Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Garden's calling me...

I haven't written anything on here for almost a year!

It's been just over a year now since Izumi died and I haven't lived in my house for several months. Needless to say the Garden has been the last thing on my mind for quite a while so it's still looking rather neglected. I have many fond memories of the garden and I often find myself thinking about it. I miss it. Especially do I enjoy the pleasantness of a nice cold beer in the garden over the summer months.

With the arrival of Spring and a brief visit to the garden recently I am starting to feel like the garden's calling me, not only because there's so much work that needs doing, but there's a few encouraging signs  of growth that have recaptured my interest.

About this time last year I planted a miniature climbing rose and have been gradually training it to grow over my galvanised iron archway. I've tried growing several things over the archway in the past but this is the first time I've tried growing a plant whose sole purpose is to produce flowers.

It's just starting to flower for the first time and will be part of an interesting new direction I intend to take for the garden, with more attention given to flowering plants than previously.

As you can see in the background, the garden is still a jungle of weeds. By the way, that's a Feijoa tree I've planted on the back boundary by the fence, which I planted in about March/April earlier this year. I'm still keen to have lots of fruit growing in the garden.

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered I've got a new plum tree growing, which self-seeded next to the compost bin without me noticing and is now taller than me and currently in blossom.

It's a completely different variety from my other plum trees with large pink blossoms so I'll be interested to see what (if any) fruit grows on it this year. It's not growing where I would've thought to grow it as it's not in full light, but it seems to like it there so I'm just going to leave it. At least it won't be in the way as it's right on the edge of the bush.

I'm planning to return to the house at the end of the year. Hopefully by then I'll be ready to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Garden Neglect...the explanation.

I’ve been known to make excuses in the past for why my garden’s looking a bit untidy or unkempt. But lately my garden has been looking the worst it ever has. In addition to the damage caused by a couple of mid winter storms this year the situation has been compounded by months of neglect. 

Observant readers of this blog may have heard me make subtle comments about the various distractions that were keeping me from the garden at various times, and more so probably in the last year or so. Up until now I’ve refrained from going into that on here, but now it's time to break my silence. 

Sadly, the reason is because my wife Izumi who I sometimes mention on here, has been battling cancer since Nov 2011 and despite the efforts of many good people to help her, she finally lost the battle on August 27th (about a month ago) and has now gone to rest.

Izumi loved the Garden, visiting it every day to seek out something for dinner or in more recent times to gather whatever was available for juicing, in an effort to keep her immunity strong. Believe it or not there are still some vegetables growing in amongst all those weeds...somewhere.

But I couldn’t possibly allow myself to do another blog post on here without first acknowledging her passing and crediting her for much of what I was motivated to do. In many ways she was the inspiration for building the garden in the first place, a huge project which took years of painstaking effort.

I got a great deal of satisfaction out of her reaction to everything I did. Without her encouragement it probably never would have happened the way it did. She took a great deal of interest in this blog too although she was adamant that she didn’t want her picture shown on here — at least not her face, probably because most of the photos taken of her in the garden didn’t show her at her best. But also because she preferred her privacy and was more comfortable staying in the background.

Many of the ideas we incorporated into the garden came from our visits to various parts of the country usually during summer holidays. Like the time we visited Russell in the far North of New Zealand which is where we got the inspiration to grow a Bougainvillea vine over a pergola.

Or there was the time we joined the Great Greenhithe Garden tour where we got lots of inspiration from the private gardens we visited. On that tour I also got this poignant shot of Izumi walking down a long tree-lined driveway into the distance. I never imagined at the time how seeing this less than a year later would bring home the deep sense of loss I feel now that she’s gone.

Goodbye Izumi — you'll be missed!

Now spring has arrived... closely followed by daylight savings, so it’s time to get back out into the garden and start tidying up — if only the weather would let me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Another Storm Hits Auckland

We’ve been expecting a few days of rain which came as forecast. However one thing forecasters didn’t mention was the Gale force winds that arrived last night which almost turned our place upside down and were the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced in my 50 years living on the north shore.

It wasn’t until I awoke after a sleepless night that I saw the extent of the damage.

Here are a few pictures...

A tall Acmena tree on the front of our neighbours property got blown over onto our driveway which took out telephone lines on the way down.

We lost a piece of plastic roofing after it came loose and was flapping around in the wind. It kept me awake most of the night as it’s right outside by bedroom window. It finally shattered into dozens of pieces that were strewn around the property along with many other bits of vegetation including  branches off trees.

Part of our trellis fence got completely blown apart.

The door on our emergency bathroom out the back got it’s door completely blown off its hinges...


