March-the beginning of my favourite season.

March-the beginning of my favourite season.

I love Autumn. Obviously Spring is great in its abundance, but its very …busy. Autumn is much more peaceful, especially if the weather acts like it’s supposed to! Summer is altogether too hot for me, it’s my least favoured  season. Winter has high points like fires at night (or indeed all day) and hotties in bed, but the weather can get a bit intrepid for gardening. Autumn is obviously perfect, so long as you receive some Autumn rains, which we have.  The watering travail is hugely lessened and one can start planting some of the things that have been sitting around drooping in their pots all summer.

I wouldn’t usually expect March to really be Autumnal, it’s usually more like Summer, but this year it seems to have come early. Maybe the seasons heard about Easter being early…We’ve already had some nice chilly nights, the trees are starting to turn and drop their leaves, and the Spring bulbs are starting to appear already. I bought a lot of new ones this season, to fill up an area under the auspices of the Puriri tree. They always sprout quicker out of packets than they do in the ground.

The roses are having a good season. For once we’ve had just the right amount of rain, so they’re still flowering well. The flowers are still more like Summer flowers at this stage, but soon they will start producing their Autumn perfection blooms, which are my favourite. Maybe a bit smaller, but often more intense in colour and form.

The Asters this year have outdone themselves. Not only have they put on a wonderful strong show, but they also seem to have self seeded a lot in last Summer’s crazy rain and I have lots that have come up in new shades, mostly in very inconvenient places!

Whilst we do grow the old fashioned Michaelmas daisy type aster, which run at the root and can be rather a menace, these ones are clumping types that luckily stay in one place (except when they self seed!)

Because it’s feeling Autumnal early, I’ve made a start on cuttings for the season. At this stage I’m concentrating on plants with plenty of spare wood as there’s a high chance most of them will die and I’ll have to try again a bit later in the year. They are such fickle things though, rose cuttings…you never know when they’re going to do it!

I was reading my garden diary from a few years ago recently and was surprised to read I was potting up cuttings I’d made in February! “Wish I’d made more”, I said. You never bloody know what’s gonna work!!!

We are planning another Open Day for April (21st) so I’m also potting up things as I amend the Autumn garden which will provide a few new faces for that. We certainly have plenty of roses for sale too.

Another fun thing about Autumn is the hips on the roses colouring up, there are so many different shapes, sizes, textures and colours. The softer ones. like the Rugosas you have to grab quick before the birds and the mice. The harder ones are much better for a winter show, although eventually they all get eaten. Here is half a bucket I’ve grabbed before other predators to boil up for some rose hip syrup. The vitamin C count is off the register, so very good for fighting off winter ailments…

One last Autumn mention this year are the Dahlias. They’re having a lot of fun with the right amount of water  (a lot but no immersions) and sun (a lot but not too hot…)  Some start quite early in the Summer, others in late Summer /Autumn. If you keep dead heading them, they will keep flowering. If they get out of hand (common in my garden) you can cut them back hard and they will go again (so long as its not too close to Winter) Added bonus, when they resprout you can take these fresh bits for cuttings and they have a good strike rate.

If you aren’t so good at controlling your dahlias, you tend to get a lot of seedlings. Some end up being of note, and worth keeping on and propagating. Some . like this single here, are just pretty in passing…

So that’s it for March, next comes what is usually my fave with Easter time and now my granddaughter’s birthday as well a s my own , it tends to attract family gatherings, always nice!

This is it!!!!!

This is it!!!!!

OK! Third time lucky. This time I am really going to write a Blog and publish it…a year will be too long for a come back, and 2024 is marching on. I will start this blog for February with November’s attempt and carry on at the other end….

The Prodigal Blogger

Well here we are in November and not a word has been uttered for several months. Life got away on me a bit…starting with a chronically overgrown garden and finishing with a string of Open Days and a new baby in the family.

Priorities have had to be made and unfortunately my poor website was the loser!

I am told by “those that know these things” that we are going to have a terrible drought again this Summer, but as it’s still Spring I guess, it’s been raining a fair bit still. On the other hand we’ve had lots of glorious days, including last Sunday for our big November day. Despite the continual inundations for pretty much a whole year, the plants that didn’t die are looking pretty good this season. The soil is rather impacted in places, continuous underwaterness has taken it’s toll, so replanting has involved a lot of extra work. First removing the acres of very happy buttercup, then forking the soil and adding some pumice and sheep manure to try and return the soil to its previous friability. Overall I seem to be winning, and the new plants are going for it.

