Delphiniums, family and fun

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Home again, Home again, Gigity gig!

We have arrived home before dark after a successful trip to Auckland.

Today we began by having a puncture fixed (because of a nail in one of the car tyres) and then kept our appointment with the waste bin at my parents old house where we threw out all the remaining rubbish from the garage. The place is now in a good condition to sell and it will be offered for auction on November 28th.

From there we drove south a few ks to Drury to meet another flower breeder, grower and exporter and chew the cud over business possibilities. By the time we left it was 2pm and as Wanganui is a 6 hour drive from there decided to go straight home after stopping for lunch. We later called at the "Persimmon Tree" at Pirongia which is the best cafe/restaurant (real food) on the way home, where Janice had a freshly baked, gluten free friand and I a rhubarb and apple tart. I heartily recommend this place to any traveler - superb food and service at a very reasonable price.

The only stop we made after Pirongia was to collect the weekly box of fresh, organic veges from Robert and Jennifer's place. We have to have it delivered there as they are in town and delivering it to us (out of town) would take another day.

And so to email, blog, farmville and bed.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Tour

Janice and I were up at 4;30 this morning getting ready to leave for Auckland, about 500km north of wanaganui. We are visiting a plant and cut flower exporter, sorting out the selling of my father and mother's house and finishing emptying out the garage, still full of my brother's "stuff".
Well, it's 6pm and the house business is almost all done. Colin, our eldest daughter's (Emma's) partner brought his large truck and we filled it to bursting. Colin and emma are storing the gear until Alex, currently in Invercargill, can sort out what he needs. That could take a while.

This evening we are visiting Janice's niece and family (lovely people) and  then staying with Janice's sister's place (lovely people too). Tomorrow we drive back home after a business meeting ar 11am.

But what of farmville? We were both reasonably well organised and planted long term crops...I think!

Leaving the nursery at this time of year (when water demand increases rapidly and the plants grow like crazy) is a little scary...but a good test for our manager.

That's all for today. I'm doing this today mainly because I've committed to it, as there's no delphinium talk. More tomorrow.



Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Ok, no excuses, I forgot to do it yesterday alright!!!

Excuse 1) Monday was a holiday here in New Zealand so my system was disrupted

Excuse 2) There was a lot of weeding to do in the garden and I got carried away

Excuse 3) It was sunny and warm. This was the first sunny, warm day for a few weeks and it was glorious outside. Who in his right mind would come inside to blog?

Excuse 4) When I finally did get inside there was dinner to eat and work to do

Excuse 5) I was tired after the hard day outside and evening in the office

Ok, so today was wet and cold. What a good job I mowed the lawns yesterday evening

Does it really matter if I don't use full stops?

Today was very productive at work, making up for yesterday off. I fixed a few things, visited our trial patch and tended it, planned the week's work with Edita, visited mum and dad, picked up fertiliser etc. Now it's inside to blog, farmville and get off down to backgammon, pick up the scales I lent to Robert, come home and pack out some seed for an order and post it.



Saturday, October 24, 2009

Market Day Again

Today was Market Day by the river in Wanganui again and the second week in a row we had taken a stall. The day was fine if a little cool and cloudy and, being the first day of a long weekend there were plenty of folk around.

Janice and I are finding we are actually enjoying doing this. Sure, it doesn't pay much be we're having a great time socialising with all the local folk, many of them friends, the time passes quickly and we get to have a great coffee and breakfast without making it. What more could a man want?

Today, Janice bought a stool, mirror, some soap, a Christmas present, breakfast, a coffee and a newspaper while I managed to score some animal manure, apples, straw, coffee, breakfast, 2 gluten free friands and probably other stuff too. We both managed to sell a few delphiniums.

We also had time to relax and watch others relaxing too and fortunately, the smoke from the PSS Waimarie was blowing away from us.

Yes, we have decided to keep going and except for the week after next when we'll be in Wellington for our granddaughter Jessica's 5th birthday, we'll be at the market until the end of November at least. We'll get investigate getting some decent signage done too because although it's only done for fun and pocket money we may as well do it right!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Too busy to blog!

