Gardening in the winterless north
When it comes to seeking ideas for your garden, there’s a world of inspiration at your doorstep and a wander around your neighbourhood is a fun and easy way to get started. Store manager of Palmers Whangārei, Miriam Koele, has sage words of advice for newbie gardeners beginning the exciting adventure of trying to decide what to plant on their patch. “Look at gardens in your neighbourhood and take photos of what you like,” she says. “This is a good indication of what grows well in your area.” She suggests taking your photos into your local Palmers so the team of garden experts can help identify the varieties you like the look of and can make suggestions of great companion plants. “Ask lots of questions about how to grow them and keep your garden looking good.” Miriam has had a keen interest in growing things since she was a child. She trained in horticulture in Tauranga and landscape design in Hamilton, and worked in several plant nurseries and garden centres before joining the enthusiastic team of gardeners at Palmers Whangārei last year. She loves the friendly community feeling at the busy plant centre. “Palmers are proud to be partners of Garden to Table with many throughout New Zealand involved.” One of her proudest moments was when her Bay of Plenty Polytechnic horticulture class won gold at the Ellerslie Flower Show, and now she’s excited to be able to share her knowledge and creativity with Palmers’ customers. She and her team can advise on what to plant, when and how to prune and harvest, what’s in season and what’s new and exciting in the plant world. Miriam says the Northland climate tends to be warmer than most of the rest of the country, which means that bromeliads and other sub-tropical treasures grow brilliantly in the north. “I have arranged my new garden by colour,” she says. Miriam jokes that when she relocated to Whangārei she brought more plants with her than household items. She has been enjoying planting up the bare section at her new home, choosing fruiting plants, citrus, blueberries, feijoas and plums that grow well in the subtropical climate. October is such an exciting time in the garden! Labour Weekend is the traditional time to plant tomatoes, although they can be added to your garden earlier if the risk of frost has passed. Make sure you find them a sunny spot, in welldraining soil and water frequently – you can also plant your tomato in a pot or container if you’re short on space. Basil is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes as it increases the flavour and vigour of both plants. Other edibles you can add to your garden are passionfruit, herbs such as basil and coriander and capsicum and chilli. If you’re a fan of florals, the garden seems to come alive in October. There are so many beautiful petunia varieties that you can add to your garden for colour. One favourite is the Petunia Amore Queen of Hearts, a happy circus of colour, you are bound to fall in love with this bi-colour petunia. Each flower is surrounded by five small red hearts. Its semi-trailing habit and long performance make it perfect for containers and baskets or can be grown in a flower bed like any other petunia. Also in the flower garden, it’s a great time to plant roses, dig in some compost and add a good quality fertiliser.