Courtyard makeover with lighting effects
A new deck, fences, low planters, walls, steps and lights making a wonderful outdoor space for all hours.
Courtyard makeover with lighting effects
A new deck, fences, low planters, walls, steps and lights making a wonderful outdoor space for all hours.
This garden is next to a coastal inlet so needs plants that tolerate salt winds. As the soil is sandy and free draining, irrigation was used to help plants over the drier months. The large pohutukawa at the front were thinned and reduced to keep a screen but not to create too much shade. The two large palms at the back were kept and another one added.
Deciduous Trees and Shrubs:
At this time of year, those deciduous trees and shrubs that lose all their leaves at once are most noticeable. For example, liquidamber has leaves that are very intense red in late autumn. It forms a strong contrast to the greens of the native trees, and provides a focal point of the garden.
Most of our natives are evergreen, apart from some exceptions such as ribbonwood.
Deciduous trees come from the colder climates of the northern hemisphere. They form the intense reds, yellows, oranges and purples as the green chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down prior to leaf drop. These other bright pigments then become obvious. The colour intensity is heightened where there is a big difference between day and night temperatures. This is why you can see more intense leaf colour in places like Upper Hutt, than say Wellington central.
I don’t recommend using deciduous trees to clients who live in very windy sites, or where they are near the coast. The strong winds tend to damage the leaves, especially in the early spring as the leaves emerge. Coastal winds commonly cause leaf scorch. You may however create a sheltered environment on an exposed site where you can grow these trees. Choose hardy shelter plants like natives trees to create shelter.
One of the more hardy deciduous trees is silver birch. This tree has white bark with black markings, and a graceful, weeping habit. The leaves go yellow in autumn. It will tolerate a reasonably strong non-coastal wind.
Two deciduous trees you are likely to see as street trees in Lower Hutt are liquidamber and golden elm. Liquidamber has maple-like leaves which turn red as mentioned above. The golden elm has rich golden-yellow leaves from spring to autumn. You need to be careful to choose non-suckering elms. Some of the elms such as the English elm produce a mass of suckers throughout your garden. In one large garden in the Wairarapa that I visited recently, it was a major problem.
One of my favourite trees is the copper beech, with its copper-red leaves. These trees need adequate room to grow, so are more appropriate for parks
Deciduous magnolias do not produce autumn leaf colour, but produce showy flowers in late winter to early spring on bare branches. Magnolia campbellii requires a lot of room to grow, while Magnolia stellata is ideal for smaller gardens.
Flowering varieties of fruiting plants include flowering cherries, the weeping silver pear and flowering crab trees. It is better to plant flowering cherries in more sheltered spots, otherwise strong winds remove most of the spectacular blooms in spring.
Deciduous shrubs such as hydrangeas produce blooms over summer, but hold their blooms until autumn. The flowers turn blue in acid soils, and pink in alkaline soils. You can turn your hydrangeas blue by adding aluminium sulphate, and pink by adding lime. I have just pruned my hydrangeas back, by pruning back flowering stems to a lower bud. I prefer to prune hydrangeas lightly.
Other deciduous shrubs suitable for sheltered gardens are spiraea, and the scented lilacs.
Mix you deciduous plants with evergreen ones, so that your garden isn’t too bare in winter. This also applies to deciduous plants like bulbs or hostas. While the leaves all dropping at once can be a nuisance, use these leaves in your compost heap, or leave them to contribute to the formation of humus in your soil.
Enjoy natures seasons!
I often get asked about how to control weeds in the lawn, especially when you have weeds such as clover or hydrocotyle, which are very difficult to remove manually.
You may decide to resort to herbicides.
As a rule you have to be very careful with herbicides around desirable ornamentals, especially when using chemicals like dicamba (eg Turfix) or the active ingredient in Hydrocotyle killer. You shouldn’t use the lawn clippings from lawns that have been sprayed with either of these chemicals in your compost due to the residual effect. In fact if you use the chemical in Hydrocotyle killer, (also found in Renovate), you shouldn’t plant for 3 months afterwards in the same soil. It is very important to follow the instructions on the label for the safe use of these chemicals.
If you are concerned with using chemicals on your lawn, you can look at alternatives for weed control. I often suggest to clients that by following a few procedures you can get a good healthy lawn that is relatively weed free. As long as your lawn is in good light, and is adequately drained over winter, and watered in summer, you can get better growth doing the following. In spring and autumn apply slow release fertiliser, spread good quality topsoil over hollows or bare areas, and sow seed in barer areas in spring and autumn. If your soil is compacted, you can scarify it with a rake, or if hard, apply gypsum lime to it. And remember, don’t cut your lawns too low!. Give them a break over summer and winter from mowing.