Today was spent mostly out of the house.

The Pukekos are playing havoc with our trial delphiniums. They need some lead based medicine.

We met our friends in town tonight and had a very pleasant dinner.

The truck is loaded up for market in the morning.

Going to bed now

Thursday, October 22, 2009

They're growing

The delphiniums are now growing very quickly and looking set to give us an early crop. Last year we tried growing plants slowly over winter to see if they would flower early and pollinate well. This year we are repeating the exercise with other varieties. The flowers in this image would normally be at least a month later.

Below, Edita tending the "spare" mothers and plants for sale when they flower.

We are planting five plants of each of our see lines this year in order to produce somefresh images for labels etc. This is one of them newly planted - note the slug pellets and fertiliser to ensure a fast start.

One of our breeding aims is to produce consistent short plants. The image below shows a short plant now in its second year. It is very unusual to have growth this short in a 2nd year plant and we will surely be breeding form it this season. The trial patch at our nursery has been considerably reduced since we erected the new growing house so I have commandeered it for experiments and moved the main trials to a friend's place.

And I'll leave you with a close up of a vibrant light blue that has been giving me grief trying to fix in a good form with good seed quality, maybe this year?

Please note, no sign of sun. This is truly wet, windy spring weather, nothing like the 35 degrees centigrade Nadeeka and family are enjoying in Sydney!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Brief

The major achievements of today were:

Planting 5 new plants of each of our 13 varieties of New Millennium Delphinium seed lines. These are for the purpose of providing new images for a revamp of our labels.

Surviving the dentist.

The major achievement of tomorrow will be remembering to take my camera up to the nursery and getting a few images on this blog.



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another busy day.

Emails to answer at 6:30am, desk-work for a while after breakfast, up to the shed...I need a better name for that. The shed is the covered area between two growing houses that acts as a packing/potting/office/tool and other work area. This type of area is sometimes called a "header house" but that name is oh, so unromantic (so shed is romantic?) and flat and f-f-f-f functional. One growing house is called "Harrod"s" (there's a story there) and the other "The White House". The new growing house is called the "Bee Hive" so what shall I call the shed? Harry? Right. Good idea. Harry it is, after my dear old dad and why not? Mum obviously found him romantic or I wouldn't be here.
So, up to Harry I go to see Edita and Debbie, walk around a little, talk a few things over, walk back down to the house for some tools, back to Harry, do something else and have another chat to the team, walk back to the house, back to Harry, back to the house for more tools - getting the picture? Back to Harry, no, that one was an invention for effect. So was the previous one too, it just felt that way.
Office work until 12:15pm then off to Palmerston North to see people from "Plant and Food" (scientist and business advice stuff). No wait, forgot lunch. Wolf that down then off to P.N to see P&F. Back home by 5:30pm office stuff til 6:30ish, watch Masterchef sans ads do the blog and off to backgammon....which is now - See Ya!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Monday

Sunday was cool and wet but I set the fire on Saturday night so when we got up at around 8am the house was warm and friendly. Played Farmville for a while, attended to a little Email and then drove into Wanganui for coffee and to do a little grocery shopping, stopping off to visit mum and dad at the Aubert Home of Compassion before returning home for lunch.

Dad had just been shaved and generally tidied up for the day when we arrived. He has a lovely room overlooking and atrium with flowering geranium and cineraria and soon to be flowering roses. It's hard to know what's in his mind but I'm sure the flowers would please a lifelong gardener. It was time to move dad into the lounge as we were leaving so I gave him a great ride down the corridors in his chair. He seemed to love it and we didn't knock anyone over!

Mum and dad in happier times:

By mid afternoon the rain eased and I was able to get out into the garden for a few minutes, which of course developed into a few hours, before coming inside for a shower just as Robert and Jennifer were arriving for our usual Sunday dinner date (our place this time). Tonight Janice was on main, Jennifer cooked the veges, Robert brought the ingredients for desert (Janice and Robert prepared it) and I had the real easy job of squeezing the juice out of about 25 oranges. We thoroughly enjoyed our chicken paiella and manzanas asadas.

