Animal Pests


The realisation that we have probably spent $500 in the last 12 months on pindone bait for rabbit control is quite shocking. Rabbits have caused a big loss of plants and it’s not only the bait that has cost us. Protective devices such as netting and plastic sleeves have had to be erected around every tree we have planted. Some plants are just not practicable to protect like this. We started off shooting but combined with small area in which it is safe to shoot here and the numbers of rabbits that was never going to be a long term solution. The poisoning does work but is expensive. No sooner do we get on top of the rabbits than more come in from the surrounding areas.

The wire cover over the bait stations is to stop the pukekos stealing all the bait. It doesn’t seem to have any effect on them.


Pukekos themselves are very destructive. Here I have added some netting to this pipe to stop the Pukekos standing top of the freshly planted succulent. Pulling out new plantings is Pukekos favourite occupation. They pull them out and leave them to bake in the sun. Infuriating!

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.

Winter Colour at the Quarry Gardens

Winter Colour

With everywhere so wet underfoot the Whangarei Quarry Gardens is a good place to visit with its well-formed, weather proof paths. Other than the camellia collection, in full flower at the moment, there is not a lot of colour but this planting of Poinsettias is surprisingly happy in this quite shady position. Probably Christmas pot plants re homed.

Quarry Gardens

Some of the many Aloes and succulents on this higher level bench at the Quarry. The rain has spoiled many though. Their flowers are usually long lasting but can be seen a sodden mess clinging to stems.

Winter Wet

It’s a while since I’ve done a blog. It has been very wet, although not very cold, we have had covid and somehow the garden hasn’t been very inviting. However there is a lot of colour out there so when the sun does come out it looks good from the house.


This morning we had another downpour, after we’d thrown out 54mm from the rain gauge for the previous 24 hours. Water gushed everywhere but suddenly it was all over and the sun came out. It is always quite startling in Northland how brilliant the colours can be even in midwinter. That brilliant green! The water was still gushing of course. We do get a lot coming onto our property from neighbours including the forest. You can see it rushing down to the pond and then on down the swale and back into the bush at the end of our property, all sparkling in the bright sun.

The water is sheeting across the grass from the bush into the swale drain. The white plastic box on the fence is a rabbit bait station. I am keeping bait in the four we have at the moment because we are seeing rabbits again.

Winter Wet

There are some ducks on the pond.


Michelia “Snow Dove”

Michelia “Snow Dove”

This hybrid between M. maudiae and M. doltsopa is a wonderful small, evergreen tree. It flowers profusely and over a long season from a young age. Its perfume is deliciously sweet and spicy, wafting round the garden.

Michelia “Snow Dove”

I chopped the top off this plant which was given to me as a pot plant, grown tall but a straggly shape. I held my breath but it sprouted vigorously and is now, a year later, this tidy shape.

The Michelias have all been re-named Magnolias but I am not inclined to change. However you might need to look under Magnolia at plant sales places.   

Michelia “Snow Dove”

Cymbidium Orchids

Cymbidium Orchid
Cymbidium Orchid

Last Spring I was given five large Cymbidium orchid plants by a commercial flower grower. Each year when flowering is finished commercial growers divide some plants, add new varieties and throw out surplus plants. These throw outs make great garden plants in our mild climate. Their strappy leaves look good all year round and if well fed they produce lots of colourful flowers in mid-winter. I don’t bother about dividing. Good healthy plants are very heavy to handle, have plenty of strong, bright green leaves and not many bare “back bulbs”. I dig a shallow round hole, deep enough to hold about a quarter of the root mass. I remove the plastic bag or pot they come in and dump the whole plant into the hole so that three quarters of the roots are exposed. This looks a bit ugly so if I have some small rocks handy I pile them up around the root ball. The one thing these plants can’t stand is too much moisture so this method of planting keeps them out of wet ground but stops them tipping over. Cymbidium species from which these commercial varieties are bred are mostly epiphytic so they are quite tolerant of dry spells. They are best planted in high light, either full sun or dappled shade. These outdoor flowers wont be cut flower standard of course, and it certainly pays to use slug stuff as the spikes appear. I give them a good dressing of slow release fertiliser a couple of time a year. 

Cymbidium Orchid

Justicia aurea

Justicia aurea
Justicia aurea

Also known as Yellow Jacobinia, this plant shines a golden glow in the late autumn early winter. Grows in sun or shade and unless cut back can reach up to 2-3 meters but becomes straggly and untidy unless growing through other plants. Given a hard cut back after flowering the foliage on the regrowth remains attractive all year. Easily propagated from cuttings or rooted off shoots.

These young plants are probably not doing as well as they should—too wet perhaps.

Justicia aurea


Gordonia yunnanensis
Gordonia yunnanensis

Gordonia yunnanensis is a fabulous shrub/small tree. It has a huge number of very large white, camellia-like flowers over a long time from now on through winter. You can see from the number of buds how floriferous it is. The foliage is slightly bluey and stands up to wind well. It would make a very good informal hedge as it grows quite upright and remains well clothed right to the ground. It is much more manageable than its fellow species, Gordonia lasianthus which grows into a large spreading tree also covered in smaller white flowers for a long period. 

Gordonia yunnanensis
Gordonia yunnanensis


We’ve sold our farm! After 36 years on this property living in three different houses and running three different businesses we are moving. It’s all age related of course. 135 acres (52ha) of hilly pasture and bush takes some managing to keep in tip top order and my garden is more than I can manage alone as I reach my late 70s. Of course we could get help but we enjoy doing it ourselves so here we go off to a new start.

We have bought just under 4 acres (1.5ha) in a subdivision 4km from Kamo, a suburb of Whangarei. Driving through extensively stone walled country we are just off the volcanic soil, over the stream at the edge of the lava flow and bounding the very large Pukenui forest.

We took a long time choosing this piece of land. We had several criteria for our move. It had to be as close or closer to Whangarei than our present place which is 22 kms. It had to be large enough for Roger to have a big shed and me to have a reasonable sized garden —that’s an imprecise definition! Roger wanted ½ an acre of lawn to mow. We wanted some privacy. We hoped for a sea view but that was one thing we found very difficult to achieve along with the other demands.

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Here is a photo of the section. No sea views but a peaceful vista down to a good stand of kahikateas and sheltered from the south and south west by the Pukenui Forest. This forest has been pest controlled for ten years and has extensive walkways through it.