SEARCH (there is a lot more) - plants, beasties, atmospherics, and Wellington's south coast
Keep in touch with the good earth

Sustaining memories of spring - winter flowering hoop petticoat daffodils

The weather has been grey and cold outside - very wintry although it is a week or two away from official winter.  On a windowsill, though, little white flowers more reminiscent of spring are emerging.  These wee daffodils are either a white form of Narcissus romieuxii, which flowers in winter and is therefore more likely, or they are a white form of Narcissus bulbocodium.  I have lost track of which of my little hoop petticoat daffodil bulbs are which, and it seems I haven't mastered the art of tending Narcissus bulbocodium - the bright yellow spring flowering ones have never appeared for me.  But whichever one these are, they are happy in a little quite shallow container which fits neatly on a kitchen windowsill and gives me lots of unexpected pleasure.  The flowers are almost white and when you look closely there is a delicate sparkle on the inner surface of the trumpets. 

Long may these little frosty flowers light up the wintry days.


Japanese maples in autumn glory - a Botanic Garden treat

How lucky I was to visit the Wellington Botanic Garden two days ago, for a short time in the afternoon.  It was a bright clear day.  Because it is late autumn the rays of sunlight are at a lower angle, creating contrasty and dramatic effects, intensifying colours and shapes.  So when I walked through the gate my attention was immediately caught by the drama of brilliant orange-red foliage in the rock garden.Japanese maples!  I love seeing these little trees, with their delicate beautifully coloured leaves.  They are precious to me too because in my windy exposed garden the leaves would rapidly become a dessicated crispy brown - alas, there is no point in my trying to grow them.  But what a sight!A combination of the light and lucky timing - peak brilliance. 

Further into the gardens, a collection of mature trees provides shelter and shade.  Some larger Japanese maples were lighting up a path in glorious gold, orange and green.And on a very shady bank beside a little stream, the theme of gold, orange and green was repeated - bright Japanese maple leaves beside the rich green of clivia foliage and ferns. That night and since then - gales blowing, grey grey grey leaden skies (get the picture?) and torrential rain. 

I am so happy that I seized the time and could enjoy the transient glory of this autumn foliage (koyo in Japanese.)


Autumn butterflies - Monarch and Yellow Admiral - on koromiko flowers

We have had cold weather, and the days are definitely getting shorter.  But so far there is little evidence of the rich colours of autumn foliage.  Not to worry - the tiny white flowers of koromiko have been lit up by the rich orange of some autumn butterflies.  A Yellow Admiral -And a rather age-worn Monarch (male, in case you wondered) -The koromiko is a New Zealand native shrub commonly found in the North Island.  These ones are self-sown in my garden, and they are most welcome - their profuse flowering attracts butterflies, bees, and other pollinating good-guys. 

Its botanical name was Hebe stricta, revised to Veronica stricta.  But taxonomists always have a tough time convincing people to accept plant name changes, and since there are about 90 "Hebe" species native to New Zealand I suspect we will be using the old names for quite a while.  Whatever we call them, they are evidence again of nature's bounty.


Listen to the wind

Here in Wellington we are being buffeted by strong winds - around the time of the autumn equinox our normally active air is even more turbulent.  When I first lived here it upset me - it is hard on the plants and the soil dries out so quickly.  But I have learned to enjoy the wind to some extent, and to protect precious plants as much as I am able with windbreaks, mulch, and attention to the soil. 

And the wind can have a beautiful impact - in the morning the wind was creating ever-shifting patterns over Island Bay - clouds scudding across the sky, shifts of light, ruffled water. Much more concerning is the impact of very intense wind - most recently the devastating damage by cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and Tuvalu.  Around the earth we are already experiencing more extreme weather, the impact of climate change.  Fortunately, human action can help prevent the devastating climate change that lies ahead if we continue on the current trajectory.  We are being warned.  We can take action.

Let's listen to the wind.


Autumn colours - scarlet rata and tree ferns at Pukekura Park

The equinox.  People are celebrating spring in the Northern Hemisphere while suddenly here it is very clear that the days are shorter and, just in case we hadn't noticed, a very cold southerly has blasted through along with the turbulence caused by Cyclone Pam.  Autumn is here.                         

At this time of year WOMAD is held in New Plymouth, and going to it means I also get to see Pukekura Park again.  This park is a real treasure of a place, underappreciated I think, with a rich collection of plants. 

A reliable sight is the brilliant red of scarlet rata (Metrosideros fulgens), a New Zealand native vine which flowers in autumn and winter.  It contrasts wonderfully with the rather greyish green of a lot of our shrubs and trees, and makes a wonderful display, climbing up to 10 metres.

This one is growing up the long trunk of a tree fern - probably a mamaku - after first clambering up some shorter tree ferns at its base, in a quiet corner by the Fountain Lake.


Closer up you can see that the clusters of flowers are like a forest of red stamens.Bottoms up!  Heads down and busily feeding, two honey bees enjoy the flowers too.