Gorgeous Centifolia La Rubanee

I have lost a sad amount of roses this last year. Some are old grafted plants and I think all the wet tipped them over. Others have died for no apparent reason. If I have a cutting grown plant well and good, the original is replaced, but unfortunately there are many I have never managed to cajole into growing their own roots, and these may well be lost forever as so many of the old varieties are no longer available.

Glorious rosacious November gardens

It’s not that I haven’t got enough roses…at this time of year, I can look out absolutely every window in the house, big or small and see some rose or many flowering its heart out!

Nevertheless its sad to lose old friends…We live and learn, some of us more slowly than others! The lesson I have learned relatively recently , is to keep a cutting grown plant early on in the proceedings. What appears to be very vigorous and easy to grow can weaken and no longer provide good cutting wood.

Intriguing single Gallica, La Belle Sultane

and so , on with the show…February MUST be published! and every month there-on.

The alleged drought has made for the best Summer garden weather you could ask for. Sure, it’s a drought compared to last year as we’ve had lots of hot (often too hot for me) sunny days, but interspersed with rain events that have kept things growing like bejesus. Hay and baleage production has been unprecedented, all the farmers have grass coming out their ears and like many in the district, the men folk here have spent a lot of time on tractors topping paddocks to try to get some control of them. And the weeds in them!!! Like the gardens, the paddocks got overrun by weeds in the big wet last year.

The gardens have thrived this season past. The roses put on a great show, as well as the Irises. Currently the Hydrangeas are spectacular, although mine are all bluer than ever, even the pink and white ones, which indicates I should spread another dose of lime with the Autumn fertiliser.

My gardening duties are constantly waylaid by events…I broke my foot in the New Year, tripped up the steps in some unsuitable footwear…I currently have a nasty headcold which I caught by foolishly leaving the garden for long enough to go shopping. This has slowed productivity down too.

Speaking of productivity, the vegetable garden is a hive of it this season…currently preserving tomatoes left right and centre. Great potato crop brought in, ditto pumpkins and the cucurbits are waaaay out of control. Thank goodness for non-gardening visitors and hungry chickens!

Other than coping with veg surplus, my present obsession is finding/making places in the garden to plant the odd new rose…Having learnt that Tasman Bay roses, with young James at the helm, is moving, to start afresh nearby, I decided to make a really big order as there will be none available for the next 2-3 years from them. Hence, quite a few new, or replacement roses for me, and a lot of grafted plants available in the nursery this Winter.

The roses and perennials are really going for it this Summer. Lots of new basal shoots at last to boost the older weakening rose bushes, which is very good to see. It bodes well for strong cutting wood in the Autumn. The Salvias have great happiness and along with the Asters are filling the gardens with colour. Over in the “Hot Garden” the late Summer/Autumn perennials and annuals are huge and making a big bright impact. The sunflowers have been particularly impressive.

One side of the Hot Border in December

So that is about what you can get for the first blog in a while. It is imperative that I publish it and not save to complete or it may never happen!!! After a Summer break from full on Open Days, we are planning one for the end of Feb. The nursery is bursting and we have a lot of interesting roses available. Adios

Perennials and Sunflowers reaching for the sky with some old drip spoiling the pic…


“The Night Comes Down”

“The Night Comes Down”

I’m pretty sure that’s a title of a Queen song…my dear Cousin, who shares my borderline obsession, says they’re better than Shakespeare for offering suitable sayings! Oh dear, aren’t we sad…

In this case, referring to the approach of the Shortest Day, the Winter Solstice. Climatically this is the start of Winter, despite being nagged by people that Winter starts on 1 June, I find this fact to be the truth. Just as Summer really starts on the longest day in December. It makes Winter so much more bearable, when, as it starts, the damned short days start to stretch imperceptibly on a daily basis.

Obviously our Winter days are incredibly long compared to those in really Northern or Southern locations…for instance the Poles! Northern and Southern Poles that is, although I’m sure the days are also relatively shorter for the people in Poland. Even those friends and family in the South Island of our own country have a shortest day nearly an hour shorter than us. However, ours are short enough for me, especially on a drear day like today.

Still, frosty Winter mornings…the stuff that dreams are made of. Sadly we aren’t having many of these this Winter…

My daughter has just told me I can’t complain about the amount of rain we had in the night, as we’ve just enjoyed an unprecedented 10 fine days! I beg to differ, having just been reminded of what life can be like without non stop rain! Things dried up really well, with some nice frosts to help things along, and gardening suddenly felt like fun again.

Now however we have descended back to the non stop rain and flooding. It doesn’t take much to cause a flood these days, but we’re getting much anyway. Bla bla bla weather!

