I have written a few blog posts about myself so my readers can get to know me. I thought it might be nice to continue to share a bit about my passion for gardening and describe what it means to me. I have been gardening for over a decade. I divide my time between gardening (a practical act) and garden writing (in the form of my blog and free weekly gardening newsletters). I also maintain an active Facebook and Instagram page which enables me to connect with people who would like to be a part of my world. I enjoy sharing my gardening journey. So many people have inspired, encouraged and taught me about gardening so it’s nice to share what I have learnt with others.
I started by planting a lily in an existing garden bed after my father passed away in June 2012 and it grew from there. I do put my heart and soul into our garden, which is quite humble and situated on a suburban sized section in Manukau, a suburb in South Auckland in New Zealand. I dug up our entire front lawn! Those were the exact words that one of my former bosses, a partner at a large law firm in the city, said to me when he saw the garden one evening. Gardening has helped me to grow and develop as a person. However, it isn’t for everyone and others may find that they enjoy other activities. I made the mistake of creating a larger garden than I could handle because I got carried away by my passion. I ended up developing a love/hate relationship with gardening, so I try to make time for other hobbies to maintain balance in my life. I enjoy going for a walk in the morning and swimming at the local outdoor swimming pool occasionally. I also try to remember to make time for socialising. I catch up with my best friend who I went to school with and is a secondary school teacher. This year I want to spend more time chatting to my younger cousin in Whangarei and getting to know her more.
The garden has helped me immensely with my mental health. I have already written about this here, so I won’t repeat myself. You can also read the post I wrote for the UK Gardening with Disabilities trust here.
The garden is a little sanctuary, an oasis where I can escape the hustle and bustle of the outside world. It is a place where I can go to so I can reflect on things. While I am working, so many ideas for developing my garden and content for my blog and newsletters come to mind. It’s a lot like that when I exercise outdoors. I find that I think a lot more clearly when I’m active than resting and also when I’m outdoors rather than indoors. It was a lifesaver during the lockdowns because it provided me with a safe space to go where I wouldn’t catch Covid. I didn’t want to go out because I would have to use the Covid app or sign the register. I didn’t want to risk being forced by the government to take a Covid test and whisked off to the Airport hotel under the law if it came back positive. I know that the people isolated and incarcerated there were looked after very well with proper meals and good medical care, but I didn’t like my freedom being interfered with like that. It was bad enough that our rights were already infringed by measures taken by the government during the pandemic. The airport hotel was the last straw. A major worry was being separated from our adorable cat Ginger, who is currently missing from Anita’s Garden. We hope she returns to us one day after she has enjoyed many exciting cat adventures somewhere else.
The garden has helped to unleash my creative side. In recent years, I started to spend time designing garden beds, such as my formal mass flower displays (click here to read my blog post about them). Gardening has also provided me with a way to express my gratitude and affection for others. I love sharing produce, plants and flowers with people that I’m close to. I used to go to a gym in a neighbouring suburb and really enjoyed sharing things from the garden with staff members who were very kind and helpful towards me.
It’s the first of March today and therefore officially autumn in New Zealand. The mornings are crisper, the days lovely and warm and daylight hours are shorter. The sun rises later than in summer and has started setting earlier. Before we know it, daylight saving will be here and we will have to put the clocks an hour back.
The season for ordering spring bulbs has started and I’m so excited about the new bulbs I will be planting this autumn for flowering in winter and spring. We already have lots of jonquils, daffodils, dutch iris, gladioli nanus and freesias in our garden. We also have lachenalias and miniature daffodils growing in pots. I usually plant fresh anemones, ranunculus and tulips every year as they tend not to reflower that well. Although tulips especially are essentially an expensive annual, for me it’s worth it because nothing beats picking fresh flowers daily and making arrangements, many of which we share with close friends. I also love taking photographs of our arrangements so I have something nice to look back on when they are out of season or at times of the year when we don’t have flowers in bloom in our garden.
