Ewen's garden

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

Monday, June 12, 2006


Well that put paid to any cobwebs we may have had about the place! The garden appears to have survived the tempest with not too much damage. One lady finger banana and a coprosma (self seeded), I can live with that. The banana was weighed down with the burden of its crop; this I had removed the flower bud from some time ago. I will pick the bunch of bananas and wrap them in blue plastic in which they should ripen with any luck. One of my larger bananas, Missi luki bent over, but didn’t quite succumb to the blast. At least it is now lower enough for me to remove the flower bud as it has stopped producing fruit. Removing the flower bud allows the plant to put energy into development of the fruit.

In a blast as we had on Monday it is possible to locate those areas of the garden vulnerable to wind. Securely staking new plants is essential if they are to survive these high winds. Another job when there is rain but no wind, is to go around and trim back those annoying low branches away from path ways, ones inclined to drench you as you walk past. When doing this it is important to prune back to a bud so as to avoid die back, and ugly dead pieces of wood.

During the sunny periods over the weekend I busied myself with making pathways and new steps into my lower garden. Down here I have installed a couple of new simple seats made with concrete blocks and wooden planks. In the process I was left with one remaining block and the problem of what to do with it. I struck on an idea, I had a obtained an old rusty disc sheer some time ago, thinking it might one day be handy! It now sits atop the concrete block with a couple of stone in the centre to hold it in place the two of which look some what obelisk like and the whole has the appearance of a sundial. Not bad I thought for a couple of bucks. Other innovations to come out of this bit of landscaping were a few arches of bamboo bent over the path at varying degrees of circumference to carry long runners from the Mexican blood vine from above. The idea here is to create interest by bringing the eyes and focus in and down and to create contrast of dark to light in the distance. The objective is to encourage people to continue up to the left to our front door rather than down this more intimate path. To help with this I made a step leading to the archway by use of an old rustic fence post and a coarser grade of gravel. At the same time as making the step I was able to kill a couple of other birds with this same stone and cover unsightly water pipes buried beneath fill taken from one of my new pathways, waste not want not!

The sun is about to come out so I better go and get my new strawberries into the ground.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Recently I bought three insectivorous plants, two of which were forms of the genus Sarracenia comprising only about six species but 18 plus hybrids. The plants were named for Dr. Sarrizin of Quebec who first sent specimens to Europe from North America in the 17th century. The leaves are basically fly traps, in the form of slender tubes (bladders) broadening to the tip and fitted with a lid. The unsuspecting insect approaches and upon delving inside is trapped and unable to escape! Once inside the ‘bladder’, the plant digests the insects, absorbing nitrogen in an assimilable form. These bladder leaves have red venation giving them a rather sinister appearance like miniature participants from ‘Day of the Triffids’.
The second genus is a pitcher plant, Nepenthes, a genus of some forty species and many more hybrids. They are natives of South East Asia and are of bog habitats or epiphytic, climbing through the limbs of small trees. The species I have is of the bog variety. Nepenthes have ‘pitchers’ suspended from the tips of its leaves by thin tendrils. The mouth to the pitcher has glands secreting honey which attracts the insects. Once inside they are on ‘the slippery slope’, reaching liquid at the bottom in which they drown. The plant is then able to digest its imprisoned wee beasts at leisure. By all accounts both genera are not difficult of cultivation, their main requirement would appear to be moisture during the summer. In light of this I have planted both in my bog garden; I suspect I shall have to mist them during the height of summer. I have put small rocks around them in the hope this will assist in moisture retention and also keep them a little warmer during the winter. One can but try! Adjacent to this garden I have some subtropical plants, as this is where the irrigation field for our septic is. To this planting I have recently added a velvety black leafed taro, colocasia sp. and a parataniwha, Elatostema rugosum. The parataniwha I hope will survive adjacent to the bog garden as it too requires good moist soil and will benefit from the shelter of the bananas. The natural habitat is Taranaki, King country, and moist areas of the Kauri forests. I have seen it growing abundantly around the Waitomo caves region where it forms thickets 50cm high plants. The leaves are slightly purple in colour and so should look good near my new garden carnivores with their purple veins, we shall see!