Rock Hoppers

Lush planting
Detailed planting by the house.

A month ago I visited Gordon and Rosie Speedy’s fabulous garden Rock Hoppers with a gardening group. It is so full of interesting and different plants and ideas it is impossible to give more than a fleeting glimpse here.

Diverse plantings
General view to distant hills.

At 4 ha there is plenty of room for diverse plantings. The land is volcanic with an abundance of stone. Originally farm land it was stone walled in the early 1900s. The drier areas in the garden are very suitable for growing proteas, aloes and other species often difficult to grow well in Northland’s copious rainfall. The maintenance of this large garden is a credit to this energetic and creative couple.

Dry Stone Wall
Dry Stone Wall.

There are many quirky structures and sculptures around the garden including this effective use of old blue bottles.

Blue Bottles

This rustic hut hides amongst some colourful planting.

Bush Hut
Bush Hut.

Unusual use of barbed wire!

Barbed Wire
Barbed wire bottle

The plentiful water from local springs near the garden is used to form large, naturalistic ponds adding a liveliness to the landscape. This garden is open to viewing and also available for wedding venues. There is a small informal cafe in the garden.

Vireya Rhododendrons

Vireya Rhododendron
Marshall Pierson Madison

I grow a lot of Vireyas. They are temperamental plants, prone to sudden death. Generally this is caused by Phytophthora soil born diseases which is helped in its destructive action by excess moisture which is a bit hard to avoid in Northland. However many varieties seem to be much less susceptible than others and I have many growing well and flowering brilliantly. Here is “Marshal Pierce Madison”, grown from cutting, flowering for the first time – you can see two more fat buds ready to take the place of this huge scented flower when it falls. It makes persevering with these tricky plants worthwhile.

French Vanilla

Although I do feel very sad when I see this good sized “French Vanilla” dying. As soon as the leaves start drooping slightly you know there is no going back. This plant has flowered several times in the last three years and has made considerable growth – how dare it die! Covered in buds too!

Spraying with Foscheck is said to help stop the spread of phytophthora root rots. Perhaps I left my spraying a little late this autumn.


Orchid collection

There is a rush of orchid flowering in the courtyard at the moment. The small white slipper orchid is Paphiopedilum Phips. I bought it as a pot plant last winter so am delighted it has settled in outside and has two flowers on one stem and another stem appearing. The purple flowers on the right is Sobralia macranthus x violacea (what a mouthful!). It flowers intermittently over several months. The white Cattleya is the same one I posted in March – “Angel Wings”. This is a different plant which has another 3 stems coming. It is well worth growing—seems to be trouble free other than slugs and snails which love all succulent new growths and buds. The orchid in the punga is Maxillaria grandiflora. The pink is a small Cattelya and since this photo was taken there are more Paphs out and a Zygapetalum.