Delphiniums, family and fun

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pollinators Wanted

Ok, this is it. Spring in New Zealand doesn't hang around. The plum blossom is over, the peach almost finished, apples just starting and the fruits on the native Puriri tree are turning red. Wood pigeons will soon be getting drunk on them.

It is clearly time to panic - the first delphinium spikes have buds in them already! This season will be a big one as we are building another 900 square metre plastic growing house which we hope to fill with delphiniums for pollination and have a seed crop from them. We are also renewing the covers on our old houses (one out of two are complete) which are already filling up with mother stock for the first pollination. The images show the old plastic, covered with pine pollen, being removed.

To complicate matters a little we have agreed to supply a couple of hundred flowering delphiniums in 8 litre pots in and around the time of the Ellerslie Flower Show in mid November. Our mail order sales of young delphinium plants have been good this spring and we are looking forward to October when many gardeners in New Zealand have nursed their existing borders and are looking for a new challenge...gotta have more delphiniums!

The main focus of our attention however is ensuring that we have sufficient parent plant material for our pollination and that the female parents are matched by male parents that will flower at the same time - sometimes a worry. It is also important that we recruit half a dozen good pollinators, usually students, over the summer. Being seasonal work it is difficult to retain staff from year to year and every new season is a challenge.

What makes this even more interesting is that although new pollinators are all trained the same way and appear to do the work in the same fashion, results vary markedly. Although apparently a mundane job our best pollinators have traditionally been very intelligent people with a genuine interest in horticulture. If you are very intelligent, and you obviously are if you're reading this, and would like a few month's playing with flowers in New Zealand then why not give me a call 64 6 3421733. Age doesn't matter as long as you're seventeen or over.

Ok, tis spring and I'm needed outside


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Staff Treats

Janice and I had a great day today. Both of our permanent staff have been here about a year now so we decided to take them out for a treat. Janice had read of a great scheme another boss had tried when he wanted to treat his staff, so we gave it a go.

On Monday we told them that Thursday would not be a normal working day but instead, we would meet them in a Wanganui for coffee at 9:30am and then take them somewhere. No clues were given. As we had a consignment of seeds to take to Palmerston North for a phytosanitary certificate we decided that that would be the destination. We didn’t, of course, tell the two staff members (Edita and Debbie). We just set off on our mystery day.

Palmerston North is about an hour’s drive away. They’d already had three days to wonder what this was all about so were quite hyped up when we arrived. They were even more excited when we gave them $100 each and told them that they had an hour to spend it and that it must be on things for themselves. Not for the kids. Not for the kitchen. Just for them. They had instructions to keep the receipts and that the one who was closest to spending the entire $100 would receive a further surprise.

After the hour was up (they took about 1hour and a quarter actually) Janice and I had finished our business and we took Edita and Debbie to lunch at an Italian restaurant in the city. Here we had them “show and tell” and add up their receipts. They’d spent well on, surprise, surprise, clothes. They had both had a lot of fun and so had we. It was a treat for all. After lunch we drove home and they had the rest of the day off.

The extra surprise went to Deddie – two free tickets to the Last Night of the Proms concert in Wanganui on Saturday night.

I had a great time after arriving home too, mulching some blossoming plum trees with compost and mowing the lawn, finishing just as the light faded.

This was a great day and one I would recommend to all employers. Debbie and Edita are good workers and really loved the appreciation.....and the nursery is about to get really busy.

Back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Woops, I’ve not written for a few days.

Spring is certainly here, the poplars are coming into leaf, the plums are flowering, the tulips are waiting to catch the rain, the magpies are defending their nests and the delphiniums, like the lawns, are growing all too quickly.

Janice is very busy either sending out seed orders, writing up plant orders, blogging, quilting, maintaining the office and keeping in contact with the kids and grandkids.

My mother, Glenys Dowdeswell, who lives in Auckland, regularly visits dad who has Alzheimer’s disease and is being cared for in a secure institution in that city. Alex, my brother, is in the south island of New Zealand scouting sites for photography in his quest to produce an iconic book of New Zealanders in their own country. It has take two years so far, full time, he’s a perfectionist. Daughter Emma, in her mid thirties, has finally been offered a permanent job in a large New Zealand company testing software. She had only managed to get year-long contracts to date. She’s rather chuffed as she has just passed some new international exams for this type of work. Son John sounds as happy as ever and, being in Auckland also, gets to see my dad each week too. I really envy him that. Daughter Sarah has just enjoyed a week of sick kids and cabin fever. All in all life progresses very well for the Dowdeswell families.

Last week the company who supplies our potting compost, Dalton’s Ltd, increased the price from $185 to $275per cubic metre. Really! Naturally, this week has been spent checking out other suppliers and it seems we may have found a winner. Natural Bark and Compost Ltd of Foxton (one hour south of Wanganui) will do the mix for around $185 delivered – but there’s more. This company produce a compost which is a mixture of chicken manure and granulated bark. It looks wonderful, real garden friendly looking stuff and has an analysis that suggests we may be able to use it instead of potting mix. This is great as it is more environmentally friendly and only $60 per cubic metre! Every cloud etc...

In the nursery Edita and Debbie are busy sending out plant orders, taking cuttings and potting up mother plants for next season’s seed crop. The latter is what we need the potting mix for at present. Next week will be a tad busy as the cuttings are coming thick and fast and there’s no let up in the plant orders. Seed orders are ticking over quite nicely too.

Ok, I’ll go out and take a photo of the plum tree for this blog and then tackle the mowing of the lawns.