All posts by kaiparacoast

A Metre a Month

by David Bayly, Kaipara Coast Plant Centre. This article was first published in the Valley Voice Lifestyle Magazine November 2020

A row of Paulownia Trees in Flower just north of Kaukapakapa Village

‘How fast does it grow’ is a common question at Kaipara Coast Plant Centre, and it seems that people have a built-in mental barometer of what is an acceptable growth rate. An acceptable growth rate it turns out for trees is 1m a year.  If a tree is capable of reaching the ‘magic metre’, then it has a high chance of being taken home and planted. The poor ‘slow and steady wins the race’ varieties don’t stand a chance against more vigorous varieties.

A metre a year is not always a good thing – a metre a year hedge means a lot of annual trimming, and a lot of trimming means a lot of foliage to clean up.

There are however some trees capable of far more than one metre a year.

Pine trees being an obvious example – if you want a fast-growing shade tree in your paddock, you can’t go past a pine tree – three to four metres in a year is quite possible. Yes, they are common. Yes, they are ugly. Yes, your neighbours will think you are a cheapskate who was too tight to trundle down to a big tree nursery to spend big money on a large grade tree.

But if your shade deprived stock need a big tree to shelter under within 4-5 years, a pine tree will do the job.  An evergreen Magnolia would be much prettier, but if you or your stock don’t have 30 years left on your time clock, then the humble pine will do the job in almost every circumstance, and cost less than $10.

Poplar trees also look great as a fast, tall shade tree, can comfortably hit the 3-4 metre a year growth rate in a damper soil, and at least can give you some autumn leaf colour. They do drop their leaves in winter, but at least that lets the light in, and the grass underneath will keep growing in the winter.

The overall winner in the drag race to the sky would have to be the Paulownia, also known as the Foxglove tree. Give it deep rich fertile soil, some water over summer, and a sheltered site, and a Paulownia tree can achieve a metre a month of new growth between November and March.

Widely promoted in the late 1980’s as a ‘get rich quick’ tree, with ultra-light timber similar in weight to Balsa Wood. The Paulownia never quite reached its potential to be a genuine ‘Money Tree’, partly due to poor site selection, but mainly due to the chances of getting rich quick in any horticultural, farming or forestry operation being very low.

However, given the right site, the Paulownia will give you a stunning display of beautiful large scented purple flowers in the spring (bees and tuis love them) with huge tropical looking leaves in the spring and summer, and an incredible growth rate. There are some unexpected downsides to such fast growth, but why let root suckers popping up everywhere in your garden and soft brittle branches snapping off every big wind spoil a great story!

Hiding from the Neighbour

By David Bayly, Kaipara Coast Plant Centre. This article first appeared in the October 2020 edition of the Valley Voice Lifestyle Magazine.

David beside Photinia ‘Superhedge’ (and Fonz)

The yo-yo lockdowns in the last few months have encouraged a lot of people into DIY gardening, creating a nationwide shortage of plants. Even when people have been allowed to move out of the Auckland area, being seen as a Covid19-ridden Aucklander by the rest of the country, has made it much easier for most people just to stay at home and garden.  

Fortunately we grow most of our own plants, so have been able to keep Kaipara Coast Plant Centre fully stocked of plants during this time from plants from our own nursery, but there are some gaps in our product range for some of the specialty lines we stock.

One of the disadvantages of locking people at home is they become a lot more aware of their neighbours, and while this may be a good thing in some cases, in other cases having your neighbour watching and hearing your every move doesn’t appeal.  From your neighbours perspective, they probably don’t want to see or hear you either.

It seems that for most people, our inherent preference is to be living in our own private little ‘bubble’ with our families or friend group, and while it is nice to have other people nearby, we don’t necessarily want to be watching over them or vice-versa.

Our biggest selling lines in the last few months (after native revegetation plants), have been fast growing hedging to ‘Hide the Neighbours’ (or maybe ‘Hide from the Neighbours’.)

Traditional hedging choices such as Photinias, Pittosporums, Bottlebrush, Crytomeria, Sheoak and the ubiquitous but floored Griselinia, have all winter been going out our gate in their thousands, and a few lesser known hedging trees such as Ficus tuffi and Bay trees have also been popular.  The requests have been flowing in for the attractive but evil LillyPilly trees, and despite our constant recommendations to try something else, people seem to be fixated on planting the pest ridden, myrtle rust susceptible, invasive Lilly Pilly hedge.

A harder sell has been one of Europe’s favorite hedges – the Hornbeam. Popular overseas because it grows anywhere, holds on to its leaves in the winter, trims well, and what I like about it, only needs trimming once a year. A few expat English Landscape designers are confident enough to use it, but Kiwi’s are definitely not brave enough to try something that doesn’t have the word ‘Gris’ or ‘Pilly’ in the title.

Judging on the number of hedging plants we have sold this year, there will be lot of very private houses and lifestyle blocks in the years to come, and a lot of busy arborists trimming hedges.

