Ewen's garden

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

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Garden surprise

Imagine my surprise, when ambling around my garden, I discovered a hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Phsyco’ flaunting its first bloom. I bought this hibiscus during the winter from a nursery specialising in subtropical plants from up north. This hibiscus was just one of a few plants ordered via the internet. This said hibiscus is bright red, with reflexed petals, frilled at the edge and a rather languid stigma dropping from the centre with attendant stamens at its end. I have to say it was the first time in quite awhile I have ‘done a turn about the garden’.
After a season of outside distractions, the garden is well in need of a general over-haul. Everywhere plants are at the end of their useful or even reproductive cycles. Loppers, secateurs and possibly the hand-saw will be necessary to effect the improvements required now! This appears to be an annual event in my garden, as those in the northern hemisphere clean up and restore their gardens in the winter; I do this in mid summer. I have stopped watering, mostly, but still we are harvesting tomatoes amongst the fallen broccoli and drying beans. There is at least one advantage to this approach, if somewhat unconventional, and that is the spent flower heads spread seeds about the place, which in spring will emerge in places you never expect. Where they are in the wrong place all that is necessary, is to pull them out, easy. A confession is probably required at this point, I use pea straw as a mulch along with compost. This is put about the place in the spring, after the soil has warmed up and before the soil is dried out. If weren’t for this approach do gardening, I would either be spending a fortune on buying water, pr my garden would simple turn into an arid dusty wasteland, fit only for the most drought tolerant of plants.
With this in mind, my choice of plants outside of the vegetable garden has been towards those which are going to most likely be tolerant of drought. As for my predilection for ‘wet subtropicals’, those with a bent for much moisture and a rich soil, they go over the septic field. Here I have just picked a large bunch of bananas, I will have to be cooking banana cake and flambéing them to eat with pancakes! These bananas are particularly sweet and tasty. This particular banana is from the mountains of Samoa, called Missi luki, and forms quite a tall tree. Once the tree has fruited it collapses, as this one has done, helped along the way by the stormy spring weather we had. It helps to keep the remaining clump to not more than five stems. In this way the available food from the soil is not divided among too many plants and a better crop is secured.
Elsewhere, succulents planted during the winter are now establishing themselves well and will soon fill out a pallet of plants growing close enough to not let too many weeds hold sway, this is the plan anyway!

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