Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Orange and Purple Perennial Garden in March

Most of the yellows have given way to orange as we enter autumn. The blues and purples are still strong. The background perennials (Salvias, penstemon, leonotis) are getting really tall. I will definitely be moving the 2 Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' further back as they are overwhelming the smaller plants at the front. The shrubs of Fothergilla are starting to colour up for autumn, which is going to look fabulous in this scheme. They are only a year old, so will get more dominant with time.

Welsh Poppy

The leaves of the fothergilla are just starting to turn orange for autumn (front left)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Otari-Wilton's Bush, Wellington

I have just had a lovely weekend in Wellington with some of my family. After dining at Logan Brown, we went to the fabulous concert of Solo Mio - 3 opera-singing Samoan Nzers - '2 tenors and a baritone'. Wow! Fabulously entertaining concert. A wonderful experience all around. They are travelling NZ this month, and sooo worth going to if you can still get tickets.

Next day we visited a native botanic garden called 'Otari-Wilton's Bush'. I am ashamed to say this is the first time I had ever been, and I am so thrilled I have finally experienced it. Not only are there natural stands of ancient trees and lush ferns to walk amongst, but well-designed formal and informal gardens as well, all utilising an amazing array of native plants. If you are even vaguely interested in our native plants, then this is well worth a visit, just to see how the plants can be combined to create stunning small garden scenes, as well as the more naturalistic style we try and replicate in larger areas.
Stunningly simple planting scheme that looks very effective from a distance, or up close
Clipped into balls - hebes, pittosporum, and horopito were fabulous
These reeds were very sculptural in the water
I loved the mass planting of ferns and rengarenga lilies under the kauri trees near the entry
There are various distances and tracks you can follow, from the main entry
car park off Wilton Road 
A grove of lancewoods (Psuedopanex ferox) make a stunning impact
There is an information centre, and a fabulous canopy walk - a board-walk up high above the mature trees (see pictures below). That was my favourite place - looking down on huge tree ferns (ponga), and being at eye height with the tui and kereru. Just stunning.
The canopy walk does just what it says - gets you up high amongst the tree canopies
Detail on the canopy walk entry pou 
Tapestry  of tree ferns seen from above.
Eye-height with a tui
Interpretation signs help tell the story
Only about a 10 minute drive from the CBD. Shame on you if you live in Wellington and have never been!! Assuming that if you are reading my blog, then you must have at least a vague interest in gardens!! There was a 45 minute circuit you could take, or just poke your nose in and walk across the canopy walk. I will go back again, but with more time, so I can explore more thoroughly. Just fabulous, and right on Wellington's doorstep. Well worth a visit, and just another outstanding aspect of Wellington's array of attractions.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Kereru - NZ Wood Pigeon

This great big fat bumbling bird is my very favourite NZ bird. I love it's clumsiness. I love it's striking colour contrasts. I love how it ignores humans if there is food to be had. I love it's greediness. I love it's noisy whoop whoop flight. And I love the way spreads the seeds around in it's poop, to naturally revegetate the NZ bush. I just love it - but I think you might have got that by now.

We are so lucky where we live, that there are about 20 birds that regularly move about our valley. They eat the fresh leaves on (non-native) deciduous trees, and seeds off particular native trees, as the season provides. But right now they are full-on into the cabbage tree seeds. We have lots planted around our garden, and the trees have seeded particularly prolifically this year (I think because of the optimum conditions over spring and summer).
Cabbage Tree seeds - Latin: Cordyline australis; Maori: Ti kouka

There are lots of little black seeds inside the protective white coating.
These are NOT from inside the bird, by the way. I found these under the tree
he had been eating in, that he had dropped from his mouth....
What has really piqued my interest is that a kereru flew through our window last week. Yes, he smashed the window on his way through, but during his incarceration in my front room, he also pooped everywhere before he flew (unharmed) out another window. Now most people would find this quite disgusting, but I was fascinated. The poop was dense with seeds. Mostly Cabbage tree seeds, and held together with green leafy pulp. Oh nice! Well I saved it all, planning to analyse it, then plant it, as you do. Sadly for the scientific community, my lovely husband inadvertently used the bucket I had saved the poo in, swishing the 'muck' out so he could use the bucket. If only he had known what treats he was washing down the plug hole...
Broken window in the shape of a bird in flight. He left unscathed.
Kereru in our cabbage tree last night
I love the contrast of the crisp white against the turquoise!
Anyway, I digress. Point is - I am now really really interested in the seed process. There are seeds everywhere, if you just look. Most of our native plants do not have showy flowers, but many of them have fantastically decorative seeds. And this year is quite special, apparently, as prolific seeding is happening all around the country. Certainly it is happening in our neck of the woods, and the birds are having a field day. Next time you are out and about, take a closer look into the trees, and you will see what I am talking about.
The images below are of Astelia chatamica 'Silver Spear' - a gorgeous silver flax-like plant for dry spots.
Astelia Silver Spear, with Michelia yunnanensis and Muehlenbeckia astonii - at my office
Astelia seeds - so orange! Love them.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Succulents in Flower

Succulents are not normally my thing - but I have found these urns I planted 3 years ago have been fabulous at my front door. I never need to water them, they look good all year, and then these great little flowers poke up in late summer! Almost grotesque, certainly fascinating, but simply gorgeous when seen from close up. Like little stars.

Yes I know the urn is wonky! 

I prefer the mix of colours, as I have in my pots. I have always intended to make a wall hanging or hanging ball with the succulents, too, but never got around to it, as with so many ideas!!! Best thing about these plants? Once they produce littlies off to the side, you can take them off and you have more plants for free. Great way to cover bigger areas.
The freshly planted pot in October 2011 - so you can see how many I planted, and how
much they have spread. I could (and have) taken babies off these plants to pot up for other areas. 

The darker red succulent is just starting to flower, with much darker flowers than the other plant