10 years ago my clivia seeds, purchased from Margot McNeil in South Africa's Drakensberg muontains had grown to young plants about to flower. With my gardener Craig we cleared areas in this densely wooded section of my property, leaving nikau palms and a variety of tree ferns as part of the high canopy providing perfect growing conditions for these robust South African's.
Rather than grouping similar colors, I chose a crazy quilt of many different flowers which resulted in a continuing display from September through October.
Clivia can be grown from seed or by division of established plants. A neat trick in the germination department, is to place a small handful of the mature seed in a plastic pouch with a handful of pine needles and very little water. These you could pin up in a garden work area and be amazed to watch the roots and first leaves appear. I recommend you leave them in this pouch until a second leaf emerges when you can pot them up and keep damp. Plain easy but it works.
Celebrating the arrival of the books from Korea at a book launch party at Eden gardens in Auckland on Thanksgiving day November 26th. The folk who made this book (Left to right: Claudine Thompson- book design, Liz Light- my cool, efficient Editor, Tim Brown- of BookPrint my publisher and Belinda Cook- P.R and distribution,with the author).
A foretaste of summer; the first bloom on another favorite rose the soil and situation in my garden does not really favor my roses but the indifferent soil allows this one beauty to thrive. Spotted in a garden center in Acacia Bay, Taupo a couple of years ago the flowers said "take me home". The subtle shading of color from deepest apricot to pastel pink is one thing, the fragrance is another. To me its a subtle mixture of fruit and spice, tough to define but an absolute winner in the perfume stakes.
Distictis or Mexican Blood flower. The vine growing as shelter over the deck is
D. buccinatoria, which if you can get over the tedious name, is a member of
another large plant family, the Bignoniacea clan. I
‘discovered’ this conspicuous and vigorous climber from a Belvedere in Ravello
looking down to the pergola below, while driving along the spectacular Amalfi
Drive south of Naples. Gloriously in bloom among pink roses and
violet morning glories in joyful Italian excess, it made such an impression I
added it to my ‘must-have’ list.
Vigorous and hardy here in my frost-free hilltop, I remember
those glorious days as I drove around back country roads in southern Italy. I have been watching our active Tui visitors
pierce the tube like flowers looking for nectar. Severe pruning is recommended when winter
Euphorbia, a member of the large family of so-called milk weeds that through 1600
varieties ranges from tedious ground level weeds, to tree-like form; the
Christmas Poinsettia for example.
In my garden right now is E. characias sub species wulfenii,
making a long lasting show, and great as a cut-flower, providing you like green
flowers. As the name suggests, the
plants bleed a milky white juice, to be aware of, as It can cause blisters on
sensitive skin. As a cut flower, dip
stem ends in boiling water for a few seconds to seal them. In this variety, new stems of blue-ish green
foliage emerge when the old flowers are cut back.
There are several other appealing members of the milk weed
family, notably, a red-orange flowered form, E. griffithii, with a selection, ‘Fireglow’, a terrific edition to the hot border. Then there is something
different, a subtly shaded variegated form called in the nursery “Silver Swan’,
or E. variegata with greyish leaves,
cream bordered, and its flowers almost wholly cream, perfect as a refined cut flower.
With spring moving swiftly into summer, garden maintenance is all important; Pruning can still be done while trimming and generally tidying up the garden is what keeps me busy. I discovered the fearsome mealy bug had decided to attack the young growth of the Lapageria and its neighboring Stephanotis (native to Madagascar) and I decided it was time to tackle the beast. Repeated spraying with conqueror oil takes care of this potential disaster.
Lapageria occurs naturally in the forrest of southern Chile's temperate rain-forest areas. This evergreen climber with leathery leaves has a peculiar growing habit vines twine counter clockwise in the southern hemisphere and clockwise growing in the north. The flowers have 6 thick waxy tepals (petals) usually a light cherry red with small white spots flowering here in the late summer through February and my now mature plants produced fruit, like the size of an oval tomato, containing myriad seeds. In nature the plant is pollinated by hummingbirds and sadly is increasingly rare in the wild due to over collecting.
The flowers are normally red with others in shades of dark pink and there is a very lovely and rare white flowered form L. rosea var. albiflora which is growing happily in my car port. This is a choice and delightful flowering vine if you can provide hospitable growing conditions, semi shaded trellis or through the branches of an open bush.
I planted my sweetpeas on the shortest day and now they are already as tall as I am and showing buds. My other legumes include sugar snap peas and two types of beans (butter beans and climbers (Mangere pole) which are racing away.
Now January and after a fierce storm, but less than a hurricane the sweet peas and their trellis have been so knocked about I've cut them down and prepared the area for the next crop of climbing green beans. Sweet peas are worth any effort; they give so much in color and fragrance I will continue to grow as many as I have space for each year.