Monday, November 19, 2007

Pacific Coast Irises 2007

This year’s Pacific Coast season has been terrible, from the view point of new seedlings.
It started off badly when my annual delivery of seed from the Society for Pacific Coast Irises (SPCNI) was halted at the border because the inspectors found some supposed fungous spores on one seed. All the seed was detained and destroyed.
Then the growing season turned our bad as well. We had a number of late frosts, one or two of them quite hard, and it killed many buds in the fan. Some of the more established plants ended up having a beautiful late season flush, and the naturally late flowering types were lovely in the first week or so of November. The hybrids with a strong dose of I. munzii flowered last and they were lovely. They have a restricted colour range, in the blue range, but they are lovely things.
My crossing this year has concentrated on some “Pretty Boy” seedlings. Plants grown from seed in 2003 have given small plants, with flowering stems only about 15 cm high, and in mauve shades. The best of these are very light. 2004-41

Plants from 2004 seed have tended to be more in the orange/yellow shades, although there is one very floriferous dwarf form with mauve flowers, 2004-041. My favourite is my 2004-053, which has apricot pink flowers. It does not set seed very well as a pod parent, but seems to have worked as a pollen parent as there are pods filling.

The best of this year’ seedlings are 2004-004 and 2004-005, both seedlings from ‘Wishing,” and the lovely 2004-056, a seedling from “Sojourner.”


Now I just wait for the SPCNI seed list, and for my own crosses to swell up those pods so I can harvest and start again!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Dawson's Falls, Taranaki

Mist at Bridal Veils Falls

Bridal Veils Falls

This week I went on a big trip north. I went through Rotorua, onto Auckland via a very circuitous route. I reported on the Ellerslie Flower Show, then made my way back home, also going to some off beat places.

On my travels I saw two awesome waterfalls - the Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan, and Dawson's Falls on Taranaki, Mount Egmont.

My son sent me an e-mail of some waterfalls he saw on his trip to the Catlins, south of Dunedin, so this is my riposte!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Snowball trees

I had a new experience this weekend. I showed some flowers at the local horticultural society’s show. I think I once entered a sand saucer in a show when I was a young child, encouraged by my family no doubt. My grandparents were keen exhibitors, and in my late mother’s scrapbook, I have newspaper entries of her horticultural endeavours. Pride of place went to a photograph of a prize-winning ginger plant she assiduously cultivated against the wall of our house, where it was protected from frost. I can still recall her pride in the sweetly-scented plant. She would be horrified to know that it is now a noxious weed!
This Saturday morning saw me taking a bucket of my Pacific Coast Irises seedling flowers down to the local hall, where I carefully arranged them among the many other flowers. It was really just a chance to let other gardeners see how lovely they are, but I confess to being slightly chuffed at winning a couple of little certificates.
There were many different flowers in the hall – not many roses as it is still a little early in this late flowering season- and I enjoyed looking at other exhibitors’ vases. One of my favourites was a large vase filled with that most child-like off all shrubs, the Snowball Tree.
This delightfully old-fashioned shrub has instant appeal at this time of the year when its large white flowers – they really do look like snowballs – cover the bright green leaves. When the flowers first appear they have a greenish tinge, but they soon take on a pure white colour. They are very attractive as cut flowers, and I believe they are currently being looked at as a cut flower crop.
The shrubs grow to about four metres high, but they do better if they are trimmed, and also thinned out to stop the branches becoming crowded and the flowers reducing in size. The foliage is deep green through summer, and colours up in the autumn, although that is not so noticeable in warmer climates. It is very unfussy as to soil type, but prefers a sunny aspect. It will grow better is given some wind protection.
It glories in the odd name of Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’. The wild form of the species has flat flowers, fully fertile, but in this form the individual flowers are all sterile, and composed of large florets, much like a mop-headed hydrangea. Being sterile the flowers do not set seed.
The fertile flowered forms are very popular overseas, but less so in this country. They are mot so attractive in flower, but they have a wonderful summer/autumn bonus with very attractive berries, usually red. The form ‘Compactum’ is dwarf growing, to about a metre, and has white lace cap flowers in spring. The berries are red.
Those of you who took Latin at school (there cannot be many of you left now!) will recognise that ‘Xanthocarpum’ will have yellow fruits.
There are many different Viburnums in flower at this time of the year in New Zealand, representatives of a large genus of trees and shrubs, some with sterile flowers interspersed among the fertile, others with fully fertile flowers. Have a look around – there is bound to be one you like.