To be honest there’s not much else to talk about at the moment. We’ve had to start feeding out to the cattle, which causes mind blowingly deep mud with the tractor…the buggies can hardly get around the hills. Garden tasks are carried out in brief finer spells. I bought a ton of lime to dress all the gardens with. I think the constant flooding has leeched all the nutrients and soured our already acidic soil further, giving rise to the buttercup takeover. This isn’t something one can do in the rain as the lime quickly turns to sludge and then concrete! I’m also fertilising all the roses etc with a healthy dollop of sheep manure and chemical fert. Hoping for some early Spring growth to happen, to compensate for the lack of Autumn action.

I recently was reading my garden diary from last year (it’s very hit and miss, but interesting none the less) and at this time complaining of the lack of Autumn basal shoots on the roses…it had been too dry…So that makes 2 seasons running where the roses have not put on any growth in the Autumn. It’s no wonder so many of them are looking “thin”. Here’s hoping for a miraculous Spring!

What Blackboy (climbing Tea rose) looked like in June 2021. NOT what it looks like this June!

I know that some of the roses are usually still making a bit of a show in June, but this year they’re looking pretty over everything! Even the Teas aren’t offering much.

The Winter flowering shrubs seem unaffected, the camellias, Micaelyas and Gordonias seem happy enough. I guess they all like rain and acid soil, so there you go! As for the Citrus, they have mega happiness with very large fruit. The early easy peel mandarin had all its fruit rot on the tree tho, before they were quite ripe. Very stinky…

Oh blast, June is well over and this blog is still unfinished. As usual the problem is an IT one which I am always quite unable to fix…for some reason the website is suddenly saying the photos from my iphone are too big to download. They’re just the same as they’ve always been, so who knows? Certainly not me. I’ll just have to put in some old or dumb photos and get this blog published. I urgently need to get on with some “sold out” updates on the roses pages as the orders are coming in thick and fast and I’m selling out of everything!

So that’s it for June! Usually one of my favourite months of the year, but another to be glad to have got through this year! I’m really hoping July is going to be better!

Autumn Joy!

Autumn Joy!

Autumn is shaping up to be a lot more acceptable than Summer…we have had a fair amount of Autumn rain but in acceptable quantities now. It’s quite funny reading last years diaries for Autumn, so excited to get 20 mils of rain at a time to water the parched ground. This year it’s more like “we’ve only had 56 mils of rain in the last week, bonus!”

It has certainly been an interesting 6 months. Watering times have been at a minimum, but the other end of the stick is weeding times… Never, in 40 years of gardening have I battled (and lost) the weed war to such an extent. As I crouched under a rose bush last week, hacking at buttercup roots, my mind was weighing up the pros and cons of country gardening. Country gardening is all I’ve ever done really. I’ve had 2 gardens in my life to date, both encompassed within a farm. There are so many advantages, like having the space to steal another cow/horse paddock when the mood takes you, and the availability of paddocks on the other side of the fence of every garden where weeds can be chucked for the stock to pick over at a later date… However the down side of being surrounded by paddocks is the paddocks encroaching on the gardens in all directions. Buttercup, dock, sheep sorrel and of course, grass are constantly spreading thru the fences and overtaking the gardens.

Alberic Barbier, one of the many generous Wichuriana Ramblers

I do have some experience in “town gardens”, from tending those of family and friends, and whilst any garden anywhere can be full of nasty weeds, I feel the typical paddock weeds can be a lot more over powering. Number one on my hate list this season has to be buttercup…it loves the damp and at this time of year is usually straggly and easy to pull out, if not indeed dead. This season it has taken on new proportions in it’s extreme happiness. Some of the plants are more than 2 feet tall with leaves the size of…something bigger than buttercup! It is also extremely strongly rooted in the ground and very hard on arthritic fingers to dig out.

Buttercup is just one among many that has thrived in this saturated season we have had. I see I ranted about the wet weather for pretty much my whole last blog, so I’ll change the subject to something more interesting…

Hmmm, guess it’s going to be about roses as this is supposedly a rose website. It’s the time of year to be getting heavily into making cuttings. I’ve actually already done quite a large amount in the late Summer and early Autumn as conditions somehow felt right and I was hoping for grand results. Cuttings growing is a great leveller and alas most of them have already died…they die a lot quicker at the growy time of year! However a few always grow and often some of the more recalcitrant numbers.

Speaking of which I’ll elaborate on the different families of roses and which I find easier to grow from cuttings.

