Can you can see that I've been 'up the ladder' pruning my Wisteria 'Snowshowers'?
'Should you be up there at your age? careful people say 'You mean I'm too young?' I reply. 'You'll fall off that ladder!' says another voice of doom. To the doom merchants I say, 'What is life without a bit of risk and excitement occasionally!'
But the truth is if you want drama in a small garden, the only way to go is up!
Climbers over pergolas add plant life to your garden when there is not much space at ground level.
However, I do sometimes wistfully think - If only I had been born tall - 6 feet instead of 4ft 11 - my life up the ladder would be so much more comfortable. In fact I wouldn't need to spend nearly so much of my life up a ladder!
You can tell I've been pruning the Wisteria, because only the knobbly bits remain, and the muddle of long twining runners have been clipped away. Hanging on for dear life, I reach up from the top rung of the ladder on tippy toes to reach those long trails which find their way under the eaves, into the spouting or anywhere and everywhere. By the time I have finished, all that is left are short truncated knobbles! But it doesn't end there. Every day from the end of August I watch those little knobbles begin to grow and develop. The buds swell and begin to change colour from little brownish grey things to long green trusses until one day 6 weeks or so later, out pop a few small white pea-like flowers from the top of each truss. And still they keep growing longer and fuller until .............
I am surrounded by scent and bloom as I step out of my kitchen or living room into the courtyard. The soft panicles of flower brush against my face gently and the beauty and perfume is so transforming that I know that it was all so worthwhile hanging off the ladder in chilly August. From the time the first green buds appear until the last panicle of flower has completely dropped to be replaced by foliage, would be at least 2 months.
Meanwhile back in August .....
Before I tackled the Wisteria, I pruned the roses too, adding to that pared back but colourless look of late winter. Neat and tidy - yes - but uninspiring! Never fear -spring is just around the corner, as we wait with baited breath for it to burst out!
Today the sun is shining and spring is here, but there are still some late winter treats to enjoy - like Hellebores, early blossom and the special carmine coloured Witchhazel - Hamamelis 'Dianne'
Lucky as we are, to have Hagley Park for winter walks we are even luckier to have the Port Hills. And our english forefathers didn't even have to 'arrange' these for us as in Hagley Park, because they were already there! The result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, which violently flung up molten rock from the sea-bed, forming the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula as we know it today.
When volcanic activity finally cooled, it left a rather odd hilly circular landform jutting out from the plains into the Pacific ocean, and was formed from 2 separate volcanic episodes which left two huge craters allowing the sea to rush in - Akaroa and Lyttelton Harbours! The hills which were formed from the lava flows of the of the thankfully, extinct volcano creating Lyttelton Harbour, became known as the Port Hills. Forming a circular arc at the inland edge of the crater where Banks Peninsula meets the Canterbury Plains, these are the hills which we find so convenient for our Saturday morning stroll.
It's not that much of a stroll any more actually! The Saturday morning 'stroll' up the hill was much easier a few years ago. But we are all growing older, so I would call it a climb rather than a stroll as most of us puff and pant our way up through these paths to reach the top. These days we have to cope with the odd ailment or 2 which might slow us down - a hip, a knee, lungs, heart - whatever. But of course we don't let these things stop us. 'It's good for us' we tell each other 'keeps us young and agile'. So on we go!
Whether it's rocky paths or wintry muddy tracks, it's all up. We plough upwards as younger more agile walkers streak past us, calling out a cheery hello as they power on up, beyond us and out of sight. But we don't mind - we just keep on keeping on at our own pace!
The vegetation always intrigues me. We walk through introduced coniferous forest where you could imagine you are somewhere in North America and then suddenly you are into New Zealand secondary growth native bush where you feel quite at home. There may still be pockets of original native bush in the nooks and crannys of valleys in these hills, but the areas we go through are second growth natives as more of these hills are regenerating and in some areas being replanted with natives. Most of this deliberate planting has been done by volunteers, eager to recapture the original hills, as they may have been before we Europeans cleared such a lot of the natural vegetation in order to develop farmland. While most of us enjoy the authenticity of native planting, exotics are also valuable in helping to stop erosion, and keeping the Port Hills intact.
Winter is the best time of all to get out and walk - an escape from the four walls and that dozy interior phug, away from the fireside and heaters . Go out amongst the mist, the frost, and those dripping bare trees. Feel the sharp cold on your cheeks, the wind at your back and slosh through puddles, even a bit of a shiver, awakens you from that winter apathy. Experience the elements and nature and you will feel alive again!
