Landscaping with camellias can provide areas within the garden that are diverse and varied. Camellias originate from China, Japan and the Far East. They grow naturally in parts of this vast continent that have cold winters and hot summers so they are adaptable and hardy. The thick, glossy, camellia leaf is wind tolerant and can stand a blustery, exposed position in the garden. The very leathery and tough leaf is strong in structure and able to withstand frosty conditions and even snow. Camellias will survive well at the beach in coastal situation's with sandy soil too. They are also tolerant of moderately wet soils in winter. Their network of fine root structure allows the camellia to grow in clay soil that is poorly drained.
Because there is no tap root system of a long, strong single root that penetrates deep into soil structure, they can be dug up and moved easily. Mature plants that are one or two metres high can be carefully dug around and the whole plant removed to another site. Not all shrubs are that easy to move when they are mature and have been growing in the same position for a number of years.
The camellia needs to be restaked when in its new place and when watered well it will recover from the upheaval and flourish. Staking large plants is essential in the garden, particularly in areas where there is strong wind. Holding the plant firmly in place will allow new roots to penetrate into the soil and substructure to give a strong network that anchors the plant in the ground.
When choosing camellias for flower and colour there is a large range of possibilities to consider. Are plants with the same flower colour needed to give a uniform effect? If a hedgerow is being planted then the same variety can be selected. Or the same shade of flower over several different shape types will give a continuous flowering effect right through winter and into spring. This can be in a hedgerow or dotted through out the garden. By choosing camellias that are early, middle or late season flowering a camellia can be a show item in the garden from April right through to October. Flowers come in a small range of colours from white to pink and red. However there are about 30,000 different types so there is a wide range of hues in just those three colours. Flowers can be also be variegated with two tones and some have different colour edges while others are speckled.
Two problems with camellias are their susceptibility to the leaf roller caterpillar in summer and their dislike of dry periods in summer. The fine hair roots like to be kept moist. This can be helped by adding a layer of mulch for the summer months if no irrigation is possible. Camellias are not so great in some gardens close to a lawn area. The mower is apt to complain about the litter left by the flower fall. Either grow the camellias in garden areas where the spent flowers can add to the humus or choose the camellia varieties, such as Camellia sasanqua that the petals detach from the flowerhead and flutter to the ground with minimal clutter. Feed once a year with an acid fertilizer and keep away the garden lime and dolomite. Camellias love an acid soil to thrive. As most New Zealand soils are naturally acid based camellias do well.
Spring - Edible Landscaping
We can take control of our destiny and monopolize it all in the garden. While the world outside of the garden fence can be riotous and a little hard to interpret, inside the garden gate we can plot and plan the garden and dominate it all! Why not put in a landscape scheme that is edible? There is now such a wide range of fruitful plants that are tempting. Even if space is limited to a few containers there are dwarf fruit trees that can be grown as standards.
The container perimeter can be overflowing with strawberries or even lettuces and rocket. If shade trees are needed on the patio, pool or boundary fence then consider nut trees – hazel, walnut, macadamia, almond. All have wonderful spring flowering that enhances the garden and proves a fruitful reward in autumn as well. Deciduous fruit trees such as peach, pear, apple and plum can also add spring blossom to the landscape. And the freshest of fruit can be the dining table outcome from summer onwards. Fruit trees require a small amount of maintenance each winter.
They need to be thinned and pruned. Spraying with a copper spray and oil to retain good health is another requirement. Once a year, in late spring give them a top-dressing of mulch, fertiliser or compost that will see them through the summer.
Besides the tall nut and fruit trees there are many lower bushy shrubs that reward the home gardener with fruit. Pomegranates, crab apples, currants, gooseberries, elderberries, and all the cane fruits- thornless blackberries, raspberries, logan berries are just a few. There are many more to consider – elderberry, kiwi fruit, passion fruit, hops, olives, feijoas, cranberry, cape gooseberry, strawberries. All of these plants can be fitted into the home garden and provide shelter, shade and the bonus is the edible fruit. And then there are citrus trees. Many varieties are cold hardy and suitable for the colder parts of New Zealand.
The French have long been famous for their parterre style of gardening. They incorporate the flowers they love along with fruit trees and bushes. Herbs and vegetables can also be part of the garden plot. Chives and parsley make excellent path borders. They can be picked daily to keep them trim and the popped into the day’s menu. Sage, oregano, thyme and rosemary are the other four essential flavours that need to have a plot or pot handy to the kitchen door. We all crave the idealistic concept of being self- sufficient. Having an edible landscape is one goal that is attainable.