5’s. (These are the most reliable rooters. Most will take almost any time of year with pretty high success rates)

Multiflora and crosses, Wichuriana crosses. This encompasses a large proportion of the rambling roses, plus some bushes which are multiflora X like de la Grifferie and The Active

Polyanthas are a very helpful family of roses

4’s (This group is pretty generous at the right time of year and can be successful at the wrong time of year)

Most of the Polyanthas and some of the Chinas

3’s (This group will reliably grow at least one or 2  from a bunch more often than not)

Other Chinas, a lot of the Teas, helpful Rugosas, Gallicas, some of the species’ most of the Hybrid Musks

2’s ( This group is highly unpredictable , no guarantees here)

These are the probably biggest group, including the Hybrid Perpetuals, Damasks, Portlands, recalcitrant Teas and all the Modern Hybrids. This last includes the David Austin hybrids.

Pimpinellifolias, really wild looking roses, but unwilling to ever grow from a cutting

1’s ( skip and dance if one of these takes)

Some roses like pimpinellifo;ias will almost never take from a cutting, even tho they sucker like mad things on their own roots. Albas, Mosses and Bourbons are also very stubborn. There are always exceptions to each group as most roses are multiple crosses. Noisettes are also often seemingly impossible, with a few exceptions which are rampant weeds…

Whilst there are many roses in my garden I have been trying to root for well over 20 years on a regular basis, I shan’t give any an 0, as I live in hope that one day it will happen!!

On that ever hopeful note I will leave you for now. It is currently raining hard and forecast to keep it up for the next 10 days. High temperatures too, so the buttercup will be even happier…





Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser…

Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser…

Well, it’s March now, 2023 marches on, and technically Autumn is upon us. Autumn usually follows Summer, but in this case it appears to be tacked onto the veeeeeery long Spring. I know other parts of the country have experienced some Summer, but bar a few small collections of sunny days with a bit of Summer heat, we have made it to March unscathed by burning sun or even steamy humidity. Temperatures have remained pleasant, I’ve only turned on my brand spanking new ac unit 3 times! Even the biggest heat wuss in the world has mostly got by without having to hide in the house from 9-5 everyday…

Instead we’ve just had a tad of rain. I’m thinking something in the region of three quarters of a metre this summer, quite possibly a metre. I’ve lost count of the events, but I know we had around 350 in Hale, which was the biggest fall for us. We really dodged the bullet with Gabrielle, only 115 mils of rain and a few blown over trees. We get them anytime. Most of the other farms my husband manages around Auckland and the Waikato fared worse, but nothing like the poor folks in so many other North Island locations.

Crazed Summer Border

Main result is a mixture of crazy growth alongside a lot of untimely deaths. What dies when it rains this much in Summer? Answer is pretty much all grey foliaged plants, for a start. Grey foliage often equates to drought tolerantness (yes Word, I know that’s not a word) which equates to dying when one is waterlogged all summer.

My main rose/perennial borders are relatively low lying and tend to pool water in Winter after heavy rain…or possibly all Spring/Summer. This has led to the demise of many shrubby perennials. Most of the lavender have been dumped, along with the majority of the modern daisies. A small aside about said modern hybrids…In large, they keep none of the attributes their originators, the Marguerite  daisies flaunt. They are drought intolerant, frost intolerant (that was a surprise in the unseasonal October frost we had in ’22), hard prune intolerant and what do you know, flood intolerant. They have fallen in droves in the last 14 months, whilst the 4 old cultivars I grow (2 different white, 1 double pink and 1 double yellow) carry on whatever the weather. However, there are exceptions…these miniaturised, hybridised daisies have been around for about 25 years now, and over the years of  buying and growing every new one I came upon in a garden centre, I have a few that have totally stood the test of time. Some that had passed all the endurance tests up till this summer, have unfortunately fallen at the last hurdle…the Noah floods of  ’22/’23. However, there are still a few left and these get the giant tick of approval from me and will be the ones I continue making cuttings of and sharing around. Many of the “latest” might as well be potted colour!

That was a long rant….on with the show. So whilst some of the Autumn stalwarts have fallen, others are saying whilst they are built to withstand the dry heat of Autumn, give them a metre of rain and they will flourish! The asters are Number One on this list in my garden this Autumn. They are magnificent! So too the Dahlias and nearly all the Salvias. Excepting those with grey leaves…they are either dead or struggling.

I now have a new list of  “double tick plants”. These are those who survive drought and flood. It’s not a long list, but guess who’s at the top? Roses of course. They are certainly the toughest of the tough and survive whatever the crazy weather throws at them….I have to say a lot of my old fashioneds in the top of the border are in danger of disappearing in the sea of Asters and Salvias, but I’m sure in a month or so when I cut back the offenders they’ll be just fine underneath. The lack of humidity this Summer has probably saved the disease prone of this genus, as there was little enough spraying opportunities.

Surprise stars from the flood…Sedums!