In Christchurch we don't know how lucky we are to have Hagley Park and Botanic Gardens so close to the centre of the city. Our Victorian early settlers during the 19th century, brought with them english garden values to their new far flung home at the bottom of the world. They had become aware of the importance of gardens, parkland, and open common land for the people, to the cities, and suburbs of England, to offset unhealthy, dreary industrial areas. Clapham Common, Streathem Common and Hampstead Heath in London, to name just a few. Every time I walk in Hagley Park I think of those english parks and commons, and thank those hardy 19thC. english settlers for their far seeing vision in allocating the central open spaces of Hagley Park so reminiscent of their homeland, to our city for our people.
NEXT TIME - UP THE HILL AND AWAY FROM THE DAMP MISTY CITY - UP TO THE CLEAR BLUE SKIES AND UPLIFTING VIEWS TO BE SEEN FROM 'UP THERE'
It all depends on how you define mess!!
We tend to think of Hosta's as beautiful only in late spring and summer when the colourful variegated foliage is splayed out in all it's lush green summer glory, beneath trees and shrubs. But not in autumn when it's leaves have become all droopy, floppy and dirty yellow or crinkled up and brown. But look again!
At the the graceful way the stems naturally fall, and the intricate way the spent seedheads are arranged! Even the worst (or should we say the best) of those very old grey crinkled leaves are really the most interesting shapes are they not? Just because they are old and grey and wrinkled doesn't mean to say they are not beautiful! Just like us!
I have learned through the New Perennialist movement how important it is to open our eyes and see the beauty in each stage of a plants life from birth, to death. I get so much more pleasure from appreciating the season of seedheads and dying foliage instead of discounting it as messy or untidy - something that should be trimmed away out of sight as soon as possible. I think Piet Oudolf has trained me well, because this year I am really and truly loving the more muted colours and shapes of seedheads and dying foliage in the garden - even when Dahlia foliage droops rather ungracefully.
Isn't it wonderful the way our trees and plants won't be contained within neat borders but spread themselves beautifully over every surface in autumn. How important it is to enjoy and revel in autumn when for a relatively short time, colourful leaves clothe and light up our boring paths and hard surfaces with such panache. They are not to be tidied away yet! But perhaps only in the dead of winter when they go brown and drab, sloshy and slippery. Maybe that would be the time to sweep them away to make way for the new season - the freshness and glory of spring.
WHEN THE SUN SHINES ANY GARDEN WILL COME ALIVE
But perhaps not quite alive as these 2 photos above! When you've just found out about about readjusting the light and colour readings on your phone camera, the resulting photos can be positively gaudy! Beautiful as the maples are in autumn in the Christchurch botanic gardens, their colour never looked quite as hectic as this!
Or as gloomy as this photo above taken with the old camera setting? Here the Maples look ever so cool for autumn, and were the Hydrangeas ever that blue, or the tree trunks that mauve?? I don't think so. Hmmm - there is obviously still a lot to learn about taking photos with the phone! When you carry your phone in your pocket, it can get so easily bumped and out of kilter, who knows what the photos might end up looking like? Unless you think mauve tree trunks and chaotically golden foliage is actually quite interesting?
This photo taken at another time on another day looks more normal. Was the light setting on the phone/camera adjusted to a better setting that day? Or was it all a fluke, simply determined by the state of my pocket? Whatever happened, this is more like the sunlight as we want to see it, reflecting in water and backlighting whole branches of foliage, creating contrast with light and shadows
And here, sunlight reflects surrounding plants and foliage in the water adding another dimension to the scene. This water is no longer hiding dark mysterious depths, but has become suffused with light and colour as the sun shines on it reflecting it's surroundings. And as a gentle breeze comes up, the water ripples with movement and light, the sun burnishes the grasses along the banks of the stream and they too ripple with light and movement just like the stream.
Even in the not so grand space of my back yard, sunlight creating shadows plays a big part in enlivening the picture, in autumn when sunlight slants at a lower more flattering angle.
And here, too, slanting shadows have become longer and more atmospheric, picking out details we may not have noticed before. The contrast between light and shade becomes marked. And the way sunlight brings details and the colour of leaves or seedheads into sharp focus is a revelation which on a dull day with no sunlight would go unnoticed.
What an autumn we have been having here in Canterbury, with blue skies and sunshine almost every day for weeks. It has been so warm and sunny, that it feels uncanny. The flip side is that everything is so dry and frizzled looking with deciduous trees losing their leaves earlier than usual. Many are dropping off the branches - limp and dry, before they have had a chance to change colour. And the ground is so parched and arid looking. Is this climate change? Where is the rain?
