Ewen's garden

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

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Reluctantly I have just returned to the computer from resting on one of my recent additions to the garden, a seat. It was while I was planting in a new part of the garden, I realised the perfect position for a simple seat to catch the morning sun. It is close to the house and sheltered by a vigorous bamboo hedge, a perfect spot for a sunny morning repose with coffee.

The garden I am creating here is on a rather steep sunny slope facing almost directly north. I have chosen do use mostly Mediterranean plants in hues of silver and grey, with cream, yellow, mauve and deep blues. Amongst the plants I have received from my mother are many bearded iris, iris reticulata and sedums. Another new plant has come to me from a friend, Neomarica caerulea a plant similar to iris, and indeed from the same family. These beauties are not for cutting and bringing indoors, but carry sky blue flowers opening in daily succession. An added bonus is the striking strap like leaves, a feature of the plant all year. Other plants include; a white cistus, miniature forms of Sisyrinchium, one white the other mauve, Lychnis with its silvery leaves and white or purple flowers, Euphorbia sp. and pride of Madeira Echium sp. which will send up tall purple spires at the top end of this new garden. Bisecting all this is a small new path and series of steps terminating at my new seat.

This new seat is simply a treated piece of timber placed upon a couple of concrete blocks, something even I can make happen! I am always looking for places in the garden where I might like to perch and take in the scenes before me. So, another seat has gone in at the top side of this very same garden to take advantage of the setting sun. It is a spot I noticed after sitting in the top garden and having watched the sun vanish from up there to discover on my return to the house there was yet another place still flooded with sun, rude not to put a seat there. Like the sun at this time of the year, a garden should be to be enjoyed and to do this I think it is important to have places everywhere from which to sit and absorb it. Equally important is taking the time out to just sit.

Another spot waiting for a seat is beneath an Illawarra flame tree, Brachychiton acerifolium. Here I am planning my fragrant garden. Already flourishing is a Brugmansia cv. ’Noel’s Blush’ and recently shifted Luculia grandifolia, to this are to be added Gardenia and frangipani Plumeria sp. In my propagating unit I have also just germinated a couple of seeds of the moonflower Calonyction aculeatum one of these I hope to grow on the trunk of the Illawarra flame tree, it having a twining habit. The flowers will hopefully then unfurl in the dusk next to my seat and release thier intoxicating scent. The other I plan to grow in a pot on the table on the deck so we don’t entirely miss out on the wonderful performance of the opening buds. So there is plenty for me to do, and the sun is shining.

Friday, August 12, 2005


What a wonderful bout of fine weather we have just had. It is tempting to consider winter over, but a glance at the situation map shows a very deep depression to the southwest of the country, and so maybe one more Antarctic blast before the sun shines again. My wee self sewn dwarf beans are still flowering; I haven’t the heart to pull them up, just in case we manage maybe one feed off them before anyone else! I am though hesitating before starting anything like runner beans yet as the average temperatures need to be a little higher I think.

With runner beans in mind, I have nailed up some posts in the corners of one of my pathways, the idea to grow the beans up the posts, and then have the beans growing across fishnet (which I have as yet to locate). In this way the beans will be easily picked from beneath the draped net, while providing shade for the rest of the vegetable garden. Poles have also been placed to take cucumber plants which will hopefully grow across a rope over a seat, behind which will drape the bird net over the strawberries.

Other areas to get the fishnet will be in the far corner of the top terrace, where I have establishing a tropical passion vine Passiflora ligularis. This vigorous vine has large heart shaped leaves and edible fruit produced in the spring. The idea of the fishnet is to create the effect of fabric being draped across these corners to provide shade and also a climbing support for the vine. The same will be provided in the kiwi fruit vine. Now all I need is some fishnet…….

My other major project is still at a standstill, the bog garden. My fourth attempt to repair the hole in the plastic has failed, and so now in desperation I am on the look out for a water tight container to place inside what is supposed to a small pond. The area around this will then be filled with soil into which the container will over flow. Planted with such things that relish wet feet, mondo grass Ophiopogon japonicus and maybe the native Gunnera prorepens. G. prorepens is a tiny ground hugging plant related to the giant South American species Gunnera manicata. The New Zealand species won’t present a problem with leaves of up to one and half metres in diameter! I have read recently of the South American species becoming a pest on some west coast areas of both islands. It appears it establishes itself very well to these precipitous places and spreads along stream banks. So much a problem in some areas that it is now listed as a noxious weed, where by it is now illegal to grow and sell the plant. Not much chance of the wee native being a threat with leaves only a few centimetres in size, you are lucky to even spot it and keep it alive in our dry conditions. An added bonus with the native species are small drupes of raspberry like fruits.

The sun is shining again, and I should be out there with my spade making ready more ground for a box of plants which has arrived from my Mother!