Ewen's garden

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

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Being inspired

Having had a warm dry September, things really started into growth. This ‘big push’ in spring is the ideal time to feed plants and also to ensure the soil water is maintained by adding mulch to the top of the garden. I know this because from my window where I write, I have a view up into my garden and I can see my citrus trees smothered in new flower buds and fresh shoots. It is all this growth that needs support, to fortify the plants through the rest of the season.
To the right of the terrace with the citrus trees and across some steps is the magnificent spire of the Pride of Teneriffe Echium pininiana. The flower spike is over 2.5m tall and smothered in tiny purple to blue flowers creating and almost, in some light iridescent beacon to bees. The foliage forms rosettes of grey green, which matches the rest of the specimens in this area planted for their drought tolerant grey foliage. Another species of Echium is the Pride of Madeira Echium fastuosum a smaller growing species with a more spreading habit and flowers spikes of only up to 60cm. Some of the Echiums produce pink or near white flowers. Often these plants will outgrow themselves, becoming rather woody and unattractive, the good thing is they readily set seeds and so new plants can be encouraged to replace the old ones. The plants will not bloom in their first year, but in the second season they come into their own as mine has done, well worth the wait.
Other stalwarts in this area that must survive my abject neglect include bearded iris, one of which is bravely putting forth flower buds. This particular one comes via my mother from her brother! That being said it opens almost black and fades to the richest deep purple black colour, I can’t wait. Other plants in this ensemble number Lychnis with white flowers, Stachys with small purple flower spikes, both with silver foliage. Two more with silver leaves are santolina and senecio both these have yellow flowers. The senecio is primarily grown for its silver leaves though. Another plant in here with yellow flowers is the yarrow or milfoil, Achelia filipendulina the flowers held in flat umbles of creamy yellow. These came from my mother’s garden as did the verbascums. I have two of types of verbascum, both from Mum, one with spires of yellow flowers and the other with white. There is a species of verbascum that grows wild in waste areas, such as riverbeds. I recall them in the riverbed at home, one clue to this species tolerance of drought.
Hopefully drought is not going to be the major topic of Island conversations this season! Speaking of this season, the Retravision Jassy Dean Trust Garden Safari in association with Art Out There, supported by sealink, is rapidly approaching, 11-12 Nov. I am looking forward to indulging in this rather voyeuristic tour of other people’s gardens. It is always inspiring to see other’s efforts in the realm of the garden. I will write more of these gardens next week.


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