Today, Monday, saw me into Rotary by 7am, back home and then to Bristol's to check on the newly planted delphinuim trials again. All was well today (3 days since the last visit and 5 days since planting) with only a few plants and labels pulled up. The pukepos are certainly losing interest! Some roots on the delphiniums have now grown from the plug at least an inch into the soil so they will be becoming difficult for the birds to dislodge soon. Then a little weeding of my trial beds at home, some roundup spraying ready for trees, more weeding and before you know it, 5pm and hungry by 6. Right now, a blog, a little more work and Farmville again!

See you tomorrow.



Friday, October 16, 2009

Market Day

Today was market day in Wanganui and we decided it was about time we participated. The group that run the "markets" are called the River City Traders on account of the market being on the banks of the Whanganui river and stalls are available every Saturday morning, year round. There are about 60 stalls all told with vendors selling all maner of crafts and produce from 9am until 1pm. It's a community occasion, a place where friends meet and share the local gossip as well as making a few bob......... which tends to get spent on other stalls, as one does. Today we sold maybe $250 of delphiniums and bought maybe $75 worth of gooddies.

There's a special atmosphere at the River City Traders. It's a blend of friendly conversation, business like banter and riverboat smoke from the PSS Waimarie as she fires up her boilers to take a load of tourists for a ride. Something all tourists the world over expect and are duly delivered no-matter where they are! You can buy yourself freshly brewed coffee (New Zealanders know how to make real coffee - not like that Starbucks rubbish) and there's a couple af ladies making fresh crepes with gorgeous fillings. Or is that gorgeous crepes with fresh fillings? I'll go no further. For entertainment this morning we had Wanganui river, replete with a fresh of fast flowing, muddy water from recent deluges transporting a hungry seagull, complete with a meal of an unfortunate sheep that recently, but not too recently, must have lost its footing somewhere up stream - gripping stuff!

PSS waimarie catching the early morning sun

Back at home I unload the unsold delphiniums and restore them to the irrigation system and then come inside for a late lunch, planning to return outside to plant a couple of trees and an iris (from the market). Of course, just as I'm changed the visitors that I'd arranged some days earlier turn up and we spend the afternoon talking of cancer fighting apple trees, biodynamic farming (I'm a skeptic), plant breeding and cider tasting.

Now the blog.

Then Farmville!! Actually I cheated and did Farmville first.

What a nice day!!!



Tomorrow Today

This morning I went to check on the newly planted delphinium trials again to see if the pukekos had wreaked any more havoc....and I'm pleased to say that they had done very little more and that all the labels were where they should be. Could it be that they don't like delphiniums? I really hope so, but won't hold my breath. The rest of the morning was spent preparing sign stands and organising plants for sale at the Wanganui River Traders market tomorrow. This is in effect a PR job as we don't expect to sell much. This is because the delphiniums that we will have for sale in large pots aren't in flower yet and it is the flowers that really bring the customers - instant gratification don't you know?

So, as I'm working tomorrow I'm going to have the afternoon off and wash the dogs, potter around and get myself in the right frame of mind for "Fries on Friday" with Janice and our friends at our favourite watering hole.

I was speaking with Debbie, one of our staff, yesterday and she mentioned that she has a lavender that attracts the bees more than any other. I was interested in this and this morning she brought me one. Isn't she nice!

All for now.



Thursday, October 15, 2009


Whoooooops! I forgot yesterday's blog. The road to hell etc..

It was a busy morning yesterday as I had to finish setting up some planting of delphinium trials at a friends place. If you expand the image and look closely you will see several Pukeko grazing close to the newly planted delphiniums. We may well have trouble with these birds as when I checked this am they had pulled up a few plants and seemed to like the labels too. Pukeko are a native NZ bird that love wet areas (the plot is close to the Whanganui River) and do rather like fresh produce!!

