Delphiniums, family and fun

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A day of rest

Ah good, a day of rest.

Up at 7 went for a half hour walk with Janice, had breakfast and then finished of the 9 hanging baskets that are for Robert and Jennifer's place in about 3 weeks time. For the past couple of years I've cheated and bought the baskets ready made but this time decided to return to the real thing and made them myself, with the help of Natasha who did two yesterday. They are now sitting in the plastic house waiting for me to remember to water them.

After that a bike ride seemed in order and s there was not too much wind I stayed in the peddles for and hour - a good work out - and that cut out the morning. Next was a quick shower and off to see mum and dad in the rest home. I fed dad lunch in the courtyard and them took mum down to see him. He was very pleased and gave her a beaming smile.

As I needed more plants for our hanging baskets I called at the garden centre on my way home, the intention being to plant up more baskets today...but there's not enough time left now thanks to a cup of tea, a game of crib with Janice, a tour of the nursery with Jason and Natasha and a half hour distraction on the guitar. That's ok. It's now 4:30pm and I have to put the spuds on. R&J on on main (except for spuds). Janice on nibbles and I have J and N to help with desert.

See you tomorrow

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Welcome to Jason and Natasha from Manitoba, Canada. They are a young, newly wed couple traveling in New Zealand and have come to stay with us, probably for a few weeks.

Great news - they play Catan. We've had 2 games already.

More great news - they love food and cooking.

We're going to have a really enjoyable time together I'm sure.

I'll tell you much more about them soon.

The garden is looking very colourful. Here's some yellow.

The last few days have been really hectic so the blog has been left and Farmville has had to go on short rations too. For now, just a few images. More tomorrow.



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Visit

Today started well with a bike ride at 6:30am. I hate riding in the mornings but this morning it was reasonably calm (only a 5-10 knot wind) and forecast of increasing to 15-20kts later in the day, so I opted for the early start. My legs ached but the main problem was the sun in my eyes on the way home. I'd forgotten about that.

After the ride I made a huge list of tasks to be completed today and I'm happy to say, managed to complete them by blog time. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the trip to our nursery that the Home of Compassion organised for 7 people, including my mum (rest home) and dad. Dad is in Hospital care in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease and is only able to visit with special wheel chair transport. They came to see all the delphiniums in flower.

Mum has seen the nursery before and remembers but dad's memory has been so far gone for so long that we wondered if it would register. Dad has been a grower almost all his life, growing tomatoes and chrysanthemums mainly, so being round the nursery would maybe catch his interest we thought. Well, it sure did. He was actually smiling and animated for the first time in ages. Twas a joy to behold! Janice wheeled him round while I helped some of the others then I took over the driving. He loved it. Later, in the packing shed, he ate a great afternoon tea and when I moved outside he made a great lurch to follow, which he could not do of course, so he got another ride out to see more delphiniums. It was real cooooooool.

Another item of note in the day was the White Ribbon March against violence upon women.

A few hundred of us males turned up to march up the central street of Wanganui to raise awareness that violence against our womenfolk will not be tolerated. It may or may not make much difference on its own but combined with growing publicity and awareness of how much family violence there is in our society and that it is not acceptable it will contribute to a change in attitude, we hope. So just remember fellas - cut it out! face the issues, be a man and most of all, love your family, they are the best treasure you will ever have.

So, against those two items the rest of the day pales but between the excitement I sure got a heap of work done too, including checking up on our trial delphiniums at Bristol's place. They are doing fine, just like the weeds.

Now I'm going to play a little guitar and wait for some visitors to arrive.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bason Botanic Gardens

Wanganui has a great, young botanic garden, the Bason Botanic Garden, and was I recently asked to join the trust board that works in partnership with the Wanganui District Council to administer the gardens. This afternoon between 4 and 6pm a number of us walked around the gardens discussing new developments.
There is much for me to learn about the plans for the gardens and how they are formulated and administered so this evening's walk around was very useful. Unfortunately there is a pile of work on the delphinium business front at the moment as well as the sale of my parents house this coming weekend. Altogether this leaves little time to blog.

See you tomorrow



Monday, November 23, 2009

Rotary Monday

On Sunday we normally eat with Robert and Jennifer. This Sunday we had two other people to cook for.....but they didn't come as work we got to eat too much very nice food. Such is life, and to top it off I didn't go for a ride either. Such is life. But I did get some good gardening done. Such is life.

