Neither I nor our textile collection can stand much UV beaming directly into the house so this newly naked northern aspect needed something to replace the plum's generous shade. As a bonus, I now have a place to house the cacti and aloe oveflow from elsewhere as everything gets bigger.
You don't really think about that as you're amassing a collection of tiny little baby plants; the Aloe alooides in the centre of the above image used to fit in the palm of my hand. Now it could scoop the brains from ten craniums at once with its monstrous extremities, if it were so inclined. If you want to save yourself some hard choices, be wiser than me- take a rational moment in the midst of your compulsive acquisition to wonder about ultimate sizes and where all that arrant vegetation is going to live, long-term.
Half an acre and a knack for building awkward polycarbonate structures mean I can flip moderation the bird for a few more years. Here are some of the fruits of those happenings.
Various Rebutias, Lobivias and Sulcorebutias. I cannot be arsed trying to keep up with their highly mutable taxonomic nomenclature so they remain 'that purple/orange/yellow one' to me. Most are easy to both both acquire and cultivate, so if you're looking to get into cacti, you might as well start with these guys. The flowers are gorgeous and reliable, often repeating throughout the summer months. The pale crustiness you see on a few is supposedly spider mite damage, but it doesn't seem to affect them too much and we are anti-spray, except in the case of losing a valuable plant I couldn't replace (it hasn't happened yet). Mealy bugs are their worst enemies. I squish the bigger ones with tiny twigs and blast them off with a hose or camera-blower thingy.
Metrosideros 'Springfire', a nice little hybrid (?) Pohutukawa from somewhere in the general Pacific; I can't be more specific because every single fucking nursery claims it is something different, ranging from a true dwarf species to a hybrid larger tree. I'm not even sure this is Springfire since it seems to have lost most of its leafular waviness, but I'm enjoying the dangerous volume of that orange and the prospect of extended summer flowering. Bellbirds skulk around it furtively, defying my presence to get at the early nectar. We sincerely hope Myrtle Rust doesn't make it this far south and wipe out all our fantastic Myrtaceae specimens, as it has done in Australia.
Notice the ye olde wrought iron fence panel in the background- that's new too. We bought some online a while back that looked like they were probably yoinked out of some Victorian grave somewhere and painted them up to put up along the front garden. Hot tip: paint your rusty iron panels before you attach them to a fence over a 15 foot drop.
Driveway daisies (we don't drive)
Evaporation haze over Sawyers Bay
Rebutia albispinosa OR helilosa OR senilis, too tired to look it up right now.
Yes I know the blog has been somewhat okay very slow of late; that is because I am writing the next book a lot, and R and I are building stuff around the house, renovating the aviary, repotting my entire succulent collection (I am not talking about 5 little cacti on the windowsill, I'm talking epic triffid battles x 100), cleaning up the shitty area behind the kitchen, weeding and planting the whole garden, doing guest laundry, clearing out a tree that fell over and trying to find the right box dye shade for my new hair and it's all very fucking exhausting. It's also rained every day for about 2 months and that has severely compromised our general flow. We're almost on top of it, just the front fence to rip out and replace and that should be it for the major hard labour projects so shit should pick up in a week or so.
Thank you for your patience, constant readers.
The moon was a jewel at god knows what in the morning a few days ago, so I took some pics.
After all this time, I still don't know shit about cameras or exposure or aperture priority etc. and you can probably tell. I was quite proud of myself for finding the ISO button in the dark and knowing to dial in one direction instead of the other. Normally I would be embarrassed, having to admit such abject ignorance, but when it comes to photography I just don't care. It's such a fucking vainglorious and utterly bullshit conceit, all that framing and recording, as though you were somehow responsible for the beauty or intrigue of the result. Unless you create objects to photograph, calm your auteur hauteur and realise that your genius eye is a commonplace thing, and that you might as well be taking brass rubbings for all that you actually contribute. Photographers can only ever convey what they once looked at; BFD. We should be grateful we've had the opportunity and just leave it at that.
With that in mind, I have a lot of (exemptionalist and nepotistic) respect for my partner's images and his impressive technical knowledge. He pursues photography as a craft and a science, striving to better represent the natural world that he values so much. It's not a vanity project.
