Kawakawa “special” – small plants 4 for $10 today

Today at the plant stand on Glenfield Rd we have a “special” – 4 of the $3 kawakawa for $10. Kawakawa enjoy close plant communities and can be seen wild – or planted – in groups, under shade trees, and among other small trees and shrubs.

Having several of them gives you a better chance of having both a male and a female tree. Only the female trees will bear fruit.

Both male and female trees are needed for pollination of the flowers so they produce fruit. I dont know how near they need to be to each other. More info at northshorewilds.co.nz

ripe and unripe kawakawa fruit

Restoration planting… or wild revegetation… for water absorption and soil stability

Tomorrow, Sunday, I will be taking the North Shore Wilds baby plants (still priced from $3) for their weekly outing to Eskdale Reserve:). We will as usual be near the Flame tree opposite the petrol station. I will set up there every Sunday by about 10am, and maybe some Saturdays, through the planting season (or while stocks last).

We have had a lot of discussions there with customers, Reserve visitors and passersby, lately about landslips, natural overland flows, Kaipatiki’s many named and unnamed streams (including those that only flow in winter), and how to deal with seasonal excesses of water in the garden.

Auckland Council has lots of info about “greenfields” stormwater management and the restoration of dense vegetation to absorb water and stabilize soil. Recently I read a study which found that ti kouka (Cordyline australis, cabbage tree) is particularly good at this job. Its roots grow quickly and deep, it doesn’t mind “wet feet”, and it is a fast grower.

It also attracts birds, including kereru, to its huge bunches of glossy black fruit.

You can easily raise as many ti kouka seedlings as you want, merely by refraining from spraying, mowing or disturbing unused ground, identifying everything that comes up, suppressing problematic weeds, and supporting the ti kouka seedlings with a mulch of anything around… which includes most of the weeds you have pulled out or squashed down.

See what a good job the ti kouka and karamu are doing around the plant stand in Gahnia Grove! Road runoff pours down this steep bank, but the trees are absorbing the impact of the raindrops, drawing a lot of the water down into the ground for storage till they need it in summer, and holding the soil together. The dense ground covering vegetation further softens the impact of the rain, preventing loss of surface soil.

Groundcovering plants here still include some of the remaining harmless wildflower weeds, which we maintain for this purpose until they get shaded out as the young trees become dense.

More info about chemical-free weed control and ecological restoration of your garden at northshorewilds.co.nz

Native plants from $3 today Sunday at Gahnia Grove, Glenfield Rd

The North Shore Wilds native plant stand will be open again tomorrow (Sunday) from about 10am, at the Gahnia Grove restoration project on Glenfield Rd opposite the petrol station (where the strawberry stand is in summer).

We still have kawakawa, karamu, a few other treees and shrubs, Carex (“grasses”) and some groundcovers, small ones for $3, with the larger pots priced accordingly.

All are ecosourced from the Kaipatiki area, and grown in composting twig/leaf mulch and woodchips, without added chemicals. Many pots contain live earthworms, and all contain live soil fungi etc, so they are best suited to planting in the ground.

We also welcome enquiries about our chemical-free weed-control and general landcare. The Gahnia Grove restoration project is handy for showing examples of our weed-control methods and the resulting natural forest regrowth.

We can assess your own site, and show you how to control weeds, improve soil and produce your own locally-wild native plants for free. Or we can do it for you. For large bare areas freed from weeds, we can provide free potted plants to our landcare customers.

Native plants for sale from $3

We will have small kawakawa and karamu, carex (native “grasses”), and a few bits and pieces for sale during planting season, starting tomorrow, at the Gahnia Grove chemical-free forest restoration site on Glenfield Rd near the petrol station.

Kawakawa tolerate sun or shade provided they have a moist absorbent soil. The leaves are used in home remedies, the berries are enjoyed by birds including kereru. Although they grow quickly, they don’t reach more than about 5m high, and are easily pruned.

We grow all our plants in composted leaf and twig mulch, which becomes full of earthworms. Having consumed the twigs and leaves, most of the worms will have left by the time the plant is available for sale, but the soil is still live with soil flora and fauna. To protect this soil life, pots should be kept cool and moist until planted.

The plants are also available free for our chemical-free landcare customers.

See more info about our garden and forest restoration services at https://northshorewilds.co.nz, or come and have a chat at our plant stand, where we can show you the results of our chemical-free weed control methods for kikuyu, tree privet, Tradescantia and others.

Notes from Gahnia Grove

From time to time we feel moved to describe what we are seeing in our single-handed restoration project “Gahnia Grove“, covering about half a hectare of regenerating wild kauri forest along and below the Glenfield Rd margin of Eskdale Forest.