We are currently experiencing true Autumn weather…lovely sunny days, interspersed of course with a few sprinkles of rain, just to keep the crazed growth going. I have never, in my nearly 40 years of farming, ever known grass growth like we are currently dealing with! Moving cows and horses is pretty much about giving them a change of scenery rather than feeding them. And the lawns just keep on growing! Lawn mowing has been a twice weekly occurrence this season, no break since September!   So the upsides are many…no garden watering necessary and the Nursery has been comparatively easy this Summer. Losing a lot of plants to the sog is a bummer, but lucky for me I am usually making cuttings of things to on sell, so oftentimes I haven’t lost the plant at all.  We also have found a plethora of plants in the bargain bins at the local Garden Centres as clearly there have been many holiday weekends which have not lent themselves to pottering in the garden. Sorry guys, your loss is our gain!    That’s probably enough waffle for now, so I’ll love you and leave you.

December Cheer? or Drear…?

December Cheer? or Drear…?

November has passed seamlessly into December, with little change in anything. The rain and wind continues, the rain infinitely more bearable than the wind. This morning it is raining pleasantly and thankfully the hurricane force winds in evidence for the last few days have dropped in the night. I’m happy to say the temperatures have stayed at quite bearable levels so far, but Summer is of course, yet to come.

Some of the roses have had magnificence, especially the polyanthas which flower later in the season along with the ramblers (from which most are descended) This is Mme Jules Thibaud, another sport of Cecile Brunner, and my opinion the best.

The roses are definitely trying to be magnificent this year, but it’s hard for them to really strut their stuff with constant buffeting from the elements. The Species garden fares better than most in this environment, with many single flowers and hardy types that require less cosseting. I spend quite a bit of time down there at the moment, admiring those that won’t be seen again till next year. There are plenty of roses in the borders which are also once flowerers of course, but they have a sameness about them re colour and form (and scent) whilst the Species are all so different.

A constant task at the moment is the lawns. They are growing very crazily! I have a wonderful Kubota ride on mulcher mower, which makes mowing a pleasure…lucky as I’m having to do it every 3 days at least to keep them under control. If there’s no fine spell available in that time, they grow so much I have to “raise the bar” and cut them longer, or the mulcher can’t handle it. In those instances I have to mow again the next day .

The other busy task in this crazy wet season, is spraying. Of every kind! I’m seeing some really yuk fungus in lots of the roses, even ones I’ve never seen diseased before, so am equally grateful for my 100 litre sprayer on my buggy, so I can get the job done without breaking my back…

OOPS!!!! December has passed seamlessly into January, with little change in anything… I’ve been very slack on the computer of late. It’s not that I don’t have inside time, when the weather insists, which is quite often lately, I just find other things to do. ie make the jigsaw puzzle I got for Christmas, or play word games. I had a feeling I had started something a while ago and not completed the job!

What can you say about this growing season? Only that it has been raining pretty much non stop since June. Daily drizzle and soft rain, interspersed with days of hurricane winds, thunder storms, cyclones and then some more rain. The sun came out for our Open Day last Sunday, it was unbelievably hot! I’m not prepared for the sun! Then we had 20 mil of rain in the night to keep things in perspective. My gardens are pretty rampantly out of control at present, I’m currently working at weeding and amending them a little at a time. Also planting things in the gaps I produce, which is not something one would usually be doing in January, but we’re having a very extended planting season this year!

I thought considering how unusual it is to have as much Summer rain as we’ve had, it would be interesting to point out what’s happy and what’s not. Lots of things clearly like a lot of rain…1. All the Liliums and Callas, including the Day Lilies.  I’ve never seen them so big and flowery. 2. The Begonias, tuberous and woody, in pots and in the garden. They are ecstatic! 3. The Dahlias. Huger and happier than ever before (i discovered they were from Mexico, so that explains it) 4. The Pulmonerias, Astilbes (of course) and Heucheras. 5. The Hydrangeas, no surprise, are having a bumper season. 6. The vast majority of the Salvias, including the really drought tolerant ones. Alice and I did a “salvia survey” in our gardens last month, and counted 76 I think, between us. What an amazing genus they are. 7. The asparagus. I’ve had trouble keeping up with picking them and have now let them run to fern. I think they’re the only vegetable on the list that has been truly happy.

I know there are countless more happy campers in the garden, but I’m sick of that side of the coin now and am moving onto things that aren’t happy…1. All the vegetables except the asparagus (the beans are pretty good too) 2. The roses are having a lot of trouble opening acceptable blooms, although a lot of them are growing vigorously despite the lack of sun. 3. Annuals. a lot of these are lying sideways following fast growth and terrible winds. All my cosmos and antirrhinums have crashed, and the Sunflowers had to be picked up off the floor and staked. A lot of the annuals which would usually shed their petals and keep looking chipper with no input, have dead or rotten flowers clinging on, which really lessens their appeal.

