Not quite the 500 year deluge of over 200mm that Whangarei received but we had 130mm over quite a short time on Friday evening. Despite the failing light I managed to get these photos.

Downpour 17/7/20
Downpour 17/7/20

In the courtyard and drive/parking area the flooding problem is because the pipes from all 4 sumps/drains are the same diameter and feed into one also the same size. So it all takes a while to get away. Bad design but probably not worth the hassle of putting in a larger pipe for the very few times it is likely to be a problem.

Downpour 17/7/20

There is very little damage. Some bark has washed down the steeper beds which reminds me that Russell Fransham long ago advised me to use post peelings rather than bark as mulch on steeper slopes—it doesn’t roll so easily. It remains to be seen if all the plants survive the constant wet feet – there has been little respite from rain since mid May.

Protea “Jazz”

Protea “Jazz”

This is Protea “Jaz.” Planted just last May as a very small plant it grew very well but fell sideways and is now a bizarre shape. So I have cut all the flowers off and hope it will sprout away with lots of new growth which will form a well shaped bush. I’m very pleased with the flower—I bought it unseen. It is growing in the narrow bed above the stone retaining wall, good soil, well drained and sunny. I didn’t water that bed all through the drought.

Winter Colour

Rhododendron Vireya mcgregoriae

Several of my vireya rhododendrons are flowering now. Most of them are very small plants grown from cuttings from my previous garden. This orange one, R. mcgregoriae is a larger plant I dug up. It is particularly robust and has flowered several times in the last two years since I moved it here. It is a species from PNG and was used as a parent by Os Blumhardt for many of his successful, small flowered hybrids, like “Red Mountain”, “Rob’s Favourite” and many others. These plants do not have spectacular individual flowers but they make up for them by repeat, copious flowering throughout the year, and very strong healthy growth.

R. “First Light”

“First Light” is a sparkling, clear pink with similar flowering and growth habits.

Aloes in Flower


Several aloes planted above the stone retaining wall are flowering. So far they haven’t attracted birds but they are beginning to take the eye off the large expanse of bare fence. Very drought resistant they seem to shrink slightly during the dry and immediately swell once the rain comes. I’m not sure of their names but the taller one was a seedling near A. thraskii at the farm so I assume the flowers will be bright yellow and plant will grow tall and single stemmed. The smaller one was probably an un-named cutting from a friend. Aloes are so easy to propagate and they also hybridise and seed freely so naming them can be a bit irrelevant.  

Brassicas Galore

I’ve rather over done my brassica supply with cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts all ready to pick.


It has been difficult to get vegetable seedlings and seed during lock down so I was lucky a friend managed to get some for me on the last day before level 4. Kings Seeds mail order business was very efficient so I am well stocked up now and the sugar peas are just starting to flower. The storm has knocked the vegetable garden about but a few stakes and some sunshine will have it recovering quickly.


Pond Full!

On March 14th I posted a photo of our pond with a small puddle in the bottom. Today I can post this photo taken yesterday with the water lapping the top. Today the rain is pouring down and any moment now there will be water pouring over the spillway at the right.

Although we have had reasonable rain during May the drought has by no means broken. The reason it has taken so long to fill the pond is because of the extremely dry soil which has just soaked up all the moisture preventing any run off. The wide, grassed drain, which we call a swale drain, takes the run off from our and our neighbour’s water tanks and surface water. The swale drain had deep cracks in its totally dry base and until recently just soaked up the water  long before it reached the pond.

I am looking forward to getting all the plants I have collected into the ground, softening the edges and hiding the black liner.

First Fruit

This Satsuma mandarin Miho ripens very early and obviously crops young. It had far too many fruit set and I was strongly advised by a friend to remove them all but I couldn’t resist having some this year. Didn’t realise there were 9! Hope we get some next year.


Citrus are so colourful when ripe over the winter months they really should be treated as ornamental plants in the garden.

Avocado and Banana

I first wrote about avocado and banana last year in February and March. They have both grown very well.

Gold Finger

The banana was slow to get away in the spring but has grown like mad all summer. I’ve kept the water and fertiliser up to it and it has a deep mulch around it into which its thick white roots have extended. It is the Gold Finger variety —small and sweet. Hopefully we’ll get some fruit next summer.


The avocados are Hass, Reed, Bacon and the younger, smallest one Garage. The latter has some netting around it because the rosellas attacked it, removing all its young growth. It has recovered luckily. It was grafted for me by Laurie Austen at Waipapakauri in the Far North. It is a seedling he has growing by his garage, hence the name. It fruited young, grows well and is a good flavour so I’m very pleased to have a plant – thank you Laurie. They have all made good growth and seemed to tolerate the excessive heat and dryness of this summer, although I have been able to water them regularly. The mounds they are on look strange but we hope they will stop them getting the dreaded phytophera.

Autumn in the Courtyard

The mauve Sobralia has surprised me by coming back into flower. I had banished it to the nursery. In this shaded corner it joins the pitcher plant which looks amazing all year round and the hanging basket of blue Achimenes longiflora, a gift from a plantsman friend. It is beginning to poke out through the coconut matting and will eventually make a complete ball of flowers. It dies down completely in winter when it must be kept completely dry.