Delphiniums, family and fun

Friday, December 10, 2010

Breeding Season

Yahoo! the delphinium seed trials have begun to flower and it looks like we are in for a very exciting season.

First up are some trials for shorter flowering delphiniums. For height reference bear in mind that I'm all of 5'5" tall. In shoes.

I'm really pleased with these as we have several colours showing good compact and even growth. All without any growth regulators

And a view along the house

Contrast these with some cut flower trials where the delph are taller

Then there are the general trials outside which are just begging to flower. Here we have a good contrast between the tall and the short.

Heres a very deep pink we are using, catching the morning sun.

All in all a good start

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spring in the Nursery

Right, the nursery and nursery business is what's been keeping me from working in the garden as much as I'd like but boy, is there a lot to do in the nursery. Growth is very fast right now and plants are racing out. Here's Debbie and Edita doing the job.

But we have another job too. When we built our new growing house in 2007/8 I put white weed matting on the floor to reflect light. This weed matting was laid over black weed matting which in turn was laid over something we call crushed shell rock (hard stuff). We did this because it worked so well in the old house when installed a few years before. Well it worked well in the new house too, until it began to break down last summer. It turned out that the manufacturer had neglected to put the UV treatment into this batch. The suppliers in New Zealand replaced the material but we have, of course, had to lay it again.

To lay the weed matting we had to first remove corrugated iron troughs that we stand our plants on and then remove the old matting - above. This done the installation was be a piece of cake, or would have been but for the support posts for the wire netting that in turn supports the delphiniums. Argh, all those posts!

The posts were hammered into the shell rock (hard stuff, remember) after the original matting was laid. Well, there was no way I was going to remove those so we had to work round them and fortunately modern sealing materials have made a reasonably tidy job possible. It all took time but is now three quarters complete.

And a quarter to go.

This week will be the big plant send  out. These plants are just about ready to go. We try to make most of our sales while the plants are small because that is by far the best time for planting. Unfortunately many gardeners like to see them in flower before they buy. We leave that market to someone else!

And below are some plugs waiting for planting in the trial grounds. Each year we plant five to ten thousand plants for evaluation and breeding purposes.

 The trial grounds are not quite ready yet though. The ground is tilled and we're simply waiting for dry weather to cap it with compost which we will plant directly into, then mulch with wood shavings.

And here are some of  last season's trial beds waiting for new plants. The plants in the foreground are daylilies

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It is clearly spring now. These delphiniums will soon be jumping out of the pots, which is just as well as we're scheduled to begin shipping them to our mail order plant customers next week.

And the new season's plugs are going crazy too:

And the early planted pots as well!

But while its spring in Wanganui its Fall in Colorado, and what a sight our delphiniums make in Ruda's garden

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Time in the Garden

Janice had a quilting workshop this weekend so I took the opportunity to attack the garden again.
The hard frosts last weekend dealt to a lot of plants that normally over-winter well and I was particularly disappointed to see the thumbergia (Black-Eyed-Susan) completely collapsed, having only planted it a few months ago. It was doing very nicely too. Likewise a poinsettia that I finally got around to planting just a few weeks ago received similar treatment. Both plants were protected by trees but unfortunately the air temperature fell to -2C so that was that.
We only have killing frosts every several years so we get away with growing many tender plants. I just chose the wrong year to get them established.
Some things are growing though. Like these sweet peas:

Of course there is an good side to frosts as soft weeds and nasturtiums (that were rampant)  get zapped too. So do some of the lazier insect pests. Perhaps we'll have fewer paper wasps this summer. I doubt if I've ever seen the gardens looking so bare and it sure makes tidying up easy. Frosted nasturtiums make good mulch too!
Talking of paper wasps, a considerable number had buried themselves beneath the bark of some dry eucalyptus logs that I had piled up for firewood this winter. I had taken to bringing the wood inside and stacking it close to the fire so that it was nice and handy but quickly had to revise the plan as the wasps were thawing out and having a go at the kind people who had warmed them up. That's fixed now. I leave the wood in the cold porch until it's time to stoke the fire. No more wasps. No more stings.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Delphiniums will reflower again, again and again

As a breeder of delphiniums and producer of seed I often receive mail either directly or via mail lists, groups etc; from people wanting advice on aspects of growing these wonderful flowers. By way of making this blog a little more interesting, perhaps helping a few folk out and (no doubt at all) causing a little controversy from time to time, I will post some of this advice herein. If you disagree I invite you to post a comment about it. Disagreement promotes discovery!

And yes, I do grow delphiniums in my garden.

And no, you can't see any right now.

