Fat, flattened flaxes - beware!

 I miss the colour pink in winter!
John Clare Rose in Winter

With huge energy output I am racing through wintry July, doing an extremely early and optimistic spring-clean. If you are a fat flattened flax - beware! Be very afraid, as I continue rejuvenating older areas in the garden.

Monday 17th July

How long can this state of excessive gardening hours and continual dizzy optimism last? There is something primeval in the ripping out of old, fat plants - and their replacement with cute little coloured hopefuls. Sounds like - ahem - divorce? Oops. Won't go there - will stick to gardening!

Yesterday I cheerily asked my garden helper to remove flax and grasses from the Jelly Bean Garden's edge - it worked! And then he helped me (actually, I helped him) take a huge load of flax leaves to the dump. Yippee! I dug out and divided the reddish flax in the Stables Garden. Smaller, more discrete bits of it are replanted, the Lavenders and Calamagrostis grasses are trimmed, and a lovely blobby Hebe has shifted in, from the Birthday Rose Garden opposite. I've repositioned the pruned Kronenbourg hybrid tea roses away from the immediate edge, thus creating the hundred-and-oneth place to plant some pansies. Aargh!

Phormum Pink Panther

Yesterday I bought some new, reputably bred, little red flaxes. All those years ago I filled the garden with sale price delinquents. I now have a group of blushing 'Pink Panthers' ready to fit nicely into gaps created by my furious flax-slashing. Just so we all know where we stand, I will quote their label. And, boy, they'd better do what it says!

'Pink Panther is an attractive cultivar with salmon pink leaves beautifully marked with greyish brown stripes.'
-Flax Plant Label.

The pink colouration is said to deepen to red at cooler times of the year. As a gesture of extreme faith the flax Pink Panther can have his own page, with photographs, immediately upon planting. And by crikey, he had better behave! Height and width to 60 cm - no more!

Today must be a seed sorting-out day. And a pansy-planting day - I have two trays of instant colour (well, almost - seventy-two pansy plantlets) and a hundred ideas as to which gardens need them. And it's time I shifted my new (boring) garden bench into place, in front of the newly dug garden (oops) which connects the Jelly Bean Border with the Pond Garden. If I have a fruitful morning I am allowed to buy some new Camellias.

 Subtle colours - I love the pink tones.
New Zealand Myrtle Foliage

Tuesday 18th July

Have gone all coy regarding buying new Camellias. Ridiculous! It's as if their very impressive names have turned an earth-shattering (literally) Head Gardener into a diffident wimp! I need to get back in touch with the pushy plant-purchasing inner self - today I will make more effort. What's so scary abut buying pink flowering Camellias?

My new garden seat is in position in the Pond Paddock - it gets dappled winter lunchtime sun, the big gum creating a bit of shade when the sun is low. Hopefully today I can finish off the associated digging - strike while the irons hot, or in this case when the ground's not frosted. I keep finding more of those undesirable grasses - in moments of budget-minded madness I seem to have planted them everywhere. Dig, dig, dig...

 Look out, Yellow Wave - you might be next on my hit list!
Another Oversized Flax - in the Pond Paddock

Dear Beige Puss is up by the gum tree attempting to stake out the pigeons. How can a glowing bright white cat possibly hunt with any success? Hmm... I did find B-Puss with bird feathers scattered over the laundry floor a few nights ago...

+5 Today B definitely stands for 'Beautiful' - he has the most beautiful pale blue eyes, and delicate ginger stripes on his tail. I love him to bits! Right. Off I go, to start my gardening day in light fog. Is fog wet? No doubt I'll find out soon enough! Yippee! I love my garden. I love writing about it. I love making pre-dawn plans, writing lists of seeds, and making new plans. I even love digging!

 The colour shades are just beautiful.
Autumn Sally Holmes Rose


And I love being random. You see, on the way to the digging spot I had to pass beside the big Chiosya Ternata n the Island Bed. Although nothing was broken, the shrub had become grossly low and fat, spreading out limbs flattened by the snow. So I decided then and there to seriously prune it. This took ages, and meant that I dug up several 'runners' which had roots - naturally I potted these up for the Moosey Nursery.

One thing lead to another - the pruning of two neglected Sally Holmes roses, the digging out of an old Toe Toe (too much snow damage), the uncovering of a standard Fairy rose, pruning of encroaching Viburnum tree... I drastically cut down a woody Senecio shrub, pruned some more roses, and pulled out seedling Pittosporums which I didn't want growing in there. Suddenly the Island Bed has space, and light, and is spruced up nicely ready for spring.

Tough-Love for Shrubs

I admire my gardening friend Liza for the care and attention she gives each and every growing thing in her garden. I am learning to do the same. My biggest lesson - being a good shrub mother requires some tough-love. For years now I've just let sleeping shrubs lie, and grow on their own - without considering their place in the garden, or checking on them to see if neighbours are being squashed.

Then they get straggly and woody. Often a plant will self seed, and I allow it to grow bulky and big (like several flaxes I know) - ignoring the consequences. Ha! Quoth the Moosey - Nevermore! I know that shrubs I attack in the dead of winter may get their flowering knickers in a knot. Too bad.

 Fluff-Fluff is watching me burning the garden rubbish.
Sitting On the Fence

Thursday 20th July

Yesterday I had the day off - it rained heavily. Today is still wet, but I am planning a thermally-clad raid on the final Phormium tenax species flax, which is messily flopping all over the water race. There are beautiful companion plantings here which have hardly seen the light of a summer's day, let alone a winter's one. There is also a cute Hebe hedge, and a path which would be exceedingly romantic if it weren't blocked by coarse flax spikes. I have two kitchen steak knives left (the others were - oops - broken).

Jester Flax :
Jester is a very well-behaved little fountain-shaped flax..

This business of removing flaxes - it may seem harsh, even silly, to non-flax growers. Because flaxes are so plentiful (and cheap) New Zealand gardeners can afford to have a shape-up or ship-out attitude to them. They are powerful plants, so it's thrilling that as a lame old-lady gardener with weak arms (sounds dreadful!) even I can evict a huge flax in, say, a maximum of four hours.

Ha! Who needs tractors and chains and diggers with huge buckets? Just buy a set of steak knives and employ a L.O.L.Gardener! Clad in figure-hugging thermal underwear, with two gardening cats as apprentices, brandishing a mud-encrusted axe... Aargh! Not a pretty sight! No photographs, please!