Forbidden Plants

We are mostly left to work in our gardens and grow our plants unfettered by the huge bureaucratic monsters that clutter up other parts of our existence. Occasionally though they remind us that we are not forgotten, and find something they think we are doing wrong. Two plants that we grow have now been banned by the National Pest Plant Accord.

Night Scented Jasmine

‘For New Zealand to be able to trade internationally, The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) must be confident that the products associated with agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture and apiculture are free from unwanted pests and diseases.

The National Pest Plant Accord (NPPA) is a cooperative agreement between the Nursery and Garden Industry Association, regional councils and government departments with biosecurity responsibilities.

All plants on the NPPA are unwanted organisms under the Biosecurity Act 1993. These plants cannot be sold, propagated or distributed in New Zealand.’

Harlequin Glorybower Tree

Plants are often put on this list to prevent their spread into our native bush where they may compete successfully with the existing ecosystems.

This Cestrum is frost tender for most of the South Island, and I have never seen seedlings come up, but in the North it perhaps could become quite a pest. It does have the most divine exotic perfume in the warm summer evenings.

As beautiful and deliciously fragrant as this Clerodendron is, I have to admit it can be rather a beast. I do see lovely trees in gardens growing most politely, but at my place it has suckered. I will miss it though, I do not know another plant quite like it.

My new solution to this problem I think must be to start saving so we can visit these foreign unwanted plants in their own environment. Lets hope where they come from has not been cluttered up by some other country’s pests.

Drama in a hard place.

It can be difficult sometimes to keep your eyes on the road. I pride myself that I am a safe driver, but I did have to do a ‘U’ turn the other day when I spotted this garden. Gardens I enjoy the most are the ones that are planted to suit the architecture of the building and the growing conditions of the area.

Plants that suit this stucco house.

These succulents are planted right against the house in very narrow dry gardens, a place where most self-respecting plants would refuse to grow. These plants are obviously thriving. It really caught my eye as they also seem to suit the style of this house so well. Lucky for the gardener as these plants are very easy care. The Agave attenuata under the window is frost tender, but the latent heat from the house walls would help create a little microclimate that must protect it somewhat.

Suitable planting down the drive.



Planting an Aloe polyphylla under this window is a great way of keeping the burglers out, they have a spiny prickle on the end of each leaf. The symmetry  of the spiraling leaves is wonderful though.

This house would have suited other gardening styles also, but it has been planted with discipline to one style and the result is fantastic. Even if it is not a favourite I think most people could enjoy the effect of this planting.

Link>>Structured Garden Style

Coastal planting

While I was feeling inspired and driving home, I tried to capture these great succulents with the snowy mountains behind. Sorry the mountains look a long way away, but it does show that some of these succulents can thrive in cold climates. Many of them come from dry climates with very cold night time temperatures, so if you shop carefully you can probably find one that suits your climate.

Flamboyant flowers and fragrance.

There is so much happening now with blossom, flowering spring bulbs and Magnolias all showing off and taking our attention. There is another group of plants however that gives us so much in the late winter to spring time. Viburnums come in many shapes and forms. Some are very sensible and useful, these provide structure and form so necessary to a good garden. The ones that I love now though, provide good shrubby backbones for most of the year but in spring give us a great show.

Flowers and fragrance

Viburnum xburkwoodii is deciduous, just before the leaves emerge in spring this bush will be covered in large clusters of fragrant white flowers. The scent is sweet and spicy and carries a long way. The flowers last for some time and can be followed by small reddish berries. The leaves are a slightly greyish green and this shrub will make a great backdrop to the garden for the rest of the year.

Sweet spicy scent

There are a few different cultivars that do a similiar thing. Viburnum carlesii is also very beautiful, semi-evergreen and flowers later with the leaves already showing. All of these have strong thick leaves. Another Viburnum, quite different again with soft leaves that emerge red-purple and mature to green is Viburnum sagentii ‘Onondaga’.Clusters of lace cap flowers

The new foliage is really colourful and attractive, then you get the show of the flowers. It is not fragrant but so interesting and useful to add to the shrubbery.

I have to mention an old favourite. The Snowball tree, I do not need to say anything about this .Straight from Grandma's garden, an old favourite.

Get the spades out, spring is here.

The nursery is a hive of activity in September. We are busy dispatching plants all around the country as gardeners emerge from the cold winter, feel the sap rising and get out their spades. As we are coming to the end of last season’s stock we do not have the variety of plants we had earlier in the year. Now it is warm enough though we can start potting plants for the new season. As most of our plants get to sit out in the nursery without any special covers through the winter months, they are strong and hardy for planting out. If planting is done correctly and the site well chosen they have a great chance of survival.

