Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Pungas & Fernery.


I have always loved the look of NZ native tree ferns. It is a plant that always reminds me of home here in New Zealand and its native bush. They give the bush here a Primordial sort of vibe of a time before humans roamed the earth. Tree ferns are colloquially known in New Zealand as “Pungas”. This appears to be an English corruption of “Ponga”, a Maori name specific to Cyathea dealbata (silver fern). The unfolding fronds of the tree fern are represented in the Koru, now pretty much a symbol of our country & its Maori heritage. Punga trunks are commonly seen for sale but are not actually Ponga but Wheki (Dicksonia squarrosa). These are often used to make fencing or for garden retaining walls and often have a reasonable chance of coming back to life. 
When we first planted out our garden, we have one area of the yard that is heavily shaded from our Fig Tree and the neighbouring property's fence. We decided that this would be an area perfect for our "Fernery". We had a vision of eventually having a "Punga Forest" of sorts that would remind us of the great stands of Punga & native Ferns that we see out on our hikes in the NZ bush.
Most (but not all) ferns are shade lovers so in general you need to avoid planting in a windy spot and in full sunlit areas. Pungas (aka Tree Ferns) are very much in this category and one thing i have learned during my Fernery experience is that Pungas either need to be planted in the shade or at the very least under the protecting shadow of a larger pioneer tree. The other important thing to keep in mind if that they love moist soil and loath drying out in Summer. To avoid them drying out, apply lots of mulch over the root system to conserve soil moisture in summer. The idea is to try to simulate the bush conditions in which tree ferns grow best, giving them moist soil and high humidity.




There are two main groups of tree ferns in New Zealand: Cyathea and Dicksonia. They are easily distinguished since Cyathea is scaly and Dicksonia is hairy. The most frequently seen species of tree fern in New Zealand are Cyathea dealbata (silver fern), C. medullaris (Mamaku or black tree fern), C. smithii (katote), and Dicksonia squarrosa (wheki).



In terms of NZ native tree ferns there are about 9 varieties, they fall into 2 distinct species -

1. Dicksoniaceae (Dicksonia for short) are distinctive due to long woody trunks and crown of fronds on the top. The two common varieties are:
Dicksonia Squarrosa (
Whekī)
Dicksonia squarrosa is common throughout New Zealand, except in the coldest of habitats. It is particularly abundant around streams and other wet areas. Trunks of Dicksonia squarrosa often arise in close proximity, and the dead orange-brown fronds often give it a scruffy appearance. However, unlike D. fibrosa, D. squarrosa does not retain a skirt of dead fronds. The frond stalks of D. squarrosa are bristly-hairy, dark-brown, and comparatively long. Dicksonia squarrosa has buds on its trunk, and it can resprout if the main crown in damaged. Most “punga” trunks for sale are D. squarrosa. 


Dicksonia Fibrosa (
Whekī-ponga)


D. fibrosa is a slow-growing plant which has a very thick, soft and fibrous rusty brown trunk. It holds on to its dead leaves producing a distinctive pale brown skirt, distinguishing it from the related Dicksonia squarrosa. D. fibrosa can reach a height of 6 metres (20 ft).



2. Cyatheaceae (Cyathea for short) - different from the Dicksonia due to long hairs on the trunks. The two common varieties are:
Medullaris (Mamaku or Black Tree Fern)
The mamaku is one of the world's largest tree ferns, sometimes reaching over 18 metres and with individual fronds up to 6 metres, making a huge feathery umbrella. Mamaku like lots of light and are not found in dense bush, but rather on the moist fringes of forests, river banks or in light gaps such as old slip sites or road cuttings.




Dealbata (Silver Fern or Ponga)
The silver tree fern is easily distinguished from the mamaku, by having a distinctive silvery white underside to its fronds. It does not grow as tall, rarely exceeding 8-9 m and with upright fronds, like a shuttlecock, up to about 3.5 m. Unlike mamaku, these ferns prefer some light shade and also grows in drier spots. If grown in an open situation its fronds can become ragged and untidy and neither species will do well, or look attractive in very windy sites.




Smithii (K
ātote) 
It produces masses of very soft and delicate looking fronds which spread horizontally from the crown and reach 2 – 2.5m in length. The fronds rather than uncurling in the manner of most tree ferns, in which the main frond stalk unrolls almost to its full length before the "frondlets" (pinnae) unroll, the fronds tend to expand all at once up the length of the frond. The trunk is covered in chestnut coloured scales, and while it can reach up to 8m in height it is fairly slow growing. The old fronds hang down to form a skirt around the trunk, which helps protect it from pests and maintain some humidity.