The last rose

There have been a couple of questions in the past few days about how to get delphiniums to flower a second time in the season. I referred to this briefly on our Dowdeswell's Delphiniums Facebook page and am posting a fuller comment below:

The Question

ok so now that my delphiniums are done blooming and have seedpods on them should i cut  them down to a couple inches above soil level to let them regrow and bloom again in the fall
should i fertilize them with dried cow poop also to get them growing again
any advice would be helpful.

Just a lonely little mammilaria in an alyssum patch

The Answer

The most reliable way to get a second flowering from you delphiniums, provided you are not bothered about saving seed, is to cut them back early, say just after the best of the flowering is passed. The key is to get more light into the base of the plant and to remove the older stalks and leaves which are taking energy from new growth (rather than sustaining it). This is fully understood by delphinium cut flower growers who cut the stems right back to the ground as they harvest the half open flower spikes. It really works.

Another good thing you can do is to commence feeding again as the flowers pass their best. This also promotes new growth. The combination of extra feed and more light boosts the growth of new stems tremendously. I strongly suggest feeding well and cutting right down to the ground asap.

Naturally, where you are in the world also influences how many flushes of flower spikes your beautiful delphiniums will produce for you. Here in New Zealand I can confidently expect three flushes if I use the method outline above.

You will find much more information on growing delphiniums here

Why not become a follower of our Facebook page about delphiniums?

Yes, Alcea in mid-winter

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gumboot and petals

It's been a great week or so with plenty done in the garden and a good amount of real work done too.

One of the most interesting things for me was seeing how the trials we are conducting to test our breeding for short delphiniums are looking. These trials were planted in the autumn. It is unusual for autumn planted delphiniums to flower during the winter but that is what a number of them are doing, showing that as well as being likely to be very short (judging by growth so far with one flowering at under 30cm tall) they are also likely to be very fast from seed to flower. This is very encouraging as the market for these plants will demand both of those criteria. We hope to have a range of good cultivars for pot production by the end of this summer.
The image above shows two short delphiniums from the same cross. The image below shows the same short delphinium with a taller one (test for cut flowers - yet to flower) in the background left. The gumboot is 29cm tall.

We have more trials than usual under-way this coming season so will have some really interesting looking fields of delphiniums this summer. We're looking for the short delphiniums mentioned and also to trials of several cut flower varieties too as well as more varieties for the home garden. There is one other category of delphinium attributes we are testing but we're saying nothing about that until we have something really special to announce....or not.

Watch this space over summer!



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Facebook for Dowdeswell"s Delphiniums

Janice has constructed a Facebook identity for our Dowdeswell's Delphiniums business and we're in the process of attracting followers. The page will be a place where we can showcase our delphiniums, offer seasonally timed growing tips etc. and keep in touch with our customers and friends.

Come and join the fun. Click on "like" beside our name on the Facebook page to become a follower.



Frosty Mornings

Another frosty morning in Wanganui, that's four in succession, with beautiful, sunny and unusually warm days to follow.

While the staff are on holiday this week I'm having a good look around the nursery in the quiet and catching up on a few odd jobs....after the frost has gone of course. And while I'm waiting there are seed orders to get out.

But the frost soon goes so I have to too.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Clean up time in the Nursery

We've had a few mornings of hard frosts followed by warm days so today I sprayed the weeds on our delphinium trial grounds and spent some time inspecting the potted plants on the holding pad for growth. These plants are mostly dormant now(see image with small pots below..not the still green plants in the seedling trays) but the weed seedlings are not so I will spray them off and put a pre-merge weed killer on to keep new weeds from germinating until the delphinium plants are filling the pots and ready to ship out - so the theory goes. Hopefully I'll have enough time to do that tomorrow. We''ll see.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Help in the Garden

Like delphiniums in New Zealand, orchard trees don't get a lot of rest either.

It is now getting on for Mid July (equivalent northern hemisphere January) and the last leaves have only just left the apple trees. They in their turn only beat the plums, peaches and nectarines by a couple of weeks or so. I know, I've been waiting for them to fall so I can get on with pruning, which I started a few days ago.

Yesterday and again today I had the help of a really enthusiastic granddaughter Jessica (age 5 1/2). So far she is the only one of my natural offspring to show even the faintest interest in gardening. Our adopted daughter Nadeeka, who recently started an organic garden on her section in Cherrybrook, Sydney, much to my considerable delight, is still ahead on points though, but only just. Watch out Nadeeka! Jessica is coming!

As can be seen from the images, Jessica's help was indeed both real and very useful. She clipped branches, helped me saw large branches off and painted the wounds on the pruned branches. She then helped cart the prunings off.

Of course, to do the job properly you have to be dressed right. The fancy shirt is one of my work shirts. A really big thank you Jessica!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Winter here. Spring here too!

ne of the great things about growing delphiniums in New Zealand is that by the time they die back for winter they are ready to shoot up again for spring.