After this Janice and Iheadded off to Massey University at Palmerston North (90 minutes away) to attend a presentation given by half a dozen third year horticultural students at 11am.
As part of their degree they had conducted a study on a problem faced in our nursery (re pollination) and yesterday was their report time. Well, as I say, the morning was rushed but Janice and I actually arrived with plenty of time to spare - a full three seconds!

The afternoon was rather more relaxed attending to emails etc and in the evening I went into town to collect a collapsible gazebo for use at the open air markets by the river next Saturday morning. After that I somehow got sucked into more work until 10:30pm. As there was little to do on Farmviille I didn't have my "cue to blog".

Well, that's my excuse.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday 13th October.

No, I'm not suspicious so today will be great.

Not being a mathematician I'm starting to lose count of the number of blogs I've written since I started up again. Certainly more than 5!

I'm up nice and early this morning in order to get rid of my farmville duties, do a few exercises for my back and have breakfast before going out to work. I'm having a day outside for the most part and hope to get a good first bike ride of the season in....probably only half an hour as, having had at least 6 months off the bike I'll get a sore bum if I do more.

Yesterday's nursery tour found the first dwarf delphinium ready to pollinate. Being Dwarf and early it was flowering all on its lonesome so I'll just self it and have a good look at its genetic makeup when its progeny flower next year. The main batch of dwarfs for breeding won't flower before Christmas as they are from seed sown this winter. I'm hoping for a few good colours on short plants. Apart from that I'll be going over the plants we have growing outside in 8 litre bags to see which to ready for sale at the local "River Traders" market this week end - not something we normally do but it should be fun if nothing else.

Only one image today, that of a white with a black bee waiting for a pollen parent to open - in vain I'm afraid. Another plant too early for a mate.

Ok, going to get on with it. Breakfast awaits. Cereal I think - I'm uncomfortable in my jeans.



Monday, October 12, 2009

Back to work

Ok, so I missed Sunday. I'm allowing myself Sundays off. I'm not even going to tell you what happened except the the curry at Robert and Jennifer's place was great and the crème brulée and strawberry coulis very nice too. The steps (the last three of about a dozen) I completed in the garden wore ok too.

Today is, of course, Monday. Not only is it Monday but I've just returned form the dentist. Who in his right mind would schedule a dentist appointment on a Monday morning at 8:30am? Me. It's over and done with and there's all the day left.

This morning is office work stuff for me and the sending out of plant orders for the nursery staff. The afternoon will be taken up walking around the Nursery and planning the week's work with everyone, then starting on it. This week we have to ready some large plants for sale, continue taking cuttings, plant seedling trials at a friend's nursery and, well, we'll see this afternoon.

The steps complete:

In recent times my job has taken me more and more out of the nursery and into the office, or traveling with the result that I get far less exercise and far more opportunity to nibble. It's time to do something about it (right after a crème brulée is always a good time) so before the dentist this morning Janice and I went for a brisk walk. I'll do more this afternoon and as the weather is edging slowly to warmer I'll get the bike out and give it a clean too. I might even take it for a ride......let you know.



Saturday, October 10, 2009

Today was a special day.

Firstly, there was a meeting of the Advisory Board at the Rutland Arms, Wanganui, see below.
This is a group we have set up to help Dowdeswell's Delphiniums Ltd grow the business and achieve greater market recognition and penetration. We want to do this while maintaining the high level of service that has become a cornerstone of our business, and the quality of our product, New Millennium Delphiniums.

The advisory board consists of a professional business consultant with organisational expertise in taking micro businesses such as ours, up a notch or two and two "outsiders" who each have extensive experience at the CEO level, in export orientated, high value, horticultural enterprises and institutions. Janice and I complete the picture. I am mentioning this meeting because I want to emphasise how important it is for a small business like ours to have access to such high calibre people, their knowledge and the many, many connections and networks that they hold the keys to. They have encouraged and mentored us and made us see opportunities we would undoubtedly have overlooked.

