Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gastrodia - Potatoe orchids of New Zealand

Gastrodia at home
Mid February and I find a Gastrodia growing in my own garden which was a surprise. Unfortunately finished flowering and with an incomplete flower spike (inflorescence). Have to wait and see if it flowers next year (2018).

​See my article on Gastrodias here

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Monday, November 14, 2016

​Bletilla striata – Urn Orchid, Hardy Orchid, Chinese Ground Orchid

This one of the best ground orchids you can grow in your own garden in ordinary garden soil. It produces up to 14 beautiful amethyst-purple flowers on long spikes each year and is best grown in a woodland garden.

This is the most well-known species of the 9 species that are known of this small eastern genus found in China, Japan, Taiwan, Myanmar and possibly North India. B. striata was one of the first ground orchids introduced to the UK in 1794.

It is a deciduous terrestrial orchid which is quite hardy everywhere. Its pseudobulbs (false bulbs) are quite hard, knoblike, grayish white in colour, with concentric rings and brown roots. However protection from spring frosts is necessary to prevent the leaves and flower spike being damaged.

In NZ it is hardy in all but the coldest gardens. The soil conditions it prefers is a peat-loam-sand mix which stays moist in winter and summer. The underground which can be divided to increase the number in your garden.

The leaves appear in spring with each having a pleated pattern and grow to about 400mm high and deciduous.

Upright racemes (spikes with alternate flowers) of emerge from the centre of the leaves in early summer and carry up to 9 purple flowers which open sequentially up the stem.

It has been featured on a stamp from Korea as well.

There are several varieties including Bletilla striata var alba which has white flowers, Bletilla striata var albostricta has leaves striped white, Bletilla striata var gebina, has whitish flowers with a suffused faint blush. Recently new blue forms have been described including Bletilla striata ‘‘Mursaki Shikibu’, named after the famous ancient Japanese novelist and was first collected in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. The flower segments are a bit “fatter” than a typical flower and the flowers tend to remain more cupped. It is said that plants come true from seed.

Bletilla striata ‘Soryu’ This plant was purported to have been collected in Wakayama Prefecture on the island of Honshu. 

A relatively new cultivar has marginal variegation on the flower with a white margin on all flower segments. 

Perhaps the most unique form is the fascinating peloric flower form, Bletilla striata ‘Trilips’.  It has three lips and the flower is quite small, perhaps half the size of a normal one, the flower color is a very deep, saturated purple/pink and the flowers produce no pollen.

Bletilla striata 'Rosea' a lovely pale pink form.

You can see these all on this Youtube video by Botanyboy. Bletilla striata  

It is easy to grow so give it some room in your garden. It may produce seed pods and it is wise to remove these to enable good flowering the next year. They will go well from seed without the difficulty of specialized orchid growing conditions.

See this Pinterest board Bletilla striata

Thanks to

Monday, October 31, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

Codling Moths control in Apples and Pears

I have published a new article on my website
Codling Moth Control

Gentiana acaulis

See the new article and photos on my website

Gentiana acaulis

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Peel Forest - Near Geraldine Mid South Canterbury.

There are many walks in the area. Two that can be completed in an afternoon are Emily Falls Walk and Dennistoun Bush Walk. Both very different.

After driving through the small (tiny) picturesque village of Peel Forest at the base of the Southern Alps foothills turn left onto Blandswood Road and then at the end of the seal turn right onto Lookout Road and onto the car park.

Emily Falls Walk. Lovely bush and listen to the bellbirds singing.

Walking up the road to the track entrance the air is filled with the ringing sound of the Bellbirds singing in the trees. Starting on the track is easy but soon winds its way upwards for about 15 minutes to the top of the ridge. On the way large 'old man' Fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) hang over the track and at this time of year are in full flower. Many ferns line the walking track along the way. 

At the top of the ridge the track divides to go to Emily Falls or Rata Falls.

