Gardening: Reach for the sky

By Leigh Bramwell

If there's a dead giveaway that you've just finished planting a new area of garden, it's that all the plants are the same size. Short. You slave for hours over a hot spade and at the end of the day you have a new garden that looks ... short.

So here's a trick. I discovered it (well, probably thousands discovered it before I did) when I dug the shovel into the middle of our new grass garden and stood back for a look. Yep. Looked fine. I removed the shovel to return it to the shed and turned back for a last look. Not fine. Short.

I reinstated the shovel. Vast improvement. Since I didn't want trees or tall shrubs in this particular piece of garden, the solution was a tall, slender post, or pou, as they call them in our part of the world. It's a great way to add instant height to the garden without planting something that will want its head chopped off a few years down the track.

Pou are easy to come by. You can use a fencepost, a dead ponga trunk, a piece of bamboo, a pole (you can put a flag on it if you like), a stone pillar or a genuine, carved Maori pou. Any of them will add a dimension to your garden that'll give the illusion of maturity - or at least draw the eye away from ground level.

If you want to add something permanent and substantial, it might require someone to dig a hole and fill it with quick-set concrete before positioning your post in it.

I suspect the rule of landscape design that says you must plant in uneven numbers also applies to pou. If you have two, they look like there should be a gate hung between them. A single piece is fine for a small garden, while three look great in a more spacious setting. For a cohesive look, choose something which complements architecture or design features nearby.

Garden guides

Two very handy and one potentially handy book arrived in the mail this week.

Ken Ring's New Zealand Weather Almanac is not the sort of book I would pick up in a million years, partly because I'm disenchanted with weather forecasts. The met office gets our weather right about half the time, and they're only predicting a few days in advance. It's hard then to believe someone who suggests the weather on my birthday next year will be clear and cold, with showers developing. (Actually, it probably will be, but you could say the same about any day in Kerikeri between June and October.)

But it must be admitted that The Landscaper fell upon the almanac and spent the next hour reading weather predictions. He has vowed to mark off each day and see what the success rate is.

Ken absolves himself from responsibility for wrecking your wedding or trashing your car rally by explaining the difference between prediction and potential, and erring on the side of potential. It's $50 - invaluable if you need it for farming, fishing and gardening - provided it's right.

I was much more excited about the Yates Garden Problem Solver, which is a visual guide to easy diagnosis and practical remedies for such garden plagues as rust, scale, leaf spot, frost damage, viruses and more on most of the plants that we grow in our garden.

This book is clear, sensible, well-organised and cleverly illustrated, and will save me hours of Googling trying to find out what's gone wrong with my blueberry. Just as well it has one of those rather unstylish laminated covers, otherwise it'd be in tatters after a couple of months. It's $30 - less than the price of my Luisa Plum.

Similarly handy is The Beginner's Garden. It's a simple guide to growing the ultimate kitchen garden by David Haynes, and I can see it being equally well used. It says it's for absolute beginners but we're all beginners when it comes to some plants, and I was pleased to find useful guides to growing a number of things I know nothing about.

It's divided into specific plants and lists soil, water, location, nutrients, propagation, spacing, maintenance, harvesting, yield and pests and diseases. Something as useful and clear as this book is bound to encourage many gardeners to grow with confidence. It's $35 - the cost of three magazines and a flat white.

- Hamilton News

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