Wheel alignment

Friday 8 December 2023

Weird and wonderful

 Along with bikes, classic cars and sea fishing, I like gardens; if not the actual act of gardening!  Where we live in NZ, it's a very mild climate and frosts are rare.  Much of the area is bush-covered including a fair bit of our property but there's still space for interesting stuff to be grown which is generally low maintenance.  We're not into formal European-style gardens so in addition to various citrus trees, apples and plums, we like to grow colourful plants and have plants in flower the whole year round.  As we're only a few days into summer and just for a change from things automotive, I thought I'd share some of the plants which are making a great show right now.

We overlook Coromandel Harbour and have tree ferns, succulents and native trees planted in the front garden, with lower colourful plants under and between them. The two spiky plants almost centre are Yucca Rostrata Sapphire Skies.  Wonderful for impaling incautious grandchildren and unwary visitors.

Looking south over the harbour

I'm a big fan of bromeliads as they're relatively low maintenance and a lot of varieties prefer shade or semi-shade.  Perfect  for growing under taller foliage. The one below is about 70 cm across and keeps its colour all year.  Most of them propagate by growing pups so there's not much work involved.
Variegated bromeliad

The bromeliad below has old family friend status.  It was on special in a pot at our local supermarket in Tokoroa about 30 years ago.  It was in a wizened state which reflected the price of under $1.  It remained in the pot on our deck as we got winter frosts in Tokoroa and didn't do much.    We brought it to Coromandel, stuck it in the garden and it took off, producing lots of pups which have been scattered round the garden and also given to neighbours.

Nondescript bromeliad

The following bromeliad is one of the really weird ones in our collection.  The leaves aren't much to look at, just being green and narrow but it throws out flower spikes about 50 cm long which last for about 9 months and look like something out of a sci-fi movie!  I'm terrible at keeping the name tags and can't remember what it's called.  It's a prolific grower and we've divided it up and foisted it on unlucky neighbours up and down the street.

Not a clue what the latin name of this bromeliad is

The Guzmania is another type of bromeliad which produces a scarlet bract about 50 cm tall with yellow flowers at the top.  We call it a Triffid for anyone who is familiar with the original John Wyndham book or the movie.

Guzmania, aka The Triffid

We have many more types of bromeliad in the garden but they don't flower at this time of the year.  One particular type is about 1.5 metres across!

The purple-flowered ground cover is Spanish Shawl from Mexico and Guatemala.  We have a number of tree fern trunks which have remained standing after they have died and provide a nice platform for Spanish Shawl to grow on.  Basically zero maintenance and makes an excellent weed mat.  The orange-coloured plant in the foreground is a climbing orchid.  It used to climb up one of the departed tree ferns but I haven't got round to relocating it.

Spanish Shawl and a climbing orchid

A rather less exotic plant than those above is the Lacecap Hydrangea.  We brought it as a cutting from Tokoroa nearly 20 years ago, much against Jennie's wishes as she doesn't like it.  Consequently, it's in a part of the garden rarely visited by Jennie. Quite slow-growing in dry clay soil but it will eventually grow to a couple of metres.  We have other hydrangea varieties which Madame approves of!

Hydrangea Macrophylla Lacecap

The variegated Canna Lily is mainly grown for its foliage, although the flowers are attractive too.  Like the rest of our plants, they're low maintenance and form dense clumps.

Variegated Canna Lily

The Hibiscus is one of several around the garden.  It's slow-growing in our more temperate climate as it's a fully tropical plant.  Nonetheless, it flowers prolifically and each flower is as big as an adult handspan.

Tropical Hibiscus

We have a couple of Bird of Paradise plants which form dense clumps up to nearly 2 metres tall.  They've just about finished flowering for the year.  Another zero maintenance plant which looks spectacular.

Bird of Paradise

We have a number of different types and colours of Bottlebrush in the garden.  Apart from the long-lasting flowers, the bees and Monarch butterflies love them.  They're reasonably fast growing so pruning is a more or less annual activity.
Australian Bottlebrush

We planted the Jacaranda tree back in the early 2000's not long after we'd bought the place.  It's in an area of the garden with minimal topsoil and is a slow grower.  It was only about 3 years ago that it flowered for the first time.  I suspect that it was my threat of cutting it down which prompted action on its part.  It's only 3 metres high at present but they do eventually grow into large specimens.  More pruning ahead.  

Jacaranda tree flower spike

The photo below shows 2 varieties of Bougainvillea - Scarlet O'Hara and something else.  They have a charmed life.  We must be the only family in Coromandel that has trouble growing them and they have narrowly escaped pruning to ground level on multiple occasions.  Maybe it's the threats or the fact that we had a wet 2023 but they're currently flowering well for the first time.  Must try talking to plants on a regular basis.

Bougainvillea species

The NZ flax leaves (Phormium Tenax) have been traditionally used by Maori for weaving etc as the fibres are long and extremely strong.  However, the flower spikes are extremely decorative as the photo below shows.  They also attract the nectar-eating native Tui bird.

Flax stalk

There are heaps of additional interesting plants in the garden but they'll flower or fruit later in the season.  To finish off, we have quite a bit of garden art and my favourite one of a stylised bird was made by a local German potter, Petra Meyboden.  The pottery pole it sits on is about 1.5 metres tall and the glazes she uses are really bright.  Petra is an interesting character and owns a few hectares of land.  All her pottery is on display around her kilns and if she's not about, there's an honesty box for payment!
Garden art

The photos below show part of Petra's pottery for sale on her property.

Petra's garden art for sale

Petra's domestic pottery for sale

I might add that we get heaps of native and non-native birds in the garden at this time of year.  There are plenty of nectar-producing plants to attract the native Tui.  The following photo was taken about 3 weeks ago when our kowhai tree was still flowering.

Tui drinking nectar from the kowhai tree

We also get flocks of Californian Quail in our area and they become quite tame as most people feed them in the winter when food is less plentiful.  A few days ago, one of the male quail brought its babies to introduce them - awfully cute.  

Pa Quail and chicks visiting for a feed

 I hope that you've enjoyed this diversion from the normal blog subject matter - it's a nice time of the year down south to enjoy nature.


  1. Your garden looks wonderful Geoff. Really colourful, and with great views too. Just what I needed to make me jealous on an exceptionally wet, and now already dark Friday afternoon here in Northern Ireland. We have a variegated New Zealand Flax in the garden too. It only produces spikes every ten years or so, (last year was a flowering one), but over here the birds are not interested in such a non-native plant. All the NZ flax in the whole country seem able to synchronise their flowering.

    Happy Christmas,


  2. Thanks for the kind words Ian. When we bought the property, it was over-run with an invasive fern and Agapanthus, which is considered to be a pest here. There was a huge amount of work to get it looking ok as the property is quite steep too. It's only our nectar-eating bird species which are interested in the flax.

    Every good wish for the festive season to you and your family.


  3. Geoff, what a beautiful sight. I often think of your garden. I never got the chance to see it in full bloom as the season was already going towards fall when I visited. I will certainly miss this and you splendid water views forever. Wishing you and your family happy holidays. Cheers from rainy Germany, SonjaM

    1. Hiya Sonja! You and Roland are welcome anytime, it's been too long. May you both have a wonderful Christmas and an even better 2024 💕. Take care.......


Hello! I love to hear your feedback as it often leads to other things. However, if your comments are blatant advertising, then they won't get published.