Summer is about breakfast in the garden
I leave the dressing gown and slippers behind as I leap out of my comfy chair to investigate. From now on it's the long white nightie investigating, as I lift up the invading triffid and hurrah - my treasure is still there, albeit pale and tiny, as though it's been grown under a sack! The invading triffid must be lopped. But where are the secateurs? In the shed. So round to the shed I trundle, long white nightie trailing along the ground, to get the secateurs. While I'm there I grab the loppers too, and the handfork to attack that big thistle which was bugging me, and perhaps the trowel as well, just in case something needs to be moved. Intent on the task in hand and oblivious to the white nightie and the odd passerby, I trail back to the front garden and with great glee, lop a bit off here, and dig out the offending thistle there. And suddenly I'm seeing a mass of other weedy problems which really need to be attended to on the spot! Eventually, I stand back and survey where I have been - the garden's looking much happier for that bit of instant attention. But then I remember I've got things to do - places to go and I look at my watch - 11.30am?? How did that happen so quickly? The front of the long white nightie's s a mess - covered in dirt, twigs, and scrunched up leaves, while the fluffy pink dressing gown is elegantly draped over the empty comfy breakfast chair!
Staring, is actually time well spent, because that's often when the penny drops about what's wrong and what's right with the garden. Are those plants which were moved in the spring doing as well as they should, and do they actually work with the rest of the plants and the garden generally? What plants should I transplant in the autumn and what is allowed to stay? Questions, questions, questions and it's looking for those elusive answers which makes gardening so addicitive.
Then suddenly it IS Autumn! Well it feels like it in the mornings when there is a definite chill in the air. I draw the pink dressing gown tighter around me as the mornings are no longer quite so balmy. And there are seed-heads amongst the Michelmas daisies!
Is there anything that thrills so much in
the garden as the colour - rich dark red?
When red is dark enough to border on black it becomes very mysterious, drawing you in to it's dark depths as into some sort of dark erotic power!
The power of dark - it's the colour of night, the colour of secrets, the colour of magic, the colour of evil, the dark depths of the sea, and I am drawn to it as a moth to a flame. Black Madonna - Black Tulip - drama, drama, drama.
Could the simple cottage garden Hollyhock really be part of this drama you may wonder? Not if it's pink or yellow but when it's a deep intense red, verging on black - that's a different story!
Black Hollyhock (Alcea rosea nigra) Last year I bought a little bunch of plants wrapped in newspaper at the local Linwood Saturday Market for 2 or 3 dollars. There was just a modest little label saying 'Hollyhock plants' tucked in with them, so I planted them against my house in a sunny position, knowing this is what Hollyhocks like and thought no more about it. However by the next spring these small unremarkable seedlings had grown to robust substantial plants with strong stems rising up from their centre. I couldn't believe it when they started to bud up and the colour peeping out from each bud was a rare dark reddish black, and every single plant was the same. How exquisite! Every day I thank my unknown benefactor for such exotic treasure.
The opposite of black is white which is much more popular and noticable in the garden - bland maybe - but it does illuminate the garden with a wholesomeness or even purity which black/dark red is simply not capable of. Black/red tends to skulk away somewhere out of sight, holding on to it's mysterious secret power
The legendary garden hero, Vita Sackville West, was good at white, and in the 1990's we all wanted to be Vita. She liked white because of it's luminosity at night. But she also liked night in the garden with the same velvety blackness as dark flowers - lending mystery and eroticism to the garden, and Vita was nothing if not erotic. She was celebrated for her eroticism!
It's not only the sultriness of dark flowers. Dark foliage has a big part to play in the garden as well. Especially in mid summer when Dahlias which are indispensable at this time of year for colour and interest, are even more striking when they are surrounded by dark or bronze foliage. Whether the flowers are delicate shell pink as in Dahlia ''Mystic Dreamer' or blatant orange/red, as Dahlia 'Mystic Enchantment', they contrast superbly with dark foliage. Not only with their own foliage, but with the plants around them as well, adding much contrast and interest to the garden.
These dark foliaged Dahlias are the result of Dr. Keith Hammett's pioneering work with Dahlias some of which have won top awards at the Royal Horticultural Society's trials and have been featured in the Chelsea Flower show. His Mystic Dahlia series consist of a stylish, more contemporary kind of dahlia, with filigreed deep mahogany to black foliage and brightly coloured single flowers and bred here in New Zealand. Far from an old fashioned look, they can absolutely add a contemporary edge to the garden!