If you are equally concerned about using herbicides to control weeds in your garden, there are alternatives. Two recent organic herbicides are those based on pine oil (Interceptor) and those based on fatty acids (Natures Way). These products are quick acting in sunny weather. You will need to apply repeated doses with perennial weeds such as oxalis or onion weed.
Other alternatives on weeds are hot water, or vinegar.
The key with weed control is to encourage the desirable plants and discourage the weeds. Weeds are just opportunists, and will occupy a bare space if you let them. You need to be persistent to control them, and don’t let them get away and seed. You could say “a weed in time saves nine”. While chemicals are quick acting, you need to weigh up the long term effects of chemical use.
Below is a different type of lawn known as “no mow” lawns. It is a coastal native ground cover, Selliera radicans, that forms dense matt in time. You plant them as plugs around 10cm apart. You can apply salt water to control weeds as the salt burns the weeds but not the plant as its a coastal hardy plant. There are other types of no mow no grass lawns eg thyme that can be purchased through www.nomow.co.nz
Well the year is just about over.
I thought I would avoid talking about the weather, but it always seems to have a big influence on plant growth. We are now having strong, drying winds and long dry spells with occasional downpours. Often bigger trees miss out on lighter rains, as the top part of the tree sheds the water, missing the root zone. Likewise, if you have a sprinkler system, the water can miss the roots. It is better to use a dripper irrigation system, which slowly allows water to soak into the roots. Also you can add water retention agents like Crystal Rain to your plants.
The best way to check your plant is to dig around the soil, and see if it is dry. If you have applied fertilisers, you also need to make sure the soil around the roots is moist, otherwise you can get root damage. If we had been having very wet weather, and the plant roots had been sitting in water, then symptoms of leaf drop or yellowing would be more serious, as the lack of air around the roots can kill the roots and eventually plants. They literally “drown” in the water. The good news is that if your plant has recently suffered due to dryness, it can usually be revived with regular soaking. Trees will naturally shed their leaves when under stress, so if you want good healthy growth, maintain adequate watering.
Regular watering is critical after planting, as it helps to settle the plant roots into the ground. When you have planted your plant, give it a good soak around the roots. This beds the soil to the roots and removes any air pockets. The first 3-4 weeks are critical for newly planted trees and shrubs. This is especially the case if we are having 100km/hr winds. The northerly winds dry the plants and soils out, and can damage the plant, especially if it hasn’t been hardened off properly to cope with the conditions. For this reason, try to select plants that aren’t too soft and lush if planting in exposed sites. Also make sure they have strong root growth. You can check if roots are coming out of the bottom of the bag or pot. Another advantage of regular watering is that it helps to settle in the soil, compost and mulch around your plants. If it gets too dry, these materials, especially the mulch, are likely to blow away.
If you have recently put a lawn down, make sure it has regular soakings, but be aware if there are water restrictions in your area.
I always suggest automated irrigation for vegetable gardens and ornamentals like roses as the difference in growth is very pronounced. For all my new gardens I give a 3-month warranty on plants if hand watered, and a 1-year warranty if you have an automated irrigation system.
Sometimes spring can be the most challenging month, with the stronger winds. New growth and flowers get a battering, and it easy to get disheartened. I find autumn to be a better season, as it is still moist and warm, but we don’t get those horrendous gales.
So the moral of this story is to apply adequate water around your plants and lawns at this time.
Here is a Poor Knights lily which is flowering now. These native plants like dry conditions, and so ideally grow them in tubs or in very free draining soils as they grow on rocky outcrops on the Poor Knights islands. They usually take 6-8 years to flower, but you might try some salt water or fish fertiliser to move them along.
We redid this garden with broken down retainer walls, fences and steps, and a disconnected deck. We built new walls, steps and fences. The new deck and extended fence will be done next.
New walls, ,steps, lime sand paths and step treads. A new fruit garden and edible gardens, plus a new oriental trellis fence. Next job is a new deck – to follow soon.
A lot of my clients ask about how they can attract more birds into their garden. Having just walked down my path, there are some birds that I would prefer weren’t in my garden. They are the ones that spread mulch and soil all over the path in their search for food. They are usually English imports such as blackbirds and thrushes. It is their nature to do this as they are foragers, pecking and scratching for food like worms. It is hard to change old habits! The best thing you can do about this is to get a dense cover of plants, and if needed cover your vegetables with netting.
The other more desirable type of feathered friend are our native birds, such as the tui, wood pigeon or bellbird. Bellbirds and tuis feed on nectar, fruit and insects high up the tree. They both have beautiful sounds, although it can be hard to distinguish the two, especially as the tui is a mimicker. They are known as honey feeders, as they can insert their toothbrush like tongue into flowers to get the nectar. They also help to spread the pollen from one tree to another, which in turn helps these plants to seed.
