Monday, November 17, 2014

Dursley Wetland - The Beginnings 2014

Guess what? I have a new wetland project on the go. Now the pizza oven/waterfall plantings are established, it is time to start on a new venture (see the link to waterfall project, over there on the right). So while I wait for the trees to grow at the other spots, I have begun a new revegetation project. Not sure if I am crazy or not - but my theory is that you should plant trees ASAP - not next year, or the year after - but as soon as you can, otherwise you are a year behind in growth. Just get started  as soon as the season permits!!! (April to September are best planting months  in the Wairarapa, for areas you will not be watering. It gets too hot, windy, and dry.).

So this is an old oxbow from the river, which occasionally floods. We have fenced it off from livestock, and had a digger pile up massive old willow trees and earth to create a proper deep pond with lots of inlets and islands. In flood the water still escapes to the main river - but this has hopefully slowed it down, and purified it on the way through. A major catalyst for this development is wetland habitats for birds, and it has been fabulous to watch new birds make this their home. We have had teal, dabchicks, pukeko, a random black swan, plus the more common duck species, and swallows, kingfishers etc. Hopefully we can make this a great breeding ground for them, as well as eels, frogs etc.
Simon Callaghan (George's brother)  in the digger doing the initial pond work. Massive
dead willow trees were piled up to make islands, which will rot down over time. 
BEFORE: swampy ground that dried out in summer
Gives a bit of scale - the wetland area we have now fenced off is
about 1.5 hectares.
This is what I faced on day one of planting!! Logs, mud, and a massive area to fill with plants!!
Need good visualisation skills in this line of work. One day this will be full of mature trees....
First tree. Back at Easter 2014, George planted this special tree for me, on my very own
island!! Magnolia grandiflora. Note that he has bare feet!!! He took his boots off
to cross the pond to get across to the island!! Dedicated. 
The large expanses of water make the most fabulous reflections. This summer we will
put a dinghy in there so we can access the islands to check on the plants. 
Early evening shot of  'Rachel's Island', with Magnolia on top. You can't see at this stage how
many flaxes etc I had split and planted on the island. They won't show up for a few years
now the grasses have grown back on the bare dirt.
Some of the adjacent mature Totara and Kahikatea I am growing seedlings from. I can
only dream that one day the trees I plant will be this size!! Future generations will enjoy them. 
A typical winter weekend for me and my trailer or car load of plants. The wetland is across
paddocks, which did limit when I could reach it in the very wet months. 
Plants and rabbit proof nets lined up ready for action beside the fence.
There are hundreds of plants in the ground, but they are dwarfed by the scale of the landscape.
Most of the islands have been claimed and named by one of the family members, and planted
up in autumn. This island is called 'Isle of Queen Evangeline the Glorious' - to do with a story we
were making up with a young neighbour while we were planting it! Most have more generic names,
like 'Phoebe's Island', or 'Bachelors Island',  named when we decided no-one would ever want to
revisit as the water was too deep to wade through to get to it!! 
A solitary young Beech tree with makeshift animals proofing!! Some naughty sheep and
cattle did manage to sneak in in the early days. They are incredibly destructive. The flaxes either
side are there to help protect the tree from wind, and add shade. A massive clump was split into
about 30 plants. I am quite good at digging unwanted mature flaxes out now, now that I have
a future  use for them!
A Dab chick at the pond. So delightful to see these birds here.
This is what makes all the hard work worthwhile. 
Next time I post about this wetland, hopefully some of the plants will show up a lot more. Most are pretty tiny at the moment, as they are mostly seedlings I have grown on from native trees that have popped up in the home garden. Having been so successful with the waterfall development has given me so much more optimism about this area, which is a lot larger. Like I said at the start - stop  just THINKING about planting (anything!!) - just PLANT when the season is right. It takes a few years for you to start seeing the trees etc are actually getting bigger. Take photos so you can look back and see the difference. Do this for future generations, and the environment. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section below. R

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Acer 'Bloodgood' - Maple

A maple I love using is Acer Bloodgood. The dark red foliage is stunning with so many combinations.These trees are at my office, and what I love about them is how the colour of the leaves changes depending on the sun's position. They glow quite a brilliant red when the sun is behind them, then a dark moody burgundy from the front. Hard to capture on camera, obviously!

The sun lights up the leaves from behind
Acer 'Bloodgood' shown here with an adjacent hedge of my favourite camellia - Takanini.
Camellia Takanini - fast growing and very long flowering season
Colour combinations are a particular passion of mine - and the maple is really dramatic to work with all sorts of other plants. Heuchera Palace purple, Euphorbia Chameleon, Physocarpus Shady Lady, flaxes, etc. Limitless. Love it!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Christchurch - Godley Head

I have just returned from a fabulous few days in Christchurch. This trip, I was on my own, with a tiny hire car, and I whizzed all over the show, going to places I had hardly even heard of during my 4 years at university down there (20+ years ago!). Apart from catching up with my lovely varsity flatmates, the highlight was the trip out to Lyttelton and Godley Head. What made the trip so uplifting was the thunder, lightening, and then the amazing sky. From up so high, the land was insignificant, and the clouds were amazing. 
Looking down into Lyttelton Harbour after a thunder storm. Layer upon layer of blues, purples and black.
Dark and brooding one minute...
Lighter and clearer the next, just with the clouds parting.

The layers of cloud were fascinating from up so high on Godley Head.
 There are great mountain bike and walking tracks all over the Port Hills, but so much easier to get there by car!! This seating area at the road end was perfect for the setting - low key, low maintenance, but really nicely designed. As you might have guessed - the weather that made the sky so amazing, made the conditions too appalling for me to do any of the walks. Next time I am taking my family up there. It was just stunning. A calm blue sky day wouldn't have been nearly so uplifting!!!

Loved these bollards.
Then the views back across the city on the way back to civilisation. Beautiful.