I have ordered the following spring bulbs for planting in autumn. I have tried to order a large enough amount of each variety so hopefully some of them flower at the same time and I can make arrangements, which look nice. In saying that, bouquets of mixed tulips can also look nice. This is a bunch of mixed tulips which I gave to the gym I used to go to.
I have indicated the supplier of the bulbs I purchased this year in brackets incase other gardeners in New Zealand are interested in sourcing them for their own garden or to give as a gift. I have done that myself a couple of years ago when I sent some tulip and daffodils to my cousin to plant in her garden. She was very happy. If you live overseas, you may be able to find these varieties through foreign bulb suppliers. You may also have lots of other lovely varieties which are not available in New Zealand so don’t worry. I’m sure there is a good selection overseas, too. Don’t forget to check whether your climate is suitable for growing tulips. I am not sure if they will do well in very hot climates.
It pays to keep an eye on suppliers’ websites because sometimes they add more varieties over the selling period, which is usually autumn. On the same token, popular varieties can sell out quickly so it pays not to delay too much. You may find that you end up placing several orders which is what I did but suppliers are usually very understanding about this. Sometimes it’s possible to merge orders or the supplier might add the additional bulbs to an existing order and you can pay for them by transferring the funds into the suppliers’ bank account.
For the first time, I ordered the following Italian anemones: Azzurro, Bianco Centro Nero and Rarity. I am very excited about growing them as they look so beautiful and very different to the ordinary varieties I have grown in the past. I have left it a bit late to sow anemones and ranunculus from seed but it gives me something to look forward to next year. Egmont Seeds have a great range in the cut flower section on their website. I haven’t seen Italian ranunculus corms available for sale anywhere but I would like to buy some plants from Emerden when they sell them in June or July. They also look very beautiful and different to regular ranunculus varieties.
Here are links to the New Zealand mail order bulb suppliers that I have sourced the bulbs set out below from.
I have already shared some pictures of tulips I ordered this year which I have grown in the past in my previous blog post. Here are a couple more photos.
Usually I plant my tulip bulbs towards the end of May when it’s cooler as we live in Auckland, where the winters can be quite mild. If you plant the bulbs too early, they may not flower well. The bulbs are also going to be pre-chilled for me (or I am doing so myself if the supplier can’t do this. Some can, others can’t) which helps achieve longer stems in warmer regions.
Mum and I are currently at our bach (beach house) in the far north for a fortnight. We are very upset that our cat has been missing (see below) and needed to escape from our home and garden which our beloved cat is very much a part of. It has given me the opportunity to order more spring bulbs for the winter garden (see below), work on my free weekly gardening newsletters and write some blog posts.
Ginger is missing!
Our beloved garden cat has been missing from Anita’s Garden. We miss her dearly. If anyone has any information, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you.
Last year I had a break from gardening after a decade because I felt very drained. I am pleased to return to the garden with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. I have ordered the following spring bulbs for planting in autumn.
Anemones and ranunculus
Here are a few photos of some of these varieties that I grew two years ago
Wairere Nursery have been expanding their collection of David Austin roses. I planted The Lady Gardener last year, which I purchased from them. I couldn’t resist ordering two more for our garden to replace some of the roses I lost last year while I wasn’t well. I have requested Roald Dahl and Bathsheba.
When I first started writing my gardening blog back in 2017, I had not planned on having a global audience. I am an extremely passionate gardener who lives on a small section in a suburb of Auckland called Manukau. My intended audience was local and I started to write a free weekly gardening newsletter to help people get into gardening. I recently installed Google Analytics to help me keep track of the geographical spread of my website visitors and was very pleased and surprised to see that they come from many different countries around the world. Welcome to my website! I really hope you find the information interesting and informative. When I last checked, this is where my website traffic is from, in order of highest to lowest.
I’m pleased to share more photos of dahlia seedlings in my breeding programme. This pink one is my favourite so far.
Here are some photos of other dahlias in my trial which I feel are worth growing on for a further year to stablisise before deciding whether to keep them.