Another native bird which is very important to the spread of our native plants is the wood pigeon or kereru. You know when this large bird is around as its wings make a racket as they go pass. They can eat the large seeds of plants like karaka, taraire, tawa and miro. These are then expelled in their faeces, which means they spread to other places. If the kereru goes, so do these plants eventually.
I have noticed that the number of tui and wood pigeon have increased locally over the years. This is no doubt due to the help from the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. If you haven’t already been, you should check this predator-free facility out, as it a number of other native birds such as kaka.
What can you do to attract our native birds?
One thing is keep predators at bay. Opossums, stoats, and rats all compete for food or attack young birds, so controlling them is start. You can use Tim traps for opossums, especially as they are so destructive on our native plants. Likewise, your moggie likes birds too, so put a bell on its collar to give the bird a chance before your cat pounces.
To attract honey feeders, you can use a nectar feeder, such as a metal channel with sugary water in it, hanging from a tree. Once they come to feed, you could kindly persuade them to hang around and even breed.
The main way to get these desirable birds into your garden is with appropriate planting. I have listed below some native plants attractive to the birds mentioned, with flowering or fruiting at different times of the year.
Spring: flax, kowhai, rewarewa, tree fuchsia
Summer: rata, pohutukawa
Autumn: totara, kahikatea, kapuka
Winter: puriri, tree fuchsia , coprosma, wineberry, titoki, hinau, fivefinger, pittosporum, mahoe.
Metrosideros robusta, rata
Phormium cookianum, flax
While the exotic tree lucerne is attractive to kereru, it is considered a little too rampant as a nurse crop plant.
The idea is to provide a good source of food over the year, in a safe environment, and hopefully you can soon enjoy the sweet cadences of bird song in your garden!
Before we did a makeover on this Khandallah courtyard, the site was messy, and access was unsafe. The fences, steps and walls were all failing. There was no flat areas suitable to enjoy the outdoor space. The driveway had old pavers that needed replacing as they had sunk in places. New fences, walls, steps were built and exposed concrete used on the driveway and pathways, and tiles used in the entertainment area.The plants include Pittosporum Wrinkle Blue and Camellia sasanqua hedges around the perimeter and colourful plants on the sloping garden such as deciduous azalea, red maple, and Chatham Island forget me nots and pimelia groundcover.
Well autumn has officially arrived, but we are still getting summery days, but cooler nights. I have just been to Nelson where the drought is the worse it has been since records began. Fortunately we all got some soaking rain recently which helped to reduce the water stress on plants. In Nelson, many trees have died and others that are looking stressed could easily die in due course due to the prolonged drought. Conifers eg pine trees, can look like they are ok during a prolonged drought, but once they brown off that is the end of them.
One benefit of the cooler evenings is that you get dew falling on the plants, which helps. With the changes in climate happening around the world we need to be prepared for more weather extremes.
It is interesting to see which plants are surviving the drought well. Included below are drought resistant plants – known as xerophytes, mostly from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean:
Top drought plants:
Succulents eg Echeveria spp.- all succulents due well in the drought
Arthropodium cirrhatum, renga lily
Coprosma kirkii or Hawera
Grevillea spp. An Australian native
Lavendula dentata, French lavender–colourful perennial
Leucadendron spp. South African shrubs
Myoporum laetum, ngaio – NZ native tree
Phormium cookianum, P. tenax, NZ flaxes
Pseudopanax crassifolium, lancewood – NZ small tree
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary from the Mediterranean
If you have followed my previous advice about not mowing your lawn and leaving it longer it should still have some green. When it starts growing again you can cut it back lightly. Ideally you should take off no more than 1/3 of the growth. Similarly, trees and shrubs should have no more than 25% of their growth taken off at one time. It still amazes me how people think that lawn is not a plant. If you scalped your shrubs to within a few cm of their roots every week or two they wouldn’t last long, but that is what often happens with lawns. Old habits die hard!
Gardening is always a challenge, but fun as well.
Problem: This inner city property had a backyard which was overgrown with weeds and grass and was not usable. The ground level was higher than the house floor level, causing drainage issues. The existing gardens were overgrown and the trees were in poor condition.
The client wanted a usable outdoor entertainment area that was at the right level to drain to a suitable drainage system. Colourful plants were preferred.
Solution: Excess soil was removed to get the correct levels. Raised timber gardens were built around the perimeter, and the old fences replaced with oriental trellis. Exposed concrete with timber inlays was installed at new ground level and new drains laid to capture the water runoff .
The new gardens included plants like Camellia, Hydrangea, azalaea, Daphne, lavender, Trachelospermum( climber), Pandorea (climber).