Plant Now: Hellebores

Hellebores are a real treat in the winter garden, especially since more are more of the new varieties are arriving with beautiful pink or deep purple coats – my favourites. I love them all, though. They look dainty, but they’re hardy, and they’re easy to grow and care for.

Hellebores don’t like direct sunlight, so select a planting location that receives filtered sunlight most of the day. Under the canopy of a deciduous tree or shrub is an ideal location. Don’t give them too much shade though. While they are certainly shade lovers, most do better with some sun (not full sun).

Hellebores need well draining soil that is rich in organic matter, much like that found on a forest floor.

Sadly, hellebores don’t last very long in the vase because once cut, the stems don’t take up water. Not naturally, in any case. You can force them to do so though (do this within an hour of picking). Heat a saucepan of water with floral preservative dissolved in it to 70 degrees C (use a candy thermometer). Recut the stems and immediately dip the ends into the water. Hold them on a slant so that the flower heads are held out of the way of the steam. Keep them in the water for 20 seconds. Remove the stems and place them in a bucket of cold water. This shocks them into taking up the hot water with the preservative. You will get an extra 3-5 days vase life from your hellebores, but you can only do this once.

The image at the top comes from Love ‘n Fresh Flowers and includes bearded irises, ranunculi, tulips and hellebore seed heads. A beautiful bouquet for a spring wedding.

Plant Now: Sweet peas


Have you planted your sweet peas yet? You still can. Even though they are typically sown in autumn, here in NZ we can plant them throughout winter and even early spring (best in cooler areas).

We’re spoilt for choice with the colours available, but I’m loving the pinks and purples. I especially love the picotee varieties – those flowers whose edges are a different colour than the flower’s base colour, like the purple sweet peas in the top image.

Find a sunny spot in your garden that has humus-rich, well-drained soil, and sow seeds directly, or plant seedlings from the garden centre.

You can sow your seeds in small pots to transplant later if you prefer, but leave the containers outdoors, not in a greenhouse. Sweet peas germinate at low temperatures; strong plants result if grown in high light and cool conditions. Spindly, sprawling ones often result if grown in a greenhouse.

Photo credits: Top image is from WedLuxe; Middle image is from All Things Girly & Beautiful; Bottom image is from Love My Dress.

Sweet Living Issue 10


The latest issue of my free online magazine has hit the cybershelves! There are lots of goodies – baking, DIYs, backyard sustainability.



Ask a gardening question and win!

Head over to Sweet Living (my other website), ask a gardening question and be in the chance to win!

Each month Daltons will answer a question or two, which I’ll feature on the site. Plus, you have the chance to win a gardening pack.

This month we have two Daltons Premium Citrus packs to give away (to Kiwis) that contain everything you need to grow gorgeous, vitamin-rich citrus fruit.

Each pack is valued at $85 and contains 2 x Daltons Incredible Edibles Container Mix, 1 x Daltons Incredible Edibles Citrus Fertiliser (1.5kg) and 1 x Daltons Premium Planter Tabs PLUS a pair of comfortable, versatile Red Back gardening gloves from Omni Products.

For this month, you must get your question in by 22 June.


Good luck!

Plant Now: Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) have staying power – both in the garden and the vase. They last up to two weeks in the vase and are a great substitute for gypsophila if you plant the white version (sometimes found on Trade Me). There is a pink form too, but I prefer the blue one, which can be pale or deep blue.

Forget-me-nots grow just about anywhere, so there’s no need to be particular with them. In fact, some may call them a weed, as they can be prolific. They are annuals, but they do self-sow easily. That’s not a problem, in my opinion, though. They are very easy to pull out if you’ve had enough of them.

They are hardy plants, thriving in cooler areas, though they’ll also grow in warmer spots, in sun or shade.

Sow seeds now for a spring display.

Top image: Blue hyacinths and forget-me-nots from Go Botanica.

Plant Now: Pieris japonica

Lily of the valley bush (Pieris japonica) is an evergreen shrub, which grows best in part shade. In spring and early summer, masses of white or pink bell-shaped flowers appear on 10-15cm long racemes. The pink buds, which show all through winter, are attractive too. Head to your local garden centre and pick one up now, so you can enjoy the buds and later the flowers in the next few months.

Plant in moderately moist but free-draining soil that’s slightly acidic.

Top two images from Flirty Fleurs

Daffodil ‘Mount Hood’

daffodil mount hood2daffodil-mount-hood1Have you planted your daffodils yet? I have  a large bag of them to plant, though I have no idea what variety they are. They were given to me – so it’s kind of like a lucky dip. I do like white ones though. Like this gorgeous variety called ‘Mount Hood’. I might need to get some more daffs to ensure I have some white ones too.

‘Mount Hood’ is available from Fiesta Bulbs.

Photo credits: Top image from here; Bottom image from Wayside Gardens.

Plant Now: Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a rhizomatous perennial with nodding white bell-shaped flowers in spring. The flowers are highly perfumed, adding a delicious fragrance to indoor displays.

The trouble is, these plants are not that freely available here. I suggest searching for them on the internet, or try Maple Glen Nursery in Southland.

You can find a rose-blushed version too, from Ashton Glen and Wake Robin Nurseries.

Plant in fertile, free-draining soil in part shade. These are woodland plants, so avoid full sun. Water well after planting, then water as needed throughout the growing season. Adequate moisture is not usually an issue here with our wet winters.

Gunny Sack Garden helps ChildFund

Ahead of Mother’s Day, international aid organisation ChildFund NZ is encouraging Kiwis to participate in a fun family gardening activity that also promises some delicious food for thought – making a Gunny Sack Garden. These upcycled gardens are environmentally friendly and promise nutritious homegrown food.

[Read more…]

Plant Now: Daffodils

daffodils yellow dress
Have you planted your daffodils yet? Now’s the time to do so. Late autumn, when the soil starts to cool down, is the ideal time to get daffodil bulbs in the ground.

When choosing bulbs, big is best. Smaller bulbs may not flower the first season. The bulbs should be clean and free from any blemishes, or you may find they’ll do nothing but rot. Feel them to ensure there are no soft spots.

In warmer areas place them in the fridge for a few weeks before planting to ensure bud initiation.

Plant bulbs in free-draining soil in sun. If the ground is too wet, particularly during summer when the soil is warm, bulbs may rot. Plant daffodils so the base of the bulb is about 15cm below the soil surface, or in light soils 20cm deep.

Daffodils are not heavy feeders. Fork in some bulb food before planting, then once again as the leaves begin to emerge – and that’s it until the flowers die down. After flowering, the bulbs begin to store food for the following season, so this is the most important time to feed and water.

Top image is from Bridal Musings; Image second from bottom is from Lock Cottage Flowers.