Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Summer Beach Walk . .

A beach path through the sand dunes, leading down to the wide open east coast beach - a scene etched in most New Zealander`s minds - the hot sand that has to be run and hoped quickly over, wild native grasses and` bunny tails` to be picked, brought home to sit in a glass to remind us of our holiday, along with the bag of smelly shells still with their inhabitants in - but after washing them out, if you listen carefully with the shell to your ear, you will hear the ocean, swishing in onto the sand . . .

 A man and his dog . . .  My son Cameron with Bella - both love this beach with a passion. Cameron surfs every day if he can, Bella runs and runs, chasing seagulls and shadows. Cameron, with his family, lives a couple of blocks back from the beach, he reckons by the time he is 40, they will be living on the beach ! 

 Looking back along the beach towards the Maunga (Mt Manganui) with the distant Kaimai ranges in a blue haze - these are the ranges I have to travel over from my lush Waikato valley to the east coast - this long range of hills are like a spine down the side of the North Island, starting in the Coromandel, running right through, separated by narrow valleys and with a different name as they spread.
I must admit, I do have a stronger `pull` to the west coast of NZ, it is wilder, has black sand mostly, with a strong and distinct feel about it - the east coast is lovely but abit too tame for me. I love the wind and crashing waves of the west coast - might be something to do with all the iron in the sand or even my Irish heritage - who knows . . .

Monday, December 27, 2010

Flower Creations . . .

A new sunflower beginning to emerge, all tightly curled and twisted, slowly unfurling to become the beautiful `sun` shaped flower we all recognize - rather lovely I think . . . .

My favorite seat in the Herb Garden down in Hamilton Gardens surrounded by flowering herbs, the tall yellow flowers being Elecampane. also known as Horseheal, Scabwort and wild sunflower. The bright yellow daisy-like flowers (below) attract bees and other pollinating insects, the roots of this plant being used by herbalists to treat stomach ailments in ancient Greek and Roman times, still used by vets to treat skin diseases on animals.

Globe artichoke, one of my favorite structural plants in either the vege or flower garden, the intense blue/purple flowers with the amazing silver leaves, tall and striking in any garden - an acquired taste for the palate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Little Night Time Reading . . .

My bedside chair is groaning under the weight of Books, National Geographics, Organic Mags, Horticultural bits and pieces, even an Arboriculture Mag which has fascinating articles on all things `trees`, plus my latest bee read, `The Buzz about Bees` by Jurgen Tautz which I can`t wait to have time to start reading, all the reviews I have read about this book have been very positive, informative and enlightening.
Another book that arrived in the mail this month ( I am an absolute push-over for books) is `Natural Beekeeping` by Ross Conrad, an excellent book I have been wanting to have in my `natural beekeeping` library for ages. It is so good to have my thoughts and ideas on natural beekeeping reafirmed by other people who have been practicing this way of keeping bees - there is precious little advice or information here in NZ, I am hoping that will change in the near future - I`m not really holding my breath tho !!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Elderberry Clouds . . .

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) flowers . . . beautifully scented floating clouds above dark green leaves, followed by small dark berries that make delicious wine and jam. I brought a bottle of Elderberry cordial at the Raglan market last Sunday, mixed with soda water it makes the most delicious, refreshing drink.                       
   Herbalists have for generations been aware of the benefits of using elderberry syrup for cough and congestion remedies, herbal teas for relieving sore throats, also used as a mild laxative or diuretic. Evidence of the cultivation of Elderberry has been found at stone-age village sites in Switzerland and Italy. It was also imbued with myth and magic, spirits were said to live in the tree, people refused to cut it down or burn the wood. The leaves were once used in green elder ointment for bruises, sprains, and wounds. 
There is a wealth of folklore attached to this plant, often described as a `complete medical chest` because of its countless therapeutic qualities, one being the use of elderberry water for whitening the skin and removing freckles !

Elderberry is considered a weed here in NZ as are so many other exotic plants introduced over the last 100 yrs. Being a mostly temperate climate and fertile soils, plants get out of control quickly, moving into our native bush and smothering everything.     

Raw elderberries should not be eaten as the seeds contain an un-pleasant tasting, poisonous alkaloid, cooked they are used in jams, sauces, jellies and syrups. Fresh elderberry flower clusters make delicious fritters !  
The old wood is very hard, it was used for making nails for the soles of shoes, the young wood is brittle and soft, often hollowed out to make pipes and musical instruments.    
A tree of many uses, elderberry may be considered a pest, but it is one of my favorite plants.