Cunninghamii (Gully Tree Fern)
C. cunninghamii is an uncommon and slow-growing tree fern. It grows in damp forest, often emerging from stream gullies and riverbanks. The erect trunk may be 20 m tall and is usually 6-15 cm in diameter, occasionally as much as 20 cm. Fronds are tri- to tetrapinnate and 3 m or more in length. The branches are slender, black brown, warty and scaled. To do well in cultivation, C. cunninghamii needs a lot of moisture & shade. Rich humus is a good growing medium. Plants should be protected from the wind.



There are seven Cyathea species native to New Zealand. Five are endemic to New Zealand, with Cyathea cunninghamii also occurring in Australia and C. medullaris being recognised from several Pacific Islands. Two of the New Zealand species are confined to the subtropical Kermadec Islands: C. kermadecensis and C. milnei.








Monday, 19 December 2016

December: Summer In The Garden.


Well Summer is in mid-swing down here in New Zealand and the garden is in peak growth. It's actually been a great season so far as there has been fairly frequent rainfall so to not dry out the garden as in previous years. I think last year we needed to water almost every day as it didn't rain hardly at all for 4 months last Summer. There hasn't been a lot of fruit harvest at the moment but currently in season we are now harvesting:

 

Kale, Lettuce, Basil, Spring Onions, Chives, Dill, Zucchinis, Raspberries, Strawberries, Lemons, Limes, Rosemary, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes. 
Also available now is an interesting herb I've been growing called Epazote. Its used extensively in Mexican cooking for its unique flavour, but also because it has an interesting characteristic. It helps prevent gas (farts) from when you eat beans. It has a strong kerosene-like flavour fresh, but when cooked it has an appealing sort of earthy depth of flavour. Check it out & give it a go! 
I have just today harvested my first Tomato. I have a few varieties planted: Black Krim, Yellow Teardrop, Sweet 100, Red Roma, Beefsteaks plus a few other pop ups of unknown origin.

   

Roses have been flowering for over a month now and are now in peak bloom we have over 20 planted throughout the garden. Varieties include In Loving Memory, My Girl, Blackberry Nip, Amber Light, Metro, Freesia, Peace & Blue Moon.

 

The Lavender Farm has really taken off. And although it is in its first year it is looking great with loads of flower spikes. I will need to add some more bark mulch this week which is working out great to cover the weedmat but also conserve moisture. We should have a decent first harvest soon.


Gardenias have just this week started to pop. And i have to say they are THE best smelling flower I've sniffed. Just a couple in a room will scent the whole room with its luscious aroma.

In other flower news: Hydrangeas, Hibiscus, Gladioli & Aqualegias are all out and looking stunning.

 

 

As far as fruit coming along little Blackcurrants, Figs, Grapes, Oranges, Peaches, Nectarines, Apples, are all growing by the day for harvest within the coming months. 

 

 


In Citrus news: Limes are starting to become available now with a few coming to ripeness. But it isn't really until March that they will reach peak-Margarita. All the Citrus have now flowered and set little fruitlets ready for winter harvests. I do however have one Meiwa Kumquat just about ready to enjoy which will be my first home grown kumquat to eat!


 

 


New Citrus: Kiyomi Tangor & Okitsu Wase Mandarin


   

This week i have acquired two new Citrus buddies for the garden with both being able to be ready to eat straight off the tree. 
The first is the Kiyomi Tangor. I chose this guy as i've been FOMOing about the Sumo/Dekopon tree for a while now (check out my post here) and i discovered that Kiyomi is one of the parent varieties of the Dekopon so would be worth a try.
Kiyomi is a Tangor hybrid. It has a parentage of Miyagawa-wase (Satsuma mandarin) crossed with a Trovita orange at the Okitsu Branch, Fruit Research Station in Japan in 1949. It was named Kiyomi after the temple Seiken-ji (清見寺) and the lagoon Kiyomi-gata (清見潟) near its experiment station in Shizuoka city
Fruit are medium-large (150-200 g), flat, seedless, juicy, and orange scented.
The tree bears good crops of large, bright orange fruit with pebbly-textured skin that is fairly easy to peel. Rich and spicy in flavor, Kiyomi are sweet. Sugar content is normally 11–12°Bx and reaches even 13°Bx if conditions are met. Citric acid content is around 1%. It has no seeds. They will ripen about late September in NZ. The flavor is similar to that of a mikan Mandarin, while the aroma is similar to that of an Orange.


