Ewen's garden

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

Monday, December 17, 2007

Propagating a Kiwi Christmas

While relaxing on the deck during the weekend, my partner was moved to comment on the growth of the yucca Yucca elephantipes, sending up new branches from its severed top. This plant is one I propagated from an earlier specimen which had fallen and smashed its pot. The stump is planted out in the ground, the middle section is now in the pot on the deck and the growing tip has also been planted out in the garden, three new plants from the one. My first yucca was given as a branch for our house warming some seven odd years ago and placed in a pot, now we have five plants from this original branch. When I doing my apprenticeship we used to propagate yucca by cutting up the trunk into short sections, these were then split lengthwise and placed in sand, cut side down. These block cuttings sere placed in a warm glass house with bottom heat and soon enough buds would shoot away, and we would have a whole lot more new plants. This is vegetative reproduction, cloning, all the offspring being identical to the parent plant. The yucca plant is native to Mexico and is aptly suited to the conditions we have here on the Island being well able to handle the dry of our summers. The foliage is bright green and leathery making it wind tolerant but lush looking at the same time. Once the top has been severed new branches appear, and it grows on into a small tree somewhat like the cabbage tree only with more stiff leaves. I envisage propagating enough to make a small line of them towards the bottom of our driveway above which are a selection of aloe and agave. All these plants share the similar rosette form of foliage, but with different growth habits grown in close proximity to one another should make an interesting sight.
Being the festive season naturally I have some Christmas lilies Lilium longiflorum in flower at the moment. These bulbs form quite long stems and have clusters of almost pure white trumpets with a good scent. They make excellent cut flowers and are sold quite commonly at this time of year. Another lily in flower at this time of year also sometimes called the Christmas lily is Lilium regale. This lily also has white trumpets, but the throat is flush gold and the back of the petals has a reddish tinge to it. Both these bulbs are easy to grow in full sun and with plenty of water in well drained soil.
The flowers I am enjoying at the moment and the tuis are the tall flower spikes of the flax, Phormium tenax. I have cut down a number of these to make a kiwi Christmas tree. The black stems and seed pods amongst the dark red flowers look great. My European partner wants kiwi icons for Christmas, not tinsel and snow! Merry Christmas!

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