These Hollyhocks were a bit too happy and grew to about 3 m high . The seeds were harvested from a Cathedral garden in the city where the same plants have been growing for more than a century, imported from Europe with the Clergy. They seem a lot hardier than modern varieties and a lot less rust prone.

So I better stop talking now and publish this long overdue missive. It is actually not raining this morning! Though there are showers available for anyone who’s missing them. I have hung out a large load of washing in the spirit of hope…

We have a lot of roses still available, quite a few new Old Fashioneds I haven’t grown before, so I’d recommend buying a lot and planting them in this SUPER growing Summer!

It’s November – All on in the garden!

It’s November – All on in the garden!

As promised I’m attempting to get this blog out before the month runs out and the Silly Season descends. I need to give my slightly decrepit body a break between bouts of activity, so I can sit for a bit and write something. Really I should be emailing people waiting to hear about orders, but hey, there are many things that need doing, both inside and out.

The main theme of November is flowers! Everything is flowering and it’s hard to get around to look at everything often enough. We have had a continuing theme of rain, which has been a pretty long theme. The growth is astronomical, lawns need mowing twice a week to keep them down, weeds appear the minute you turn your back and are gigantic and flowering almost immediately.

We were very lucky on Sunday to have a lovely morning for the Open Day. Latecomers copped some torrential rain! and some didn’t make it at all due to the road being closed mid morning for a fatal motorbike accident down the road a bit. Very bummed for people who had travelled quite a way to come and missed out. If that was you, feel free to contact me and you can come any day by appointment.

Photo to the left is the Hybrid Musk garden, which is underplanted with Species Geraniums, which are all booming at this time of year. They are such underrated plants, you almost never see them in the garden centres, and yet they are ever so hardy and un-needy and put on such a show in Spring and Summer. This is also home to the goldfish pond and lots of Japanese and Siberian Irises flank this. They are looking to be going to put on a good show this season, as opposed to the Bearded irises in my garden, which seem to have few and small blooms for the most part. Not sur what that’s about, I gave them a good Spring feed and was expecting great things. Other things of interest in November are many of the flowering shrubs. None are as impressive as the deciduous Azaleas, with their profusion of blooms on bare stems.


Rocking October

Rocking October

If you’re a Spring or Summer plant in the garden, October is your busiest month. Everyone is rushing around madly, fighting for space and a spot in the sun. What we call weeds join in merrily, despite best efforts of deep down weeding and immediate mulching in the Winter. This makes October a real busy time for gardeners too…not only do you need many hours per day to peer closely at every patch to observe new buds and flowers appearing, but also all that new weeding and amending that needs doing so you can see what you want to see when you do your peering!

I love October, the last of the Spring bulbs are still with us and the aquilegias come out in force, along with the first of the Bearded Irises and all those other lovely cottagey plants like Astilbes, Pulmonerias and Geraniums. Not to mention the wonderful Dianthus…what a genus they are! Wee-ll I’ve really missed the October boat and the garden has rocked on into November…I will endeavour to make 2 posts this month to catch up…

So October is done and dusted, we had Open Days over Labour weekend, and as usual the weather gods smiled on us and we had 2 lovely days of visitors. Sunday was a tad hot, but no-one (except me) was complaining. The big weather news for October, besides some bouts of torrential rain (normal) was 2 days of frost.(definitely not normal for us in October) Much of the more Southern parts of NZ were blanketed in snow (including my sister’s garden on the coast at Banks Peninsular) but we just had about 4 days of Winter type cold and 2 days of light frost. Doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, does it? But the fact is the garden was in full Spring growth and was expecting neither frost nor the Spanish Inquisition (that was for Monty Python fans only) Hence things I have never seen affected by frost before (eg hydrangeas! and many of the “cold hardy” Salvias) not to mention the daisies, alstroemerias  and pelargoniums took a major hit and looked positively ugly for a time. It was no big deal, it soon warmed up and the garden has moved on past its burned leaves now, but I was pleased that I hadn’t banished too many plants from the safety of the glasshouse.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

One genus of plants that certainly don’t mind a bit of frosting is the ethereal looking, but incredibly hardy aquilegias. I like to buy seeds of any new types I see for sale in the seed catalogues, and they mix together and produce all sorts and sizes of plant and flower. I regularly cull the plain purple ones, preferably as soon as they start to flower, to stop them crossing with the more desirable types, it’s a real melting pot! I’m very attracted to mass plantings of these “granny bonnets” and they last really well in a vase as well. Their invasiveness and difficultness to dig out are something I’m willing to put up with to see the picture they make in October and early November.

