Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fleeting Blue Beauties

As the Christmas lilies, Lilium longiflorum, fade, so to does this year draw to a close. This is not to say there are no scene stealers in the garden at the moment. The one to catch the eye at present is one I have written about before, but this season it is putting on a great display. The plant in question is Neomarica caerulea, an iris like plant with metre high sword like leaves and sky blue flowers. It is one of fifteen different species and comes from Brazil. The blue flowers, which the camera doesn’t do justice to, are centred with russet and cream tiger stripes and last only a day. Set up the garden steps, as mine is, it appears as if a flight of exotic blue butterflies are hovering, a fleeting but brilliant display, gone by day’s end. These flushes of blooms happen about every couple of days and it continues in this manner for most of the summer. The plant I have was given to me by a friend from Rocky Bay and has established itself happily in my garden on its rhizomatous roots. I pay it no special attention to it and it has slowly grown into a clump no more than 50cm at t he base, these are my kind of plants, the ones to delight with little effort on my part! Certainly my mother visiting for Christmas is envious. I may have to take a small piece off for her to take back to Masterton, but whether it will survive the rigours of a cold winter I don’t know. Although one of my books states they are cold hardy here, but ‘stove’ plants in Europe. (Stove meaning glasshouse) The book also states they are best increased by seed not division, it just goes to show it is worth trying anything to achieve such a wonderful display.
Elsewhere in the garden general maintenance has proceeded, weeds pulled, bamboo chopped and plants rediscovered. I always surprised at the tenacity of plants to survive, just waiting patiently for their owner to cast a little care their way, the rewards are certainly worth it. For example, Mum has just returned from a trek to the top of the garden, to pick some flowers and upon her return discovered a tweedia, Tweedia caerulea, another small plant with star shaped sky blue flowers. I a m sure it was well relieved when she cut away some of the over zealous sencio which was leaning all over it. I did know it was there, just I have been a little busy, like many of us at this time of year, to really look after it. I am sure now it will carry on with a thankful heart.
Well that about sews it up for this year, I hope everyone has a pleasant and happy New Year.

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 17, 2007

Propagating a Kiwi Christmas

While relaxing on the deck during the weekend, my partner was moved to comment on the growth of the yucca Yucca elephantipes, sending up new branches from its severed top. This plant is one I propagated from an earlier specimen which had fallen and smashed its pot. The stump is planted out in the ground, the middle section is now in the pot on the deck and the growing tip has also been planted out in the garden, three new plants from the one. My first yucca was given as a branch for our house warming some seven odd years ago and placed in a pot, now we have five plants from this original branch. When I doing my apprenticeship we used to propagate yucca by cutting up the trunk into short sections, these were then split lengthwise and placed in sand, cut side down. These block cuttings sere placed in a warm glass house with bottom heat and soon enough buds would shoot away, and we would have a whole lot more new plants. This is vegetative reproduction, cloning, all the offspring being identical to the parent plant. The yucca plant is native to Mexico and is aptly suited to the conditions we have here on the Island being well able to handle the dry of our summers. The foliage is bright green and leathery making it wind tolerant but lush looking at the same time. Once the top has been severed new branches appear, and it grows on into a small tree somewhat like the cabbage tree only with more stiff leaves. I envisage propagating enough to make a small line of them towards the bottom of our driveway above which are a selection of aloe and agave. All these plants share the similar rosette form of foliage, but with different growth habits grown in close proximity to one another should make an interesting sight.
Being the festive season naturally I have some Christmas lilies Lilium longiflorum in flower at the moment. These bulbs form quite long stems and have clusters of almost pure white trumpets with a good scent. They make excellent cut flowers and are sold quite commonly at this time of year. Another lily in flower at this time of year also sometimes called the Christmas lily is Lilium regale. This lily also has white trumpets, but the throat is flush gold and the back of the petals has a reddish tinge to it. Both these bulbs are easy to grow in full sun and with plenty of water in well drained soil.
The flowers I am enjoying at the moment and the tuis are the tall flower spikes of the flax, Phormium tenax. I have cut down a number of these to make a kiwi Christmas tree. The black stems and seed pods amongst the dark red flowers look great. My European partner wants kiwi icons for Christmas, not tinsel and snow! Merry Christmas!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 03, 2007

An exotic subtropical beauty producing pendulous racemes of flowers

After a scorching week in the Wairarapa, followed by another with a shallow promise of rain by Friday, I took to my hose. My primary targets were recently planted specimens, mostly climbers.
Of these two were thunbergias, Thunbergia mysorensis, and T. grandiflora ‘Alba’. The genus of thunbergia is quite large containing some 100 species and named for Dr. Karl Pehr Thunberg, 1743 -1822. He was a traveller in Batavia and Japan, afterwards Professor of Botany at Uppsala Sweden; so my ‘Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, 1956 edition tells me. Would that I could afford the latest edition, not republished until the early 1990s, but mine is still a very dependable dictionary in four volumes. Back to the thunbergias, There is a species lending itself to my garden almost in the manner of a weed, black-eyed Susan, T. alata. The flower is easily recognised by the bright orange petals centred with a black spot hence the common name. I don’t mind it spreading itself around the largely as yet uncultivated parts of the garden, I have shrubs growing which will eventually block the sun from these sun loving vines and stifle it.
The first of the thungbergia I was out to water was T. mysorensis, a rather exotic subtropical beauty producing pendulous racemes of flowers. The flower emerges from russet sepals to expose horizontally held petals of yellow splashed with red. Strangely they remind me of a group of singers with their mouth agape in full chorus! This vine has been planted to climb amongst the branches of the pride of Bolivia tree, Tipuana tipu, from where the blooms will eventually dangle from above over t he path beneath.
The other Thunbergia, T. grandiflora ‘Alba’ I have only seen in photos from books on tropical gardens. Despite this I have planted one in the garden. The flowers are white, quite large and hang in racemes much as the T. mysorensis. The flowers are very similar to the Bengal clock vine T. grandiflora of which I have one slowly establishing itself over the water tank. My T. g. ‘Alba’ I anticipate launching itself into the limbs of the black wattle form where it can hang its blooms for visitors to see as they approach the house.
The other vine I watered was the bridal wreath vine, Stenphenotis floribunda. The clusters of highly scented white flowers on this twiner are prized in the floristry, mostly as the common name suggests for the wedding industry. I have seen once a specimen on the hand rail of a deck in Rocky Bay flowering prolifically. Mine will hopefully one day put itself amongst the karo, Pittosporum crassifolium. Adjacent to this I have a small bench, the perfect spot to enjoy the perfume from these small star shaped clusters.
Planting climbers I believe adds and an extra dimension to a garden, providing interest and an encouragement to lift ones gaze from one's feet.

Labels: , , , , , ,