Monday at 7am is almost always Rotary time and this Monday was one of those almost always days. I got to listen to a very interesting talk from a prospective new mayor of Wanganui who came along to tell us about himself. Himself is a safety engineer specialising in coal mines, latterly in China. Safety in Chinese mines in improving, it needed to.

There was also a presentation of a $9,500 cheque to Birthright Wanganui. This was the proceeds of the Last Night of the Proms concert our club produced back in August. Hence our club president, Val is decked out in the Union Jack for the occasion.

The rest of the day was spent getting seed orders out, doing organising stuff and pollinating the trials.

Now can I do Farmville please?



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fun by the river

Friday was a bit of a whirl with pollinating of trial delphiniums to do (see a short white below) as

well as a host of other outside work, a haircut in the late afternoon, fries on Friday at five and a night out at a production of Fawlty Towers (plus meal). The show was great, the meal was very good, the company excellent and the night late. That made getting up at 5:45 this morning to prepare for market a little difficult - but we made it.

Once again there was plenty of entertainment at the market by the Whanganui River and we were especially delighted to see a "happening" develop right behind our stall. A troupe (well maybe half a troupe, what's that, a tro? of musicians, actors, and hangers on started skipping, accompanied by a bongo and a flute. It was a treat to watch them enjoying themselves and inviting the participation of young children and anyone else who wanted to try - no I did not.

Throughout these past few weeks while we have been "doing the market" (my idea) Janice has been a great help doing at least half the work and most of the organising (as always). Thanks Janice, you're wonderful! Only one more to go then we can prepare for our open weekend the following week. Yay!

I think I'll have a lie in in the morning - probably manage to stay in bed till 7am.

More tomorrow I guess as I missed blogging yesterday.



Thursday, November 19, 2009

A good day's work

Today I finished weeding some daylilies, weeded delphiniums in the trial grounds, took photos and sprayed growth retardants on a trial of delphiniums in pots. All fun, all useful and that left no time for anything else.

Ok, while I'm waiting for them to upload I forgot to tell you that I went for my 9th or tenth bike ride of the season today. I'm determined to get fit again and am doing 40 minutes riding (slowly at this stage) every day



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Breathe promise of merry sunshine

And Merry sunshine is sure something we could do with. This spring may have been good for the bloomin' flowers but it sure needs a little more brightness. Below are the first blooms of our Wedding Day rose struggling to find a little sun.

One of the parents of Purple Passion is in flower in the nursery trial garden. There are a few of our cutting grown clones here waiting to be photographed. They have a real narcissus complex but I guess I would too with a name like that.

I just included the next image for something to do. It's a view, well, of part of our garden. I bet you didn't know that eh!

Today was spent doing errands in town and then tripping over to Palmerston North to have the car serviced. This is a pain and happened because the garage in Wanganui, the only one that services European cars, just went broke. We now have an hour's trip for the service. However there are some compensations. I get my glasses frames fixed ( I refuse to buy glasses in Wanganui as they are too dear compared to elsewhere) and Janice and I get to go Christmas shopping. Whoopee, do I love Christmas shopping!! Year right. Got some nice books though and found another cafe not to visit again.

Ok, all for now



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring Tra La

For a plant breeder who grows flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la, this sesason is a time of wonder and renewal, of vindication and disappointment. This spring, in New Zealand, has been a wonderful growing season for may flowers and flowering shrubs and trees. Firstly I noticed the Kowhai trees bloomed prolifically and with great colour. This was followed by a procession of other flowering plants.

Right now the roses are absolutely magnificent, lush of growth and festooned with an abundance of large, bright flowers. Not surprising then that he delphiniums should be flowering a couple of weeks early wonderfully well. That in itself is great as it means that the bulk of the pollinating will be over by Christmas. However, it gets better!
Last year I trial flowered a row of a new strain of our dark blue delphiniums we currently call Royal Aspirations. This variety has always been a bit bothersome as the germination rate has been relatively poor (at 67%) and the colour quite variable (giving some mid blues as well as deeper ones). Well, last year's trial was ok but nothing spectacular so I decided to roundup most of the bed and leave only a small patch for some photographs this season. Lucky I did. There, right on the end of the row, was a plant of wonderful deep blue with even, white bees and a great spike form. What really tops it off is that this plant is at least an F5, that is it is a 5th generation of this variety which means it will almost certainly throw offspring that are well on the way to being identical to the parent. To have such strength and vigour coupled with the strong colour at this stage is just a dream come true.