Lockdown Projects

by David Bayly Kaipara Coast Plant Centre – first published in the October 2021 Valley Voice Lifestyle Magazine

David with a barrow full of Kiekie, a native climber/groundcover

A feeling that another lockdown was lurking around the corner was a good excuse for me to do our six weekly big supermarket shop on the 14th of August 2021.  The girl at the checkout even commented on our two laden trolleys, and if she had looked closer, she would have seen it was all our families’ staples that we don’t grow ourselves such as flour, sugar, yeast, cereals and milk powder that filled the bulk of our trolley.

As it turned out, 3 days later Auckland was plunged into a long Level 4 lockdown. When we heard the news, we knew that our pantry was full, and with a freezer full of homekill and frozen fruit combined with our vegetable garden, we didn’t have to worry about scurvy, starvation, or a trip to the supermarket for at least another 6 weeks.

Without customers, the ability to do some big gardening projects in the Sculpture Gardens was an opportunity not to be missed.  Health authorities probably would have preferred I was tucked up in the house watching endless movies and 1pm broadcasts , however I know for my own mental health, getting projects done in the garden is a great way to keep sane.

Out came the spade, the loppers, the chainsaw and chipper, and over the period of a few weeks, the unusual quiet of the main road was surpassed by the humm of two stroke motors, and a number of long deferred projects were both able to be started and completed.  

It turned out I wasn’t the only one making the most of being at home, when my machinery was off there was an echo of engine noise around the valley, with my neighbours also making the most of the opportunity to have a good tidy up.

The result of the 2020 lockdown was the creation of a 1.5km bush walk in our gardens. The 2021 lockdown was more of an excuse to get areas in the gardens back under control and set up for the future.

A new fern area was developed by one of our ponds, and I was thinking that one of the key plants in the back of this should be the native KieKie, which is a native climber/groundcover with dark green leaves. Not a plant you can get hold of readily, and I was debating about where I could get some big specimens from, when a rotten punga covered in KieKie vine fell over in the wind, blocking the gardens track. The chainsaw came out again, and three big wheelbarrows later the new fernery was complete.

I have known this for years, but a number of New Zealanders will have discovered for the first time the real benefit in having a garden in the last few months.

Gardening gets you outdoors, gives you exercise, keeps you fit, keeps you fed, and it has both short and long term rewards. As the months and years go by you get to enjoy the results of your labour as your garden grows. Then at least you have something to do and trim when the country unexpectedly locks you at home for an extended period.

Black Mould

We had some great photos sent through from one of our customers. These are NZ Native Manuka plants, that have developed a black sooty looking substance all over them, and the plants themselves are sickly and look like they are dying.

The black soot is caused by scale insects (the white bumps on the stems), and the boot soot is a fungus that grows on the excrement of the scale. The scale suck at the stems, so does slow the growth, and can make the plants quite sickly if the infestation is bad.

Normally fantails keep these mostly under control, but if there are not many of these, the best thing to do would be to spray the plants with Aquaticus spray, which is a natural fish oil that smothers the scale, and feeds the plants at the same time. You may need to do this 2-3 times, and it will take 3-4months before the black soot washes away.

The plants should recover, but it may take a year or so, and in that time they will still be vulnerable to another infestion.

Another good reason to have a pest control program in place to encourage the birds – much easier to use birds to keep the insect populations under control.

Setting up the Traps

Pest Control is a very important part of life at Kaipara Coast Plant Centre and Sculpture Gardens. By keeping the predators down we have lots of birds, and lots of birds means that we don’t have any problems with insects eating our plants in the gardens and plant nursery.

Yes there will be the occasional hole in a leaf, but we don’t get the serious damage that lots of people find in their gardens.

The biggest benefit for us is that we don’t have to use harmful insecticide sprays in the gardens and nursery, which is much better all round for the environment and also for those of us working with the plants.

We have recently finished building the new Harbour View Track, a 1.5km forest trail at Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens, and one of the final stages was to install 15 traps to try to keep the vermin out of the native bush.

Here is a photo of Kaipara Coast Plant Centre owner David Bayly about to install the traps. Within 2 weeks of setting the traps we had caught 5 possums.

Dead Plant Mystery

We were asked to solve a mystery as to why 4 plants that were part of a hedge line had died after growing well for the last 6months, and had doubled in size since they had been planted before dying.

A quick look revealed that they had been ringbarked about 10cm above the stem. This could be done by rabbits, borer or grass grub, however the damage didn’t look right for any of these options.

A clue to what may have actually happened was the Kikuyu grass in the photo. Some further questioning revealed the true cause of the ringbarking.

See if you can work it out from the clues and leave your answers in the comments below.

(A hint for you, the cause of the damage has an engine and eats weeds…)

Harbour View Track build

We have finished building our new 1.5km forest walk which is part of Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens. Here is a shot of David getting ready to unload another trailer load of mulch – over 70m3 have been used on the new tracks!

The official opening will be on the June 20th 2021 from 10:30am. David Bayly with take a guided tour around the trail and talk about the process of making the track, as well as interesting facts and features along the way.

For the official opening, allow 1.5 hours for the guided walk. Cost $15 to cover gardens entry. Bring a raincoat and good walking shoes or boots.