Skinny males plumper females


Our asparagus bed is a few years old and for several springs has produced enough for several meals.

However, it’s also produced a puzzle: why, when all the crowns were planted at the same time, and receive the same amount of fertilizer and water, do some produce skinny spears and some produce fat ones?

I found the answer at Julie Biuso’s Shared Kitchen:

The asparagus plant is an interesting creature, a perennial, and a member of the lily family. It consists of a crown, which sends up shoots each spring. At the end of spring spears are left to grow into ferns, which then undergo photosynthesis. The root system is recharged with carbohydrates and these are stored in fat storage roots. In autumn the plants die off, and they remain dormant in winter, waiting for the ideal conditions of cool nights and mild daytime temperatures to start the process again. There are male and female plants (true!). The male plants produce more spears and live longer, but the female plants, wouldn’t you know it, produce the fattest juiciest spears. . . 

Wouldn’t you know it, even in the garden females are fatter.

Keukenhof Garden without visitors


The Dutch garden Keukenhof is reputed to be the most beautiful tulip garden in the world.

Photographer Albert Dros visited it During lockdown when it was closed to the public and captured it in 31 stunning photos.

This year is ‘special’. Keukenhof is closed, for the first time in 71 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers. On the contrary; the flowers look incredible and get as much attention and care as always. All the passionate gardeners do their work as they’re used to. Because even without people, nature and the show of the garden goes on.

I’ve been photographing the tulips since forever, mostly in the countryside. I photographed them from all angles you can possibly imagine, but there was one thing that I still wanted to capture one time in my life: Keukenhof without any other people. This seemed impossible, until this year’s April 2020. With the COVID-19 virus keeping everyone at home and tourists away, I knew this was my only chance of making this happen. I contacted Keukenhof explaining what I had in mind and they were so kind to let me photograph the garden for a day.

When I visited the park it looked at its best. Interestingly enough, we have experienced the sunniest April EVER in the Netherlands, making all the flowers pop very fast. Photographing in broad daylight with the strong sun was a challenge. But forget about the photography for a moment: walking around there all alone, with only the sounds of birds and the incredible smell of all these flowers, is an experience by itself. I sometimes just sat next to the flowers and the water, enjoying nature for 30 minutes long. It was just a magical experience. Having no people in the park allowed me to photograph paths and angles in a certain way that you normally don’t get to see because of the crowds.

This photo series is an initiative from myself in collaboration with Keukenhof. We aim to show the beauty of the park through these images. Too bad there’s no smell involved. . . 

Clicking the link above will enable you to take the virtual tour.




During a recent dark season of the spirit, a dear friend buoyed me with the most wonderful, hope-giving, rehumanizing story: Some years earlier, when a colleague of hers — another physicist — was going through such a season of his own, she gave him an amaryllis bulb in a small pot; the effect it had on him was unexpected and profound, as the effect of uncalculated kindnesses always is — profound and far-reaching, the way a pebble of kindness ripples out widening circles of radiance. As the light slowly returned to his life, he decided to teach a class on the physics of animation. And so it is that one of his students, Emily Johnstone, came to make Bloom — a touching animated short film, drawing from the small personal gesture a universal metaphor for how we survive our densest private darknesses, consonant with Neil Gaiman’s insistence that “sometimes it only takes a stranger, in a dark place… to make us warm in the coldest season.” . . 


Sunflower surprise


Green shoots appeared in the vegetable garden.

At first I thought they were zucchini.

They grew bigger.

I thought they might be pumpkins.

They grew taller.

They were sunflowers and neither my farmer nor I had planted them.

How did they get there?

Could birds have dropped seeds?

New Zealand’s biggest producers of sunflowers for birdseed operate in North Otago. BIrds eat a lot of seeds before harvest but the nearest paddocks were miles away and the plants weren’t even in flower.

Then I noticed the chocolate lab we were dog sitting sniffing close to the sunflowers and starting to dig.

That reminded me I’d had a lot of salad left over from our staff party in December and when it got past using I dug it into the garden.

One of the salads had been sprinkled with sunflower seeds and a few of them must have germinated.


365 days of gratitude


Sticking with the garden theme, today I’m grateful for camellias.

365 days of gratitude


Yesterday it was daffodils. Today it’s a rhododendron.

This one was transplanted by my mother-in-law from the garden of her parents-in-law.

It survived successive droughts when the only water it got had to be carried to it in a bucket.

It’s also survived frosts and snow.

Tonight I’m grateful for the lesson from nature’s resilience, and for a garden where the plants hold stories of generations past.

365 days of gratitude


The leaves on the trees are just beginning to change colour and summer flowers are fading as autumn makes it mark in the garden.

But the Japanese anemones are in full bloom and I”m grateful for them.

365 days of gratitude


It’s not a large garden but it was very, very weedy.

I started dealing with the weeds yesterday and finished today.

