A better royal bouquet

Zara's bouquet

I didn’t much like Kate Middleton’s bouquet (I know, it was simple, elegant, sophisticated and rich in symbolism… but it was, also, well, just so small). But I did love Zara Phillips’ bridal bouquet. It was classic and contemporary, with white calla lilies (Zantedeschias), the lacy, felted leaves of silver cinerarias (known botanically Senecio cineraria) and steely blue sea hollies (Eryngiums). They’re the spiky blue, thistle-like flowers in Zara’s bouquet and they’re brilliant for picking.

In my first proper perennial garden, back in 1995, I had a collection of eryngiums. They were my favourite fashionable plant (I’d probably read in Gardens Illustrated that they were trendy at the Chelsea Flower Show or something). I grew Eryngium planum (it’s in the Kings Seeds catalogue); Eryngium alpinum (Parva Plants have it but it’s currently sold out, though they do have others, like the new ‘White Glitter’ and an amazing new variegated form called ‘Miss Marble’); and Eryngium yuccifolium (which, as the name suggests, has spiky foliage like a small yucca). But my favourite was Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost‘. It’s a stunner, with large, pale silvery blue flowers. You can get it by mail-order from The Fragrant Garden or Greenhaus. There’s even a New Zealand native sea holly called Eryngium vesiculosum (from Oratia Natives), though it’s more of a collector’s item. It looks like a weed.

Back to the royal wedding: there were heaps of white hydrangeas at the church too. If you fancy rigging up something similar yourself, the best white hydrangea by far for Kiwi gardens is ‘Trophy’. Plant it in late spring for oodles of blooms all summer. The flowers last for ages before fading to greenish-yellow in autumn. They often dry on the plant so you get winter interest too. I just pruned mine back yesterday.

Winter wonderland

Frosty rhodos, frosty rocks, frosty nicotiana...

I do like a good frost (much more so since we installed a heat pump… frosts aren’t quite so nice when your wee farmhouse is so chilly you feel like you’re sleeping inside the fridge). We had a wicked freeze on Tuesday this week. The deck was white with ice, apart from the thawed pawprint patterns from the dogs. The paddocks were powdery. The puddles were iced over. The lawn was wonderfully crunchy underfoot. The rhododendrons along our driveway looked like someone had spraypainted them white. And the metre-high ornamental tobacco plants (Nicotiana mutabilis) in my rose bed were completely coated in ice crystals. Their large, soft leaves had all slumped to the ground. I figured they were a goner… but I was wrong. As the ice thawed, they perked up miraculously.

Nicotiana mutabilis is one of my all-time favourite plants. The flowers open pink and fade to white (or do they do that in reverse? I can never remember), which means that at any one time the plants are smothered in tubular flowers that range from pure white to marshmallow pink to bright cerise. (Here’s a pic). You can order it from Marshwood Gardens.

The early bird also gets the views

A foggy morning on the farm

I am not a morning person. Never have been. As a child I’d crawl out of bed at the last possible moment and was always cutting it fine to sprint down the driveway in time to catch the school bus. (Thus I can’t help but admire my niece Jaime’s cunning: she – in a stroke of pure genius – tried to wear her school uniform to bed under her PJs. It would have worked too, had my sister not gone in to wish her goodnight only to spot her school shirt collar poking out from under the blankets.)

I am not a morning person, but since Lucas was born, I’ve seen in the dawn on at least a dozen occasions. And every time it’s a thrill. (No, that’s not just the sleep deprivation making me say silly things.) One of the simple pleasures of living on the peak of a hill is the way that, on clear winter mornings, the fog rolls in, slowly swallowing the valley, leaving only the trees around our lawn and the tips of the Hunua Ranges in the distance peeking out of the mist.

By the time it’s light enough to take a photo, the fog has usually lifted. So, as ridiculous as this might sound, it always makes me feel like this ephemeral effect is for my eyes only. (And Lucas’ too, though to be quite honest at that time of the day he’s rather more interested in looking up my shirt than out the window!)