Needless to say we will be breeding from it in real earnest over the next couple of seasons and have something quite fantastic to offer in the near future.

There are some other beauties in the breeding beds and production houses too. I hope you are enjoying the images!



Monday, November 16, 2009

Visitors from Oregon

We had a visit from Thomas and Kirk yesterday. They have Sebright Gardens at Salem, Oregon and are very passionate about hostas and irises as well as being a couple of nice guys. It was a pleasure to show them around and Janice and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours talking of growing, politics and setting the world to right.
Have a look at their web sites : Mid-America Garden and Sebright Gardens

Today we start pollinating in earnest with three workers starting this morning. There will be another three or four join later, probably next week. As you can see from the photos, there are lots of flowers opening. We'd better get busy.

These are Purple Passion seeds in the making.

Ok, better get on with it!



Saturday, November 14, 2009

Market Day

Another market day and still we have not been blessed with rain on a Saturday morning since we've been doing it - that's 4 weeks. Cool!

After setting up, having delicious market pancakes for breakfast, a cup of coffee and a friand I picked mum up from the rest home and brought her down to join in the fun. It's great to bring her out with us although she always seems to come grudgingly, then perks up wonderfully and thoroughly enjoys it. I had a great time choosing an outfit for her, something that would keep her warm (It was damn cold at the market) and make her look good. An hour is always enough and I returned mum just in time for lunch.

Mum at our stand at the market.

We had a better selling day than last time as we had several potted delphiniums in flower. They punters really like to try before they buy.

Back from market, lunch and before you know it it's 3 o'clock and lawns to mow. I managed to finish at around half past 6 (taking time out to pollinate some test crosses in the middle of lawn mowing) so didn't get a bike ride in today. Must do it tomorrow.



Friday, November 13, 2009

Here it is, Friday again, always follows Thursday, never late, never early, totally predictable and always appreciated.

If we've done well this week and managed to complete most of the scheduled work then Friday is another good day. If the work has gone badly, there is still lots left and we can't see how on earth we'll manage without working all weekend then a good break on Friday afternoon is essential so however the week has gone - it's Friday and Friday is a good day!

The image is one of an interloper. They just sort of hang around in the greenhouse.

I visited Portland Oregon last August for the Farwest Show (Horticultural expo) and met a few industry folk. One of those, Thomas Johnson, a self confessed plantaholic, will be calling in this Sunday. Meeting people from all over the world is one of the really nice things about this job (we might as well be in tourism) and I love the opportunity to show them round and return a little hospitality. Unfortunately I don't have Thomas's card so have no idea who he is (sorry Thomas). We'll soon find out.

Ok, lots to do this am so must get to it.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Staff Treat

Today was a good day. I love starting like that. Blogging has made me realise just how many days are in fact good ones...just about all.

Today was also staff treat day. Janice and I shouted Edita and Debbie to lunch in town followed by a jet boat trip with "Spirit of the River" up the Whanganui River to the "Flying Fox" for afternoon tea. Brent is a talented tour operator, always happy and full of information. The Whanganui river has a great history and was one of the most heavily occupied (by the Maori people) areas in New Zealand before the arrival of Europeans.

Canoes on the Whanganui River.

As none of the ladies had been on a jet boat before, this was a wonderful experience for them and they loved it - and I just love it anyway. The "Flying Fox" offers retreat accommodation and canoeing and is an ideal place to stay for a totally quiet, romantic, peaceful night or two. Unfortunately we had only an hour. The retreat is called the Flying Fox because of the access which is either by Whanganui river or from the road on the other side of the river. If from the road you park your car and take the flying fox over the Wanganui River (no small river).

So today was indeed a good day

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Luck?

Spring in New Zealand is surely a very changeable affair. yesterday we were in glorious sunshine, it was warm and dry. Today is cool, to cold, cloudy and wet. How lucky we did the outside work yesterday. Luck?

Modern communications and the science of weather forecasting have taken much of the luck out of nursery planning. Even for New Zealand, which has a temperate maritime climate that is incredibly variable and unpredictable, forecasts are now pretty well right.

