Nice shot from a stump in our backyard by R
Photoessay: 2016/17 Summer Garden Shots
So don't be put off getting things started if you don't have some sort of grand baronial vision.
Just let what's there remain and add some more stuff as you go. This is the best way to
maintain a love relationship with a large bit of ground and not come to resent the slavish
efforts that whack notions of perfection will require from you.
That's not to say that our garden is a disgusting place to be; on the contrary, it has the sort of faineant, deshabille charm that can only come from a genuine lack of consideration, experience and forethought. I am never as bonelessly relaxed in a neat, deliberate garden as I am in our own shambolic tract of half-arsed wilderness. Hopefully the other inhabitants are similarly contented.
The only horticultural talents I can claim are the ability to spot the half-priced gold buried
amongst the shrivelled dross at nursery sales (an acquired skill) and to instinctively know which shit's worth getting out of bed for as far as species and variety are concerned.
But we don't have a lot of undue concern for vistas or harmonies. My rose collection looks
like it was sharted out of a My Little Pony- if it's vulgar or stripy or pink and stinky you'll
probably find it clashing violently with a neighbour at our place. It's safe to say that
Winchester Cathedral, posing so demurely directly below, is not completely representative.
If you're starting your own garden with few to no clues under your belt, or if, like me, you have been blessed with vulgar sensibilities but would like to present a more cultivated face to the world, my first and most important advice would be to stick with the older plant varieties.
I wish someone had told me that twenty bloody years ago.
I was going to start a rose review series this summer but the weather was so foul we barely
had any bloody material. Hopefully I'll have time over winter to cook up some notes with
the few decent shots we did manage and kick that shit off, because I've personally had it up to
my tits with being duped by shady breeder and nursery descriptions.
Thanks again to the Lovely R for his lovely pics.
* More vegetable goodness * Photoessays * Selected Ravings * Kitchen Bitch *
Young New Zealand Fur Seal Arctocephalus forsteri chillaxing by the 30 sign around Back Beach.
She was a wee bit skinny and this isn't a regular haul out spot so we called DOC in case she was harassed by dogs etc. They said she seemed okay and we didn't see her again. NZ Fur Seal populations are recovering which is fantastic and it's great to know they are returning to old haunts like Otago Harbour.
The best way to tell the difference between a Fur Seal and the local Sea Lion is the former's pointy dog face as opposed to the latter's stouter bear schnoz.
Mushroom season. These are Parasol Ink caps, I think.
Unidentified Amanita shrooms, possibly.
* More of our Photography * Port Chalmers, New Zealand *
Photo du Jour: Greenie the budgie
another good detail shot by R.
I take these lovely blue (only the extreme centre has this pink flush) flowers for granted because they are so easy to grow, split up and move around. They're one of the first things to flower here in early spring along with the Persicaria knotweeds. They have a fucking peculiar smell which is quite pervasive on a still day; crushed strawberry + juiced violets + household bleach + foxy, animalic musk as per Lilium pyrenaicum.
It smells medium blue, if that's any help to you.
The Tuis visit the Banksia but seem more enthusiastic about the Pohutukawas (Metrosideros) coming into flower in our upper garden, along with every bee and wing'd insect for a mile in all directions. On a warm, still day during its luminous scarlet declamation the whole tree hums and shivers with a host of nectar-seeking visitants. Pohutukawa honey is bloody delicious- pale, thickly gloopy and almost salty, loathsome in its deliciousness. Try it if you ever come across it.
* More Photoessays * Port Chalmers, New Zealand * R's Blog *
Photo du Jour: Season's greetings
Warm and sunny here, just come back from a walk with a friend alongside Blueskin Bay.
Tomorrow it's eating and chill. Have a very spoonbill xmas from us both.
Photo du Jour: Magpie
I was standing on the steps halfway up to the top garden the other day when something large and dark swished by my head. It was a Magpie, Cracticus tibicen, unrelated to the Old World Corvidae version you might be familiar with.
We don't often see them here. They are denizens of open farmland and only occasionally vagrant to our adjoining township. This one landed on the hillside next to us and stalked beneath the trees, looking for foundling chicks and treating R's attempt to photograph it with frosty contempt.