Planting techniques

A well grown healthy plant has a good chance of growing and giving you pleasure if planted correctly. Chose a site with plenty of room for it fill into its final shape. The planting hole must be at least twice the size of the container the plant is in, twice the width and depth. Fill the hole with water, and soak the plant well before planting.Loosen up the soil around the sides and bottom of the hole. Then get the garden hose and fill the hole with water. While you are waiting for the water to drain away, fill a bucket with water and put the plant still in the pot or bag into the bucket of water. Leave it there with the pot submerged until no more bubbles of water come up. This way you will know for certain there is no dry soil around the plant roots. When all the water has gone from the dug hole, back fill the hole with a mixture of the soil and compost, leaving room for the plant. Remove the plant from its pot carefully. If there is a thick mass of roots at the bottom, cut them off with a spade and gently loosen the roots at the side. Not all plants will need this. Then place the plant in the prepared hole at a depth at least 10 mm below soil surface. Cover the root-ball with the soil/compost mixture, gently firming it around the root ball. Gently water the plant in very well. For best success follow up by spreading a good depth of mulch over the ground. Well watered and composted.Of course I am incredibly opinionated about how one should plant and water, but I do see that most people never give the plant enough water when they first plant it. They also tend to plant them too shallow. Those of you in high rainfall areas will not have to be so careful, those of us that have hot dry summers though must set our plants up with every chance of survival. Mostly people never water as much or as well as they intend too, life at the beach in summer is much more inviting.

The easiest time to plant though is in autumn. There is a greater variety of plants to choose from. The ground is still warm to encourage the plant roots to grow well and get established. We generally get rain in late autumn and winter so they will not dry out before the roots have a chance to grow and get established.

Do not delay plant now!!

The Tuis are gorging in our garden.

We are sharing our garden with luxuriant, fancy tuis, they seem to get grander every year. Full of importance as they swoop from tree to shrub. They love the kowhai flowers of course, but what has kept them busy through the winter are the Camellias.

Abelia 'Snow Showers' and Camellia in flower, nectar for the Tuis.

The single flowered ones seem to be the most popular, and with a range of varieties we can have them flowering from autumn into early summer. The Camellia in the photo is growing in  shady conditions and still flowers well each year. although usually Camellias require sun at some stage of the day to form plenty of flower buds.

Some of our Camellia cultivars from early last century were accidental hybrids resulting from pollination by honey-eating birds.

There are so many plants you can plant to provide food for the creatures.
The Tuis much prefer gardens with larger trees for shelter and safety from predators, they Tui full of nectar from our kowhai treescan perch up high and provide a symphony of song for our pleasure. I try and leave plenty of leaf and twig litter over the soil this encourages insect life which gives food for many other birds including the inquisitive fantail. As well as providing a mulch and compost.

Winter flowers forever

 Winter flowering Rhododendron

This bush of Rhododendron 'Saxon Glow' has flowered all winter.

Saxon Glow vireya Rhododendron in my garden has been flowering for us all winter. The flowers have lasted so well and are only now starting to fall off. I dead head them as I walk past. Now my spring bulbs are emerging so are more flower buds on this persistant little plant. I might have taken more notice of the colour scheme if I had known it was to still flower when the daffodils were out.

Link>>Rhododendron ‘Saxon Glow’

This shrub has a very tidy growing habit, small and compact. It could easily make an informal hedge. The one you can see is growing in a raised planter at the base of a tree. As long as it is well watered and composted it copes very well with the competition of the tree roots. It does get sun for part of everyday which is why it flowers so well. Full sun would be too hot for this plant, so under a wide spreading tree that allows the low afternoon sun in works well. These vireyas are found naturally high in tree tops in forests close to the equator, what a great place to go plant hunting. However they do not tolerate frost, so mine is planted near the eaves of the house where the frost does not reach.

Hellebores herald spring.

Winter Rose. There is a trick to August in Nelson, it is suppose to be winter but the colour and flowers in my garden are determined to woo me into spring. The garden was run down when we bought this property, but flowering fiercely through the weeds was a Hellebore, I knew it was the right place to live. Since then I have planted many forms and colours. Mostly Helleborus orientalis or Winter Rose.

Hellebores flowering in winter

Occasionally I splash out and buy a new improved posh one, but mostly they are seedlings, and they look great this month. My white spotted ones have been flowering throughout July and are now nearly finished, the rest are really showing off now. For me they are so easy. The garden has a lot of clay which completely dries out in summer, and I do not water. I love trees so now have plenty of shade. I can put Hellebores in my clay, under trees and they thrive. They lie quietly all summer and autumn, then burst forth stems of flowers now, followed by rich dark green leaves in spring, all while the other perennials and deciduous plants in my garden are just waking from the winter slumber. When these plants are ready to show their stuff, the Helleborus politely die away to emerge next winter. Link >> Helleborus orientalis – Winter rose

Helleborus look great in all these colours


There is a mixture of colours here from pure white to deep dark burgundy. Some have spots on the petals, and some of the white ones are delicately edged with red. As the flowers fade they form seed pods, also attractive in a green sort of way. These drop their seeds which germinate easily but never seem to become a weedy nuisance. I am looking forward to another sunny winter afternoon when I can relish the sight of the sun lighting up my Winter roses.

A Fragrant Winter

The scent of my wintersweet is almost an out of world experience.

Chimonanthus praecox ‘Luteus’ The flowers have just started to open and I know I will be able to enjoy their gorgeous scent until spring, with all the buds still to open along the stems. I have ‘Luteus’ which is a lovely bright clear yellow. I need to plant another closer to the house.  Link>>Chimonanthus praecox ‘Luteus’

Mine is happily growing in a semi-shaded site in difficult Moutere clay. It is now covered in flowers and then always look lush and fresh throughout the summer. Great golden autumn colours too. I just love plants that do not take any special care.