The site has three major sections – Tanekaha Ridge, Rimu Ridge, and Gahnia Grove-the-original-2018-roadside-site, in June 2018 almost nothing but vine, shrub and tree weeds with uncontrolled kikuyu tangled in honeysuckle and blackberry,

Honeysuckle smothering native forest edge

so that area was the most urgent, and made the most difference to the survival of the forest hidden behind it – see below:

At random, then, these notes from a visit last week to “Flame Tree Bank”, visible from the roadside just uphill from the strawberry stand:

Plant species diversity beginning to increase on Flame Tree Bank

Flame Tree Bank is part of the initial 2018 Gahnia Grove restoration project. It comprises the slope around the big stand of Flame, or “Coral”, trees, from the edge of the forest canopy, uphill to the recreational mown kikuyu area bordering Glenfield Rd, nearly opposite the petrol station.

In 2018 Flame Tree Bank was completely dominated by environmental weeds. The entire tangled mess, on a steep slope above regen kauri forest margin, was (and remains) overhung by invasive Flame trees. One of two trees planted in 1999 has spread through suckering and falling branches, becoming over 30 trees, most of them now occupying space in the canopy of regenerating kauri forest.

After a request to Council for intervention when we initiated our restoration of a section of forest margin we called Gahnia Grove, these trees were expected to be controlled by arborism.

Above: Flame Tree Bank in May 2018, with Elephant’s Ear, Arum lily, Cape Honey Flower, honeysuckle and Tradescantia, and kikuyu in the foreground

Below: Jan 2019: after honeysuckle was controlled by uprooting it wherever it was easy, and rolling it up, invasive bindweed took over.

The planned arborism would have destroyed or smothered much of any regen present by that time, so we did not attempt to maintain much weed control here till 2020, when it became apparent that there would be no Flame Tree control by Council.

( On the positive side, this meant the site was not subjected to the injection of poison prescribed to accompany the arborism. And over the years since 2018, necessity being the mother of invention, we have discovered we can manually control all but the largest trees, through partial breaking of branches and ringbarking of small trunks and lower branches, both of which procedures appear to have suppressed or slowed growth in the large trees of the smaller stands, while eliminating the small trees in the forest itself).

So in 2018-19 on Flame Tree Bank we controlled only honeysuckle, bindweed, ginger, Alocasia, Arum, moth plant, extensions of Flame Tree invasion, and kikuyu, allowing the more benign weeds including Tradescantia to maintain ground cover and suppress spread of environmental weeds.

Above: The second image shows Flame Tree Bank in October 2021, after control of vine and shrub weeds, with only a few wild native plants (shrubby toatoa and karamu) emerging so far among the ground-covering weeds .
(The top half of the cabbage tree on the right was knocked off by a falling Flame Tree in 2020, so it is now half the size, and has grown a new head)

During hundreds of explorations and interventions, only 12 wild native plant species were observed on this bank from 2018-2023. In addition to the wild regen, only a dozen or so 10cm H nikau seedlings were planted.

The new wild native species seen were very young seedlings released from Tradescantia in 2019

Karamu seedlings in thinned Tradescantia
Ti kouka seedlings released from Tradescantia

and later dying (due to natural attrition or drought). These seedlings were ti kouka/cabbage tree, karamu, and a few kahikatea.

The forest canopy edge down the bank had been released from Tradescantia in late 2018, and the same species of seedlings were found beneath Tradescantia regrowth in 2019:

Karamu seedling and moss in thin Tradescantia regrowth on vertical bank

This week, under the shelter of the rapidly developing regen spreading from the boundary of Flame Tree Bank top with the adjacent Cape Honey Flower (CHF) Bank top, we found:

  • a single mapou seedling
  • a single Pteris tremula sporeling
  • 2 Hebe (Veronica stricta) seedlings
Hebe seedling

and several Carex lambertiana – with more karamu seedlings, which have become common on Flame Tree Bank since 2022.

Juvenile Carex lambertiana, released Jan 2024 from Tradescantia regrowth and creeping buttercup

These 4 modest finds are all well-situated among 2-3 year-old native regen not likely to be overtaken by weed, drought or flood, and while not extraordinary or even of note in other situations, they indicate significant progress here.

A very weedy site gives enormous rewards, through the contrast of ugliness, waste and destruction with the harmony seen in emerging native plant communities, and the lush growth in sheltered soil enriched with the composting weed material.

We hope to find time to present some other views of Gahnia Grove before, during and after the ongoing restoration.