Two years ago, I planted a number of daffodils in our garden. I thought it might be nice to share some photos of them. I planted a naturalizing mix which contained different varieties. The bulbs were different sizes. I also planted some different named varieties. I have never had much luck growing daffodils in the past and was really happy with the results. I really enjoyed arranging the flowers too!
I really enjoyed making mixed bouquets. I gave most of them away to friends and other people that I am close to.
Here are a couple of photos of my favourite variety in the naturalizing mix I planted. I’m really sorry but I don’t know its name.
I have a few different miniature daffodils planted in pots. Here is a picture of one of them. It is called Jetfire.
I have written a bit about the David Austin roses we have in our garden, which you can read about here and here. I wanted to share some photos and details regarding the rest of the roses we have in our garden. I did lose a few roses over the past couple of months so I will try and find replacements in the new year.
A Gardener's Dream
I added this rose to our garden two years ago. It has become one of my favourite roses.
This is a stunning yellow rose which flowers profusely year round.
I added this rose to the garden after I saw a picture of it in a gardening group I belong to. I am not much of a drinker so I didn't realise that the rose was named after an alcoholic beverage.
I simply had to add this rose to our garden after a gardening friend posted a photo of it in her garden.
This rose was planted back in 2017 by a pair of American woofers who stayed with us (along with four other roses).
This is a stunning yellow rose which is also incredibly vigorous.
A long time ago I managed to find this classic red climbing rose as a standard, which was really lucky. This was one of the roses planted by the pair of American woofers who helped me so much, not just in the garden but also with life generally. I learnt so much from them in the short time they stayed with us. They had a lot of great ideas. I really admired their passion and determination.
The assistant manager of my favourite garden centre recommended that I add this rose to our garden, which I did and I have no regrets.
This is a very low maintenance rose which flowers well in our garden.
This pink rose made a fantastic addition to our garden.
My aunt who lives across the road kindly gave us this rose after my father passed away. Unfortunately it died recently so I will try and find a replacement.
This is a beautiful red rose. The petals have a very different shape to Dublin Bay.
Mum in a Million
This is a beautiful pink rose. Here's an idea - it makes an ideal mother's day present for a mum who loves roses!
Merry Christmas and all the best for 2024!
I am excited to share that some of the dahlias in my breeding programme which I started in spring last year have already started flowering!
At the moment I am on holiday at our bach and expect to return home in the early new year. I can’t wait to see if more of the plants have started flowering and share more photos with you.
This is the second post in a series about all of the different roses in our garden. In this blog post, I would like to cover the remaining Austin varieties I have planted over the years.
Unfortunately I lost this rose recently. I hope I am able to find a replacement as it is absolutely beautiful.
As the name suggests, this is a very golden yellow rose.
Lady of Shalott
I planted this rose last year and it has flourished in our garden.
I haven’t covered all of the roses we have in our garden yet. I thought it might be nice to share some photos of the different varieties we have and make a few comments about each. I only have standard roses in our garden. My aunt, who incidentally lives across the road, has a row of standard roses next to their carport. They look very elegant planted in a row. I have always admired them, so that’s why I decided to plant those too. It’s a shame because having only standard roses limits you. There are so many more varieties that are sold as bush roses, especially David Austin varieties which are very beautiful and sometimes quite hard to source in New Zealand. I try and keep my posts on the short side so they are easy and quick to read, so I will cover all of the roses in our garden in a series of posts, starting with David Austin and then moving on to our New Zealand roses.
I just wanted to make one point. While I adore David Austin roses, I don’t think they perform quite as well in our garden as they would in England, where they were bred. Standard roses are sometimes referred to as “tree roses”. I never seem to be able to achieve a true “tree” shape that you would typically see in England. It might be due to the way I prune them, so I’m not sure whether that is the reason or if the shape is different if they are grown in a different country. In any event, they don’t flower as profusely as they would if grown in their home country. The shape of Austin rose flowers is very distinctive and I can’t help but be attracted to them, which is why we have quite a few different varieties in our garden.
Another thing. Sometimes people ask me which ones are scented and which ones aren’t, and what their fragrance is like. I’m embarrassed to say that I honestly don’t know. I am so busy working in the garden every day that I don’t have time to smell the roses!