I use the website of Victoria University, Wellington to get my weather information (see and compare that with the New Zealand Met Service forecasts ( This gives me enough data to add my own interpretations to and come up with a very reliable forecast that's a great tool for my business.

So yesterday we were able to weed in optimum conditions and today the fertiliser was watered in. Cool!



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On being a Good Day

Today was another good day on a nursery in Wanganui. The sun shone brightly upon the weeds that were hoed up this morning. The wind has added its drying effect to that of the sun and now,
with luck, there will be a little rain tomorrow to wash in the fertiliser that I spread over the newly weeded delphiniums. What more could a grower want? See before and after images.

Last August in New Zealand was a warm and sunny one. Since then although it has been cooler than normal on occasion, many occasions actually, but there has been a great deal of sunshine too. This has resulted in the delphiniums starting to flower about 2 week earlier than normal and it now looks like we'll get all the first flush of pollinating done before Christmas. Yay! We'll see.

One of the jobs I have to do this season is to finally sort out a stable cross for a bright blue with a black bee. We have one that gives blues with black bees but it has too much variety of colour, too many shades of blue. Another cross has a beautiful blue but gives plants that are too weak. This year we will nail it....please. The experimental crosses from last year have only just been planted so we won't know for a couple of months yet, in the mean time I'm making more crosses.

I've really let my fitness slip over the winter and today was the third bike ride of a let's get fit again campaign. I'm not riding far yet (never do) and not quickly either but I reckon that in a couple of weeks I might be ready to time myself without fear of being too embarrassed. We'll see on that score too. Today my legs protested a bit but least I finished without being out of breath.

This evening was an important one. I accompanied a male friend to a Rotary club in town in a bid to encourage participation in a male march against violence towards women. This will be on 25th November - White Ribbon Day. Let's hope we get a good turnout! See



Monday, November 9, 2009

On Being Five

Janice and I spent Friday and Saturday in Wellington with our daughter Sarah and her family. We were there for Jessica's 5th birthday. Jessica is our youngest grandaughter and obviously very full of herself about being FIVE and able to start school - which she did this morning. No reports yet except that she went enthusiastically.

Whenever we have a grandchild reach the age of 5 Janice makes them a quilt to present at their birthday. Last week was rather frantic with all the other work needing to be completed as well as the quilt, but she made it.

We drove home on Sunday morning in bright sunshine and spent the afternoon installing a new tv (Sarah got us a good deal) attending to the nursery and tidying around a little. Oh, then there was the preparing of the cheeseboard (Janice), the cooking of desert (me - slow cooked fresh pears with a caramel sauce and cream) for dinner at the Gaskin's that evening. It turned out to be a great meal with Robert cooking a coconut, banana, capsicum and chili steamed fish, Jennifer the colourful veges and our contribution. Delicious!

This morning Janice and I heard the Mayor of Otorohanga, a small NZ town, speak about how they managed to get the unemployment rate down to zero - real jobs, real opportunity and real commitment to kids.

The delphiniums are charging away now, there's a heap of management stuff to do, pr, writing, staff to hire and .... better get it done.



Friday, November 6, 2009

You can bank on it - maybe!

I had lots of messages in town this morning, mostly connected with all the things you have to do when your parents get old and need care. The most difficult of these tend to be related to banks or, more specifically, my parents bankers, the ANZ bank or, more specifically, the Internet banking arm of the ANZ which, specifically, is a cripple without a crutch. Further, if it did have a crutch it wouldn't know how to use it or where to put it. I could make a suggestion or two.
For some reason the ANZ have obviously designed their Internet banking site to be a challenge for their clients. I naively believed that once I had registered and obtained a password then I could conduct or access all, or most transaction types on line. However, if you are doing anything for the first time (like making a payment to a third party) you get to go through a few screens and are then directed to ring customer service to set it up - which they do. There are more passwords and pin numbers required than anyone can possibly remember and once you have a drawerful of these - they don't work. Well, not properly and not in Firefox.
I spent the best part of an hour battling with the system yesterday and this morning presented myself, yes physically, at our local branch where they completed the 5 different transactions or so in around 5 minutes. Now, even allowing 25 minutes travel time, I save half an hour. Welcome to Internet banking ANZ style - no thanks!

It has been a wonderfully sunny, warm day today. Tomorrow will be the same. I love fine week ends. I thought you'd like to know that. I just have this hang-up about stupid banks.