In the nursery last season's plants are looking quite dormant but the seedlings sown in April are potted up and powering into spring. Also, close inspection of last season's apparent dormant plants outside reveals tiny new leaves starting to break from the crowns too.

We are now past the shortest day by over two weeks and sunset is 10 minutes later than June 21st. Cool! I swear the quality of light is different too and I'm loving being out in it, pruning our fruit trees.

Tomorrow is Saturday and we will take our granddaughters out for morning tea at a garden centre, maybe bring my mother home for lunch (or include her in the morning tea) have our kids arrive (parents of our grandchildren come to collect them after a week) and enjoy what promises to be a sunny day.

Gotta get the winter oil on the fruit trees.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

School Holidays

We are looking after our grandchildren thisweekand today Janice and I took them to Kowhai Park which is simply the best kids playground in the country with lots of lovingly made items for children to play on and climb over.

We also walked to the top of the tower on Durrie Hill and took this image.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Delphinium Trial

Towards the end of May we had a few trials of crosses for short varieties begin to flower. These have since died down for winter but below is one that shows much promise as this, the first flowering was very fast from seed and already there is new growth beginning to come from the base.
It will be interesting to see how well it regrows in a few weeks time.

Mid Winter Christmas and other madness

Last Thursday night Janice and I, Robert and Jeniffer and a few others went to the Waverley Aotea Rotary Changeover function. Janice as a Christmas Tree and me as an elf.

The weekend before it was our own club's annual change of officers night too. Here are Robert and Jennifer, Janice and I being Bigger, Better, Bolder and Blue.....Bugger!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And Another Day

Last Saturday Janice and I, Robert and Jennifer drove to Napier to stay with Jan and David Brock and see Brocky perform in a professional production of Roger Hall's new play "Four Flat Whites in Italy". True to expectations it was a great laugh and a wonderfult study in human relations - as stressed by travelling together. Brocky was magnificent.

After the show we were given the tour of the theatre and joined the party back stage. It was all a great experience. Unfortunately we weren't able to watch more than the first half of the recorded rugby match between NZ and Wales before falling asleep. The morning told us the inevitable result as NZ won by a landslide.

Sunday was a leisurely day....after spending a couple of hours helping the production team "Pack Out" of the theatre (this wasn't in the contract Brocky). After a great lunch out we drove sedately home to Wanganui via a tree nursery and coffee shop.

Of course after all the indolence of the weekend I just had to have a run on Monday and after all the careful build up of the past three weeks a calf muscle just had to decide to give up the ghost after about 4k, in the rain, leaving me to walk, nay, hobble home. Arrrggghhh!!!!!!!!!

That was two days ago. Back to biking tomorrow I think.


Lots of good thinking and planning work done today. Plus I bought a great blue spiky wig for a Rotary changeover party. Cool.



Thursday, June 17, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday was one of those days where almost everything went wrong. Today was one of those days where almost everything went right. No, I'm not going to speculate about tomorrow.

Because things have gone well there isn't much to blog about as I've spent most of the day in front of my pc writing strategic plans and project management type stuff for the business - all deadly boring unless you are involved, when it becomes extremely exciting.

Actually it became so exciting that I completely forgot about an important Rotary meeting I should have attended tonight and by the time I rang they were well into business and it was too late for me to promote some things I needed to, but there will be time later, hopefully. Whoops.

Of course by 3pm today I was ready for a break so I did another bike ride round my 40 minute circuit and was delighted to find that, even though it was a good training run, I was absolutely not puffed at the end and felt like I could do it again, but was a good boy and returned for more work.

Oh, the ploughing did get done yesterday and very well too.

Enough for today



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One of Those Days

Today was always going to be something of a washout as far as work was concerned but I really did want to get at least half a day of useful work done. Ha!

After a dentist appointment at 8:30am I had about an hour down time in town before a massage at 10. Nothing much I could do about that as I needed the dental check-up and wanted the massage. And a cup of coffee in between and an errand or two needed doing as well. Back home by 11:15 and at 11:30 I hear sounds up at the nursery (all staff away today) so I investigate and find my neighbour has been to do a ploughing job but has broken the plough (well, a bolt anyway) and had to go back for a repair job.

Back home I tidy emails etc until lunchtime after which I can get on with writing some business strategy stuff and check up on how we are doing against "The Plan" This will take me until 3pm and time for a run - I wish! The only problem with this strategy was that after assembling all the hard documents I needed and moving to the computer files I find that they are now archived. That's ok. No it isn't. I can't access the exterior hard drive for the backup - neither can Janice on her pc.

Much gnashing of teeth. I decide to go for a run.
The run was good.

The hard drive is still inaccessible.