Anyway, I prefer the one below lol.
We live in a beautiful place. It enjoyed some 20C the other day, which was a record for the month.
June is supposed to be winter, with temps between 5 and 10 C.
I personally feel as though this super-ugly climate clusterfuck stuff is going to kick off much sooner than most people realise; it is already underway in more marginal parts of the world. We don't have kids, have never owned a car, don't fly and live very modestly, but we'll still be eating shit along with everyone who couldn't be bothered to do one fucking thing to be less of an environmental catastrophe. Cheers, arseholes. Cheers.
Syn. M bicolor, etc. A bird pollinated coffee-relative from montane forest understory in Brazil. It's easy here in coastal New Zealand, flowering spectacularly and pretty continuously, enjoying the same sort of conditions as the other not-strictly-tropical/upland forest South American plants in our collection.
A lot of people seem to have trouble with this otherwise desirable group; in this mild maritime situation we have canopy shelter, temps mostly under 30C during summer and cooler nights. So if you can modify your situation in this direction with shelter and shade, you might have success with flowering and general health.
This vine is supposedly hardy down to a soft Zone 8. Its leaves are tender and spinachy though, so I wouldn't put it anywhere it cops wind, hail or more than a brief powder frost. This one is potted and spending some time outside during winter to kill off the bugs that had scuttled over from a manky Hibiscus I'd put on a nearby windowsill. Other than this minor issue, it's never given me any trouble, self-twining over a 6 foot bamboo tripod in one season even with a couple of major hack-backs. The flower cover in these pics is relatively sparse compared to its usual performance as I had unfortunately hosed most of them off getting rid of the aphids. The bellbirds are hanging around it already, looking for nectar. I highly recommend this plant if you can find one.
Although I definitely appreciate asymmetry in Japanese artistic expression, I do not enjoy shit being off-centre in my daily life, so I apologise to all my strictly midpoint homies for this left-side-of-the-bed-wide-angle wonk.
A few years ago we were compelled to fell two young Himalayan Birches in a garden realignment and decided to screw them into the end of the bed. Since then, all manner of international glamour has settled in their branches, including but not limited to:
Malband (for securing/decorating baggage and animals during migration), probably Anatolia or could be Persian/Bakhtiari, 20thC. It's a particularly festive one with metallic thread and a billion multicoloured tassels.
Yak hair rope with white terminal details. These are apparently made and used everywhere from the Wakhan Corridor to Mongolia and possess really peculiar physical properties, being exceedingly bristly, as well as light, strong and waterproof. This one is from southern Tibet.
Ikat Hinggi, Sumba, circa midcentury onwards. Sneaky dealers try to pass all of these impressive pieces off as antique, but if you've travelled through Indonesia in the last 30 years you may share my suspicion of this attribution. To my jaded eye this piece has the slightly generic look and certain lack of conscientious detail that usually hint at modern production. I could be wrong; the colours are definitely all combinations of red, blue and neutral, exemplifying the traditional palette. All I know about textile production in Sumba is that it has always been regarded as highly idiosyncratic. I'm not entirely sure they're still being executed in this particularly large format as the process is almost unimaginably skilled and laborious.
No matter what their age, large expanses of ikat will always trip you the fuck out and reward hours of idle contemplation. Here's an interesting piece on it. I can't be mad at anything that boasts both chimeras and skull racks.
Below right: Fuck yes I'll have that for $40: a lovely vintage Siirt battaniye, a Turkish/Kurdish iteration of that most treasured of domestic ephemera, the angora blanket. Local goats are shorn of the silky fibres that are hand-woven into simple kilim-style cotton-warp plainweaves and then given a thorough brushing to yield this pelt-like pile. They are light, dirt-resistant and warm without inducing the sweaty thermal panics that characterise my relationship with duck down.
