thought perhaps they would disappear in his lifetime, and when he married Muriel, she was keen too and created an alpine house to grow alpine plants, as well as rare natives from the Poor Knights Islands. They labelled all their plants just like a botanical garden - there's a coprosma collection, a grass collection, and an offshore islands collection. As well as over sixty different native trees and shrubs.  They spread the natives plants salvation gospel far and wide to anyone who would listen. Plus they hugged a few trees as well to stop the developers from logging.

Today you can visit Fernglen  and even help out at the weekend working bee to keep the place tidy plus learn all about native plants. It's a green oasis amongst suburbia with walking tracks over streams and different native themed areas. Bill and Muriel have now passed away, and their property is gifted to the council to maintain as a public garden. There's a meeting house/education centre where you can have a cup of tea and talk about natives with others.  On the day we visited we heard the thrum of a leaf blower, it was their son Malcolm doing a tidy up. We had a chat with him and he told us he lived not far away and just came to check on the plants. He said it was a labour of love.

I have an affinity with native plants as they all scream 'I am born in New Zealand' and think they have the right to be here first. That's something I sometimes want to say out loud too but people all think I'm exotic and had to be born somewhere else. But I don't know, maybe we are being too precious with our natives and ought to be exporting them overseas where Irish people adore cabbage trees and English people plant flaxes in pots as accent plants. And the ferns make excellent oxygenators so move over HRV air conditioning,  install some ferns instead.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Neighbours Day - next Saturday!

We are holding another Neighbours Day down in the garden next Saturday. Please come along!
I am excited because if we get enough Riverparkers (my street) we can challenge the Woodsiders (the neighbours through the park) to a tug of war.

And quite possibly we will have our  pop-up library fridge soon too, so we can have storytime...all the time!

Also if you like sausages you welcome we aren't fundraising this time it's all free.

Am not sure about those magic rocks though. Do they work? I've never had a magic rock. Anyway will find out on Saturday. Be there or be square.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

What to do with clay soil

Answer - make pots.

This is what one man did up at Matakana and became the famous Morris and James Pottery. We toured the factory and marvelled at the giant pots that are featured in every high end gift department of the garden centre. I do have a piece of Morris and James myself without realising it - the glazed pukeko garden ornament my brother gave me one Christmas.

Not to give away any trade secrets - go have a look for yourself, but making something useful and beautiful out of mud and clay is inspiring. I then went on to investigate further reading a biography of Ant Morris 'The Mud and Colour Man'. It turns out he's retired although still living on site and others have taken over the business, but he's now on a spiritual quest and making a mud brick non denominational chapel.

Another interesting thing about Matakana is the village plantings. There's a stairway leading down toward the Farmer's Market that has a flowing water feature down to the river. It's planted with begonias and mondo, then there's camellias and ligularias, down to irises and goldfish at the bottom. It's a very classy streetscape and well maintained. Even though the cinema is a bit of a fleapit, the brilliant village bookstore makes up for it. Then they have a deli, various sculpture/art galleries, floral shop, gift shop, a tramway cafe, and further down the road, the Four Square and some surfie shops.
Even a garden centre by the name of 'Tumbleweeds' which I couldn't resist checking out, although again mum henpecked me as soon as she heard I was enquiring about plants.

We weren't there on Saturday to check out the famous Farmer's Market where Auckland foodies flock to find fresh organic produce, but we found Charlies' Gelato garden for yummy gelatos, bought cases of grape juice from Heron's Flight winery, and stopped off at Puhoi on the way back home for some beautiful handcrafted cheese. The tiny Puhoi library is always nice to visit too.

Then it was home sweet home and back to work. I decide my job description isn't just 'gardener' anymore. When people ask what I do, I am going to say 'Keeping New Zealand Beautiful'.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Up to Matakana

First stop at Matakana was a cliffside garden called Omaio which sadly we did not stay in but you can - it's a bed and breakfast log cabin and a perfect hideaway place amongst the bush. Liz tells us when she first arrived the property was nothing but paddock and a few trees. Well 12 years later it's a lush, secret nook with towering manuka, kowhai, puriri, totara and kauri trees. You walk along mulched paths amongst the ferns, clivias, ligularias, bergenias and hydrangeas, along Jane's Lane  and come out to Johny's Deck overlooking the Tawharahui Peninsula. Further on deeper into the forest you come across some giant footprints...but don't be alarmed it's only Big Bird aka NZ's giant moa. She won't eat you because she's made of driftwood and quite petrified already. She's guarding a nest of eggs that look like they haven't been hatched yet though...

Omaio means peace and tranquility and I certainly get the relaxed atmosphere of the place. There's a tennis court for leisure and an outdoor fireplace for cosy get togethers, planted with rosemary and bay trees and greenery. The view to the harbour is stunning. It's not a contrived garden, it's very naturalistic and you would think it's been here for years. Some of it's actually a bit wild with all the native pongas and cabbage trees and kawakawa but the bush has all been carefully planted. It certainly deserves the five stars as a Garden of National Significance as well as the talented gardener who created it.

A very different garden we saw is the Sculptureum, although here the garden takes second place to the sculptures, of which there are over 400 of them. For example, in most people's gardens they would be careful to kill their snails. But this one features giant pink snails. I am rather disturbed by it but the sculptor must have loved or worshipped snails? There was no trail of slime to indicate that the garden had snails but it could explain why, the only plants in this garden seemed to be mondo grass and nikau palms. They must have eaten everything else in their path.

I was impressed with the sheer variety of sculptures, but also rather puzzled about the Steve Job garden. Yes there was a garden dedicated to Steve Jobs. It consisted of panels of quotations from Steve Jobs amongst some wisteria. I don't remember any of the quotations as there were like a hundred of them and I could have just read his autobiography instead. Perhaps lying in a hammock in another garden. It could have had some apple trees. Perhaps. But I don't think it occurred to the creators to plant apple trees in a garden dedicated to Steve Jobs.

It had a rather nice restaurant though. The sculptures were mostly of animals, but I noted, no cats. There were rabbits, and birds, in enclosures and there were rabbits and birds sculptures too (the sculptures were not enclosed). There was also a giant dandelion made of yellow buckets.
I am not sure what to make of it as a garden. As a collection of giant toys, maybe. It did have giant lego blocks. Walking around the place does make you feel like the owner is showing off his collection and I got the same feeling I get when my neighbour tells me he has over 100 teddy bears and when he goes to the market he only limits himself to five books and dvds at a time, must cut back. Then the next time he writes he tells me he went again and got five more.

I don't tell him that, I am not counting the number of books he buys each week and the public library lets you have 35 books at one time and if you have more than that you are either a crazy readaholic or need to get out more. Good luck carrying 35 books in your library bag.

But I suppose this interests some people that I bought such and such a plant and planted it here, but I haven't gone so far as to label everything so others know what it is. I have an aversion to such labels proclaiming this plant is such and such and cost this much because then your garden just looks like a copy of a retail store.

Anyway...more on Matakana in the next post.