Thursday, November 5, 2009

Delphiniums trials are growing

The seedling trials at Bristol's are now starting to grow and strangely, the weeds are too.The top of the soil dries our quickly and a few hours with a hoe should see the weeds gone and a light, fluffy soil mulch in their place, until the next rain. We're due for a week of fine weather though and it should dry the weeds out well and give the delph a chance to outgrow them.

This afternoon is fine and sunny and I should be inside doing more paper pushing but am going to sneak out and do some plant work....which I have now done and this had better close now as Janice and I are off to a movie!



Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Tomorrow is another day - today. I'm fully recovered from the whatever it was that floored me and have enjoyed today from start (answering email at 6:30am) to finish (blogging at 8:30pm) and I still have to tend my farmville farm.

Today the irrigation was still working so I sealed it up, the sun shone, the tempreature was relatively warm and the wind relatively subdued. I spent time making dwarf delphinium crosses and pumping up the tyres of eight pollinating steps (must get a photo) three wheel barrows, a sprayer and a trailer as well as my bicycle. This was quite easy as I've just bought a new foot pump. No, don't ask why I need my foot pumping!

There were lots of other sundry jobs too, some in the office and some out of it (thank goodness). The great thing about these is that they all went well.

At about 3pm I loaded 35 or so delphiniums in 8 litre pots, took them to the Bason Botanic Gardens, 15 minutes out of Wanganui, couldn't find anyone to take delivery so consulted "the plan" and planted them myself. See above. I also admired the first of our delphiniums flowering in the Homestead Garden - see below. We provide all the delphiniums free of charge and are rewarded with some really good warm fuzzies and a beautiful garden to visit.

It was absolute bliss. On returning home at 5:30 I met a prospective worker (I forgot she was coming) that Janice was just showing round and after coming inside cooked a steak dinner for Janice and me followed by baked apple and ice cream.

Ok, can I go now?



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One of those days

Today is one of those days whenI simply didn't want to get up. Surely I'm not too sick to work? Get up, no breakfast because stomach won't like it. Meet someone looking for work, hang aaround and finally fix the irrigation problem that refused to resolve yesterday. Come back to the house around 11am and crash. Wake up at 1:30 pm and take boxes of plants to the courier in town, have a massage (great but achy). Do several messages, pick Janice up from her massage and come home to crash. More people looking for pollinating work so I show them around. It looks like we'll have plenty of motivated staff for this year's pollinating season. Eaten nothing all day so have a small dinner. Now 8:30pm and regretting eating the food. All in all a great day. Year Right!!

Better day tomorrow



Monday, November 2, 2009

Navel Gazing

Mondays are usually gentle starts to the week which begins with a Rotary meeting at 7am. This morning's meeting was however unusually boring because the club spend all of the time navel gazing - at best uncomfortable and at worst disturbingly ugly and boring. It was an "at worst" gaze this am.

Rotary clubs do from time to time - well every year actually - worry about how their membership is aging and falling. Some of them do constructive things about that, getting out into the community and publicising their efforts to help others. Other clubs navel gaze, write lists of possible members and suggest someone approach them, then go back to navel gazing. I fear we have just done the latter.

Fortunately we had a hugely successful, well publicised project a few months ago which does, and did wonders for recruitment and retention. Some of the team below:-

Please club, leave our navel alone and if you must gaze at navels, please make it someone else's.

The rest of the day has been spent battling with an irrigation system, tidying my desk and doing the Monday chores and other sundry work, and visiting mum and dad.

Right now I'm going off to navel gaze. No, I won't tell you. It's none of your business!



Sunday, November 1, 2009

A day of rest

I'm blogging on a Sunday because yesterday was so good that I didn't have time - or I forgot.

Janice and I spent until 3pm yesterday at the market, grocery shopping, visiting my mother and doing nursery work and quilting. You can work out who did what. After 3pm a couple of our neighbours who we saw at the market came for afternoon tea and we just frittered the rest of the day away. Nice.

This morning I plan to spend time in the garden and will take a few images to show you how, despite the cold, some plants are growing at pace.

The delphiniums are coming into flower too and it looks like we'll need more pollinators in a couple of weeks.

Roses are breaking bud.

And there is a small, summer interloper setting up shop in the greenhouse.

So, a good day in the garden and I finished off the activity with a bike ride, the first for some months. I figure if I can keep up the blogging then I can keep up the riding too.