Friday, December 10, 2010

NZ Bee Plants

The 2 photos above are of our native Manuka  Leptospermum scoparium , a scrubby bush that grows all over the country. Once thought of as a weed by farmers, my father spent many days `scrub cutting`and burning manuka off the steep hills, later sowing  grass seed, it is now considered NZ`s best honey producing plant !! Beekeepers have been known to helicopter hives into very isolated valleys and hillsides to capture the nectar from this flower. Manuka honey is now used in medicine all over the world, pioneered by our own Dr Peter Molan from Waikato University, here in Hamilton. The dark, strong flavored honey is probably the most expensive to buy here in NZ, with most of it exported overseas.       

Native flax Phormium tenax is another widely grown NZ plant that bees love gathering the pollen and nectar from. Birds love it to, even starlings can be seen with a yellow head after dipping in for the treat. Maori used the strong fibrous leaves of flax to weave into clothing, decorative panels, water proof roofing, utensils, just about everything. It was the only plant that was available for them to use in this cool, temperate land, no big animals for skins, just lots of amazing birds that either didn`t fly or hopped through the trees, having no natural predators until man arrived ! Flax also has many excellent medicinal properties, animals will naturally self-medicate with flax leaves if able to access it.
There are a number of hybrid species, with P.cookianum the mountain flax, smaller then P.tenax planted alot in gardens. Many of our NZ native plants can be found growing all over the world these days, I always smile when I see flax or cabbage trees growing in cold countries, sometimes having to be wrapped up for winter !


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bee Banquet in My Garden

My summer garden has plenty of bee flowers - allissium that comes up everywhere, including the cracks in the path, roses, queen anns lace, herbs including sage, borage, comphry,hyssop and lavender . There are citrus also, with their divinely smelling blossom scenting the garden and a rather wide feijoa bush absolutely smothered in flowers,( see previous post) that has been pollinated largely by blackbirds and starlings ! it is the first time I have seen birds all over a fruit tree when in flower, they actually peck at the flowers so hope I get fruit !

The hollyhocks this year are amazing ! Dark and light pink saucer shaped blooms starting from the bottom of the stem, taller then I am and having to be tied back from falling all over the path.
All these plants are self seeded, growing down the edge of the driveway making backing out abit hairy if I don`t want to collect the flowers in my side mirror ! I have noticed the bees seem to favor the lighter coloured flowers, the bumblebees also have a picnic in my garden at the moment, I am going to stagger the planting so there is something flowering till autumn.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Sneak Preview . . .

Tucked away between the Italian garden and gardens yet to be completed, is the Te Parapara Maori garden, an example of pre-European native bush and kumera ( sweet potato) patch. This would have existed here on the banks of the Waikato river before European settlers and millitary arrived in the 1860`s, and driving most of the Maori iwi ( tribe) further south before claiming the land as `theirs` !
The inner section of the garden has been fenced off to the public while pataka ( store houses), more manuka fencing and planting has been completed. Rocks with cultural significance have been carefully placed, plants that would have been grown eg kumera, taro, gourds have been planted - it is stunning ! Maori brought these plants with them from the warmer Pacific islands, not all surviving. Tree berries and birds were the main food sources, with pork and potatoes welcomed after introduction by whalers and early settlers.
The pic above is of the raised store house taken looking through the tall kanuka Palisades that surrounds the entire garden.

One of the many carved faces around the garden, all protective and very important symbols belonging to Tainui, the main tribe from this area.

The small fenced off open-sided building at the entrance to the enclosed area, after walking through a bush path lined with NZ native trees that would have grown here, and many still do - Kanuka, Manuka, ferns, Kumarahoe, Kahikatea, Makomako ( wineberry), Oleria and Renga renga with native clematis and jasmine climbing the punga fencing. This area was planted 2 yrs ago now reaching high and eventually will become a real piece of bush.
Check out this website for more info:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Our Beautiful Xmas Baby ..

My precious new granddaughter, Mia Ann Maree was born on the 2nd Dec, the second child for my lovely son Cameron and his beautiful wife, Carly. I think this photo sums it all up really - a loving family . . . Jackson (2yrs) loves his `baby sister` and has planted kisses on her head !

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New TopBar Hive Blog