Secondly the day was special because I got to see mum and dad. Dad is in hospital care in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease and mum in a rest home facility in the same building. It is only recently that we have been able to arrange for them to be so close to each other, close to us and so well cared for. It is particularly satisfying to see mum so happy and content and once again able to be near her husband of over 60 years.

Thirdly it is a special day because it is Anne Cooke's birthday and we got to call her. Anne is a great friend from Dawson Creek, BC, Canada and I'd been trying to reach her for the last few days and getting a message that the number was no longer in use. She wasn't answering emails either. Anne is not as young as I and I was becoming worried but finally managed to track her down through one of her friends. It turns out that Anne's finally sold her large house and garden and moved, at extremely short notice, into a smaller house and greatly reduced garden just this week, hence the disconnection of the phone. Her email is down until her daughter's, you know, special relationship, comes this weekend to fix it up again.

That's my day. How was yours?

Friday, October 9, 2009


Four in a row. I might be able to do this. What has tripped me up in the past has been actually remembering to do the blog and that it is a 'have to do" thing with a high priory rating.
How to remember both of those things at a conscious level and both at the same time? Well, some idiot - Ooops sorry, it would have been either Sarah or Janice. Sarah can take the blame because she would have introduced Janice who introduced me and no way do I want to call Janice an idiot!!!! Hang on, that applies to you too Sarah, stop digging Terry....some fantastic family member introduced me..

Where was I? Yes, Sarah introduced me to Farmville. This is an insidious time wasting addictive Facebook application/game that's all the rage right now and making someone zillions. Basically it's legal pyramid selling using your friends on Facebook. Strong minded, or mean folk can avoid shelling out any cash. Our family must be strong minded. And the game really is great fun and grabs your attention. I love it! So....I now have this contract with myself. Once all the real work is done I can sit in front of the screen and play Farmville, but only after completing my blog for the day. As you can see, so far, it works! My farm below:

Today is going to be wet again and our staff are having a day off as they aren't too keen to work in the wet when they can come in on another day and remain dry. Makes sense to me, so I'll just go up to the nursery and nose around in the quiet and attend to one or two of those jobs that are not entirely necessary in the normal course of events but make a huge difference in the long noticing that there is a water leak and fixing it or rescuing my pet plant from the factory production section and petting it a little. It's amazing what you can find wandering around the nursery in quiet contemplation. Profit lies lurking for someone with an eye to look for it...he hopes!

So, thanks Sarah for giving me the incentive to keep a blog.



Thursday, October 8, 2009

Carrying on carrying on

Right now I'm busy writing more web pages to tell gardeners what is different about our delphiniums, why they should be growing them and what special cultural requirements are needed in their particular place in the world. This will take more than 5 minutes! But it will be done.

It is also going to take more than 5 minutes to finish the bush planting project I started last spring. There is grass to spray off in the paddock before I can do much more and this wee spell of wet, cold, winter like weather will have to stop before I can do that.

Today is the third day in a row that I've managed to blog. It is not as easy as the first two and as I'm involved in a job promoting our delphiniums and it's hard to avoid keeping that out of the blog, but I will. You don't want to hear me blowing my own trumpet. Actually I don't have a trumpet, just a guitar. Well two actually. It is my dream that one day I'll be able to play - one of them at least!.

Ok, enough of a break from the web page writing. Just a wee blog today. Back to work ok?

Mmmm. Something wrong with the formatting



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Understanding (not) how web searches work

In trying to make our website more visible one of the things to consider is how well we appear on organic, or non-paid searches on engines such as google. You'd think this was easy but hey, to a non techo, it is not. Nor is it easy to understand some of the answers you get from people who you would think should know - like the help desk of your web host.
Just take the question of an ordinary search for delphiniums as an example:
If you are in New Zealand and search for delphiniums you get Dowdeswell's Delphiniums at numbers 1 and 2. If however you are in the USA and do the same search, where are we? Not so easy to answer. A few months ago there was a google tool to allow you to search as if you were in the USA and we came up....nowhere in the first 10. I can't find that tool now and wouldn't you know it, didn't do a search while I was in the USA. Google searches do seem to be more regional though and this is something we have to find more about.
I'm just about to email some friends in the USA and England and getting them to do searches for us. I'll let you know the results.

