I have recently started reflecting on where plants in our garden are originally from, because people often ask me the same question about myself. Most of our flowers, fruits, veggies and herbs in the garden are from other countries. I have started writing a series of blog posts to explore some of our favourite flowers and edibles we have grown over the years which are from overseas. In this post, I would like to cover some flowers in our garden that are thought to be native to China.
Until I started researching the origins of some of our favourite plants in the garden, I didn’t know that vireyas are native to China. These plants can be sensitive to the cold and never performed well in the ground in our garden. A staff member at a garden centre in Auckland that I have gotten to know well over the years because I am a regular there suggested growing vireyas in containers instead. Since doing that, they have thrived and require very little care. We have several varieties in our garden and I have included a picture of each plant below.
A long time ago, the council planted a magnolia tree on the berm outside our house. In late winter and spring, it produces the most beautiful pink flowers. Because we didn’t plant it ourselves, I am not sure about the variety.
Orchids are thought to originate from China. They are of course the national flower of Singapore. There is a wonderful collection of orchids at the Botanical Gardens there. I have been to Singapore three times and on each occasion I visited the Botanical Gardens because I have always loved parks and gardens, even before I started gardening. That was my favourite feature.
I discovered that orchids seem to like being kept in a shady, sheltered site. One year, I moved our plants from the patio (where my nursery is for raising seedlings) to underneath our banana tree as I ran out of room for all my seedlings. They didn’t flower that well when they were kept in our patio but the plants have thrived in their new location and produced the most beautiful sprays of orchids. Earlier in the year I divided our plants, which was long overdue as I have never done this since purchasing them nearly a decade ago when I first started gardening. I repotted them using orchid mix. I highly recommend using this mixture which is formulated for growing orchids, as opposed to regular potting or container mix. We did get one flower this year but it might take a few seasons for the plants to recover from the shock of being divided and repotted and to start flowering again.
I grew asters from seed for the first time two years ago. I sowed the following varieties, all of which are available from Kings Seeds in New Zealand:
After a disastrous first attempt at growing asters from seed, I sought advice from Gerard Martin, the owner of Kings Seeds. He advised me to sow the seeds in punnets in mid-December and leave them in our greenhouse, as conditions can still be quite temperamental even in early summer. I placed the punnets in a plastic Sistema Crate. At night, I covered them with a lid but during the day when it was hot I left the lid off. The seedlings germinated really well. When the plants were large enough, I carefully pricked them out of the punnets and potted them up in trays, which I kept outside in our patio. I highly recommend protecting aster seedlings from snails and slugs. That was something I neglected to do the previous summer and was one of the reasons why my seedlings failed to grow. Here is a picture of some of my seedlings in our nursery.
When the seedlings were large enough, I planted them outside in one large garden bed. By then, it was early March. The timing was perfect as I had just removed our pumpkins, which had died off the vine early, in late February.
This is how the bed looked when the plants were in flower. I have also included a couple of close ups of the flowers.
As the name of the varieties I grew suggests, the plants were supposed to be tall. For some strange reason, they ended up dwarf, which was a bit disappointing as they were not suitable for picking. However, they added a lot of colour to the garden at a time of the year when a lot of plants have finished flowering. We did notice that bees were very attracted to the flowers, which was also good.