Find­ing the per­fect ground cover



Mag­nif­i­cent pots of what I thought were heucheras were in sev­eral Taranaki Fes­ti­val gar­dens. I grow heucheras as ground cov­ers in shady, damp spots where they can be over­looked. I re­solved to copy the idea and lift some plants into the lime­light.

Af­ter a lit­tle re­search I found the con­tainer show-offs were ac­tu­ally heucherel­las, crosses be­tween tiarel­las and heucheras. The leaves are amaz­ing – so many colours, pat­terns and in­tri­cate, lobed, in­cised shapes. View the full range at liv­ing­fash­ Plants are avail­able at gar­den cen­tres.

Heucherel­las need to be pro­tected from the harsh­est af­ter­noon sun and they need welldrained but moist soils with plenty of added com­post. I’ve planted ‘Happy Hour Lime’ and ‘Alabama Sun­rise’ (pic­tured right) in tall blue pots. The bur­gundy-leafed maple matches the veins of Alabama’s leaves which will ap­par­ently change colour with the sea­sons. I can’t wait to see what hap­pens next.


Fin­ger-sized baby fruit turn to mon­ster mar­rows in the blink of an eye.

I grew two plants from one Lit­tle Gar­den peat pot given away by New World. The variety is ‘Black Beauty’ which I haven’t grown be­fore. Both plants are large, healthy and ex­tremely pro­duc­tive.

There’s no sign of pow­dery mildew yet (fin­gers crossed) but in hu­mid Auck­land it’s just a mat­ter of time. I don’t usu­ally bother to spray – plants with a dan­druff dust­ing of mildew still man­age to pro­duce crops. By the time the plants suc­cumb to an ugly full-scale in­fec­tion I’m tired of eat­ing cour­gettes and I’m ready

Cour­gette pickle

Ray Gar­net’s easy cour­gette pickle In­gre­di­ents: 1 kg small cour­gettes 2 medium onions 1⁄ cup plain salt

4 21⁄ cups white vine­gar

4 1⁄ tea­spoon dry mus­tard pow­der

2 1 cup sugar 1 tea­spoon ground tumeric 1 tea­spoon of one of the fol­low­ing seeds: dill, car­away, mus­tard or cel­ery. Method: Wash and trim cour­gettes and slice thinly. Chop onions and put them and the cour­gettes into a large glass or china bowl and cover with­wa­ter. Add the salt, stir and al­lowto stand for one hour. Then rinse and drain. Mean­while, bring the re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents to the boil. Pour over the drained veg­eta­bles, stir and let the mix­ture stand for an­other hour. Then bring to the boil for just three min­utes be­fore pack­ing into hot ster­ilised jars. Seal im­me­di­ately or store in the fridge to eat straight away.

to rip out the plants in favour of au­tumn and win­ter veges.

But this year I’m suf­fo­cat­ing thrips on my vireyas with Grosafe En­spray 99 and us­ing the left­overs of each sprayer load to give the cour­gettes a pre­ven­tive spray. Grosafe En­spray 99 is a high­pu­rity BioGro-cer­ti­fied or­ganic spray­ing oil that can be used to con­trol many sap-suck­ing in­sects and as a fungi­cide to tar­get pow­dery mildew. The with­hold­ing pe­riod is nil which is es­sen­tial for cour­gettes as har­vest­ing is a daily event.

Ev­ery­one who grows cour­gettes needs a se­lec­tion of glut-buster recipes. This pickle is a new favourite. It is de­li­cious with cheese and crack­ers – in fact it is so de­li­cious that I caught some­one (you know who you are!) stand­ing by the open fridge eat­ing it by the spoon­ful straight out of the jar.

Use baby cour­gettes so you get neat lit­tle cir­cu­lar slices in the fin­ished pickle. Don’t overdo the soak­ing and stand­ing time as the veges lose their crunch.


When a friend vis­ited my gar­den last month we did a slow tour, in­spect­ing ev­ery plant. Of­ten when she asked the names I’d have a brain fade and have to say, ‘‘I’ll look up the la­bel – I think I’ve got it some­where.’’

I record what I plant in my gar­den di­ary and some­times sta­ple in the la­bel too. It’s not a great sys­tem be­cause I have to re­mem­ber when I planted some­thing in order to find the name. Af­ter 13 years here, that’s a lot of pages to flick through. I don’t like the look of tags on ev­ery plant and some la­bels have a lot of in­for­ma­tion I want to keep.


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

Time for a new strat­egy. I’m go­ing to sta­ple la­bels onto loose pages in a ring­binder and use di­viders to group the pages ac­cord­ing to where the plant is in the gar­den. Loose pages will al­low me to move the record from place to place if the plant gets moved or dies – both reg­u­lar oc­cur­rences with a mul­ti­tude of pots. A record of flow­er­ing times and when things were last pruned and fer­tilised would be handy too. I’d love to know how other mem­ory -chal­lenged gar­den­ers cope. Email in­box@get­grow­ with your sys­tems and ideas.

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