There is something deeply and inexplicably sinister about these birds, far more so than the crows and ravens I met in Australia. They are accomplished mimics and soon master anyone afforded the dubious privilege of their adoptive company, bending them to their inscrutable avian will. I have tremendous respect, if not too much affection for them.
Watching this one stride between the pools of shade beneath the trees was like spying on a shapeshifter satisfying its appetites in an alternate form.
A native fruit pigeon or Kereru is frequenting the lower garden at the moment. It is an enormous bird, at least half a metre long, although it was chilling in a small kowhai tree the other day just a metre or so above R who was busy weeding and we didn't notice until it shat voluminously and went to sit in the adjoining paper birch.
From there it lumbered into the rowan next door and commenced stripping all the new leaves, consigning them to its capacious gullet. I thought it would prefer the flowers, but apparently not.
When it has crammed as much of the rowan as it can fit into its crop, the pigeon retires to the shelter of the alder to sleep for the rest of the afternoon, where it would snore like a fat drunk after a lunch bender, if birds could snore.
Trees are reward in themselves, but when you can stand in your own garden and photograph beleaguered native species enjoying the amenities, you know you've gone a small way towards making amends for your presence on this overcrowded planet. If you don't have a yard to plant, consider joining a local conservation org. The rewards go far beyond personal gratification.
* Port Chalmers, New Zealand * Our Photography * Selected Ravings *
Photo du Jour: Oriental Poppy 'Patty's Plum'
R took this lovely detail shot.
I have three different clones of this sought-after variety; one super-large and sprawling with a weirdly cinereous, bruise-coloured flower that nudges ugliness, and two smaller, slightly frillier plants with a sweeter plum bloom, of which this is one. So not all Patty's Plums are created equal and this may account for the mixed regard in which this variety is held. I personally went to great lengths and some expense to secure this poppy, and while they will flower well in half shade and do look great with roses, all in all I prefer other varieties, like the deep reds and large whites.
My fucking poppies are flopping this year on account of all the bloody rain. Poppy flop sucks.
Photo du Jour: Calendula detail
I think this is a really spectacular image and one of R's best.
Almost straight out of the camera after three months of rain in the top garden.
Nice work babe.
* Our Photography * Port Chalmers, New Zealand *
A very satisfying image courtesy the Lovely R. He posted it in his section too but whatever 😀
Another busy busy week so you'll be getting a lipstick review unless I get time off from designing wedding shit and property upkeep and spring cleaning etc. to write something else for you.
Someone should be paying me for something but they never do.
This is our favourite rooster, an extremely low ranking bird who seems to prefer human company to that of his own species; we feel his pain. He's probably an annoying crowing machine but he's such a card that we're thinking about bagging him up and taking him home. We don't really eat chicken any more so he should be safe lol.
* More of our photography * Port Chalmers, New Zealand *
The Lovely R snapped this newly-minted piece of Lepidoptera on the ivy wall outside our front door.
Large butterflies like these Monarchs seem to defy physics with the swift, deliberate nature of their flight; I have no idea how something that weighs nothing can have so much power to command the winds.
It's R's birthday today. Love you, boo.
* More of our Photography *
High water must be pretty impressive and/or terrifying. judging from the evidence gouged into the river-side rock.
Oh look. Another bridge.
The beauteous and diamond-white flowers of Celmisia morganii, an indigenous Asteraceae daisy known only from this gorge. One of the many species that will be flushed down the toilet should these coastal rivers succumb to the seemingly endless crackpot schemes to dam the living shit out of anything not already in that sad condition.
LADY WALKER SAFETY NOTE it's good practise to walk these more isolated tracks with a friend regardless of gender. NZ tracks aren't patrolled or actively monitored, really, aside from the longer, most popular hut walks, and if you fuck yourself up or fall etc, no one's going to come looking for you and you may not be found for days, especially at either end of the season. Don't depend on cellphone coverage either because it often sucks away from the main centres. If you're walking alone, even just for a day, it's a good idea to register your intentions somewhere nearby, even if it's just leaving a note at a DOC visitor centre, or on Facebook.
