Ewen's garden

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

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas Holiday

Christmas has found me in the Wairarapa with my family. It is good to have a change from the normal routine of Waiheke Island, if only to reinforce the fact I am happy living where I do, the weather has nothing to do with it! Well may be a little, I do like the mild climate we have on the Island (sure tulips are only treated as an annual and then sent on to my mother's garden in Masterton where the bulbs can recover and continue, hopefully, to bloom another year) where we can grow numerous tender plants my mother can only read about. In contrast to my garden, my mother's garden is a tiny, 1/8 acre, packed to the hilt with any old cottage and perennial plants, many of which would struggle in our subtropical clime of the north. At the moment her garden is bursting with fuschia, lilies roses, nearing the end of their first flush to the more tender things for her grown in pots and hanging baskets in the shelter of a sunny porch.

Tomorrow sees us travel north again through the centre of the North island and back to Waiheke, from where I will now start to post regularly. Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Illawara flame tree Posted by Hello


Just recently I was reading a British gardening magazine, Gardens Illustrated, and it struck me how as they are putting their gardens ‘to bed’ for winter, in a way I do the same for summer here. It is now when water becomes scarce, especially with all this wind, I plant fewer vegetables as the water required to keep them going isn’t worth it. As a result my vegetable patch looks more like an autumnal scene, various vegetables going to seed, the seed of some which I will keep, the rest destined for the compost heap. Some, like the broad beans and the remains of the sugar snap peas I will cut and use as mulch around the few salads destined to be planted shortly, for to have no vegetables would awful. Strawberries are the other crop I am persevering with, who can resist pancakes and strawberries for Sunday brunch. I noticed to day they are currently putting out runners, these will be removed in the winter to make new plants, a bigger strawberry patch is always a better thing!

Of interest in the rest of the garden are a couple of Illawarra flame trees Brachychiton acerfolium just commencing to bloom. The flower are rather small, bright red bell shaped, held in panicles about 20-25cm long. The tree tends to partially defoliate, then produces these panicles of flowers on the tips of the branches. Two of the four specimens I have, are both only bearing flowers on a few branches. The rest of the tree remaining fully clothed in foliage. I look forward to the day when the tree decides (they are remarkably spasmodic in their flowering habits) to flower across the whole of the tree. I have seen specimens thus blooming, no leaves, just a haze of pinkish red, very spectacular. There is a large specimen to be found outside the AUT, in Wellesley street. The genus Brachychiton consists of 11 species of Australian natives recently separated from the genus Sterculia a genus of over 300 species from tropical areas of South America, Asia and Africa. Just shows it pays to cross reference botanical names as they often change and this can lead to confusion! Another of the species worth a mention here is the Queensland bottle tree B. rupestre a rather short spreading tree with a very corpulent trunk, in fact up to 10 metres in girth! The ‘bottle’ is largely a huge water reservoir allowing it to survive in very dry conditions. A specimen of the Queensland bottle tree B. rupestre may be found in the Auckland Domain, at the top end of the duck ponds, adjacent to the hibiscus gardens. (Here too is an example of the Illawarra flame tree) Another tree of similar stature to the Queensland bottle tree B. rupestre is the baobab Adansonia a genus of only three species, one of which is found in Australia, but the other two are from Africa. The Africa genus is commonly found where other vegetation can’t survive. The ability to withstand drought has meant it has been able to out survive other species and in consequence is one of the longest lived species in the world, sometimes living for thousands of years. (So says one of the books I checked in!) The Queensland bottle tree is available here, I planted some specimens in Eden gardens in Epson in the late nineties when I was gardener there, I wonder if they survived? I obtained the specimens from Michael Poulgrain, my plant hunting friend, but I haven’t any idea if he stills has them in his nursery stock, I must find out. As I said before there is another story there.