I putter around while Janice addresses the computer problem and finds that the back-up drive is accessible from the laptop. Phew!
For various reasons (other symptoms too) we reach the conclusion that Janice's pc, now ageing but virus free, just isn't coping any more. The back-up drive is also ageing so we decide to back up some files from the backup drive to the laptop. I decide to call work off for the day and get dinner ready. I can hear a tractor ploughing.

We decide to investigate a new pc for Janice.

Dinner was nice but the pantry is bare so J and I have a quiet shop for groceries in town, come home, read and hope that tomorrow delivers what today did not.

I'll let you know.

Items achieved: dental check up; massage; ploughing (not yet checked); a few Emails answered; mail and business housekeeping dealt with: some advertising sorted; 5.5krun; grocery shopping; blog

Monday, June 14, 2010

In The Long Run

Sorry no pics, just links, try following them.

A few years ago I kept fit by working outside in our delphinium nursery but since then, due to allergy and the commitments of an expanding business, I've gradually reduced my time in the nursery until it is now virtually nil and my fitness has suffered.

I first started riding in 2007 and continued this sporadically until March 2009 when I eased off and then stopped.

On 7th April this year I decided that I had to start getting fit again. That meant getting on my bike, which I enjoy, doing some hard pedalling, which I enjoy and learning to take it slowly, which I do not enjoy. As part of the reason I stopped before was because of continued small injuries I was, and am still, really determined to ease back in to this gradually and properly.

So, from April 7th when I began with really slow paced riding over just 9k until May 18th, I gradually built up to 15k at a moderate, but definitely not speedy pace. It was more difficult than I imagined. I must be getting older than I realise although at 62 surely I should not be significantly slower than at 58? Then, maybe I was really unfit at the start. Whatever the reason, it was hard work.

The period from May 18th to June 3rd Janice and I were away from home, first visiting relations in Auckland and then our grandchildren in Sydney, Australia. It was while we were away in Sydney that I became even more determined to crack this fitness thing and started walking very briskly for 6 to 10k each day. It worked and by June 3rd I needed to jog a little to work up any sweat at all.

Now, I've never really jogged before, not for any length of time. The reason for this is that whenever I reached about my 4th run I would pull a calf muscle - always, no exceptions. So this time I was very cautious and took advice from my daughter Sarah, who runs, and my physio, who has had a career running. Well, the gist is that I'd been starting off too quickly and expecting to, as they say, run before I could walk. So I tried again.

It is now June 14th and I've had six runs and two bike rides in the last ten days and am now able to jog 7k without even a twinge from legs. Please let this continue. Please let me be patient and not run too quickly or to far.

The goal is to run with Sarah in the Wanganui half marathon in December, and in the process, get fit. Wish me luck!

I've no idea if you will be able to see this but it does seem to work.

Let me know!



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Back to it

A couple of weeks ago Janice and I visited our daughter, Nadeeka, in Sydney, where she lives with David and their three young boys. We visited them too! We had a wonderfully relaxing time, enjoyed everyone's company, renewed friendships we made last year and generally enjoyed the opportunity to see this particular section of our family and enjoy an almost totally peaceful week....well, they do have 3 boys you know. You can meet Nadeeka and family here

The week before this we had spent time in Auckland visiting Janice's family, burying Janice's mother's ashes and saying goodbye to her parent's home which was being sold as Jim is moving into a managed apartment. Thus, the week in Sydney reconnecting with a younger end of our family was well timed too.

It was a real joy to see that Nadeeka, having made the decision to give up paid work in favour of running the household and always being home for the kids, was spending some of her "free time" (ha!) making a magnificent fist of growing her own vegetables, and on so small an area too. She is using organic principles and producing a wide variety of vegetables and herbs which she uses in her cooking. She is using every available space too. I was hugely impressed. So impressed that now I'm home I'm determined to make much more use of our own garden. Sure, I grow quite a few veges and we have fruit from the house orchard, but I've never really "done it properly", at least not in the past couple of decades or so.

So yesterday I made a start by digging trenches, burying compost and planting a few plants. The dog got a couple but that's another story. See below.

And the garden is growing. Below are paperwhites bursting into flower and some fungi that Jennifer gave me for my birthday last month!

Being away also helped my fitness. Some weeks ago I'd resurrected my bike and started riding again but, having decided not to take that to Sydney, had to walk for exercise, which I did every day, and not just to the shops either. By the end of the week I was briskly walking about 8k around the rolling Cherrybrook suburbs and finding that I needed to run to work up any sort of a sweat. So now I'm doing something I've never done before. I'm running. Furthermore I have a target, having promised our daughter Sarah that I'll run a half marathon with her....just as soon as I'm able. Year Right! Whew!

So, before this gets too long I think I'll go and have a rest.