Iris japonica


This evergreen iris, commonly called the fringed iris, makes a good ground cover in a shady, moist spot. Very tolerant and, even when it is not covered in these long flower stalks, looks a pleasant, shiny, green mass. The numerous buds  open in succession over a long time.


The Abutilons are making a great show of colour in the garden right now.

Eight Abutilon varieties

The selection of varieties and different colours available has greatly increased in recent years. I haven’t grown them before but along with the bees am really appreciating their glamour in the winter garden. They are quite vigorous growers so I can see some judicious pruning will have be done once they finish flowering in early summer.

The Magnolia Garden

Last week I visited The Magnolia Garden at Poroti just out of Whangarei which belongs to Cath and David Davies-Colley. In quite a small garden they have planted and extraordinary collection of magnolias. They open their garden each year when these beauties are in flower.


Here is a selection of the photos I took including one of hellebore flowers. They also so have many bulbs and perennials growing under the magnolias.

Caerhays Belle


It’s taken a long time but I finally have an asparagus bed. To start with I thought asparagus didn’t do well in Northland but I have discovered several people with good, productive beds. Then I always seemed to be moving which isn’t conducive to planting such a long term crop. That reason hasn’t changed but I have decided to risk not being here long enough to enjoy a good feed of my own asparagus. Perhaps age has either addled my brain or made me more fatalistic about the future.

Totara roots in original bed

So we dismantled what had been the chilli garden which proved hopeless because the totara roots totally invaded it, even through a lining of weed matt.


Using the timber piles to extend the rhubarb bed we have sufficient room for both the asparagus and the chillis. We filled it with the clay/loam topsoil we bought in last year. All this was done in the middle of the extremely wet July but now after a few fine days I have been able to rake it over and plant the year old asparagus crowns. I’ve given it a good dressing of blood and bone and dolomite and later we will add a deep mulch. The varieties I was able to buy were Apollo and Atlas, both NZ breed varieties.

I’m not expecting to be eating my own asparagus anytime soon!

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

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.