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Posts Tagged ‘flower

01
Nov
11

Sweet Iris

Sweet iris Iris pallida, the source of orris root used in perfumery. Flowering for the first time in the gardens at LPL HQ. The rhizomes are harvested after three years and then dried for up to five years and give off the aroma of violets. Perfumes that smell powdery contain orris root. The preparation of the root for perfumery is all done by hand and makes orris root one of the most expensive ingredients in fragrance-making.

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26
Dec
09

Apifera

Since Boxing Day is synonymous with shopping here in New Zealand, I thought it appropriate to post this amazing window display for London’s Selfridges created by Matthew Plummer Fernandez.

I’ve always had a thing for geometry – how it looks rather than the mathematics, that stuffs way above me. But what I really dig is the analogy Plummer Fernandez used:

“I looked at the role of the shop window as a piece of architecture and found myself comparing it to the function of flowers; the part of a larger organism that is responsible for attracting other living species for its survival. Flowers have perfected the art of attraction by stimulating its target’s sense of sight, smell, touch and taste. With this in mind I adopted design traits from flowers such as the geometry behind the window’s complex form. Research into Phyllotaxis (the arrangement of florets) was key to solving the shape, followed by the calculation of folding templates for all 169 segments.”

The name Apifera is a botanical term given to flowers that are specialised in attracting bees.
Read more about the construction at Yatzer.

08
Nov
09

Paeonies or Peonies? Doesn’t matter, they’re still pretty

A field of peonies or paeoniesThings I learnt about paeonies today:

  • The peony rose will guzzle through water like no other cut flower. A vase with only five peony stems can drink up to one litre of water every day.
  • In New Zealand, they’re only in season for about 10 weeks and that window of opportunity is here.
  • This feathered rose needs a frost to grow so they are mainly grown in cooler climates. A cold frost will help set the buds in the ground, encourage stem strength, and even affects the colour quality of the peony.
  • If you want your cut peonies to open sooner, put them in warm water or in an area that gets lots of sun. If you prefer your peonies to last the distance, keep them in cold water and place them in cooler areas.
  • Originally from China, the peony has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese art as a symbol of riches and honour.
  • For the Japanese, peonies are a common subject in male tattoos. Used in conjunction with other motifs, connoting elements of strength such as tigers and dragons, peonies became a masculine symbol associated with a ‘bad boy’ attitude.
  • And the New Zealand Paeony Society has a new website with great peony cultivation information, upcoming events and links.
17
Oct
09

Am I just providing safe-harbour to an enemy?

Cytisus scoparius 'Lilac Time'I couldn’t help but bring it home. It’s just so pretty!

Cytisus ‘Lilac time’ (Cytisus scoparius) is an evergreen shrub with very small leaves. Lilac-pink pea flowers adorn the bush in spring. I bought it in full-flower. It dazzled me with its charms. I failed to notice that it was in fact, a broom.

There are some good things to say about broom. They’re drought-tolerant and colonise disturbed and poorer soils, improving the soil; broom is leguminous, part of the Fabaceae family, and nitrogen-fixing. Broom stops erosion on hillsides. It’s a great food source for butterfly larvae. The flowers can be eaten in a salad. Don’t forget the prettiness!

On the very big downside, New Zealand has major problems with broom and its close cousin gorse (Ulex). Stock won’t eat it and it shades out pasture. It produces up to 30,000 seeds per square metre, every year. It outgrows saplings, effectively destroying crops of plantation trees and therefore is a major burden to the forestry industry. Apparently, only Pinus radiata can grow fast enough to compete with broom and tolerate the harsh herbicide treatments needed to treat sites infested with it. (I have major issues with Pinus radiata…but that’s a whole other post). So yeah, major problem for New Zealand. We’ve even started bringing in biological control agents to try to counter the spread.

So despite the fact that my pretty little shrub’s cousins are terrorising the country, I’ve provided a safe and loving home for this little one. He’ll only last for about 5 years. I will be watching it carefully though and chopping it back regularly to stop it seeding. I’ve planted it next to an outdoor seat framed by pittoporums, at the front of the house. Having it where I can see it every day, I’ll remember to keep it inline and not allow it to open up another invasion-front.

A note on New Zealand broom

New Zealand has a genus of its own broom called Carmichaelia. They are in the same Fabaceae family as the European species, but far-distant cousins.  There are about 20 varieties.

Am I just providing safe-harbour to an enemy? Pretty vs Plague – let me know your thoughts…

20
Apr
09

Tulips

tulip fields in New ZealandNot a flower we think of often in New Zealand. But it is actually big business here. In 2006 exports of bulbs alone were worth NZ$6.6 million. Strangely enough, NZ exports tulip bulbs back to the Netherlands.

This is mainly driven by large Dutch companies such as Haakman, aiming to supply international customers year-round. New Zealand-produced bulbs are used to fill the gap in northern hemisphere production for early and late supply. Tulip production is based in Tapanui, Southland.

So if you receive tulips between October and January, there’s a pretty good bet they come from New Zealand.  Image of NZ tulip fields by Southland Times via Te Ara.

More beautiful tulip images at Istanbul Tulip Festival

02
Apr
09

Kowhai ngutu kaka

Kowhai ngutu kaka, kaka beak, Clianthus puniceusSpotted in Saturday’s DomPost, the stunning kowhai ngutu kaka, a.k.a kaka beak or Clianthus puniceus. The article was a little questionable (kaka beak has been nearly extinct in the wild since the 1940s, so there’s hardly any point trying to blame cows or grapes). But it’s nice to see the incredible scarlet flowers get a showing.

It is true however, that the wild population is down to one known plant, on an island in the Kaipara Harbour (which, btw, has no cows or grapes on it). The Maori did their best to move it around the country centuries ago, cultivating it in areas where they lived. Not only was it visually arresting, but the scent was used in body oils. The nectar would have attracted tui, and as a legume it would have contributed to the fertility of the soil.

If it weren’t for its incredible looks, the kowhai ngutu kaka would have died out a long time ago. Luckily, gardener’s have kept this species alive  internationally. Like most pretty things, kowhai ngutu kaka is a bit sensitive – weeds, insects, snails, drought, browsing and wind all do damage – and needs the loving hand of a gardener to help it along. The plant is a beautiful reminder of just how important gardeners can be.

Beautiful image courtesy of, and copyright to David Wall Photography.
More stunning photos of kaka beak at Arkive.

10
Dec
08

Another Glorious Red New Zealand Summer

Pohutukawa Metrosideras excelsaYou can tell that summer and the festive season are here. It’s difficult to miss with the tell-tale red lights of the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) signalling the way. The pohutukawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree because of the beautiful crimson display that flares at the end of November and right through January.

The red flower heads look like balls of fluff thanks to their petals being inconspicuous. The mass is made of long red stamens, lightly tipped with golden pollen sacks. And they light up the tree as if covered in red tinsel.

The pohutukawa is a New Zealand native but comes from the Myrtaceae or Myrtle family that also gives us clove, guava, feijoa and eucalyptus. It’s less fragrant than the other relatives but is so well loved that we can’t get enough of it.

More on the beauty, the symbolism and the protection of New Zealand pohutukawa with plenty of links, after the jump Continue reading ‘Another Glorious Red New Zealand Summer’




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