Finally, while I have planted one of each of the different varieties that have appealed to me over the years and were available in NZ, a row of the same colour can look quite stunning. My dentist loves gardening too (you can read a bit more about this here) and he has a row of white Iceberg roses in a garden bed outside his practice. Iceberg isn’t an Austin variety but you could achieve a similar effect with Winchester Cathedral, for example, which we have in our garden and is covered below.
I purchased this variety from a specialist mail order rose supplier called D & S Nurseries a number of years ago. The couple have since retired and closed the business which is a shame because they had an excellent range of Austin roses which can be difficult to source in New Zealand as I have mentioned above.
Winchester Cathedral also came from D & S Nurseries. I purchased it at the same time as Sharifa Asma and planted them next to each other.
The Ambridge Rose
This variety also came from D & S Nurseries.
The Alnwick Rose
A friend that I went to law school with absolutely loves this rose. She has only seen pictures of it so far but I hope to have her around when it is flowering so she can see it in person. Her favourite Austin variety is called Sweet Juliet which looks really beautiful. The problem is that it isn’t available as a standard rose in New Zealand. I am so keen to expand my collection of Austin roses beyond the limited selection offered as standard varieties that I am actually considering planting a row of bush roses in our garden, including Sweet Juliet if I am able to source it.
This is a very reliable performer in our garden. There are almost always flowers on Abraham Darby year round.
This would have to be one of my all-time favourite roses and the name captures it perfectly.
I planted this rose two years ago to replace Margaret Merrill, which died. It came from a specialist rose nursery called Tasman Bay Roses in Motueka.
Princess Alexandra of Kent
This is the only really pink Austin rose in our garden.
The Lady Gardener
I added this rose to our garden in winter. It comes from Wairere Nurseries. I have wanted it for ages as it is beautiful and the name sums me up perfectly. For many years it was unavailable but I didn’t give up hope. I kept requesting it on a back order and eventually Wairere contacted me and said that it had finally become available. It hasn’t flowered yet so I have shared a picture of the rose after I planted it.
In my next blog post, I will cover all of the yellow and golden Austin roses in our garden.
Today is the last day of Labour Weekend, a long weekend in New Zealand which falls towards the end of October. It is significant for gardeners as it marks the time of the year when people start planting their summer garden. The seasons have shifted due to climate change, so I’m a bit cautious about planting my seedlings outdoors just yet. But there is plenty to do outside and I have been very busy harvesting our remaining winter veggies in order to create space for our summer garden.
Reflecting on Anita’s Garden
Put it down to middle age, but I have been feeling quite nostalgic about the past. I have been gardening for a decade now. It is hard to believe that our sprawling garden on a suburban section in South Auckland grew from the simple act of planting an oriental lily called Hot Spot in my father’s memory after he passed away in June 2012.
It is even harder to believe that once upon a time, I was very academic and not at all inclined towards practical activities like gardening. I also spent most of my time indoors. I just can’t believe that I spent five years at uni studying to become a lawyer and worked overseas for a further five years. It really does feel like that all took place in a former life. I’m very content with my outdoorsy life now. Working outside is excellent therapy for my mental health, which you can read more about here.
In the early part of the long weekend, I created this container garden in our patio.
The two rows on the right contain herbs (chives, Italian parsley, curly parsley, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary and coriander). To the left of that are lavender plants that I grew from cuttings I took last spring, which I repotted into larger pots. To the left of the lavender are a number of special petunias I managed to purchase on special from Kings Plant Barn and that were heavily discounted at Mitre10 MEGA Manukau. I used small terracotta pots that I managed to get on clearance at Bunnings last year for $5 each. Finally on the left-hand side are the 14 tropical impatien plants which I grew from seed last spring and looked after in our greenhouse over winter. They all survived and I repotted them into larger pots.
