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YOUR GARDENING QUESTIONS THIS MONTH
Your questions answered.
Q PURPLE SPUDS I missed out on buying ‘Urenika' seed potatoes this year. Do any other varieties have purple flesh and skins? IAN MATTHEWS, AUCKLAND A ‘Urenika’ potatoes are a Maori¯ heritage variety that is long, knobbly and dark purple through and through. They are highly sought-after and seed potatoes sell out quickly so order now for next season. Also look for ‘Purple Heart’, an oval variety with smooth purple skin and purple flesh, bred by Plant and Food scientists who crossed high-volume ‘Moonlight’ with ‘Urenika’ which tends to produce a relatively low yield. ‘Purple Passion’, with purple skin and yellow flesh, is also from the Plant and Food breeding programme. Both are grown by Morton Smith-Dawe and should be available at your
garden centre next spring. Barbara Smith Q THYME GARDEN I'd like to grow thyme between crazy paving rather than battle the weeds continually – an idea I read in your magazine some years ago. Which are the best sorts to grow and where can I find plants? SALLIE PEARSON, KAPITI COAST There are several lower A growing spreading thymes to choose from. Creeping thyme (Awapuni Nurseries) grows as a tight mat so makes an excellent groundcover. It’s edible too. ‘Doone Valley’ (sometimes available Trade Me) is a variegated low-growing variety with pink flowers. Or ‘Emerald Carpet’ (Mauways Nursery) has lovely white flowers.
Get on top of the weeds before you plant the thyme. Weeds (especially perennial ones or those with long tap roots) that pop up while the thyme is getting established are even harder to get rid of because of the risk of uprooting the thyme.
Also be aware that thyme flowers are very attractive to bees. If the crazy paving is trodden on by children with bare feet you may wish to rethink your plan.
Good luck! Thyme does look very pretty once established. Barbara Smith
Q SHORT POPPIES I grow beautiful, leafy, fullflowered poppies with stems only an inch long. The soil may need something or maybe I’m not feeding the plants correctly. How can I grow opium and Oriental poppies successfully? ILONA BLISS, WHANGAREI Oriental poppies, Papaver A
orientale (above left), are perennials native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey, and northern Iran. They have large silken-sheened, fine tissue-paper flowers in shades ranging from orange, scarlet, red through pink to white. They bloom in the late spring and early summer. Plants produce many flowers so the display can be breathtaking even though each one only lasts a few days. By midsummer, plants die down, go dormant and become a mite unsightly. Planting in front of them will screen their dying leaves. Foliage reappears in autumn, but they don’t grow much until spring. Oriental poppies need sufficient chill hours (vital to leaf and flower production) to be able to sense winter accurately and rest. If they have not rested sufficiently, flowers may be stunted. They do grow in warmer areas but the lack of cold may affect the stem length of the flowers. This may be the reason that your flowers have short stems. Only the North Island central plateau and inland South Island are cold enough for best performance.
Oriental poppies like a position in full sun, can tolerate a little shade, and like well-drained soil. Lack of sunlight may also affect the length of the stem. They need at least six hours of sunlight each day, so check your plants are not too shaded too. The opium poppy (above right),
Papaver somniferum, is also very beautiful. The colour range is similar, and plants tolerate heat better, though they don’t like humid summers, often succumbing to downy mildew. They produce the poppy seed used in cooking, their leaves are greyish green and they flower in spring. They are also the source of the opium drug. Opium poppies can be grown legitimately in New Zealand as an ornamental plant, but not for the purpose of producing the drug.
Seedheads of Oriental poppies, which don’t contain opium latex, are sometimes mistakenly stolen by thieves seeking drugs, so tuck all poppies away from general view!
Oriental poppies can be grown from seed or from root division. Root division gives you a replica of the original plant but seed may give you variations, which of course is an entirely fascinating pastime to indulge in! They are quite easily grown from seed, but as they resent root disturbance, care must be taken when transplanting them. Plant container grown plants in autumn if your winters are warm and spring if your winters are cold.
Buy plants from online specialist nurseries such as Parva Plants (parvaplants.co.nz). Owairaka Seeds (owairakaseeds.co.nz) primarily stocks unusual perennial plant seeds (and some uncommon annual seeds) but sometimes has plants available. Email [email protected] as there may be smaller plants available that are not listed online.
Papaver orientale and Papaver somniferum seed is available from Owairaka Seeds and Kings Seeds. Austin Walls, Owairaka Seeds