The flax of life

Grow, sweetpeas, grow!

Here’s a pic for my NZ Gardener colleague in the deep south, Robert Guyton. Robert’s one of those clever and crafty gardeners who can turn anything into something else, like using last year’s flax flowers to make this year’s bean frame.

Inspired by the flax flower tepees in Robert’s Riverton plot, I took my loppers for a stroll in our flax patch this afternoon and made my own eco-friendly, plastic-free climbing frame, strung together with natural twine. (I’m trying to make up for confessing my environmental sins… namely using disposable nappies… in a recent Sunday magazine column.)

It looks cool, even if I do say so myself. (My husband’s response was, “Are you turning all Sally-Ridge-crafty on me?” He must be reading the NZ Woman’s Weekly somewhere on the sly!)

The ring of dark soil around the base of the tepee is seed-raising mix. I sowed most of a packet of ‘Patricia Ann‘ sweet peas around it today. This mix, bred by Dr Keith Hammett, has old-fashioned, streaky patterned petals in shades of pink, purple, cream and apricot. According to the seed packet I should have sown them in autumn (oh well, better late than never). And here’s something else I learned by reading the packet: when you’re sowing sweet peas, “select seeds of all sizes, as seeds of darker coloured flowers are often small and shrivelled”. And there I was, only picking out the big seeds to sow…

 

 

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The start of spring

The first taste of spring

We’re not eating much out of our vege garden yet, because there’s not much in there that’s ready to harvest. But last night we celebrated the start of spring – and the end of another good day in the garden – with homemade fish cakes, boiled eggs from the chooks, most of a bottle of French champagne (it was a wedding gift)… and the first salad of the season.

The fish cakes were a bit of a disaster. I’ve never made them before and we didn’t have any breadcrumbs, so they all fell apart in the frying pan. We ended up with a pile of what can only be described as fishy mashed ‘Agria’ spuds, topped with parmesan and heaps of fresh chives. The salad wasn’t exactly exciting either, just baby spinach, shredded mint, more chives, a mini ‘Buttercrunch’ lettuce, perennial rocket and spring onions. But it tasted like the start of something good: the new season.

Another first for the week: I took Lucas for his first trip to a garden centre on Friday afternoon. We got there five minutes before closing. (I have calculated the effect of having a baby on my ability to get anywhere on time as T+1 hour and 20 minutes.) But that was just long enough for me to cram the car boot with perennials and a big bag of seed-raising mix.

So yesterday we cleared the weeds and scrappy alyssum out of the two beds at the end of the lawn, staked the six ‘Awapuni’ cherry blossom trees, dug in some compost and planted Orlaya grandiflora, a few pale pink cineraria, babianas, violets, hellebores, night-scented stock, poppies, Brachyscome ‘Strawberry Mousse’, pink gnautias and the potentilla ‘Miss Willmott’. I’ve tucked the potentillas between some orange and red-stemmed silverbeet. Should be a cute colour combination.

We* finally planted our bareroot plum, plumcot and stonefruit trees yesterday too, and just in the nick of time. The ‘Tomcot’ apricots have got their first blossoms already. I don’t have high hopes that they’ll ever fruit well, as apricots are the holy grail in Auckland’s humidity, but they will get a decent winter chill so you never know. We also put in some ‘Blackboy’ and ‘Golden Queen’ peaches; ‘Mabel’, ‘Goldmine’ and ‘Queen Giant’ nectarines; and five ‘Smyrna’ quinces.

When I met Jason, he’d already planted two plum trees on the hill between the house and the arena. I have no idea what varieties they are (one’s a yellow plum, the other red), but we’ve given them some mates: ‘Santa Rosa’, ‘Elephant Heart’, and the apricot-plum hybrid, plumcot ‘Spring Satin’.

Which just leaves five ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ and ‘Peasgood Nonsuch’ apples to plant today and the new orchard area will be finished, aside from sowing wildflowers around the trees. (Plus I still have 10 ‘Seckel’ pears to espalier, but they’re going into our new formal garden and that hasn’t been excavated yet.
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*When I say we, I mean that I laid out the trees and then went back up to the house to mind Lucas and make a chocolate cake while my husband dug all the holes. Heh.