  

The second tree i chose this time is the Okitsu Wase Mandarin. I chose this tree as i had read promising things about them via the Fruit Mentor. In his taste test of over 60 varieties, Okitsu Wase was the overall winner:

"Okitsu Wase Satsuma was the overall winner. Tasters reported Okitsu Wase to be sweet with excellent flavor and very juicy. One taster also noted its fragrant skin. On a scale from 1 to 9, Okitsu Wase scored 7.3, a bit higher than “very good” (7)."


Another desirable quality is that Okitsu Wase is an early season Satsuma, in fact is the earliest ripening cultivar so is a good choice to help extend the season.

The fruit is Seedless, Easy Peel, good rich flavour with low acid and high sugar.  The skin has smooth pale yellow peel, and plump, juicy flesh. 


Okitsu is a variety from the Unshiu tangerine group Wase, second most popular and cultivated variety in Japan. It was discovered in 1940 as a Miyagawa' seedling in the Okitsu research station, Honshu. It was bred by crossing 'Miyagawa' with Poncirus. It is most commonly growing in the colder subtropical areas with harsh winters.


'Okitsu' is a big shrub or a small tree, it can grow up to 2,7m and has very wide, spherical crown made of curly branches with small spikes. The foliage is usually very scarce, but the large, pointed leaves resemble those of Unshiu tangerine 'Clausellina'. 'Okitsu' starts producing at very early age and is fairly resistant to cold but also dislikes hot and dry climates and can easily get sun-damaged during hot weather. It is also necessary to thin the fruit shortly after formation, because this variety usually produces much more than it can bring to full ripeness. Pollination is not required to produce high yields. Okitsu fruit is distinctively spherical or slightly flattened, average (5,5-8cm) weighs 120-190g and has a small navel with big neck. Its dark orange rind is soft, smooth, thin (2-4mm) and well attached to the refreshing, juicy (54%) orange pulp, which contains 19% sugars. It is usually divided into 11-12 segments and usually doesn't contain any seeds. 

The fruit is usually harvested in March-April in NZ and contains lots of acids in the pre-ripening phase; it usually ripens 15-20 days earlier than 'Owari'. Almost unripe fruit has to be carefully harvested and put into the storage to let it ripen. It is vital to be careful and not to damage the thin rind or otherwise the fruit dries out.



Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Citrus Hedge



I thought i'd share with you guys one area of my garden i call "The Citrus Hedge".
I planted most of it about 3 years ago and it seems this year it has really grown to its full potential. It runs along the southern edge of my section and was initially planted to screen off the neighbours for privacy but the main purpose was a space to practice intensive backyard orchard culture for delicious fruit! I first came across the concept of Backyard Orchard Culture online at Dave Wilson Nursery. (See Below). 


Here's what i have planted, just in this hedge area:

Feijoa Apollo
Eureka Lemon
Tarrocco Blood Orange
Tahitian Lime
Scarlett Burgess Mandarin
Variegated Calamondin
Tahitian Lime
Australian Finger Lime
Buddha's Hand
Cara Cara Orange
Invictus Gooseberry
Moro Blood Orange
Grapes : Albany Black & Niagra

Also planted down the side of house i have:

Peach Golden Queen
Apple Pacific Rose
Nectarine 
Peach Pixzee

They all seem to be growing well together the only thing is that some of the trees are more vigorous than others, so need pruning to control them so they don't invade the other tree's space. I have to be careful in the timing of this however as in NZ we have a nasty bug called Lemon Tree Borer that, if its around, will smell the freshly cut wounds and lay its eggs which in turn will bore destructively through the tree's branches. I also prune to keep the trees from taking over the whole space down the side of the house and to allow for walking down the area.



What is Backyard Orchard Culture? Here's the low down in a nutshell......