Taking the Emily Falls track  defend to the steam and walk up stream for about 100 metres. With little recent rain you wont get your feet wet but with gentle and careful rock hopping rejoin the track to the Falls. Lovely bush area and nice stands of South Island Kowhai ( Sophora microphylla).

Return the same way and return time about 1.30 hours to 2 hours.


"Old Man" Fuschia - Flakey orange bark

Emily Falls 

Dennistoun Bush Walk.  Spectacular 1000 year old trees.

This excellent flat bush walk is found on Blandwood Road before heading up to the Emily Falls car park. A large sign on the  side of the rad  with a nice  mown grease picnic area makes it easy to spot.

A wide waking track leaves the panic area and forks into a circular track around the area.

Within a few metres of entering the track gigantic Totara, Kahikatea and Matai trees are encountered. These extra large trees are remnants for the extensive logging carried out in the 1800’s. Now about 1000 years old these are spectacular in size, form and structure. Not just one or two but many trees are scattered through this reserve.

Apart from the walk and trees take a very short side trip to the saw pit area and imagine to work that early foresters undertook to fell these large trees and  hand mill them into usable  timber.

Enjoy the walk amongst these giants, enjoy the  singing of the bellbirds.



Saw Pit where felled logs were cut into usable timber

Totara Video

The Giant Trees

To help  with identifying the trees the short description below will make it easy. The leaves of these trees are all different but as they are large stand back and look up at them and identify the leaves against the sky.

There are a number of useful links at the end of each description.

Totara, Podocarpus totara. Easily recognises by its tough green spiked leaves about 25mm long and 4mm wide and its stringy bark totara grow into very large diameter trees up to 30m high. Here on this walk are excellent examples of very large specimens. 

"One of the largest trees in the forest, its timber was prized by Maori as being the best for building their massive war canoes, and was also the main timber used for carving. Until more recent times it was also valued for bridge and wharf construction, as well as a wide variety of other uses ... Ancient Maori custom demanded that when a totara tree was felled for timber a young seedling had to he planted in its place in order to appease Tane, the god of the forest, for removing one of his 'children' " (Metcalf 2002).

Kahikatea, Dacrycarpus dacrydioides, (previously Podocarpus dacrydioides) is the tallest native tree in New Zealand. The one growing here are certainly tall and criss cross the track with their large surface roots.

It can be recognised by the leaves which are very small being about 1mm wide and 3mm long tightly packed along the stems. The colour may  change for a large purplish green to an olive green. The trunk has a nice flakey pattern to it with approximately 75mm diameter pieces of bark flaking off at different times. Large rounded surface roots cover the ground around the tree.

Matai, Prumnopitys taxifolia, (previously Podocarps taxifolia). The tall Matai has leaves about 10 - 15 mm long and 2mm wide and a dark green colour. It also has surface roots.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Summer Pruning of Roses

Roses, the queen of flowers, are one of summers highlights with their large, bright and scented flowers of all shapes, sizes and forms.

Unfortunately the flowers don't last as long as we would like and we have to encourage more growth and flower buds throughout the summer to have  a continuous  supply of lovely flowers.

Here is how we do that.
  • When each flower has finished prune off the dead head back to the next flowering bud.
  • Usually there are a number of flowers on each stem so when the last flower has finished cut back the flowering stem to the first five leaflet leaf down the stem.
  • Once cut at this point a new flowering stem will grow to produce flowers about 4-5 weeks later.
  • Repeat this as the early rose flowers finish.
  • Repeat this process throughout the summer and autumn to keep rejuvenating the rose bush and produce more flowers.
  • At times the bush may look a little  out of shape and  this can be corrected by pruning some stems a little harder than the first five leaf.
  • If there is any dieback or dying stems these should be removed when identified.