I wasn’t aiming for perfection, and didn’t get it but I can see where I’ve been and that the garden looks much better now than it did before I started and I’m grateful for that.

366 days of gratitude


Stinging nettles are the exception to the rule that weeds are just plants in the wrong place.

The wet spring has encouraged far too many of them and I spent much of this morning pulling them out.

Today I’m very grateful for thick garden gloves.

Quote of the day


If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden. – Frances Hodgson Burnett who was born on this day in 1849.

She also said:

Two things cannot be in one place. Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.


When you will not fly into a passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you are strong enough to hold in your rage, and they are not, and they say stupid things they wish they hadn’t said afterward. There’s nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in–that’s stronger. It’s a good thing not to answer your enemies.

366 days of gratitude


A National Party Mainland conference a couple of years ago coincided with Mothers’ Day.

A member who grows tulips donated bulbs for all the mothers.

Mine are in full bloom at the moment, looking gorgeous and I’m grateful for them.

366 days of gratitude


Freesias symbolise innocence, thoughtfulness, trust, friendship and sweetness.

I didn’t know that until I looked it up this evening and also found:

Freesia is both the common and scientific name for these delicate flowers. They gained their name when botanist Christian P Ecklon named them after a fellow botanist,  Friedrich H. T. Freese as a tribute to their friendship. It is said that freesias symbolize friendship to honor the bond between Ecklon and Freese.

The scent of freesias take me back to my mother’s garden and the small, creamy white Freesia Burtoni.

A friend gave me some bulbs years ago and they multiplied beautifully but when we extended the garage the garden where they grew was covered in concrete before I was able to rescue them.

They are very difficult to come by now, usually only found in old gardens, and I haven’t been able to find any more.

But my garden does have several clumps of more modern varieties which do still smell gorgeous and I’m grateful for them.





366 days of gratitude


Spring starts slowly in the garden but day by day plants which have been resting over winter make their appearance.

Today’s discovery was dog’s-tooth violets (Erythronium dens-canis if you want to get technical) spreading bright yellow cheer alongside the path through the trees and I’m grateful for them.

366 days of gratitude


When I was pregnant with our second child my GP told me I shouldn’t be mowing the lawns.

He’s never reversed that instruction which provides me with a wonderful excuse to pass the task to someone else.

Not that I object to doing it. It’s one job where you can see the positive difference you’ve made as soon as you finish and even if the rest of the garden isn’t as tidy as it might be, the freshly mown lawn takes attention from it.

My farmer gave our lawn its first mow of the season yesterday and today I’ve been appreciating it each time I’ve looked out the window.

Freshly mown green grass gladdens the eye and I’m grateful for it.

366 days of gratitude


An early patch of daffodils is in bloom under an oak tree in the garden and in a sun trap under the living room window the first of the tulips are in flower.

I’m grateful for them and the reminder that with gardens, and many aspects of life, the reward often comes long after the planting.

366 days of gratitude


The trees are still bare but daffodil leaves are poking through the ground, snow drops are flowering and the daphne is in bloom.

Daphne’s scent always evokes memories of my mother’s garden.

Would it smell as sweet if it wasn’t for those memories and the knowledge that the flowers are fleeting?

Possibly not, but I’m enjoying it while it’s here and am grateful for it.

366 days of gratitude


The roses have been pruned and all the deciduous trees are leaf-less but a viburnum is flowering and winter sweet is scenting the garden.

Today I’m grateful for little bits of colour and perfume from nature.

366 days of gratitude


Fresh wholegrain bread from the Dutch bakery in Oamaru’s historic precinct and Whitestone Lindis Pass brie gave me a good foundation for a lunchtime sandwich but it was distinctly short of vitamins.

The ceramic dish on the bench where I keep tomatoes was empty.

I popped out to the garden and found several ripe tomatoes on the vine, sun-warm and ready to eat.

Today I’m grateful for home-grown vitamins and simple but tasty.

Invasion of the broccoli snatchers


My garden has been invaded.

I suspect the culprits were white butterflies.

What do I do next time to deter them?


Art in the Garden


Take more than 40 visual and performing artists.

Place gently in seven glorious gardens around Alexandra and Clyde.

Cover with blue sky, warm with sunshine tempered by a light breeze and serve to the public over two days  for a very modest $15.

This is Art in the Garden, Alexandra Art Society’s annual fundraiser and it’s a wonderful day out.

Two friends and I spent several hours yesterday wandering round the gardens which varied from a small, newly established town plot to expansive rural oases*  contrasting, but in harmony, with the dry Central Otago landscape.

Art varied from small ceramic pieces to large Oamaru stone sculptures. Some artists worked with wood, other with metal, there were photographers and painters, several working as we wandered.

Yesterday was the opening day of the two day event and tickets give the right to return on the second day. The distance stops me doing that but I’ve got it in my diary for next year.

*Is it oases, or is the plural oasis or oasises?

%d bloggers like this: