Ewen's garden

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

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Festive season

With the flowering of the pohutukawa and the kanuka, it is unmistakably the festive season, although the weather may have had us believing we were in for a white Christmas! Our rather small pohutukawa has been flowering brilliantly this season. Also throwing a festive air across our deck are two lilies, Lilium longiflorum and Lilium regale. The former of the two has pure white highly scented trumpets, with slightly yellow throats. L.regale, while white on the inside, is blushed with red on the outside of the petals, it too has a delicious scent. These two lilies were always cut for Christmas arrangements on the farm.
I have started a new tradition, using flax flower heads; I have created an outside Christmas tree. I did this last year, but the flowers had finished leaving just the black seed pods. This year though, the flowers have not finished and we have a mixture of red flowers and black seed pods, I think it is very effective. Another time I have thought, manuka, Leptospermum scoparium would also make a good Christmas tree, with its white blooms and rather pine like scent. The trick would be to get a specimen to flower right at the correct time. I know they have mostly finished by Christmas. I then thought if you could find a sport that flowered at the appropriate time; if it was trimmed it would make the perfect wee tree. Ah well something for the back burner!
The strawberries in the garden have been a bit of a disappointment this season, I suspect the reason to be because I used pea straw mulch and the extra nitrogen has encouraged them to produce leaves and not fruit. While the plants are looking great, I really ought to put some potash around them. This would encourage the plants to flower and not produce such lush foliage and it is the fruit for the pancakes that I really want!
Well just a short note this week, the rain is gently caressing the garden with the water it desperately needs, and I have a million things to do before next week. I hope everyone has a marvellous Christmas and all are safe.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Spectacular sky views

A catch phrase in the real estate industry is has sea views. Our place does, but only from one room and mostly only from the upstairs balcony. What we do have is a view of the sky, plenty of it. I will often lie and watch the changing nature of the sky, as clouds roll in and the sun makes patterns on both land and clouds. It occurred to me, I don’t miss seeing the sea view at all. I enjoy the play of light being reflected from large clouds in the east as the sun goes down in the west, casting an eerie almost lime coloured wash to the landscape. It is moments like these we can see things from a different perspective, see colours and textures together that otherwise escape our attention.
The sky not only creates the obvious displays of light at sunrise and sunset, but naturally tells us what kind of weather to expect. A strong nor’easter blowing in and big clouds piling up to the west would indicate a westerly or sou’westerly change is imminent, all these signs are important to take into account, along with the weather forecast of course. Recently with all the winds the low clouds have been streaming past at an alarming rate of knots, unsecured plants have been thrashed and roots loosened. We always seem to forget, spring is a time for gales, particularly since New Zealand lies in the belt of the roaring forties.
We could have a sea view, but I prefer the shelter from the west we gain from a bamboo hedge. Bamboo wouldn’t be my first choice, but it already existed and also provides privacy from our close neighbour and shade in the summer. So we have an expansive view of the sky to the north. Our house provides a good posie to witness the spectacle of a thunderstorm, one of natures more exciting performances, for free. Even the build as the clouds pile up in the sky eventually obliterating the sun. This followed by torrential rain, possibly hail and damaging wind. If we are on the ball we have planted any new plants before the rain and secured others against possible wind damage. Hail, as many will have observed this season, is something rather more difficult to prepare for. The Agaves have been left be-speckled with the freckles of hail, once damaged never to be recovered, until the leaf dies.
So, give me a view of the sky, meteorology and what goes on the sky is way more important to me and my garden, everyone is different. I suspect an avid boatie would argue differently to me, far enough.
Speaking of spectacles, I couldn’t resist another shot of the banana as it unfurls its bud revealing the new fruits, an amazing event to watch as the days pass. So enjoy the spring garden and the wind will stop soon, surely?