The human peril posed to unsuspecting walkers is exactly the same as everywhere else on the planet. Sexual assaults and all forms of violence against visitors is massively underreported, just like where you come from. Please don't buy the promotional bullshit about NZ being unusually safe and friendly. Take all normal precautions and listen to your instincts. The unsavoury behaviour we've personally seen has tended to be on tracks closer to major towns, but it can happen anywhere. Not trying to freak you out, just wanting to counter some of that worrisome visitor complacency.
Don't be a dipshit about parking up in isolated places if you're dossing in your car, either; everyone assumes you've got a laptop/party drugs/fancy overseas stuff under the front seats. You are seen as an easy mark- don't give predacious arseholes privacy. And while you probably won't run into the secretive dope cropping operations that flourish in areas like this, be aware that growers do remotely monitor and sometimes booby trap their plantations. If you go off-road and see weed, discretion is the better part of valour. Buy it in town, yo.
You can read the final part of this series here.
* Our holiday on the Coast series * Photoessays * Selected Ravings * Read the Book *
You should always be more embarrassed about your ridiculous fear of birds than you are terrified of something so utterly unable to harm you.
Our Xmas Holidays on the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand part 3: Charming Creek Walk (pt 1)
We had the thing to ourselves for the most part and only ran into about 5 other parties toward the more popular seaward end, even though it was the xmas break. That's still five too many in my book, but if you're the kind of person who's smile is turned upside down by the smell of sunscreen and spray deodorant coming at you through the trees after enjoying quality quietude, the Charming Creek track is probably for you.
The grade and geography are as easy as the DOC notes suggest and the whole thing could be walked by virtually anybody with half-decent footwear and no major physical challenges. We are fit and fast, spent a long time taking pictures and still knocked the 9kms/one way off in about 3 hours. That being said, it can be both sticky-hot and pretty cold depending on the month, and a day pack is a good idea since neither you nor your dog should drink the heavily mineralised water. Old, half-buried trolley tracks and broken/fallen rock form 90% of the trail, meaning it's disturbingly easy to complacently zone out and go arse over tit in the dim conditions. Vigilance and adequate eyesight are required.
Not a great pic; we were loathe to flash him and not just because of the possible toadstool curse scenario. Using flash on confiding wild animals is a dick move and can disrupt nearby nesting in the case of nervous birds.
As I've said previously, Charming Creek is a dark and winding road devoid of the sort of screamingly obvious money shots and grand montane views that dominate most peoples' idea of the New Zealand landscape. In that sense, it is far more representative of our native whole, which is a dense and sometimes opaque mélange of small-scale wonders; little rivers, diminutive animals, isolated remnants and modest distances between strikingly divergent places. I mean, a mountain is a mountain and a lake's a fucking lake pretty much wherever you go in the world, and a lot of peeps miss what makes a mass unique while they're frantically joining the obvious dots.
Everything along the way is growing and expanding, from the underlying mountains which are still enjoying upward thrust to the podocarps pictured here, both stoutly hoary and daintily regenerate, with their damp, frilled shifts of lichen and plumy chartreuse club moss. Black water wanders at its own speed over and through the foundational stone, carving out the schist and disgorging glittering lodes of milky quartz and pyrite. There are kiwi here, apparently, although they tend to be crepuscular except in times of hardship so it's probably best to come at night in hope of hearing their eerie vibrato.
Above right: the pendant branchlets of young rimu, Dacrydium cupressinum, a Gondawanan proto-pine whose masts have fed the local fauna for longer than bears or monkeys have been shitting in the woods. There aren't usually any bears in the woods here; you'll just have to go to a bar.
About a third of the way down the track the sneaky water begins to coalesce behind your back and before you know it you are walking alongside the Ngakawau river proper, just as it settles down into the gorge it is scouring for itself.
