Ewen's garden

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

Monday, September 20, 2004


Currently flowering in my vegetable garden are Anemone, Aneomne coronaria ‘de Caen’. These plants grow from corms and are of the Ranunculacae family, the same family as our Mt. Cook lily Ranunculus lyallii, certainly a family with a global presence. The name Anemone comes from the Greek anemos meaning wind and was first coined by a chap called Theophrastus, and so windflower apparently because its flowers open only in the wind-a good thing we have ample spring westerlies! The genus is large, containing some 70 species. A.coronaria in the wild is found from Southern Europe to Central Asia, and it is from this parent the cultivar ‘de Caen’ comes from. The flowers are single and range in colour from bright red through purples to almost blue. There is another cultivar commonly planted and this is A.coronaria ‘St. Brigid’, this being a double form with the same colour range. Other commonly seen
hybrids are of the Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis frequently white but some of pink shades. These anemones are perennial and just need a little trimming back at the end of the season, but will flower over a long period during summer.

When I was young, my mother used to grow Anemone coronaria cv. for the cut flower market in Wellington, her blooms being just that much earlier she could command a better price. Other produce for the Wellington market included mushrooms, which we would all go out and pick, pack into 20lb apple cases and send off on the mail bus. For me, I am happy to enjoy my blooms arranged on our dining table.

I will though, be off under the house shortly, to get all my summer seeds and spring cuttings on the way in my plant propagator. Two years of looking at a bare patch of weed mat is enough! This area of offending weed mat is opposite our front door, I have in mind grasses, flax Phormium sp. and a red cordyline. The cordyline is growing else where in the garden and I hope to be able to take cuttings, fingers crossed! Other cuttings on the “to get” list are hibiscus, as it is time to prune them, it is also a good time to get some hardwood cuttings before the soft new growth appears.

It is interesting how one project leads to another, for with all these new plants, I will need some where to harden them off. So next will be to make myself and wee shade house, a lean-to on the side of my existing clothes line area, mmmmm this may also be a good place to grow some bonsai, something I am keen to give a go, better keep an eye out for suitable cutting material for this project also!

Sunday, September 05, 2004


It would seem spring is on our doorstep again, after noting many trees beginning to burst their buds. With the longer days and hopefully warmer weather things will really start to take off now. One delight I have in my garden is the rampant nasturtium Tropaeolum majus flowering already for a couple of weeks, I let it romp around the place in the vegetable garden as it softens the look of the area and provides added colour and piquancy to a salad. As with many things, the accidental is often more pleasing than the planned and so it is with my nasturtiums. They often assert themselves in surprising style, sending runners out over the edges and down the steps, in a way I could probably never arrange! If they are at risk of over powering other vegetables, out they come, easy.
I hope to introduce more flowers into my vegetable garden scheme, ones which will perpetuate themselves without my assistance and also contribute to my salads. Of these would have to be included, borage Borago officinalis, violets and violas viola sp., pot marigolds Calendula officinalis, sweet bergamot or bee balm Monarda didyma, to name just a few, all of which are suitable for adding to salads. Sweet bergamot M.didyma is one of the ingredients of Earl Grey tea, but equally at home adding a touch of red to fresh salad. The flowers of herbs too can be used in cooking, not least of all rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis and I have often use the blossoms of lemon in dishes.

There can be some good reasons to include flowers in the diet as they often carry with them extra minerals and vitamins. It is well known that coloured vegetables are good for us, particularly red ones, as with red wine, justification enough for me! Encouraging flowers in the vegetable garden also helps the other more conventional vegetables by providing diversity and diversion for pests which would otherwise find a diet of your greens most pleasant. Companion planting makes good sense if not good looks. My theory is monoculture leaves us prone to
devastation from the vagaries of pests and disease not only our crops but also in our diets. If one crop does not do well one season for what ever reason, there is always something else that has surpassed itself and so there is nearly always something for the table.