Sunday, April 12, 2009
Northern Hemisphere friends often comment on how odd our southern Christmases seem. They cannot imagine a yuletide festival where the only branches burning are driftwood logs on the beach, under the shade of a pohutukawa tree, with sausages roasting rather than chestnuts.
I suspect they would be similarly bewildered over our Easter. For them it is a festival of regeneration and resurrection, where the community celebrates the arrival on new life, in the form of spring. Here we are almost completely in the opposite position. It is our harvest festival time, although we fill it with images of rabbits, chickens and lambs.
This Easter was even more confusing, with rumours of frosts, snow-clad mountain ranges, and four days of brilliant weather. I guess I would not have been alone in spending most of the time in the garden, doing some storage, some regeneration and even a little resurrection.
I had to attack a large clump of the wonderful Iris sibirica ‘Windward Spring’. This is a stunning blue flowered Iris, with grass-like upright leaves. It dies right away for the winter, but in spring sends up stately blooms, but I have been naughty, letting it alone for about eight years. That has meant it has not had the rejuvenation it needs to bloom as prolifically as it should. I dug the whole clump up (I needed and axe to break through it) then split it up carefully.
Gardening books often talk about using two garden forks, to break up clumps of perennials, placing them back-to-back among the clump, then wedging them apart, using the fulcrum.
Sounds like a good idea, but I can tell you it does not work for any strong growing perennial, such as this iris. It took a spade and a lot of effort to separate it all, replace the soil and fertilise it, and then replant a tiny fraction of the original plant. I bagged up some divisions for friends too.
I also took cuttings of some of the perennials I was cleaning up, including a lot of different Dianthus cultivars. These also get very woody of left alone, but they are easy to strike from cuttings at this time of the year. I simply take a piping. These are shoots cut from the plant at the second or third joint and inserted, close to each other, in a pot filled with pumice sand. They will strike within a three or four weeks, when they can be potted on. They will be ready to plant out in the spring.
I also took cuttings from my Penstemons, as, although they are best cut down later in the year, they have such wonderful wood for propagating at present. These are again taken as stems with about three or four leaf buds, and placed in pumice propagating sand. I do not bother with rooting hormone. I think the hormones really help those cuttings that were going to strike anyway, but have no affect on those that were not!
Last autumn I crossed some red Chilean bellflowers, Lapageria rosea with the exquisite white form. The seed set and germinated. I pricked out those seedlings this weekend, and also sowed some precious seed of new hybrid Amaryllis belladonna, from one of New Zealand’s best plant breeders.
All-in-all a very exciting Easter.