The objective of Backyard Orchard Culture is a prolonged harvest of tree-ripe fruit from a small space in the yard. This is accomplished by planting an assortment of fruit trees close together and keeping them small by summer pruning.
Backyard Orchard Culture Is Not Commercial Orchard Culture.
For years, most of the information about growing fruit came from commercial orchard culture: methods that promoted maximum size for maximum yield but required 12-foot ladders for pruning, thinning and picking, and 400 to 600 square feet of land per tree. Tree spacing had to allow for tractors. Most people today do not need nor expect commercial results from their backyard fruit trees. A commercial grower would never consider using his methods on a 90 ft. x 100 ft. parcel, so why should a homeowner?
Backyard Orchard Culture Is High Density Planting And Successive Ripening.
The length of the fruit season is maximized by planting several (or many) fruit varieties with different ripening times. Because of the limited space available to most homeowners, this means using one or more of the techniques for close-planting and training fruit trees; two, three or four trees in one hole, espalier, and hedgerow are the most common of these techniques. Four trees instead of one means ten to twelve weeks of fruit instead of only two or three. Close-planting offers the additional advantage of restricting a tree's vigor. A tree won't grow as large when there are competing trees close by. Close-planting works best when rootstocks of similar vigor are planted together. In many climates, planting more varieties can also mean better cross-pollination of pears, apples, plums and cherries, which means more consistent production.
Backyard Orchard Culture Means Accepting The Responsibility For Tree Size.
Small trees yield crops of manageable size and are much easier to spray, thin, prune, net and harvest than large trees. If trees are kept small, it is possible to plant a greater number of trees in a given space, affording the opportunity for more kinds of fruit and a longer fruit season. Pruning is the only way to keep most fruit trees under twelve feet tall. The most practical method of pruning for size control is Summer Pruning. There are several reasons why summer pruning is the easiest way to keep fruit trees small. Reducing the canopy by pruning in summer reduces photosynthesis (food manufacture), thereby reducing the capacity for new growth. Summer pruning also reduces the total amount of food materials and energy available to be stored in the root system in late summer and fall. This controls vigor the following spring, since spring growth is supported primarily by stored foods and energy. And, for many people, pruning is more enjoyable in nice weather than in winter, hence more likely to get done.

 

 


Monday, 31 October 2016

The Elusive Tamarillo.


Finally, after years of barren stumps & Leaf-less tree skeletons, i have one of my Tamarillo trees that has borne fruit! I have struggled to grow Tamarillos for many years now usually tossing them on the compost pile once they seemingly die & drop all their leaves. Well as it happens it seems you have to break through the other side after leaf drop and they will eventually come good again & bear fruit!
Albeit a very small Tamarillo fruit, it is a massive leap of confidence & i won't bin this year's trees after all. 

  

Tamarillos are native to the Andes in South America but can be grown in many subtropical regions around the world. Prior to 1967, the Tamarillo was known as the "tree tomato" in New Zealand, but a new name was chosen by the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council in order to distinguish it from the ordinary garden tomato and increase its exotic appeal. The choice is variously explained by similarity to the word "tomato", the Spanish word "amarillo", meaning yellow, and a variation on the Maori word "tama", for "son or boy". They are a popular tree grown in NZ home gardens and will often be seen in supermarkets during the season.
The plant is a fast-growing tree that grows up to 5 meters. Peak production is reached after 4 years, and the life expectancy is about 12 years. The tree usually forms a single upright trunk with lateral branches. The flowers and fruits hang from the lateral branches. The leaves are large, simple and perennial, and have a strong pungent smell. The flowers are pink-white, and form clusters of around 10 flowers. They produce 1 to 6 fruits per cluster. Plants can set fruit without cross-pollination, but the flowers are fragrant and attract insects. Cross-pollination seems to improve fruit set. The roots are shallow and not very pronounced, therefore the plant is not tolerant to drought stress, and can be damaged by strong winds.
The fruits are egg shaped and about 4-10cm long. Their colour varies from yellow and orange to red and almost purple. Sometimes they have dark, longitudinal stripes. Red fruits are more acidic, yellow and orange fruits are sweeter. The red and purple types of fruits are preferred even though they taste more acidic, their colour is preferred by consumers. he flesh has a firm texture and contains more and larger seeds than a common tomato. The fruits are very high in vitamins and iron and low in calories.
The flesh of the tamarillo is tangy and variably sweet, with a bold and complex flavor, and may be compared to kiwifruit, tomato, guava, or passion fruit. The fruit is eaten by scooping the flesh from a halved fruit. Some people in New Zealand cut the fruit in half, scoop out the pulpy flesh, sprinkle lightly sugared and add to cereal at breakfast. Yellow-fruited cultivars have a sweeter flavor, occasionally compared to mango or apricot. The red-fruited variety, which is much more widely cultivated, is more tart, and the savory aftertaste is far more pronounced. In New Zealand, Tamarillos fruit around October. The skin and the flesh near it have a bitter taste and are not usually eaten raw.