Above right and below left; views of the nascent gorge from the first and smaller of the suspension bridges (heading downstream). R likes to pretend that shit like this doesn't give him any pause, strides either sassily or manfully- I can't decide which- across it and that's his cute little prerogative. Felix is my child in that he loves water but doesn't enjoy having to walk over it on dodgy-arse and alarmingly mobile contraptions like this one. My personal distrust of them was heightened somewhat by the recollection that exactly the same sort of bridge had shit itself under a fistful of German tourists a couple of weeks earlier; harrowing myself with the feel-alive flavour of the worst that could possibly happen in any situation is just one of the things that makes me such an agreeable companion.
The hapless NZ Department of Conservation is responsible for fully half the shit that ever happens outdoors here in this little land and our current regime has been busily stripping it of staff, morale and funding because what's left for conservative monetarist fucktards when stalking beneficiaries and bankrolling Saudi hobby farms begins to pall? Needless to say, they don't tell you any of this while they're stamping your visa. If you're coming to New Zealand to peruse the scenery, consider donating to DOC. The little they get is generally put to good practical use and they need every damn cent you can spare.
Next time: part II- the Ngakawau Gorge and Mangatini falls; aqueous excellence.
For expanded context, view the first bit of our holiday photoessay in the Buller region on the West Coast of NZ; enjoy all the benefits of no fucking selfies and jaded local commentary.
* Photoessays * Selected Ravings * Read the Book onsite * Port Chalmers *
The Blackthorn Garden Late Summer '16
Yes this is a lazy blogging week but sesst lar vee since no other bitch is going to come and stack 6m of firewood for us. Real world shit needs to get done. We've had a stretch of very hot nor-westy weather which makes me cranky so it's a fucking miracle I'm posting at all. Above: all our hydrangeas are nameless ferals grown from cuttings yoinked at felonious random from elsewhere. They all turn out to be blandly candy pink like this guy; the punishment fits the crime.
Clockwise from above left: Gladiolus. I'm getting back into glads which is something that seems to happen to old people. Hats off to their breeders, though, because there are some fucking stunning cultivars kicking around. Jury Hybrid Dahlias. I like to buy their unnamed selections because they're cheap and usually just as nice as their official releases. Rose Graham Thomas. Everyone is like oh it's a blackspot monster and I was all like whatever and then it broke out in purple blotches and shit itself. It re-leafs promptly, though, and who could stay mad at this sort of thing? Unknown highly fabulous mauve dahlia with gold centre that I call Sir Gaylord in my mind. Mmmmm dahlias.
R is responsible for most if not all of these images. Above is a fantastic close-up of one of the pinkish slightly fancy calendulas I grew from seed. Hope these guys persist and naturalise. Below: Lavateras. Spanky new Clock Cicada on a budding glad. It's slightly out of focus on the cicada and R is a pedant who loses his mind over shit like that. I think this image fulfils some more important obligations so I posted it anyway, in the passive aggressive manner.
Rose Golden Wing, which is sometimes golden, sometimes richly ivory and sometimes almost white, depending on its mood. There is a luxurious clove/spice scent that becomes more pronounced each year but is similarly capricious, floating about promiscuously on a still day and then retreating right into the stamens next time. Banksia ericafolia (I think). Rose Jacqueline du Pré which is getting fried by the nasty sun at the moment. Plant it in afternoon shade if you have the option.
Above: Balloon flower, Platycodon grandifloras, which lives up to its name by puffing itself into a ball as a bud before opening up like this. Cool little plant for an awkward spot. Agastache is bumblebee crack and we go up into the top garden to find these self-seeded plants heaving with frantic bees and mimics of all descriptions crawling over one another trying to score the good shit. Gladioli Black Star.
And last but not least, the very first flowers on one of my Paramount Hybrid Echinopsis. I'm not sure of the exact cultivar but they are all stupidly spectacular and this image does nothing to exaggerate those incredible qualities. The blooms are as large as my outstretched hand, mesmerisingly beautiful and well worth the I think 4 year wait. It was previously underpotted and slightly too shaded to flower, but a change of address to the sunny teahouse was the shot in the arse that it obviously needed.
* More floriferous flora * Photoessays * Port Chalmers * Read the Book onsite *