Don’t stress

NZ House & Garden - - SPECIAL FEATURE / EASY GARDENING -

Penny Clif­fin, cur­rent pres­i­dent of the Gar­den De­sign So­ci­ety of New Zealand, has a de­gree in hor­ti­cul­ture and a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in ur­ban trends. She points out that while home­own­ers in­creas­ingly don’t have the time or space for hands-on gar­den­ing, an out­door space is shown to be an im­por­tant coun­ter­bal­ance in our busy lives. So a gar­den should be a de-stres­sor, not the op­po­site.

No square pegs: Plants have adapted to thrive in dif­fer­ent grow­ing con­di­tions, so work with na­ture. In shady ar­eas, go for species with leaves that have a big sur­face area (to cap­ture as much light as pos­si­ble) and are dark green (the ex­tra chloro­phyll helps them get more nour­ish­ment from low light). Cu­ri­ously, plants with names be­gin­ning with H seem to be adept at this: hosta, helle­bores, hy­drangea. In hot, dry con­di­tions, plants with smaller leaves or furry sur­faces (to re­duce evap­o­ra­tion) and with grey fo­liage tend to thrive. Think lamb’s ear, corokia or Muehlen­beckia as­tonii.

Cover story: Suf­fo­cat­ing weeds is the best way to stop them be­fore they start – and ground­cov­ers will do the job for you. Penny’s favourite is pros­trate rose­mary, which has at­trac­tive blue flow­ers that the bees love, is won­der­fully fra­grant, easy to grow and gives your roast lamb a herba­ceous boost. An­other to con­sider is the na­tive ‘Poor Knights’ co­prosma, which doesn’t mind wind, sea salt or lots of sun. In win­ter, to stop the spring con­volvu­lus from ex­plod­ing, Penny likes to mulch with six lay­ers of news­pa­per un­der a fresh spread of bark and com­post. Grace­ful age­ing: There isn’t much that looks bet­ter with age, but one or two ma­te­ri­als buck this re­al­ity. Weath­ered steel is one ex­am­ple. Its warm, rusty tones are eye-catch­ing and can be used for screen­ing and planters. Macro­carpa, a New Zealand na­tive, is cost-ef­fec­tive, nat­u­rally durable and sil­vers off beau­ti­fully.

The art of ma­nip­u­la­tion: Many peo­ple who say they hate gar­den­ing don’t mind wield­ing a power tool, which means only one thing: they are born hedgers. Set them to work on plants that are eas­ily train­able. New Zealand tī­toki (Alec­tryon ex­cel­sus) is an ever­green with glossy green leaves and fruit that birds love. Buy a tallish spec­i­men grade and you won’t have to nur­ture it so much in the early years. Also, a cur­rent favourite that can be hedged or es­paliered (an­other one of those in­stant-grat­i­fi­ca­tion tasks) is Pyrus calleryana ‘Aris­to­crat’, the or­na­men­tal pear.

Go potty: If you’re averse to mow­ing lawns, prun­ing trees and con­tin­u­ally com­post­ing flower beds but still want to dip your toe in the gar­den­ing game, nur­ture one or two grand pot­ted state­ments. For in­spi­ra­tion, visit the New Zealand Flower & Gar­den Show (from 28 Novem­ber to 2 De­cem­ber), where 20 de­sign­ers from the Gar­den De­sign So­ci­ety of New Zealand will present minia­ture gar­dens in huge pots with themes such as “The moun­tain to the sea”, “Plants for birds” and “Scented sub­trop­i­cal”. Some­thing just might cap­ture your imag­i­na­tion.

By­pass the veg­eta­bles: Plant mul­ti­task­ing ed­i­bles in­stead. Try hedges of Tahi­tian lime and fei­joa, grapes clam­ber­ing over a fence, olives for screen­ing and long-last­ing ever­green herbs such as rose­mary and pars­ley. >

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