I'm not sure how Red Orach came to be in my garden. It just appeared one day - the most delectable of dark foliaged weeds. It is a prolific seeder I have found out, but it's easy enough to hoe out or clutch handfuls of little seedlings in spring and pull them out. It's knowing which ones to pull and which ones to keep which is the bother. If you leave too many they can grow up and swamp your other plants, but the thing is - they are so attractive as they form their gorgeous pink seed-heads that you want to keep them! I find, I pluck them out intermittently throughout the summer when they grow up too tall with other plants and start to get in the way. Once you've got Red Orach, you're never without it - it always comes back! And it adds such colour and height to the garden when it's forms it's seedheads, that you wouldn't want to be without it!
Is a certain amount of shagginess 'cool' in a garden?
Cool meaning - 'hot' - of course, and 'hot' meaning popular. All I know is that the naturalistic look is 'in'. And naturalistic means a certain amount of shagginess.
Probably not acceptable, if you are a neat and tidy gardener though - it depends on what you value most about your garden.
Clipped edges and hedges or a sense of abundance spilling over ?
I am not such a neat and tidy gardener that I need my garden borders to be regimented in neat rows, or to be sharply trimmed. And yet, even though I do like abundance to the point of chaos, I also like a little bit of shape, so that you can tell that the garden actually is a garden.
Farmers would throw their hands up in horror at the thought of growing Muehlenbeckia complexa as a decorative plant, because even though it is a native, it's all too common in the countryside, as a nasty twiner which invades fences, gates and anything else it can find to smother. It also sends robust runners under the ground which pop up everywhere. As well as being super shaggy above ground!
So like it or not, I simply do have to clip and contain this most invasive of plants
As for Santolina, it's at it's best when unclipped and billowing about. But when not clipped, it becomes woody, leggy and out of shape.
Like it or not, it appears I do have to do a certain amount of clipping even just to keep the abundant tumbling look I prefer! Because if I didn't, I probably wouldn't have a garden at all, but an unruly wilderness. I wouldn't really like to see M. complexa smothering everything, as there would be no colour or shape left in the garden. Or would I like to see soft feathery Santolina growing into a tangled woody mess.
So it seems that gardeners are often pulled in a myriad of different directions - if you clip the garden too much it will become too formal and and rigid and not billow about enough. If you don't clip it enough, it will become out of control and you feel you won't be able to manage it
Isn't this what everyone associates with spring in Christchurch?
The Vision of our Early Settlers
The thing which Christchurch does so well is spring. Daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze, the froth of pale pink blossom around Hagley Park, was all a part of the vision of our forefathers.
We have them to thank for their vision and foresight.
Imagine how it must have felt 170 years ago, landing on this vast bare and swampy plain covered with mostly tough flax and tussock. After months of sailing over rough seas to an unknown land on the other side of the world they found nothing like the 'green and pleasant land' they had left behind.
Make any wonder they dreamt of transforming this alien land into something resembling home. A vision which was achieved with much blood sweat and tears - the vision on which we pride ourselves and enjoy today. And perhaps all too often take for granted. The historical significance of this vision of an english woodland makes Hagley Park sacrosanct and therefore most important that it should be kept intact by later generations.
All the more reason to regard it as a political act of vandalism when almost a third of this historic
woodland was ordered to be demolished by insensitive and soulless politicians after the Christchurch earthquakes. In the interests of expediency, part of this historic woodland was demolished, along with much of the rest of our city under special powers brought in after the earthquakes. They cared not for the vision of their forefathers or for the sadness and grief so many of it's citizens who were suffering after the trauma of the earthquakes. They took it upon themselves to violate the woodland thus adding to the grief by cutting down many of the treasured 150 year old oaks, beeches and other deciduous trees, without consulting us - the people of Christchurch and Canterbury to whom this woodland belongs.
To them, it was the cheapest and easiest way to erect much needed hospital buildings, no matter that it encroached on the woodland of sacrosanct Hagley Park. The need for a new hospital building is not disputed - but cutting down part of this historic woodland to accomodate it, when there was other land available certainly is!
It goes to show what little regard and understanding these politicians had for the history of Christchurch, for nature, and for the sadness many citizens would feel by the destruction of such a loved part of their heritage. This is the sort of thing which happens in China under a totalitarian government.
Are we much better here?
