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  • Writer's pictureJill Simpson

Summer 2023

Summer in all its wonderful moments is passing so quickly. . So many people sharing our garden and so many interesting conversations as the days speed by. We have loved having help from a wonderful talented gardener from Germany who has been an apprentice at the beautiful Hermannshof Garden in Germany. Helen has been such a wonderful help in the perennial gardens that I wonder how I managed before.

It was a wet somewhat cool Spring and a cool start to summer which meant weeds grew in abundance. This is a garden in which I am trying to be as natural in my approach as I can but the weeds almost overwhelmed me in spite the reassurance from lovely visitors telling me they didn't really see them in the big picture. Helens arrival in mid January has been such a relief. I have been able to focus on some of the newer plantings and find time to chat with visitors knowing that the perennial gardens are in good hands. A blessing.

Now unlike the North Island of New Zealand which has had catastrophic rain this summer we are extremely dry. Last year after we had 300mm of rain in just over a day causing our garden to close because of damage to our land and access roads it remained wet all summer into winter and I learnt that some of my plantings couldn't cope with so much wet. This year especially the last few weeks has been hot windy and dry. So I'm thinking about the plantings going forward. Talking to so many of our garden visitors has shown me that I'm definitely not alone in wondering how to choose plants for such variable conditions. Gradually I'm realising that the answer is not that I should try to create drought tolerant or moist prairie style plantings but that I accept change as a constant. I have created this garden so far using NewZealand native trees and shrubs as the long term structure of the garden and I continue this as I go forward. These are the plants that evolved here that I think have the greatest chance of survival as well as grounding the garden in its place in the world. I'm blending non native plants with seasonal interest into the gardens within this structure. These are the plants that I see as changing over time. Plantings that can respond to change and will accommodate the fact that rain might vary massively between years and between seasons going from one extreme to another. In the past my plantings were often in blocks of one plant be it shrub or perennial. Now because so much of this planting had to be removed after the wet I'm now trying to use blends of plants with many individual or small clumps repeated so that in the event of one plant failing there are other plants surviving around it holding the total. This is a work in progress. It has surprised me sometimes which plants have managed both extreme wet and dry as well. They are becoming my go to plants in some plantings.

I've also been wondering if plantings can be a little bit more ephemeral than I have accepted in the past. I've loved the opportunity to replant some areas. It has kept my interest up. So I think now that rather than wish for constancy in the weather I'm going to try to enjoy the different opportunities it creates.

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