News from the Garden

News from the Garden

Posted: 18/03/2017

I was asked the other day "what’s the best plant in the garden at the moment".

I was working in the rockery at the time and was about to say ‘Well, we all like different types of plants, so what is my favourite may not be yours. Go and have a look around and let me know what you find’, while secretly thinking something completely different. Ahh our customers are such an interesting and diverse bunch. I am quite sure that this woman would go to a restaurant and ask the waiter what their favourite dish was, order it and then complain at the end about something, anything; herbs too intense, under cooked, over cooked, too salty, not seasoned enough... or all of the above. 
It is amazing how quickly ideas and thoughts can whip around within the grey matter found within our skulls, as this all happened within seconds as I was lifting my head to respond to her. I would like to say that this occurs all the time, the speed that is, but I would be lying, as at other times it seems as though a mere thought takes minutes to pull itself out of the convoluted quagmire of my brain. 

Anyway, as I looked up I saw in front of me the Thalictrum towering above the azaleas like the proverbial ‘purple clouds’ described by Margaret in the Garden Brochure. The dense clusters of tiny purple flowers appearing suspended above the foliage, congregating around the fragile stems that support them – just like the fog is attracted to Larnach Castle and can hang suspended there for days, and days, and days! 
To the thalictrum, more technically called Thalictrum delavayi ‘Hewitts Double’. Its common name is, as I have just found out, Chinese meadow rue. It is a truly lovely plant from top to bottom with foliage not unlike a maidenhair fern on steroids. The flowers are doubles as the name suggests which in this case means, not only are they bolder and brighter than their poor ‘normal’ relatives but they do not spread seed throughout the garden, being sterile. With the extra moisture we have had this summer the thalictrum are standing even higher than the normally do; soft purple conning towers over seeing what is taking place within the Ballroom cafĂ©. 

I suggested to the aforementioned lady visitor that the thalictrum were particularly spectacular this year, to which I got a flick of the hair and some offhand comment which I decided that I did not need to hear. If I had, it may have made my brain work quite quickly and release some words in response ,that may in turn have resulted in her leaving with a not quite such good view of the gardeners at Larnach Castle. 
Like so many plants, these get better with age. It can be so easy to judge new plants and at times, difficult to know if they will fit in because most take time to adjust to their new surroundings and, more to the point, being exposed to the elements. The Nikau in the South Seas are a classic example; for the first few years they looked like plants with leaves that had passed through a shredder and then been left out to dry. Ahh the comments these poor plants put up with but they stuck it out encouraged by some positive comments from Margaret and I. We let them know that we had belief in their ability to survive the rather inclement climate we had placed them in; it was not Auckland (their place of birth, although the ancestry of most is the Chatham Islands) but the views they would have once they broached the surrounding plants, would be spectacular and, look at them now!

The lady had me thinking of the poor comments that the Nikau had to put up with in their early years were epitomised in a Calvin and Hobbs cartoon by Watterson. It is a pretty darn good cartoon to bear in mind at times when we are dealing with tough situations and sometimes things can just pop out of our mouth. For me I also need to remember when talking to the plants as well; I am sure they know what I am saying! 

About Fiona Eadie

Fiona has worked with plants throughout her career, starting it all with a degree in botany from Otago University. Since then she has undertaken native forest research (5 years), managed a native plant nursery in Auckland (12 years) and at present is head gardener at Larnach Castle in Dunedin (14 years). Through the past ten years she has also undertaken contract teaching for apprentices and writing of course material for Thoughtplanters and, written regular botanical articles for Commercial Horticulture. She has written three books on gardening with NZ native plants.

Tagged under: garden

Posted: 18/03/2017 11:34:35 a.m. by Larnach Castle | with 0 comments

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