Free container-grown plants for planting in Autumn

We have re-activated our little cottage nursery that supplied Council restoration projects and home gardens from about 2004-2006. Hundreds of native seeds fall and grow, even in our own little garden and gravel driveway, so we have been potting them up in recycled pots with roughly-composted wood chip mulch so our garden restoration clients can have free plants for planting season (or earlier if they have a loose soil and are prepared to water them…but Autumn is much easier!)

We are now offering 10-20 plants (depending on size), in a limited range of species – this year we concentrated on kawakawa, karamu, nikau and Carex – free with every 10 hours of gardening or habitat restoration, while stocks last.

We will look after the plants till autumn.

Here’s what they look like at present:

North Shore Wilds nursery plants, November 2023
NSW nursery plants November 23

Kawakawa fruit are beginning to ripen

Following the development of the kawakawa fruit observed in earlier posts, I noticed a few ripe fruit on the tree outside this dining room window.

ripening and unripe kawakawa seen through open dining room window

In summer kereru clamber in the taller branches of the tree, alone, in pairs, and one year with a chick, all within a metre of this window.

Fortunately for the kereru, who are far too trusting for their own good, a dog keeps the garden cat-free, and the dog can’t reach this part of the garden.

A low branch outside the window has ripening and unripe fruit overhanging purei (Carex lambertiana)

Above: a fully ripe kawakawa fruit, found half-eaten on the ground, discloses the many seeds within the orange flesh of a single fruit

The wood of the kawakawa is soft, easily pruned to keep this paved path clear.

Wild native sedges and grasses and moss are allowed to cover the earth under the tree, and the smaller plants are allowed to spread to fill the gaps between paving tiles, keeping out most of the dandelions, creeping buttercup and other weeds.

The native kawakawa looper makes holes in the kawakawa leaves.

These holes are said to correspond to the leaves with the strongest medicinal value, perhaps because of substances produced in those leaves in response to the caterpillars eating the leaves.

Another explanation is that the caterpillars know which leaves are the best to eat.

Either way, this 2 square metres of clay is cool and refreshing to look out on through hot summers, hosts a lot of wildlife, lets morning light play on the windows all year round, and, with fallen leaves and twigs mulching the ground naturally, requires almost no attention to stay beautiful and weed-free.

Cool summer evening gardening

One evening last week, putting out the compost turned into an after-dinner garden wander – a weed to pull out here, a “volunteer” tomato seedling to pop in there – and I realized this is how it will be for the rest of the summer, just like every other year; the cool stillness of evening and gentle sounds of roosting birds keeps me outside till dusk.

For this shade-loving gardener, it has already become too hot for work in the afternoons except under or among big trees.

It occurred to me that there may be people who would like an evening garden ecology assessment, learning session or even their weeding done, when they are home and can collaborate or advise.

For morning or evening garden restoration services, or forest restoration anytime, contact us.

Free native plants for your garden’s wild spaces

In the 5 months we have been working with some of our gardening clients, they have learned to recognise and make use of the wild native trees, shrubs and grasses that spontaneously grow all over the North Shore, from the soil’s seedbank from former forest and wetland, or from seed and spores brought by birds or wind.

In this time, even small areas of mown lawn, or gardens containing only the common non-native ornamental species, have produced a few tanekaha, rewarewa and kahikatea seedlings, lots of baby Cabbage trees (Cordyline australis), five-finger (Pseudopanax), Karamu (Coprosma robusta) and mapou, (often referred to as Pittosporum, though it is actually Myrsine australis), and numerous native grasses, sedges and creeping ground covers.

tanekaha seedling hidden among Clivia


Wild tanekaha seedling hidden among Clivia in a small garden of ornamental shrubs

Of course, those who are lucky enough to have a patch of native bush in or beside their garden, and some undisturbed areas of ground, have seen all kinds of forest species emerge and thrive, including native vines, ferns and orchids, and the less common “forest giants” like tanekaha, kahikatea, rewarewa and kauri.

wild karamu seedlings found among ivy and other weeds in a large weedy garden, a small area of which is now being restored to dense wild native vegetation

wild karamu seedlings on bermbank
wild rewarewa seedling among cut ivy under Norfolk pine

wild rewarewa seedling discovered while weeding under a Norfolk pine, now protected with some cut ivy and uprooted weeds

For new clients, or as a “stand-alone” service, we provide a 1.5 hour assessment of your garden’s potential for visual transformation and the recreation of diverse native pant communities, solely through plant identification, soil protection and chemical-free weed control.

Contact us or learn more about how we do it here.

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