Spring weather is always a feast of changes and today we have been blessed by sunshine and stillness, with barely any wind. Favourable conditions for plants and animals alike. More and more flowers are opening, colouring the garden. The tall Echium spikes are still blue with their little flowers, there is an abundance of pink flowers on my rose-scented pelargoniums, and buff-tailed bumblebees came out in force.No doubt appreciating the kinder weather and the plentiful supply of food, they buzzed from flower to flower, sometimes dipping their heads in so far that all you could see was their little buff bottoms.We are encouraged to plant food for bees whose job as pollinators is so important for our food supply. Fashions in gardening come and go, but failing to include flowering plants is a loss for all of us.
The burgeoning of new growth can make springtime a bit overwhelming - all these visual delights! It is also a time of reckoning - have my little treasures survived the rigours of life in the windy coastal site where I live?
So far, so good. A particular delight right now are some lovely purple Iris innominata flowers - my plant came from Hokonui Alpines, a special nursery in the South Island.A much less sumptuous purple flower, and much more abundant, is heartsease - Viola tricolor - from which the much larger garden pansy was bred. This is a herb which has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes and the flower is edible too - a charming garnish. It might be small but it is very persistent. I bought a plant from a herb nursery about thirty years ago. A constant companion since then, it travels with me, seeding enough to mean it pops up wherever I and my plants have gone, but never to the point of being a pest.
The self-fertile flowers can be purple, blue, yellow or white and from that one plant I have quite a mix. I think of it as having a very cheerful perky presence. It has lots of other names which suggest it has that impact on other people too - they include: heart's delight, tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, come-and-cuddle-me, three faces in a hood, love-in-idleness, call-me-to-you, johnny jump up. A little wild pansy with quite an impact!
It started with a ferocious northerly, beginning to fade in the morning after a very stormy night.As the clouds began to break, rays of light shone through in "god beams" over Island Bay. Then the clouds and mist cleared quite quickly, and the sky became a bright forget-me-not blue. Looking towards the South Island a rainbow made a brief appearance. A really lovely day - for a few hours. Then...ominous clouds from the south, heavy and dark, with raggedy rain-bearing edges. The wind picked up, the clouds advanced quickly and kept shifting and changing, creating an almost spout-like formation.It was as if the spout-like formation was extruding a rainbow to snare the Interislander ferry passing by.
The ferries are used to dealing with the stormy weather of the Cook Strait between the North and South Islands.
And spring weather in Wellington is indeed very dynamic.
Sure enough - there was more to come - a darkness appearing to subdue the bright mist and the rainbow.The light faded as the sun began to set, a pinkness apparent in distant low cloud beyond Baring Head. The rainbow reasserted itself - the rain had broken although the clouds still had a threatening aura.The colours intensified the way they do when the sun is very low. And then the light show faded away.
The winds were settling. Knowing Wellington weather we anticipated a lovely clear day after the storm. And it was.
Red and green stand for "stop" and "go" - pretty much the state of affairs for the attractive NZ native shrub, Clianthus maximus or Clianthus puniceus, known as the kaka beak or kowhai ngutukaka because the shape of the flowers evokes the beak shape of the kaka, a New Zealand parrot. Red light - even though it is enjoyed as a garden plant, the survival of the kaka beak in the wild is seriously threatened. Green light - people are trying to save it. The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust (click to find out more) have come up with some creative tactics - and the use of shotguns is not for killing anything, but to access otherwise inaccessible places, away from the pests who find this shrub so palatable.
At Otari Native Botanic Garden here in Wellington there are many kaka beak plants and they are out in full splendour. In dappled shade, the low spreading branches of this plant are fresh with bright green leaves and heavy with dangling crimson flowers. Out in a brightly-lit open space more red and green is to be seen - at the back on a trellis fence covered with kaka beak and in the foliage of small shrubs framing another kaka beak plant. The spear-like silvery leaves of the Astelias provide a sharp contrast. Some people think New Zealand native plants are dull - maybe they just aren't looking.
Euphorbia glauca - waiūatua or New Zealand sea spurge or shore spurge - is a coastal plant endemic to New Zealand (endemic means it iIt has a distinctive colour scheme - the green of its foliage varies in hue from a soft sage green through to vibrant blue-grey, the stems are pinkish red, and structures around the flowers are a wonderful contrast of deep red and purple.
This young plant, nestled in a hollow at the base of a large rock on Te Raekaihau Point, is just getting started - no flowers for a while yet. But the fresh pink growth is very decorative I think.