Another “garden event” in October here was the arrival of a “tiny house” past the house and deposited in the paddock behind the nursery. It was no mean feat getting it there and had to be postponed due to major rain events a couple of times. The truck with the hiab on was the biggest truck I have ever seen! and had to inch past the house, involving much tree pruning and some fence removal. The house itself came thru the paddock towed by a large farm tractor, and was lowered into place successfully. It’s a bit of an eyesore for the moment, but with some decks going on and fences and trees planted it should look respectable and will be some alternative accommodation should we need it…

On a final belated note for October I must mention that some of the roses have made quite an impact in October, not least a rose that is relatively new to me, Bourbon Queen. I somehow just never appropriated this one, until a friend gave me a plant of it a couple of years ago. I had dug it up due to crowding and had it in a pot over the Winter, from where it started to delight all from late September. What a beauty, and the fragrance fills the air! Now I just need to find a suitably large space for it to reside in…


Spring has Sprung!

Spring has Sprung!

September is in it’s last week now, and I think the Woes of Winter are forgotten. However we are having a very wet Spring! Surprise, surprise! We’ve managed some lovely days tho, including today. I’m currently wasting a perfect Spring day doing updates and playing word games on the computer, but it’s just an extended breakfast break after some early weeding and mulching.

We also scored a lovely day for our Open Day last weekend. We seem to specialise in getting  luck weather for these events, (shouldn’t say that, it might pour all Labour weekend now) and last Sunday was a pearl among very average days before and after. We had a bumper turnout, a bit hectic n the first couple of hours as everyone seems to come early to be first in on the grab stakes !

This little darling called Wanganui Gem is usually the first of the Irises to flower. Often the last too, she flowers multiple times a season

We are planning our next days for the Sunday and Monday of Labour weekend. By then the gardens will really be booming and the roses on the cusp of magnificence. We will also be having another 1 in November when the magnificence really hits. On the rose front that is, there’s plenty of other magnificence starting to happen now…the Bearded Irises are running up their flower buds, the early Clemati are opening and various perennials like my favourite – aquilegias, are sending up their flower heads.

The roses are leafing up well, and many are having what I call “can’t wait for Rose Time” flowers. The bush may be only partially clothed, but flowers are opening on the tips. This seems especially true of the Hybrid Perpetuals this season.

indica major
Indica Major, a species China rose. A “once flowerer” that starts flowering in September and carries on to December. A real toughie that can thrive in any conditions

Roses in September are a rare sight, bar the few very early flowering species like the Banksias, fortuniana, Park’s Tea Scented, Indica Major  etc, but this season the Teas are still flowering from Winter, instead of taking a quick 5 between Winter and Spring flushes and many of the repeat flowerers have a few or even many flowers on them. Crazy stuff!

As usual, I finished my Winter tasks in the nick of time, getting around all the roses with a dousing of fungicide, eco oil and for the leafy ones some Nitrosol Marine. I try to include this in my tank as it serves dual purposes of feeding the growth and deterring pests from munching on it. Pruning is something I don’t really go in for as most of the roses I grow come in the “shrub” category and don’t really need it. I do try to tidy the bushes up a bit and give the occasional necessary attack prune to candidates who require it. As my roses get intermittent “pruning” thru the year in the quest for cutting wood, I only bother with some cutting out of dead wood and tidying at pruning time.

Last Summer I went systematically around the old David Austins making cuttings with the “trimmings” as I went. It was quite a mammoth several day enterprise (there are well over 100 of them) which mostly resulted in pots full of dead cuttings. However I did get some interesting “takes” including a few I’ve never managed to grow before, so that made the whole prickly endeavour worthwhile…

I’m currently in the midst of potting up Autumn cuttings which have rooted and have some good results, so should have some new kids on the block available soon.

Other things of note in the garden are the Spring bulbs, which are having a really outstanding show this season. I’ve never seen so many flowers on the various daffodils , the earlies have been and gone, but there’s still lots intermingling with the Irises, Spraxias and Friesias. Snails are quite a problem with these, chewing the flowers, often when still in the bud. I don’t like to broadcast too much slug bait around with the resident dog population, and to a large extent rely on late night forays with a light and gumboots to control the population. Unfortunately my main bulb area is a bit of a wilderness and not easy to find and crush the culprits…In daylight when I’m weeding, I often find giant caches of the slimy mongrels hiding around pots or on certain plants. I gather these for my hungry chooks! They love a good snail fest.

