Posts Tagged ‘nz native


Megaherb smacks down Killer Nettle


In a true demonstration that cute and cuddly beats pesky and prickly, the Chatham Island forget-me-not (Myosotidium hortensia) has become New Zealand’s favourite plant for 2010. In a national poll by the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (NZPCN) to find the country’s preferred plant, the potentially deadly tree nettle Ongaonga (Urtica ferox) dominated voting until the Chatham Island forget-me-not overtook its rival in the final fortnight.

The Chatham Island forget-me-not is an iconic megaherb, growing in patches up to 1m tall. It is endemic to the Chatham Island archipelago where it grows on wild coastal cliffs, rock outcrops, above the strand zone on beaches, and in coastal forest openings.  With its large blue-flowered inflorescences, it is revered by gardeners nationwide but is threatened with extinction in the wild.

Supporters of butterfly conservation – the red admiral in particular – placed their votes in favour of the tree nettle that is a host plant for the butterfly. Others cited its home security value, saying that the killer plant was perfect for deterring burglars when planted below windows.

The Top 10 native plants for 2010 (To view the top 100 go to –
Myosotidium hortensium (Chatham Island Forget-me-not, kopakopa, kopukapuka)

Urtica ferox (ongaonga, tree nettle)

Sporadanthus ferrugineus (bamboo Rush, giant wire rush)

Metrosideros bartlettii (rata moehau, Bartlett’s rata)

Rhabdothamnus solandri (New Zealand gloxinia, kaikaiatua)

Clianthus maximus (kakabeak, Kowhai Ngutu-Kaka)

Cordyline australis (cabbage tree, ti, ti Kouka, palm lily)

Muehlenbeckia astonii (shrubby tororaro, wiggywig, mingimingi)

Dacrydium cupressinum (rimu, red pine)

Metrosideros robusta (northern rata)


The more traditional New Zealand plant icons missed out again with the silver fern placing only 11th and the pohutukawa 23rd. Previous winners of the annual poll have included pohutukawa, Cook’s scurvy grass and pingao (the golden sand sedge) in 2009.


Resplendent Natives

To the uninformed, New Zealand natives are green and boring. How wrong those poor saps are. Have a look at these deliciously radiant native species all flowering now: Hebe speciosa ‘Magenta’, manuka and Phormium cookianum flowering spike.


Garden Diary: Reconnoitering the Rim

You know how some things just take time…. or some spare cash… well we’ve been talking about doing it for ages but finally went and spent a coupla hundred on some NZ natives to plant around our fenceline. Not only will these little beauties make the whole area look amazing, but improve our soil quality around the rim, attract predator insects and provide a heap of shelter.

If you live on the Kapiti Coast do check out Gus Evans Nursery at 12 Utauta St, Waikanae. The plants are a very reasonable price, are really well cared for and he only grows things that will survive local conditions. Oh and also he’s a nice guy.

* Blog title comes from an episode of  Deadwood – one of the best TV series ever but possibly an unfortunate pun when talking about planting trees.





A Short and Snappy Guide to Windbreaks

Why establish windbreaks?

Because they:

— allow gardens to grow without being beaten to death,
— slow erosion,
— increase pasture and production,
— reduce stock losses,
— protect plants,
— habitat for wildlife and insects,
— manage snow,
— can provide fodder, food crops, timber or fuel,
— improve work conditions.

Windbreak components

Height, Density, Orientation, Continuity, Length

Height: Determines protected distance downwind. Wind reduction area will equal ten times the height of the tallest trees used.

Density: Use as many species as possible in your windbreak. Plant them fairly close together, in multiple rows, to form 60-80% of a solid block.

Orientation: Make it perpendicular to the direction of the wind. L U E shapes work well.

Continuity: No large gaps. If you need to put a driveway through, make sure it crosses the wind direction.

Length: Should exceed the height by 10:1.

Good plants for NZ shelterbelts (especially in coastal conditions).

Feijoa, taupata, nz flax, tarata or other pittosporums, karaka, karo, cabbage tree, pohutukawa, ngaio, toetoe.
As always, choose plants that grow well locally.

Some taller native trees that can withstand strong winds

Totara, kahikatea, pukatea, toatoa, tanekaha, tawa

Theme song for this post: Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones. Kept playing in my head the whole time I was writing this. Think of it as a mantra for windbreaking.


Seeds of Delight – Arbor Day Edition

June 5 is Arbor Day. Thousands of trees will be planted worldwide. People will revel in a feel-good moment. And most of those trees won’t make it to maturity because one day simply isn’t enough to ‘appreciate’ trees. We can’t just plant them and forget about them – they need to be cared for, weeded and nurtured.

Arbor Day feels completely wrong to me – like a memorial day for trees. We rely on them every day of our lives for food, air and shelter and in return, we give them one day to tokenisticly stick one in the ground. It should be Arbor Day every day!

Anyway, don’t let my curmudgeonly rant stop you from enjoying this veritable forest of tree-related links. Main image by Godfrey Stephens at Lloyd’s Blog – I want a tree like that!

The aesthetic values of trees alone make them an incredibly valuable asset. Let’s get warmed up with 50 beautiful tree photos. There’s a nice countdown of the 10 most magnificent trees in the world. Or those with melancholic tree leanings can check out the beautiful Lonely Tree blog. Enter the matrix in the Duplicative Forest.

A mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year. They help cleanse the air by intercepting airborne particles, reducing heat and absorbing air pollutants. A healthy acre of trees can store 2.6 tons of carbon a year. If the tree falls – we all fall.

Interesting tree facts: 270000 trees are used each day for toilet paper alone. 90% of a tree’s nutrition comes from the atmosphere and only 10% from the soil. The world’s oldest living tree lives in Sweden and is 9500 years old. Trees don’t die of old age – insects, vandalism, weather

TED conferences turn academics and researchers into global sensations, given a voice to change the world – brought to your computer screen. Nalini Nadkarni spoke about saving the forest canopy, prisoners growing moss and ‘Treetop Barbies’. Richard Preston talked about the enormous trees of the US Pacific Northwest.

New Zealand has over 600 native trees and shrubs. And they’re amazing: the Christmas pohutukawa; the gorgeous kākā beak; the sunshine flowers of the kōwhai; the healing mānuka; the mighty tōtara; resplendent kahikatea; our ancient kauri; and our beloved silver fern.

One of trees greatest gifts to mankind has been housing. But it’s tree houses that truly get me excited. And there are amazing examples all over the place. On your next holiday – consider treehouse accommodation. Three of my favourites: the Minister’s rambling tree house, the tree castle at Alnwick Gardens and the Yellow Treehouse Restaurant.


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.


Bloody bugs

As yet unidentified evil bean-sucking bugLast December I noticed a lot of what looked like little black ladybugs on my beans. I did lots of research, asked lots of questions but without handy visual references I couldn’t work out what they were. Dear internet content people, please supply more pictures! (Are there any entomologists out there who can please tell me exactly what this thing is?)

Anyway, they had seemed pretty harmless in their small little shiny baby form – until they monstrously transformed into life-sucking bean-devouring plagues of evil. Garlic spray by this time was incapable of warding off their vampiric tendencies and my carefully arranged companion plants just kind of shrugged their shoulders and like insolent teenagers proclaimed “Whateva, I’m not bovvered!” I’ve never wanted to smack a marigold around before, but it needed a wake-up clip.

Advice on how to organically deal to shield bugs and other such painful pests after the jump.
Continue reading ‘Bloody bugs’

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