Just as an aside to that particularly baffling cohort of anti-wool (wool? You're angry about wool?) agitators out there; shearing a caprine is not inherently distressing, cruel or painful and I'm not sure exactly where people have been getting that fucked up idea. Wild sheep and goats lose their wool/hair via seasonal moults, like cats, but most domestic breeds absolutely require manual wool removal if they are not to end up lodged somewhere like a wad of felt. I've shorn and crutched sheep myself, both with hand shears and a comb, so I'm not just talking out of my arse. There's really no way you can shear a sheep without its cooperation. They quickly learn the process and relax into the positions as you make your long blows down their flanks etc. It's no more traumatic than getting a buzzcut when you'd rather be having lunch. Watch this to see what I mean.
If you have animal husbandry concerns (and all of us should), I urge you to get off your arse, visit a farm, see what goes on for yourself and make decisions from there. PETA's campaigns have done more harm to public perception of animal welfare reform than anything else I can think of.
Top left: I'm not 100% sure where this length of tent/yurt band came from but because of the width and very atavistic motifs I'm guessing Central Asia, probably Uzbek or Kirgiz. Turkish dealers always cut these for some fucking reason, which really pisses me off as it takes ages to sew them back together.
^ Doga, Duacik, Tawiz or Moska, an embroidered amulet from northern Afghanistan/Uzbekistan, possibly Chodor Turkmen people. This one has pages of the Qu'ran or a similar text (I haven't been tempted to look) sewn into it but others contain salt and other auspicious substances to repel evil influences. A nice man gave it to me for washing his Kente cloths. Thanks Philip!
Dog, circa last year. The most expensive fibres in this array by a factor of 10, and connoisseur of Siirt angora.
(Disclaimer: apart from said dog which was an essential purchase, all of these items are vintage/second hand and nothing cost more than $100; most were less than $50, so we're not exactly flexing lol.)
You know your raver days are two fucking decades behind you when you start getting just as excited about incoming blooms as you once did about BPM, random sex and synthetic stimulants. My stimulants are organic nowdays. Autumn used to be a bit of a dud around here since we don't get great deciduous colour, being windy and maritime; all the summer flowers are fucked out and the aloes have yet to get their shit together.
So I decided to establish a bit of a crazy pot farm in the front yard. It covers the scabby concrete and tarmac patches, feeds the bees and pleases the eye with an array of exotic salvias and all the half-hardy beauties that might lose their roots in the clay. It's getting more and more crowded as I get into all those mesoamerican sages and South African bird polinated thingies that do so well here. Above: Aloe hoffmanii, first flowers I think tee hee!
The first flowering on this exceptionally emerald green Aloe glauca clone. I almost lost it a couple of years back to root rot after letting too many old leaves get manky around the base. Don't do that.
Salvia splendens 'Giant Form' apparently tops 6 feet and the hot red variant certainly curb stomps the colour gamut in late afternoon sunlight. Bought both the merlot and the scarlet versions; it was the right decision.
This head is only half-out but is already gratifying us with this intense candy blue-pink. I have several largely unnamed forms of this group and I love them unconditionally. They become enormous here with our decent rain and pissweak-to-absent frosts. The foliage is huge and plush. You can hear the clickety clack of bumblebees sawing into the base of the flower to get at the nectar (they are bird pollinated in native situ I think). Plant some today.
Salvia fulgens 'Red Dragon', a tall, open bush with attractive corrugated leaves and nonstop fuzzy scarlet floral business. Something, I suspect a Bellbird, comes along and snaps off half the damn heads trying to get at the nectar.
If I had a dollar for every euphorbia I had going on, I'd have about $12.50. The lazy gardener's main ho. Can't remember the name of this cultivar, but it's from Marshwood Gardens in Invercargill. Their online shop is like a tinny house for plant tragics. Sheeeeeeiiiiit. Peruse at your peril.
Salvia sagittata supposedly but it looks like it might be a hybrid with something else. The flowers and parts of the stem are an incredibly dense Afghan lapis blue, which is as much as you can ask of any given organism really. Not quite out yet, but you get the picture.
Below: good old Salvia leucantha, which I only discovered a couple of years ago after encountering its luxurious, almost extraterrestrial plushness in the flesh at a garden centre.
Always touch plants. The tactile dimension is a whole nother thing.