I also planted ten cherry tomatoes I purchased from the garden centre a few weeks ago into containers. Cherry tomatoes can be grown in the ground too, but these ones are varieties that are suitable for growing in containers which is great if you’re short on ground space like me, or don’t want to create a garden bed. They are also ideal for people that live in a town house or apartment.
Yesterday, mum harvested these veggies from our brassica patch. I didn’t raise these plants from seed as I normally do. They were planted as seedlings which came from Awapuni, a mail order plant supplier in New Zealand. Awapuni very kindly and generously gave me a voucher to spend online as part of our on-going collaboration. We go back a long way and have been working together for six years now, since I started my small business Anita’s Garden in 2017.
A year ago, I wanted to give up veggie gardening and start a flower farm on our front lawn. I blame dahlia mania. I got a bit carried away by all of the beautiful and interesting dahlia varieties that became available in New Zealand in recent years thanks to the hard work on the part of the large mail order bulbs suppliers in the country, as well as a few dedicated dahlia suppliers who were prepared to brave the red tape associated with importing plant material into NZ, not to mention it being a very costly and time consuming process. But ironically it was actually an established flower farmer in Otago that I became very close to after purchasing some dahlia tubers from her a few years ago that discouraged me from giving up edible gardening altogether. Even long before veggies reached extortionately high prices this year due to our terrible summer last season, Jenny firmly felt that being self-sufficient was something that was worth striving for and wanted to head in that direction herself. She was very interested in my focus on homesteading and self-sufficiency, which is what I was doing before I became interested in growing cut flowers. I’m so glad I listened to Jenny as dahlias have proven more trouble than they’re worth, which you can read about in my previous post if you wish. A couple of months ago, I sent her an assortment of veggie seeds to help her get started with her own potager.
Harvesting more Liseta potatoes
I harvested the last of our Liseta early potatoes in order to make room for my dahlias. Some of them are ready to be planted in the ground so the timing was perfect.
So far I have planted a row and a half of the famous variety Café au Lait (CAL). I purchased quite a few tubers from Garden Post last year as my plan at that time was to have a flower farm and they had them heavily discounted at the end of the season for just $6 each. I’m really glad I purchased 9 tubers as this year the price was $23 each. They were also XXL tubers which I have never seen before. When you purchase dahlias, usually the tuber they send you is very small. When my order arrived, I was shocked that the tubers were large enough to be divided into several plants, which I didn’t do as I’m quite cautious. It was the right thing to do though as we had a very wet summer in Auckland, with floods and cyclones. I lost a lot of small tubers to rot, but CAL performed very well and I had large clumps at the end of the season when I lifted my tubers. Had I divided the tubers into small pieces when they arrived, I might have lost the lot to rot.
Dahlia breeding programme
Since purchasing dahlias has become so difficult and expensive, I have decided not to add any more varieties to our garden and focus on edible gardening again. However, I am very keen to continue my dahlia breeding programme, which I started last year and you can read about here. Again, I owe a huge thank you to Jenny, the florist-flower farmer in Otago who I referred to above, for encouraging me to do this, as she has been doing the same thing over the past few years. She has even started selling varieties she has bred and given them a name. Jenny’s business is called Studio 24 Botanicals. She focuses on growing and arranging flowers for weddings. She lives in Wanaka, which is a very touristy part of the country and a popular location for weddings in summer. In winter, Jenny divides her dahlia tubers and sells the excess on her website, which is how I got to know her as I purchased some a few years ago. I was very impressed not only with the quality of her tubers but also her hard work ethic. Normally, a person would be either a florist or a flower farmer and just one of those alone involves a lot of work. But Jenny didn’t mind putting in the extra effort and wanted to be both! I have always admired people that are very driven and determined to go the extra mile to try and achieve something in life. There is nothing that I love more than an interesting conversation (except maybe a joke) and we have had plenty of them. I think we can all learn from each other. I have learnt a lot about growing flowers from Jenny, which I was not so knowledgeable about before and in turn, Jenny became inspired to start an edible garden and work towards becoming self-sufficient. Jenny featured in a podcast series called Dish the Dirt on Spotify. Here is the link if you are interested in learning more about what she does.