This seems like a lot of work but if you do a little each week it only takes a few minutes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Incarvillea delavayi

Pride of China, Hardy Gloxinia, Chinese Trumpet Flower, Garden Gloxinia

This beautiful clump-forming perennial is excellent for rock gardens and borders. It has handsome foliage and upright stems bearing large, trumpet-shaped, usually bright pink, flowers in early summer. It grows to a height of 60 cm with a spread of 30 cm, but dies down early in autumn. It is frost hardy, but should be protected with mulch during cold winters. It makes an excellent talking point in the garden.

Incarvillea is a beautiful flowering plant with low growing clumps of glossy, deeply divided leaves from which arise 25cm - 50cm leafless stems topped by clusters of flowers, each flower may be up to 75mm across. The first few blooms on each plant often appear before the rosettes of mid-green leaflets have fully developed. 

Blooming from late spring to midsummer, the large terminal heads of exotic trumpet-shaped flowers are a bright magenta to rosy-pink, with yellow throats and are held well above the rosette of dark green foliage on stout stems. ‘Alba’ and 'Snowtop', are white-flowering varieties.

The fleshy taproot must have excellent drainage as they do not tolerate wet or waterlogged soil in winter and grows best in a rock garden or raised bed in a position that receives some sun every day. Remove faded flowers to encourage more buds. Excellent for cut flowers.

Sometimes it is best to treat them as short-lived perennials but it is well worth the extra effort to grow these plants.

The crowns are easily damaged and plants are very late to emerge in the spring, Do not disturb them and you will be rewarded with exotic looking flowers each spring. Grow Incarvillea in deep, sandy soil that has been liberally enriched with compost. They need consistent moisture while in bloom. 

Protect the young growth from slugs but otherwise no major problems.

Crowns should be buried 75-150mm below soil level in a area with full to part sun that is protected. Plants should be mulched in autumn with dry straw or some other mulch, to protect the crowns from winter damage.

Seeds may be sown in the spring or autumn in sandy soil in a cold frame or they may be sown in trays of soil outdoors and covered with sheets of glass. Seeds need no pretreatment but need light to germinate. Do not cover them with soil. Seeds take about 14 days to germinate with soil temp at 10-15° C. Propagation can also be by very careful division in spring but mature plants do not like disturbance.

The genus Incarvillea belongs to the family Bignoniaceae and consists of 17 species native to central and East Asia, including the Himalayas. All are suitable for rock gardens and borders. Some species are annuals, although those in cultivation are usually perennial. Some of the shorter growing species from higher altitudes of the Himalaya’s, Tibet, India and Turkestan have the largest and most exotic flowers. Most species flower in shades of magenta and deep rose-pink although one or two species come in shades of yellow or white. Unlike most other members of Bignoniaceae, which are mainly tropical woody plants, species of Incarvillea are herbs from temperate regions. Incarvillea is named after the French Jesuit missionary and botanist Pierre Nicholas Le Chéron d’Incarville.

The most commonly grown species is  Incarvillea delavayi.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Magnolias in Spring

Everyone recognises the daffodil as being a major element of spring garden displays. Magnolias are just as important in the spring garden and make a fine show once established. A drive around any town or city in NZ will enable the keen observer to spot many different magnolias flowering from early spring to late spring.

One of the most important magnolias is Magnolia campbellii, but there are others equally important depending upon the effect gardeners are looking for. These include M kobus, M stellata, M x Soulangiana, M wilsonii and M seiboldii.

Magnolias belong to a large, varied genus of 125 species of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs from east Asia and the Americas was named after French botanist Pierre Magnol. The leaves are usually oval and smooth edged. Known for their elegant flowers and their distinctive character, magnolias are a showy group of shrubs and trees. The large spectacular flowers are generally large, fragrant and solitary with colours including white, yellow, pink or purple, and may be shaped like a funnel, cup, saucer or star.

