Belladonna Bess

An edible garden in Wellington, NZ

Apples! March 19, 2011

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:15 pm

Eating: apples. I’ve had two or three from ‘Polka’, with a few more to come, and one from ‘Initial’. I had cut all the flowers off Initial as I didn’t think it was big enough yet, but I missed one. I now wish that I had two plants of Initial, because it was delicious. As promised on the label, it tastes just like a new season Gala – my favourite apple (I don’t like them later in the season when they get a bit sweet). It has one big advantage over Gala – it is very disease resistant.

Also eating: raspberries, strawberries, a few blueberries, Cape gooseberries, carrots, pak choi, tomatoes and various other things in small quantities. Zucchinis are nearly over now.

Sowing: last weekend I sowed peas, cabbage and radish in the ground. This week, I’ve sowed in pots:

spinach, coloured silverbeet, romanesco broccoli, celeriac, kohlrabi, collards, leek and black cumin (Nigella sativa).

Observing: one fruit set on my Passiflora antioquiensis, several fruit set on my ‘Unique’ feijoa, but something (possibly a stick insect) has eaten most of the leaves off, so I’ll need to take off the fruit I think. Some pepino fruit is actually ripening this year. I also have 5 pumpkins of various sizes and a few spaghetti squash, although one rotted.

Rubbing: every two days, I rub down my broccoli leaves to remove eggs of the cabbage white butterfly. I don’t have too many plants, so at this stage it is still a reasonably efficient approach.

Germinating: apart from the multitude of weeds and coriander, I’ve got fine-leaved mustard, purple broccoli, Nemophila, Limnanthes, chervil, parsley, lettuce, coloured silverbeet, tomatoes, lemon balm, basil and catnip turning up in various places around the garden. I also appear to have a single new plant of Rorippa divaricata, which is a real bonus.

Weeding: endlessly. Self-sowing vegetables aren’t necessarily less work, because if you have the conditions for self-sowing vegetables then you have the conditions for weeds. And mostly the weeds grow faster. Nonetheless, it’s fun seeing what turns up. Also, I have learned a lot about vegetables by letting them doing their own thing.

Future Meetings

1 March Peter Cave. Overland from Kathmandu to Istanbul

5 April Abbie Jury. Garden rooms and the magpie instinct of NZ gardeners to collect ideas.

3 May Rudolf Schulz. Brachychiton.

7 June Jim Campbell. Management options and opportunities on the South Taranaki dunelands.

5 July Ian Bell. Plant pollination

2 August AGM followed by members’ contributions

6 Sept Jim and Diana Howard. Greece.

4 Oct Jill Rapson, Topic to be determined

1 Nov Colin and Robyn Ogle. Cape York, Queensland.

7 Dec Christmas social evening

Future Trips

27 Feb. Taihape search for Pittosporum obcordatum.

2 April. Tennet’s Bush, Campbell Road, Brunswick.

30 April. Parikino swamp forest, Whanganui River Road – revisit

4 June. Bushy Park weeding

3 Sept. ‘Paloma’, Fordell

2 Oct. Moana Roa, Rangitikei River

30 Oct. Lake Waikato, Nukumaru.

4 Dec. Hapuawhenua, Ohakune.

Field trip reports

Ashhurst Domain, 30 May 2010. Ten of us went from Wanganui, via Feilding to see about 6 slightly spinous shrubs beside the West St sports fields. Although we had seen flowers in the past (both male and female shrubs here), it was not until last year that Dave Bull put us on to the correct genus, Schinus, and that led to Ewen Cameron at AK coming up with the species, S. longifolia. We were met at the Ashhurst Domain by Leon Perrie and Lara Shepherd and Lara’s father, Mike. We had an easy stroll on tracks through dry terrace forest (kanuka dominated, with totara) and soon found the extensive patches of giant maidenhair (Adiantum formosum) and bamboo ricegrass (Microlaena polynoda) that we’d come to see. Both were new to some of the Group, at least in the wild.

For lunch, we moved the cars to a new picnic area beside the Manawatu River bridge. This gave easy access to a new formalised track, thanks to Horizons Regional Council, into forest on a lower river terrace of the Domain. This contained a splendid patch of swamp forest that was remarkably weed-free apart from the outer margins. It must be one of the most accessible and intact stands of swamp maire (Syzygium maire) in the region. Everyone, even those who didn’t want to venture off the boardwalk into the shallow water, saw the abundant pneumatophores that swamp maire produces in permanently wet conditions. There were also fine specimens of other lowland swamp trees, including matai (Prumnopitys taxifolia), ribbonwood or manatu (Plagianthus regius) and pukatea (Laurelia novae-zelandiae), though surprisingly few kahikatea. Colin Ogle.

Patea coast. Sun 5 Dec. 2010. Travelling from as far afield as New Plymouth, 15 of us met in Patea with sometime local and also Wellington resident Michael Parsons. Michael’s knowledge of local history and landowners made the whole day possible for us. In the dry conditions, we were able to drive cars across pasture to two cliff top sites towards Kakaramea from Patea. At both, we had vistas of mudstone cliffs, overlain by compacted tephra, sands and peat, dropping sheer to the sea. Our first site had the remains of an abandoned powerhouse built in 1907 on the cliff tops by Kaikura Stream. Michael led us to the now-breached dam and remains of pipes that had linked it to the powerhouse. On and near the cliff tops, the native ‘turfs’ of dwarf native plants were more extensive than I’d imagined. Selliera (the round-leaved forms we debated at length as to whether they could be S. rotundifolia) dominated many patches and the diminutive grass Zoysia minima dominated some small areas. Depending on factors such as shelter or exposure to coastal wind and salt, and the dampness and depth of soil or clay, other native species occurred in these mats. Samolus repens and Ranunculus acaulis were flowering. Plantago masoniae impressed for its tight rosettes of green and dull red toothed leaves. (New research suggests this may be just a habitat form of P. triandra.) The exotic swamp plantain, P. australis was here too and further along the cliffs we compared it with robust coastal plants of P. raoulii. Although it is common on cliff tops towards Cape Egmont, the invasive and exotic buck’s horn plantain, P. coronopus, was not seen all day.


Because there has been a suggested unnamed (and highly threatened) species of Limosella found here first in 1972, we paid special attention to plants we found but, in the end, we couldn’t decide whether we were seeing two different kinds of Limosella; there seemed to be a gradation from plants with linear-spathulate leaves (L. lineata) to those with short broad spathulate leaves. We had similar problems in deciding whether we had two Leptinella (button daisy) taxa – very small plants matched L. dispersa subsp. rupestris, but they seemed to grade into more lush ‘forms’ that might be L. dispersa subsp. dispersa. The button daisies were not flowering. We collected specimens, and also of a range of Limosella forms, and sent them live to Landcare Research staff at Lincoln.


After lunch on the cliff top turf, we moved the cars closer to Patea to a stream known locally as Whitikau. This gave us scrambling access down the cliffs to the beach. On the descent we could explore parts of the dripping mudstone cliffs with some dry outcrops of ‘ironstone’. Seepages had lush Leptinella patches and the native Montia fontana; dry spots had coastal Blechnum blechnoides; Plantago raoulii grew in intermediate sites. Our special thanks to Michael for coming up from Wellington to guide us, and to the landowners who allowed us to traverse their farms. Colin Ogle


President: Clive Higgie (06) 342 7857

Secretary: Robyn Ogle (06) 3478547