Of course, if there's anyone out there can help, please drop me a line.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Days Fly By

The delphiniums are really starting to take off this spring now. We have started pollinating already - about 6 weeks early! The images throughout this blog are of that spring growth.

Reading my notes from a web seminar I attended in Portland Oregon at the FarWest Show in August I have a note that suggests I should update my blog every day. I actually wrote that. Can you believe it? I wonder if I could, well substantially anyway.

Thinking about it, if I have time to harvest a crop on Farmville then I certainly have time to do a blog.

Below are spring cuttings already rooted.

The thing is, we have decided to expand our delphinium seed hybridising business and are working on ways to increase our visibility on the ether. We breed and sell the best delphiniums in the world - the world needs to know how to find us. They need to know that they need to find us. When Janice first built our web-site in 1996 we would always come up #1 on a search for delphiniums, just about anywhere in the world. Now we are lucky if we are on the first page if searching from the USA and UK. As a business that depends very heavily on customers finding and contacting us via the Internet, that is not good enough!

So, we are going through the execrcise of finding out what we need to do to regain that #1 slot from seaarches instigated from outside New Zealand. Blogging regularly is one of the things that, so it is said, works.

Below right is an early flowering, extremely short delphinium just about to break bloom. The bed is a trial bed, poorly weeded and neglected. The interesting delph is centre stage:

One thing's for sure; if I am going to do this every day then no-way am I writing an epistle. An epistle you will not get.

So there, I did it today. What about tomorrow?

What about Farmville?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On being absent

Much has happened in family and business since I last wrote including wonderful times with grandchildren, a business trip to western and mid USA and Canada, Europe and Germany and a sweet homecoming to my lovely Janice who kept the business running beautifully on her own - I should go away more often. Ouch Janice,don't throw things!!!

Also at home was a weedy spring garden.

Having a laptop and Skype made being away far more bearable and it was a treat to be able to speak to, and see, Janice, Aimee (6) Jessica (4) Sarah and Chris (our daughter and son in law) and anyone else who has entered the modern communications world.

Visiting our major business clients was a great experience which was undertaken to check out how they were being affected by the "D" word - Shhhh! New Zealand is regarded by North Americans and Europeans as being a long way(s) away and they were all grateful that someone had made the effort to travel so far to see them. This surprised me as I had only traveled for a day or so (including airport down-time) and that is no more than a long car drive. I guess we New Zealanders see travel as something we just do, regardless of distance as all destinations, except for Australia (and who wants to go there?) are "a long way away". It was also timely, as I arrived when I could check out propagation methods and offer a few pointers to enhance production. Well worth while. Please remember to cover delphinium seeds as this prevents drying out of the young root as it emerges!

Time out at the Children's Garden, Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The most important thing to come out of the overseas excursion was undoubtedly the fact that our communications with clients, prospective clients and the gardening public generally needs to be improved considerably in just about every area I can think of be it via web site, magazine, personal visits, demonstrations, radio talks, displays of plants...whatever! It was therefore great to be able begin work with the VanDusen Botanical Garden (Vancouver) to organize a future display of New Millennium Delphiniums within their bounds. Fantastic.

Another highlight was to see our plants growing in The Butchart Gardens and doing so well that they are removing all their old varieties and replacing them with ours. They are absolutely delighted with the way they perform and who wouldn't be after seeing this photograph of the comparative trial they conducted in their nursery area this year.

New Millenniums are staked and in the background left while the Pacific Giants are in foreground right.

On the home front plant sales this season are going extremely well and seed production stock is so well advanced that we may start almost a month early. Our staff managed excellently in my absence; another reason for me to disappear more often.

Other family matters have been to the fore in recent times too. Janice's mother died a few months ago and we have also needed to organize rest home care in Wanganui for my mother and transfer my father, in the latter stages of Alzheimer's disease from Auckland to Wanganui too. Such is life. I need a rest!