News from the Garden

News from the Garden


Image: These spectacular ‘purple clouds’ of Thalictrum outside the Ballroom although looking like Gypsophila (baby’s breath) they are not even closely related. Thalictrum is of the buttercup family, while the latter is of the carnation family – so alike but so different.

Purple clouds and thinking before we speak – yes they can have points in common.

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 made an instant judgement about this lady, not a good one. I was about to say, being a semi-polite individual, ‘There are lots of great plants in the garden at the moment, go and have a look around and come back and let me know what yours is’.

Secretly though I am thinking 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 that is attracted to Larnach Castle and can hang suspended there for days, and days, and days!

More technically it is called Thalictrum delavayi ‘Hewitts Double’. Its common name is, as I have just found out, is 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 overseeing what is taking place within the Ballroom café.

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!

We gave them plenty of positive reinforcement.

The aforementioned lady and, the harsh comments that the nikau had to put up with in their early years, were epitomised in a Calvin and Hobbs cartoon by Watterson, that was in the Otago Daily times recently. It is one that I believe that we all need to bear in mind at times especially when we are dealing with tough situations or feeling a little stressed.

At such times things can just pop out of our mouths and often we do not really mean them, but does the recipient know this. I also reckon that the plants love you talking nicely to them too, but then I always seem to see the plant world a little differently from other people!

Thalictrum – These spectacular ‘purple clouds’ of Thalictrum outside the Ballroom although looking like Gypsophila (baby’s breath) they are not even closely related. Thalictrum is of the buttercup family, while the latter is of the carnation family – so alike but so different.

Nikau – These magnificent specimens have made their mark on the garden and are here to stay. The largest started life in the gardens at no more than a metre tall and is now nigh on 4 m! An interesting point is that they will not begin to trunk until the frond length reaches close to their mature size.

Qualmark Endorsed Visitor Activity
New Zealand Gardens Trust
Landmarks New Zealand
Tiaki - Care for New Zealand

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