Ewen's garden

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


What a great weekend this was! Firstly the weather turned out to be wonderful and secondly there some interesting things to be doing out and about. Saturday a friend and I drove about the island from Rocky bay to the Everything Olive Festival where we were treated to some delicious morsels and a pleasant relax on the lawn while listening to some live entertainment. From here it was on to the ‘Garden Gurus’ grand launch. Dino and Andrea have a fabulous selection of garden ornaments, furniture and water features. All this with more music and a glass of bubbles made for a great social occasion. I have to say I was impressed by how much work they have put into making their garden look so good in such a short space of time.

It was while we were out and about I couldn’t help noticing the manuka Leptospermum scoparium flowering everywhere on the hills and along the sides of the road. When I was young manuka L. scoparium was considered scrub, which I guess it is basically, but a very attractive one if you ask me. Manuka L. scoparium has a very definite role in nature, being known as a pioneer plant. These pioneers colonise land disturbed in nature by erosion or other natural events where soil is left exposed. The young scrub soon takes hold and then provides shelter for the birds who in turn deposit the seeds of the larger forest trees. No better place is this displayed than the revegetation schemes in place down at Matiatia.

In the garden, there are many forms available from double flowers to colours from pure white through pink and red. When picked and brought inside, the blooms and leaves have a slightly sweet smell, almost pine like. One place worth a look for manuka L. scoparium specimens is at the Manurewa botanical gardens. Here there is a wonderful display of a large number of different varieties. They trim them to keep them from becoming too large and also to keep the plants lower so the flowers can be more easily enjoyed. I think the effect of them all together and trimmed, even when not in bloom, is captivating. The foliage seems to froth in shades of dull green to bronze and almost deep red. With this in mind, it surprises me they are not more often used for hedging as I am sure they would make a most unusual and interesting hedge. The other thing in their favour is their tolerance of harsh conditions, cling to dry road side banks and in the full blast of howling salt laden winds. Marvellous recommendations for plant expected to grow in the conditions which largely prevail here on Waiheke. All this and I haven’t even mentioned all the medicinal and cosmetic properties of tea tree, its other common name, and not least of all honey from bees working manuka flowers. By all accounts the latest information is, manuka honey has great anti-viral properties.

I mentioned the other name tea tree, I prefer to use manuka to avoid confusion with the tea tree native to these parts. This tree is a much larger specimen altogether however rather similar in appearance. The botanical name is quite different, Kunzea ericoides. Flowers are much smaller and appear closer to Christmas, but then they are another story.


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