It is Spring and so, I must acknowledge, flowering time. Blossom everywhere, roses already in warmer places. Even my broccoli plants have burst into flower.
In garden design world, flowers have become the poor relation. Flowers are not, generally, the so-much-desired ‘low maintenance’. Flowers, at their best, require time and attention, care, love even. Who cannot enjoy an evening stroll casually dead-heading the roses? Perhaps a glass of NZ’s best pinot gris in one hand, secateurs in the other? Dusk, when the scent of flowers is at it’s strongest.
Flowers hold memories for us. Every time I smell the fragrance of sweet peas I am taken back in my home town, where our neighbour grew magnificent sweet peas on a frame attached to our shared boundary. We were on the north side, so probably got more than our share of flowers. I deeply regret being unable to grow the lily-of-the-valley that roamed freely at the base of the sweet pea frame, interspersed with violets. So ‘old-fashioned’, but also so reliable and actually now I think about it relatively low maintenance.
Flowers are necessary for bees. Bees are necessary for life, they tell us, and are under threat. At the moment citrus trees all over Auckland are a-buzz with bees; like me attracted by that unmistakable scent. I have loved it ever since I was old enough to mow the lawns, necessitating ducking under the orange trees in our back yard. At this time of year, dodging the bees as well as the low branches of the trees. A small sprig off the lemon tree is all that is necessary to bring that fragrance inside for a day or two. A sacrifice of the future lemons but I think it is worth it. There seems to be plenty coming on this year.
In our new high-density supercity model, I wonder where the bees will feed? A 200sqm section does not allow for much in the way of garden – highrise apartments even less so. What was a given in my childhood is more and more a relic of days gone by. Gardens to play in, to keep your stuff in, to grow food in, along with the flowers and insects c0-habiting with us.
I have just returned from a quick trip to Europe, and my observation is that flowers are making a comeback. Flowers that imply constant attention, flowers that provide food for bees and other insects. Flowers that soften the city into a liveable habitat suitable for people. Both the French and the English do it well, with hanging baskets and gardens at the base of street trees. Far too showy for us in Auckland – we are much more constrained, but I think quite popular in the provinces of NZ.
A friend was proudly showing me her new garden over the weekend, and declared “We’ve gone native,” which they have. I thought fleetingly that it is a shame she sees it as either/or. There are no rules that say you can’t have native and exotic together. It was very orderly (a limited range of native, and in rows) and when the rengarenga lillies flower they will look great. They are perhaps the most desirable of our native plants for flowers, however usually requiring large doses of snail pellets to keep them looking good. I myself love the flax flowers that are just starting to open, and the tui that cannot resist their nectar.
Pure native is great if you are revegetating bush.
But flowers will gladden your heart.
This is my 99th blog post. I am aiming to be a bit more focused on landscape design, gardening and related topics. Hard to resist just a quick ‘yahoo’ we have a new Government. Very good news for the conservation of our environment, and numerous other things that have struggled to survive in our neoliberal economy.
The English have lived in terrace houses for hundreds of years. Hanging baskets adorn a row of old houses in Bovey Tracey, Devon, home town of the Wallen’s that emigrated to NZ
This flower-tower is stunning, but then it would be – it is outside Windsor, just below the castle. Taller than your average lady-gardener – perhaps the help take care of it?