Hard to believe the lawn will ever look like this again…but of course it will, just as soon as the blessed rain stops!

I’m running out of September now, and running out of things to say, except its raining again and we have a heavy rain warning out for tomorrow, the first day of October. Sigh, every time it dries up a bit, it rains some more! Ah well, better that than a drought, and I won’t have to water the pots and the nursery after all!

Wettest Winter on record!

Wettest Winter on record!
Very few frosts this Winter, too busy raining…

Well on my records anyway. I believe Kaiaua officially recorded 347 mil of rain for the month of July, and guess what???August ain’t looking a lot better. To be fair we had 2 nice patches of frosty fine weather and things dried up a lot, but in between many more rain events, one of which we’re currently living through. Still, we’re a lot better off than the top and west coast of the South Island, one can only look on the bright side! One of which is bright for Auckland’s coming Summer, as the Hunua dams, situated about a km up the road from us, are overflowing for the first time in many many years, so hopefully the Auckland gardeners will be able to squander water on veg and roses this coming Summer!

August is well past half over and that means we are mere days away from Spring…eeek! I am so behind with my Winter tasks. I like to give all the roses a good drench in fungicide once a year while they’re resting in Winter and I’m afraid that mightn’t happen this season. Maybe we’ll get some fine days next week and thankfully I now have a 100 litre tank on my buggy which I can fill up and whizz around without having to hump tanks on my back. It will need to dry up a bit first though.

The violets are all doing their thing in August

Then there’s the Winter weed and amendment. Usually my darling daughter lends me a hand with this, but unfortunately it hasn’t been suitable “baby in the garden” weather and she also has her own extensive garden to try to whip into shape, so it’s been pretty much just gimpy old me plugging away a bit at a time. Trailer loads of weeds and trimmings get taken up to the hungry cows who have a great time sifting thru it finding tasty morsels. They like buttercup, believe it or not, and there’s certainly plenty of that on offer! I have plugged my way down the big border and it has been mulched behind me by my garden saviour, Aaron. So that’s one garden tidied. Unfortunately whilst tarrying in bed with a cup of tea the other morning, avoiding getting up and at ’em, I counted my gardens and sadly the total is 18. That’s only counting the 8 beds in the David Austin Garden as 1!!! Luckily that can be controlled to some extent with glyphosate as their is no underplanting between the roses. However, that still leaves 16 filled with weeds and overgrown perennials and shrubs to deal with. If you’re planning on coming to our Spring Open Days, please keep these numbers in mind and be prepared for quite a few “au natural” sights…

Golden elm coming into flower

Then besides the Herculean garden tasks requiring attention, not to mention a lot more horse and cattle work that I usually have to manage alone, there is the ever present NURSERY looming over me. As I weed and prune, I can’t help myself “saving” bits and sticks to pass on to someone in the future and hopefully make a few bucks out of them. This means after every garden session I then need to have a nursery session to process the “bits”. I spent a bit of time down in our magnificent shed this morning. Too wet for weeding, so I got on with potting up rooted rose and perennial cuttings for future sale. Luckily we received a lovely delivery of 7m of prime, slightly damp potting mix from Daltons a couple of weeks ago, so I can pot things up and leave them inside till the weather becomes more inviting for tender roots. We lose quite a proportion of cuttings post potting, and I think too much water has a damning effect on them. To this end I put a lot of the “precious” ones in the glasshouse this Winter to try and avoid this problem. Plenty still die, and one has to remember to water them! Easy to forget during endless rainy days! At this stage I can hardly walk in the door, they’re going to have to leave the building in a week or two to make room for seedling trays.

OH oh…it’s happened again. It’s now August 31st and I haven’t got back to my draft. I’ve been super busy in the garden and nursery, with the first Open Day scheduled for September 18th, less than 3 weeks away! My miserly order arrived from Tasman Bay, not much left available for little old me! I believe there is a general shortage of roses in NZ currently, due to 2 years of bad seasons with Covid keeping budders from Europe out and the casual back packing staff for the lifting also locked out. These things have a lasting knock on effect and many different businesses around the country and indeed the world went out of business – killed by Covid.

Anyway, the good news is our business is doing fine as we don’t rely on anyone outside our bubble. It appears to have been a bumper year for the cuttings and I’m potting up lots of exciting new “takes” every day. In a few weeks when I know they’re going to make it thru the potting process, I’ll spend a bit of time with the perennially out of date website and introduce them. In the meantime the 5th beautiful day in a row (!!!) is beckoning and I must go pull some weeds.


Random photo of one of my favourite Old roses, the Moss, Mme Louis Leveque