Fra­grant herbs mak­ing their mark

North Taranaki Midweek - - GARDENING - ROBERT GUYTON

through them adds so much to the ex­pe­ri­ence of a garden ram­ble.


If you live in South­land, or any other re­gion that’s been as dry as a bone for far longer than usual, you’ll have been watch­ing the skies and hop­ing for rain! I didn’t know how long the gardens and or­chards here could sur­vive the arid con­di­tions we were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing be­fore the weather fi­nally turned cooler and it rained.

I hoped ev­ery­thing was re­silient and that the time I’ve put into build­ing a wa­ter-re­ten­tive soil with lots of hu­mus would pay off. Wa­ter­ing from the mains or tanks of stored rain­wa­ter was an emer­gency mea­sure, I be­lieved – mois­ture cap­tured in the soil by the or­ganic mat­ter con­tained therein should be all that’s re­quired, but when it came to newly planted trees and shrubs, I’d taken out in­surance by wa­ter­ing deeply when­ever I could. That meant care­ful use of stored wa­ter for us here, and so I chose the evening to give drinks to my young plants and hoped that a night of re­lief from the sun would give them time to drink deeply and re­plen­ish their wilted leaves be­fore the sun rose again in the morn­ing. It was no good mulching dur­ing the drought – that would do would be to stop any rain that might fall from get­ting to the roots where it was needed. Mulch should al­ways be ap­plied to well-wet­ted soil.

Some of my larger-leaved plants, the gun­nera (pic­tured) or Chilean rhubarb, for ex­am­ple, seemed to ben­e­fit from hav­ing any des­ic­cated leaves re­moved, leav­ing the still­green ones to keep the plant go­ing, but I’m not sure if that’s the case.

Of course it all be­came moot when the sev­eral days’ worth of rain ar­rived and re­vived the garden and filled the tanks but it was a les­son worth hav­ing and shar­ing, be­cause as sure as eggs, we’ll have an­other drought and that might be next year and for a longer time, who knows?


High tem­per­a­tures can cook fish. As the wa­ter heats up, oxy­gen lev­els fall, and fish strug­gle to fill their gills. Adding cooler wa­ter and pro­vid­ing shade helps. If drought is still a hap­pen­ing thing where you are, you may need to re­duce the num­ber of fish per litre if they’ve been breed­ing.

The creek that usu­ally flows through my for­est garden had been re­duced to a trickle by the lack of rain and the na­tive fish weren’t look­ing as happy as they had sev­eral weeks be­fore. I kept an eye on them and had a net at hand. Some na­tive fish can go into a sort of sleep when they can no longer func­tion and I ex­pected these might just hun­ker down in the mud if that’s all they could get. They’d have been hop­ing for rain as much as we gar­den­ers were. Reports from around South­land told a sad story for the fish in the de­pleted rivers, and any gar­den­ers keeping fish would take a use­ful les­son from this most un­usual sea­son.


I’ve avoided plac­ing any­thing other than plants in my garden for many years, espe­cially avoid­ing the likes of plas­ter gnomes and con­crete deer, but now I’m not so ex­clu­sive. The idea of stone crea­tures sit­ting among my api­aceae and legu­mi­nosae is be­gin­ning to ap­peal as my garden ma­tures, though I’m still a bit cagey about flamin­gos and par­tially draped women


This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­

shoul­der­ing urns of wa­ter. I like the idea of stone crea­tures of the mythic sort, re­lax­ing in the garden, though I sup­pose I’m go­ing to have to set­tle for con­crete ver­sions. They’re very good though, go­ing by what I’ve seen in the garden cen­tres and there’s a great se­lec­tion to choose from. Those may not be to your taste, but there’ll be some­thing out there that you could en­joy dis­played along­side your flo­ral favourites.

The ul­ti­mate would be to fash­ion stat­ues for your garden by your own hand, if that’s within your ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Rub­ber moulds are avail­able for the less skilled, which filled with con­crete or plas­ter can pro­vide some de­light­ful garden beasts for the imag­i­na­tive gar­dener.

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