Notice the contrast in the 2 images shown above illustrating the hospital building as a real intrusion into the Daffodil Woodland.
It's the work of unscrupulous politicians who took advantage of their special powers while people were still traumatised after the earthquakes. Pulling a swifty over their people, they rushed it through secretly with no consultation when they knew they could get away with it. The first I knew of it was when I happened to be walking in the park on a day that chainsaws were at work and was horrified to see such a huge chunk of woodland being destroyed. None of the workmen wanted to talk about it and I just burst into tears at the wanton vandalism of this beautiful place, in the midst of such trauma and damage from ongoing aftershocks. But this wasn't nature causing the mayhem - it was man!
The result of this wanton destruction is a huge loss of a part of our uninterrupted woodland to be replaced by a truncated view, rudely interrupted by an ugly hospital building which destroys the serenity of the green woodland of Hagley Park. Which other city in New Zealand has a natural haven like this within walking distance - another world where nature dominates, away from the hustle and bustle of the city which is so cherished and valued by it's citizens. It should never have been compromised in this way.
And it was all so indecently rushed!
Soon after the sad day I witnessed the destruction of the woodland, my son was rushed into hospital seriously ill. So I was at the hospital everyday visiting him, at the same time witnessing the excavations for the new hospital where the woodland had been demolished. All day every day 24/7 there was vast amounts of water being pumped out of the excavated site, and gushing into the Avon river. It seemed there was a 'lake' under the site where the woodland had been. How could they build on top of all that water!! Sure enough, 9 years later this new hospital is still not being fully used due to instability of the building!!
It's also about a forest of thorny twigs and bare skeletal branches in mid-winter.
And here at Beverley Park Heritage Rose Garden in winter, it is also about a luxuriant carpet of Hellebores beneath the thorny twiginess.
A forest of thorny twigs and branches does need to be sorted, and mid-winter when the bushes are bare is the best time to do it. Rose pruning time! And the Friends of Beverley Park Heritage Rose Garden are just the team to do that. A loose group of garden lovers formed from our local Englefield community as well as rose lovers from further afield, we make up a formidable team.
From the end of July through till the end of August, it is amazing the way the days brighten. The light changes from winter dimness to brighter and lighter, and there is a sense of hope - that life is returning
After a week of sunny days, the bright blue of Muscari (Grape Hyacinths) and white Snowflakes began to appear beneath the bare roses in the border facing outward to the park. The roses had not yet started to leaf up, but that didn't stop the Grape Hyacinths and Snowflakes making an appearance.
Typically spring - just as everything started to flower responding to spring warmth, the weather plummeted again, and winter returned with snow on the mountains and frosts but - no matter - spring bulbs keep flowering despite the fickle weather.
And by September the Yoshino cherrys at the entrance to the Rose Garden are flowering.
Now we truly know that spring is here!!
Two Yoshino Cherry trees either side of the pathway mark the entrance to garden, and there are also 2 more planted in the lawn at the front of the garden which frame the rose garden.
Soft pink, light and dainty with single flowered blossoms, they are reminiscent of bridal veils, and many think that these are the most beautiful of all the cherry blossoms.
This is the same variety which is planted around Hagley Park, and they are native to Japan - hence the name - Yoshino Cherry.
The botanical name, Prunus yedoensis, is not quite so romantic.
The pruned roses can hardly compete with the delicate beauty of the Yoshino Cherry which surrounds them in spring, however even they are softened by new seasons leaf growth, starting to burst forth.
And still the Hellebores keep giving, looking fresh. They flower nonstop from the end of June through to September. We love them! And even the early Snowflakes, now more green than white, are still persisting.
And here is a photo of the fruits of our labours from last year, in mid-December 2019 - a view of Beverley Park Heritage Rose Garden in full bloom.
A symphony in pink - the reward we were waiting for, and a taste of what we have to look forward to for this year as well in December 2020
'Gertrude Jekyll' - english rose - climbing up through the metal rose supports.
'Ballerina' - hybrid musk - bushy rose with single pink flowers in clusters in the middle ground .
Rosa glauca 'Carmenetta' - species - a great arching bush in the foreground with single pink species blooms nestled amongst it's attractive glaucus foliage
Note - If you would like to become one of our volunteers and learn about heritage roses while helping in the garden, you would be very welcome. We would be pleased to hear from you!!
Robyn Kilty ph. 03 9651281 m. 022 1039802. - email - email@example.com
Henrietta Hall m. 027 4512315 - email - firstname.lastname@example.org