Summer - Herb salads
Summer is barbeques and salads and the time when the cook, having planned the vegetable garden well, is able to stroll out to the plot and harvest a tasty, fresh selection of herbs that will create a flavour sensation in the salad bowl. In Tudor times a salad bowl would have had at least thirty different herb leaves and flowers mixed in the bowl. By mixing a few of each type of herb leaf that can be eaten raw, a tasty, gourmet delight is easily created. A dish that is as nutritious as it is pleasurable to eat.
Chives and parsley are the most common favourites to add flavour to lettuce salads. There are also garlic chives that have a flat, solid leaf that has hints of garlic in the usual onion flavour. Flat- leaf Parsley or Italian Parsley is an ancient variety that is supposed to be more flavoursome than the modern, curly leaf parsley. A recent introduction called Parcel is a combination of both parsley and celery flavours. Leaves of both chives and parsley can be chopped finely using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.
Salad Burnet adds a mild cucumber flavour to many salad dishes. The leaves
are about the size of a five-cent piece and are stripped from the stalk.
They are added whole to lettuce or cabbage based salads.
Rocket, Dill and Coriander are great summer salad plants. However, all three are difficult to grow well in hot and dry climates. They are easy to grow all winter long when they are subject to frequent rainfall. Add summer heat and sun though and all three plants will germinate then go straight to seed. One answer is to mix together the seeds all three and grow them in a small flat pot. The pot can be kept at the kitchen door, sunny window sill or garden edge. Every ten days sprinkle a teaspoon of the seed mix on top of a new pot of potting mix and water well. As the seeds sprout and grow to about 5 or 6 cm high cut them off and use straight away. It takes a bit of time and effort to care for the pots this way but the reward is the wonderful flavour that these three herbs lend to make the salad bowl memorable!
Sorrel and Chicory are ancient herbs that both have a refreshing tang
in their flavour. Just add a few leaves of each to the salad bowl. Cress
is related to the mustard family so it has a hot peppery flavour.
Chop up enough lettuce or cabbage to make a salad big enough to serve four people. Add two or three pieces of any salad herbs and there will be the most flavoursome salad ever tasted!
Autumn - Hedging
Even though we are having magnificently hot days at this time of year the nights are tending to be cool with the hint of autumn. Time to be thinking of that hedge and what choices can be made. It is time to be preparing the ground for planting within the next month or six weeks. Many people decide that a natural, evergreen and live row of trees is the best choice to separate the neighbours and enhance privacy. A row of greenery forms a natural barrier that can be clipped twice a year and unlike a fence, does not need painting to keep it looking great.
Pittosporums are one of the first to choose. These native shrubs are indigenous to this region and are both reasonably, winter wet tolerant and dry summer hardy. There are many choices to be made from the wide range of Pittosporums. Pittosporum eugenioides are a group that are quick growing and vigorous. They are better suited for lifestyle or farm situations where they can grow to over three metres and provide a block against prevailing winds. Pittosporum crassifolium is the seaside choice as the thick, leathery leaf can tolerate summer drought and salt laden winds.
Pittosporum tenufolium and the wide range of cultivars are better suited for town size sections and will quickly grow to provide a privacy screen from traffic and neighbours. All Pittosporums can be readily clipped and shaped to form formal, neat hedgerows. Corokias, Ake-Ake, Pseudopanax, Coprosma and Lophomyrtus are other NZ natives that can be used for hedging. Another popular choice in the Manawatu is the Photinia Red Robin. This plant, with its red foliage, makes a bold statement when planted as a roadside hedge. Conifers that will form a thick, impenetrable barrier must include the Cupressocyparis range.
Leighton’s Green and Naylor’s Blue are among the more popular types. These will grow to 6 metres and need to be trimmed annually to form neat hedgerows. For the town garden the camellia tree is another option to use. The plants can be trimmed to form a thick, lush barrier against the wind and give good privacy. Even though they can be clipped to form a square hedge they will still flower in the winter months and add a flowery display to their façade. Some gardeners prefer to choose a single camellia flower colour such as light pink but grow a hedge which includes the same colour shade in five or six varieties. This provides a hedge which flowers at different times through about six months.
Meanwhile, the area where the hedge is to be planted can be prepared. All plants benefit from good soil and turning over the hedges site and adding compost and nutrient is going to help the plants get well established with the coming cooler weather.
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Copyright 2012; The Fragrant Garden & Oranga Plants. Ian & Marilyn
60 Port St. East, Feilding, New Zealand.
Phone: 64 6 323 4233