Gardening in the Maniototo is challenging, and we are always aware of the different conditions and microclimates within our large basin.
The climate that makes Jane Falconer an extreme gardener… of sorts
Surrounded on all sides by mountains, local garden altitudes vary from 350m to 610m. Rainfall ranges from 250mm to 600mm annually – a wide range coupled with seasonal temperatures that fluctuate from -25ºC degrees in winter to 35ºC in summer. So spring is indeed a special season for us and appreciated so much after the extreme winter we so often experience.
The sound of the lawnmower and the smell of fresh grass herald that spring has arrived, and the welcome bird song and paradise ducks on the pond complete the picture. Blossoms and bulbs, along with warm sunny days, are good for us all.
Clachanburn is a two-hectare garden facing the northeast.
At that boundary sits a long ha-ha which allows amazing views to the distant Kakanui Mountains. The ha-ha is 2m high to keep the elk deer out of the garden.
Here, water is the garden‘s greatest asset, but timing is everything and not always controllable. Irrigation allows
some control but to water or not to water? How beneficial is watering before the sunshine and warmth come? The debate goes on. While there is still considerable snow on the mountains, we will get frosts – so do you want to be piling on water and encouraging new growth only to run the risk of losing it? I am hand-watering new plants which must not die and, if in a very dry place something is looking like needing a drink, I give it one.
But nature has the last say. Excessive rain has caused our garden creek to rage and readers will have seen on the news the damage the Taieri River has had downstream all the way to the Taieri Plain near Dunedin.
Still, it cannot be denied that a good rain followed by mulch does wonders for the garden. Autumn leaves had been racked into piles, with ammonia of sulphate sprinkled into them to help them decompose quicker. They were covered with open woven cloth and pegged down, and now make a wonderful mulch once spread out. Lawn clippings thinly spread on top is good too. The blossom trees flourish in large shrubberies where this practice is applied.
I have malus as well as prunus varieties.
The malus have the advantage of producing crabapples in autumn and make lovely jelly. I have early, mid and late flowering trees to give blossoms from early September well into November.
The potted geraniums stay in the glasshouse until the snow has disappeared.
Even then, we cover them at night if a frost is imminent. We can be caught out with late frosts in November, which do more damage than in winter because of the new growth.
I love sharing the garden with visitors.
I often learn more from them than they do from me! Gardeners are generous with their knowledge and I am forever swapping notes.
The question I am most often asked if I have help in the garden. Yes I do! Miracle Margot comes once a week. We live in a climate with four distinct seasons; each has its own beauty and here at Clachanburn, I have tried to design and plant to make the most of our site all year. Garden cottage visitors staying over the weekend have returned to enjoy the garden in another season. One group had stayed in autumn and returned recently, so I asked them when they think the garden is at its best. They said they had been blown away by our autumn splendour, and now to see the spring flowers with snow on the mountains is equally breathtaking.
Visitors to the Maniototo find it unique.
The vastness, the scenery, the peace… and may it stay so, please. Clachanburn is registered with the New Zealand Garden Trust as a Garden of National Significance.
Each distinct season experienced at Clachanburn comes with its own challenges.
The ha-ha keeps deer off the property.
Spring flowers are a welcome sight after winter.