This tall willow tree on our neighbours property got blown over. Thankfully it didn't blow over in the direction of my sleepout otherwise it would have crushed it. It came to rest on another large tree. It’s going to take a bit of work to untangle that, I reckon.

Besides this there was a bit of damage done to a few other trees around my garden. It’ll probably see us right for firewood for the next 12 months or so.

The 2 bed bases I had my broad beans growing on fell over ruining the crop. Power was cut to half the north shore until around midday.

So there’s going to be a bit of work to do tidying this all up.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dealing with Aphids

Aphids are a real problem in my garden, as you can see by this infestation on my Kaffir Lime bush.

There are a number of different plants around my garden that seem to get infested every year with Aphids, especially when they’re putting forth tender new growth. It seems to get worse when the weather’s damp. The problem is compounded by the fact that we also seem to have many ants around our place, which is not uncommon in Auckland’s volcanic soil. Apparently the ants 'farm' the Aphids, using them the suck nutrition from the plants, which the ants then harvest.

It’s quite hard staying on top of this, especially as I don’t like using chemical sprays. I spoke to a garden advisor about this who recommended spraying soapy water on the plants. In particular he recommended Sunlight soap which is a common brand used in the typical New Zealand home laundry — so it's not a bathroom soap. It’s very SOAPY soap! You don't need much of this stuff to get a lather going.

So I thought I’d try it. All I needed was a spray bottle. I just filled the bottom of the laundry tub with warm water and washed my hands with the soap, just enough to make the water soapy then filled up my bottle with the soapy water.

I gave everything a good spray with it, then repeated the process again 2 or 3 days later. It seemed to do the trick. I’ll be sure to do it again next time if I see the aphids come back.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Harvesting Myoga Ginger

One thing I wanted to do when summer rolled around again was to make a short video showing how we harvest the Myoga Ginger as there seems to be a lot of interest in this plant and most examples on U-tube are mostly in Japanese.

So here’s the link. I hope you find it interesting and useful...

Watch U-tube Video

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


I’ve been mowing lawns my whole life, starting from when I was a teenager back in the 1970’s.

My father had me mowing our rather large lawn which was a chore I shared with my older brother using my Dad’s old Masport mower. It wasn’t long before one of our neighbours (an old lady) agreed to have us mow her lawns for a small fee. Her lawn was even bigger than ours and we used to do it for about $8 which was pretty good pocket money back then. She supplied the petrol and the mower which was a Victor mower. We took turns at first until my brother lost interest, then I did it regularly myself.

I’d far sooner mow the lawn than do housework if it came to a choice between the 2 so needless to say even when I went flatting as a young person it was usually me mowing the lawn in most of the places I  stayed. These days I still get a sense of satisfaction from mowing my lawns at home. For me there’s something familiar and homely about the smell of freshly cut grass.

Recently a friend of mine who lives in a shared housing complex with a medium sized lawn surrounding it asked me if I’d be interested in caring for their lawns. Although it has been a long time since I mowed lawns for money, I decided to do it to help him out, as my graphic design business has not been that busy lately. It turns out that the price I quoted them was less than their previous gardener was charging, so they were very happy for me to do it.

After doing it regularly for a few months I started thinking about perhaps taking on 1 or 2 more lawns in the area and then spending say 1 day a week caring for lawns to help supplement my income. So I decided to place an ad on the CLASSIFIEDPAGES website showing a few pictures from garden at home.

The key to a nicely mowed lawn in my view is to always use the catcher. Although it usually takes a bit longer and requires more effort on a sloping lawn, there are 3 main benefits. 1. It looks nicer 2. Any children and pets that run around on the lawn afterwards don’t get covered in grass clippings and then walk them into the house creating more work, and 3. Grass clippings are excellent for composting.

So, I kinda feel like I’ve gone full circle, returning to the days of my youth. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Winter Gardens at the Auckland Domain

We’re well into spring in November which is a popular time of year for doing Garden Tours. Thankfully, there are plenty of public gardens around Auckland where I live, that can be visited, even for free, and most of them I’m sure will be looking good at this time of year.

The Winter Gardens at the Auckland Domain are a good example. They basically consist of 2 large greenhouses separated by a large courtyard and fernery.

One the greenhouses is filled with subtropical plants while the other one focuses more on perennials and annuals, etc. and although one of them was closed for maintenance when I visited, the other greenhouse did not disappoint.

I was like a kid in a candy shop not sure of where to point my camera first. It was a veritable feast of colours, shapes and textures. Plenty of inspiration for both the gardener in me and the photographer and artist too. The display of Foxgloves looked amazing.

The fernery was stunning too and while there wasn’t much in the way of colour, there was more than enough textures and shades of green to make up for it. 

So if you ever get the chance to visit Auckland, be sure to visit the Domain and Winter Gardens. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.