I always try to have some Dagga (Leonotis leonurus) going, even though this plant seems to labour under a curse in our garden, attracting all kinds of misfortune and mysterious fatalities. I have a slightly disappointing creme version too, which unfortunately looks like used bogroll a lot of the time due to the unsightly off-whiteness of the bloomage so I might pass it on. Dagga is supposed to be psychoactive but it looks like it tastes like something you would do in your late teens because you couldn't get any real drugs. So I haven't been tempted. Give it a few more years. I may well regress to vomiting sludgy decoctions in someone's backyard. Lol.
The honey-seeking birds tend to give it a fucking hammering, which is why some things are better closer to the house where the avian contingent is a bit more circumspect about humping the shit out of popular plants.
He spends all day taking and fucking around with them, then posts them in his blog and doesn't tell me.
See more here
I don't know if they've granted this new colour variety an inevitably stupid, swishy, committee-generated, focus group-tested, utterly inapposite proprietary name yet, but I'm sure it's in the pipeline.
Aesthetically, we were a little underwhelmed after the hype accompanying the limited release. Are we just being picky cunts when we expect a little more red in a red kiwifruit? Whatever. There's no denying the cross-section offers a pretty burst of ruby, it's just that it's not entirely obvious how a meringue or pav is going to seriously benefit from this partial and somewhat parsimonious novelty. On the plus side, it sort of looks like it's on its rag and I don't hate that. With all these things considered, I bestow an eyeball score of 6.5/10.
I was tricked into eating some arse-gapingly horrible Italian kiwifruit the other day by our utterly unscrupulous dickhole of a supermarket. Jesus fucking wept, I actually spat it on the ground and this mushy, gluey insult to my unsuspecting gob reminded me of the simple pleasures of the kiwifruit OG, that homely local variety with its Colombian emerald flesh and indefatigable strangeness of flavour. I like its pubic furriness, sometimes punishing acidity and translucent Kermity beauty. The yellow depilated variant is a different, more melony customer that has only recently earned our respect after distributors apparently learned not to sling shitty, half-fermented, golden snot-like sub-export trays at local consumers. Which only took about 5 fucking years.
Taste-wise, the Zespri Red is utterly forgettable and harkens back to those bad old days of crap yellow kiwifruit, shying away from its progenitors' noble and quite frankly essential acidity in favour of mealy, omnireferential neither-norness. There's a hoarse whisper of guava, maybe a tired shrug of rock melon but nothing that amounts to more than a limp-wristed gesture toward tinned fruit salad that's been sitting in a cup on the bench for three warm days.
4/10, would not bang.
My delightful nascent colony. Opens in the later afternoon for nocturnal moth pollination. Looks like a maternal bohemian darlek. Smells like boiled-down jungle honey, gingery vodka and alien varnish.
A pleasant MMXIX to you all. Yes I had to google the numerals. I am wasted. what do you want from me
Fir is a crazy little unit with rolling sanpaku eyes and a joyous love of virtually everything. He's a year old now, which we cannot believe. Like Felix, he's topped out his miniature designation and gone over 35cm at the shoulder but is still small enough to sit comfortably in your lap. He throws up on long car rides. He treasures little pieces of fabric for hours, flipping them around and carrying them in his mouth like the little pica freak he is. Neutering didn't take the edge off his inexhaustible mania so I think we're stuck with all that dragon energy.
In what seems to something of an emerging pattern, late winter was warm and clement, easing into a nice early spring that then shit itself badly, turning into a month and a half of clammy sunless rain late in the season as Antartica started its seasonal thaw and threw front after front at us. Not fun. But the roses are gigantic. I'll post some pics soon.
The first real bunch of the season. The smell. I almost forget why I am such a slave to a good rose and flowers in general, then I go out into the garden after late spring rain and find them all smiling at me. I am hard-pressed to think of anything more gratifying.
In the pagan canon, the Garden returns to us everything we've lost along the way-
love, virtue, honour, pleasure, even those who have departed and descended- restoring everything we require to endure. I think that is almost true, and if not literally so, at least its gentle substitutions are resplendent and perfumed.