Magnolias require deep, fertile, well-drained and aerated, mildly acid soil. The fleshy roots are fragile so the plants do not transplant readily. They thrive in sun or part shade but need protection from strong winds. The flower buds are frost sensitive. Branch structure and developing flower buds add interest in winter. Some magnolias flower when they are 2 or 3 years old and others take 10 or even 20 years to come into flower. They are well worth the wait.

M campbellii
This deciduous Himalayan species eventually grows 24 m tall with a 12 m wide crown in the right conditions and there are a few this size in NZ but usually they are a lot smaller. Its slightly fragrant flowers are up to 25cm in diameter and appear on leafless branches from late winter to mid-spring. Plants raised from seed may take from 6 - 20 years to flower. It is reliably hardy. Today there are some really good NZ raised cultivars and hybrids to choose from. ‘Alba’ has pure white flowers; ‘Charles Raffill’ is white and rose purple; ‘Lanarth’ is a deeper rose purple. Magnolia ‘Vulcan’ with dark red flowers.

Deciduous and conical, this Japanese species can reach 10 m tall although it is not often seen this big in cultivation. Its aromatic leaves are 20 cm long and mid-green in colour.  The flowers are produced in early spring before the foliage and have long, narrow petals sometimes stained pink at the base. It can be seen planted as a street tree around Christchurch.

M. stellata (star magnolia)
This many-branched, compact, deciduous shrub from Japan grows 3 m tall and wide, with aromatic bark when young, and narrow dark green leaves. Fragrant, star­like, pure white flowers, 8 -12 cm wide, open from silky buds in late winter and early spring but its flowers are sometimes damaged by sudden frost. It flowers when quite young, and has several cultivars in shades of pink, including ‘Rosea’, ‘Waterlily’, the most prolific flowerer, has more petal and slightly larger white flowers. Though the shrub’s floral display is enchanting, its wonderful open form would recommend it even if it failed to bloom.

M soulangiana
This deciduous hybrid between Magnolia denudata and M. liliiflora first appeared in Europe in the 1820s and is now represented by many cultivars. It is an erect tree 8 m tall and 4.5 m wide, usually single trunked. The dark green leaves are tapered at the base at rounded at the tip, with a short point. Blooms in goblet, cup and saucer shapes and in white, pink or deep purple-pink appear from late winter to mid-spring, before and after the leaves emerge. ‘Alexandrina’ flowers are pure white inside, flushed rose pink outside. Goblet-shaped cultivars include ‘Lennei’, beetroot purple outside, white to pale purple inside; ‘Lennei Alba’ with pure white flowers; and ‘Rustica Rubra’, rose red outside and pink and whit inside.

M wilsonii and M seiboldii
From China, these spreading, deciduous shrubs or small trees grow up to 6 m high and wide. In late spring and early summer fragrant cup-shaped yellow flowers with red or magenta stamens hang from arching branches among narrow dark green leaves that arc velvety be h. These smallish trees represents a group of deciduous summer flowering species from China, with pendent flowers distinguishing them from the upright ones of the better know spring-flowering species. The white blooms are beautifully fragrant.

Magnolia roots arc fleshy and fragile so transplant carefully in spring. Container-grown plants are the best. Look for well-branched plants. Plant them in a fairly shallow hole - just deep enough to cover the roots - but give them enough space for the roots to develop horizontally, and leave enough space for the free in its mature size.

Provide generous water until established, and then taper off to watering during dry spells. Most well-established shrubs growing in a good garden loam can easily tolerate a week or two without water. The frequency of watering and quantity of water will be determined by a number of factors, including soil characteristics and exposure. If the soil is not naturally rich, provide an annual application of organic mulch. Provide generous fertiliser until plants are established.

Some species of magnolia arc attacked by scale. If not controlled carefully, it can cover the plant. The tree is usually able to repel any diseases if properly sited and growing vigorously. Prune magnolias as specimen ornamental trees. To avoid water shoots, any summer pruning should be very light. Remove dead wood anytime.

Magnolias make such a fantastic display that all gardeners should find a home for at least one of the fabulous plants.