Delphiniums, family and fun

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve 2007

This blog just has to be about a wonderful summer (so far), what happens when pollination coincides with Christmas and why our country closes down for two weeks at this time of year.

Although summer in New Zealand officially starts at the beginning of December it is rare for us to enjoy, warm, settled weather before the end of the first week in January. People however, always forget and complain bitterly when their Christmas barbecue is hijacked by totally normal, cool, breezy weather. Not so this year, at least not in Wanganui. Since the second week in November we’ve been basking in 20DegC+ weather with only the odd day of rain and cooler temperatures.We’ve had more summer before the end of December than we often enjoy all year. Next week looks like more of the same ....25DegC, sunny and dry. I'll have to water the garden to keep it looking like this...

What rain we have had has been plentiful and warm, cementing a beaming smile onto the faces of local farmers who’ve just learned that their dairy payout rate for the year will be, yet again, a record. This means more money per kilogram of milk solids and more production too.

What a Christmas! Farmers are smiling. Unprecedented!

Christmas has however taken its toll. I’m feeling lazy. We’ve had our children and grandchildren to visit for a week, Caroline and Bruno, (some dear, young friends from Angers, France) on holiday in NZ and calling in to see us and friends generally, making our life a really nice one....But it’s time to start work again. - for Janice and I at least. The tradesmen taking a four week break in the middle of building our new plastic house have other ideas, likewise the council who are dragging the chain with a building consent for our house extension. For the exalted, things are different.

For our pollinating staff, things are different too. Our delphiniums choose to flower at their fullest right on Christmas and the New Year. This is normal for them and a pain for the pollinators. I wonder if it would be worth investigating supplementary lighting to force them (the delphiniums, not the pollinators) to flower a week earlier.

By and large however, unless you are a farmer or employed in retail, health and other essential government services (such as police) the period from December 25th until January 6th or 7th represents holiday time. This is because the kids are off school, no-one wants to work between Christmas and the New Year, the do-it-yourselfers want to use their new hand tools they got for Christmas and the weather is starting to settle. The fact that half the population is on holiday too, all the beaches are packed, the roads are chocker, tempers are frayed,the hole in the ozone layer is peaking the money is spent and the settled weather is likely to be punctuated with tropical downpours does nothing to dampen this unbridled enthusiasm for torment and tan. We NZers are gluttons for punishment.....which is why I took a jet boat ride up the Whanganui River with Caroline and Bruno, to see the “Bridge to Nowhere”. The image on the right is taken from the bridge looking down into the Maungaparoa stream - quite a way below. To the left are Caroline and Bruno.

Today is New Year’s Eve. Janice and I and some friends will be taking a midnight cruise on the paddle steamer “Waimarie”. We’ll have a great time, relax and be happy. Tomorrow, well, just about time to get back to work again. Ok, just one more day off!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Raising the roof

Ok, I’ll start this blog by answering a delphinium question then get on to telling you what’s

happening at our place.

The image to the right is "Juanita" blooming in our garden.

When is the best time to sow delphinium seed in Alberta?

I really love questions like this as there are so many right answers. Just how long is that piece of string? The best I can do is to suggest what I know some people do find successful.

The best time to sow seed in Alberta will depend on the method you use. If you have Gro Lights and can keep your greenhouse free of frost then November or December is a popular time to sow. Sow in a flat and prick out into small (3 inch) pots You would then have good plants to plant out at snow melt. If you can't do this then sowing in flats in February will be the way to go. Some folk sow in late summer, just as the heat is coming off, and have plants large enough to overwinter under a good layer of mulch.
Whichever method you use, remember that seed should be stored in the frig until you need to sow it. Never buy delphinium seed that may have been sitting on a garden centre shelf for a while, especially during, or just after summer (like just when you need to buy it). Delphinium seed loses viability very quickly at room temperature so unless it is stored in the frig at the garden centre, you are unlikely to get good results.

Good results on the right..........................................................

We sell properly stored seed and culture notes come with the seed we sell. This information and much more, is available free from the information pages on our web site :

Right, what’s happening here?

The new growing house continues to grow. The frame is up and the builders are waiting for a nice calm morning to put the roof on. I hope this comes soon as we’re paying for their accommodation! They’ve already missed a couple of good “skinning” opportunities by not knowing the local weather and, I presume, trusting the advice of their boss in Christchurch (several hundred kilometres away) rather than consulting with me. Hey, I only live here and follow the weather with a passion! No! I’m not angry and frustrated!

Having a plastic growing house built (as opposed to building it yourself – I’ve done both) can be frustrating on other counts too. Firstly, haven taken care to ensure that the builders know my requirement for the house to be either level (which the site is), or sloping slightly to the south. They have managed to construct is sloping to the north. This means that the rainwater water from the roof runs to the wrong end of the house and now has to be piped an extra 45 metres back to holding tanks. It’s a good job that I have acknowledgement of my requirements in writing - thank goodness for email!

Pollination is in full swing and we are employing eight people now. This will continue until early January when the work will lessen and we can return to two or three staff. I’m not doing much really, just keeping my head low and all the balls in the air – so don’t distract me - Ow, my foot!

Apart from a few days, the last 4 weeks have been gloriously warm and quite sunny too. Day temperatures have been several degrees above average and all plants are growing away like they want an early Christmas. I guess the pohutakawa trees will be flowering soon.

Have a Merry Christmas



Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Isn’t it great now that summer’s here and we can all relax at the beach? Ha!

It’s all go at the nursery at the moment:

Our open week end was a great success and the weather warm and sunny. Good delphiniums, well grown, are a wonderful sight and the oohs and ahs from the visitors are a treat to hear.

The builders are making excellent progress erecting the new plastic growing house and the pollinators are now well into the swing of things.

We have three builders climbing over steel framing now. After starting with the foundations last Thursday progress has been swift and no-one has fallen off yet. They tell me it will be completed by Dec 18th and I believe that they believe that. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

The new growing house is 45 metres long x 19 metres wide with three metre high walls - the apex being about 4.5 metres high. The side walls can be rolled up and the roof has ventilators over about 40% of its area. The house should be cool and great for growing and pollinating delphiniums.

Right now I’m trying to sort out the irrigation, floor covering and storm-water. The rain will be collected from the roof and piped into two 25,000 litre tanks, supplementing the metered supply from the local farm water scheme. From there is will be injected with fertiliser and fed, over 10 times a day, to our breeding delphinium stock.

While all this is happening we have half a dozen staff pollinating delphiniums and it also coincides with local contractors spraying weeds in preparation for us planting our steep gullies with native trees and shrubs. I’m really looking forward to returning some of the land to native bush.

This season has seen us producing more plants for sale in New Zealand and although the plant season is coming to an end we still shipped a hundred or so flowering delphinium plants in 8 litre bags today. These plants range in height from 1 to 1.8 metres (up to 6ft).

Life is quite busy right now and I still haven’t got round to sowing the superb hybrid day lily seeds that are waiting patiently in our frig. Tomorrow – well next week anyway.