What’s in a name?


After yesterday’s
rain, this morning’s air is sweet.
My neighbours have a
fragrant tree … and no, I don’t
know its botanical name.

(08 March 2015)

Tanka consist of five units (often treated as separate lines when romanized or translated) usually with the following pattern of on: 5-7-5-7-7.

The 5-7-5 is called the kami-no-ku (上の句 “upper phrase”), and the 7-7 is called the shimo-no-ku (下の句 “lower phrase”). (Wikipedia)

Evening out

Lamp-light, tree-shadows,
wing-flutter, then cough, chirp, chime –
carousing tui.

The pohutukawa trees along the terraces near where I live have begun to flower. The tui, having gorged themselves on the golden kōwhai, are now beginning to sip the honeyed paradise afforded by New Zealand’s Christmas tree. Tradition has it that the earlier the crimson blossoms appear, the better the summer we can anticipate. 

Strokes of havoc

hi-viz orange (02 May 2014)

hi-viz orange (02 May 2014)

The din I heard as I emerged from my bathroom turned out to be coming from a chainsaw wielded by one of the workmen the city council had sent to strip the ivy and other creepers from the green bank behind my apartment block. The devastation they’d wreaked appalled me, and I felt some concern for my own garden – lavender, roses, and camellias.

Scheduled to go into the city, I caught a bus whilst they were on their morning smoko, but before doing so I took a minute to squeeze off a few close-ups of the monarch butterfly disturbed and dislodged by the hack and rack of the two orange-clad, hi-viz-wearing workmen.

My garden had never been in danger, in fact … although the next day my nose dripped, my eyes itched … and, oh my, such sneezing fits! – the ivy, I’m guessing.

The title of this post and the phrase, “hack and rack”, come from Binsey Poplars by Gerard Manley Hopkins.


Pruning the roses

Iceberg rose (29 Apr 10)

Iceberg rose (29 April 2010)

A few days ago, I was wondering when to prune the standard rose in my little courtyard garden. My Iceberg had flowered well, its sheltered location having protected it from winds and rain, and I was reluctant to cut away flower buds. When I was young, it was not unusual to get out the secateurs in June, but it seems July is the month when most roses are pruned nowadays, according to the Yates New Zealand website.

That evening (21 July), our region was shaken by a series of earthquakes, the largest of which measured 6.5 on the Richter scale.

Rose pruning seems to cause angst for even experienced gardeners. For a couple of days, though, my angst was focused on whether Wellington would get another, bigger shake-up.

Yesterday, I got out (misty drizzle notwithstanding) and snipped the bush into shape. “Even if you did no pruning, the roses would survive,” says the Yates guide. After all, roses growing in the wild never got pruned.

“Roses do, however, respond really well to pruning. They flower well on the new growth that pruning stimulates and, after pruning, they’re neat and tidy and look as if they’re comfortable in the garden.”


The image, dating from 29 April 2010, is one of a number of shots captured in a friend’s garden.

First flowers (kōwhai)

first flowers (kōwhai), 13 July 2013

first flowers (kōwhai), 13 July 2013

Florists are no longer reliable signallers of seasonal change: commercial growers supply jonquils and irises in autumn, and roses and orchids are available throughout the year. But I’ve always trusted the sequence of events in suburban gardens.

In the corner of my courtyard, an Iceberg standard rose still hangs on to a few windblown blooms, and there’s a brave, contorted Daphne perfuming the air just beyond. The blue hydrangea received its annual dead-heading a couple of days ago, but I’m not sure when to prune the roses.

Passing through Lower Hutt yesterday, I spotted a splendid pink magnolia beginning to break into bloom … which reminded me that, in Eastbourne, a week earlier, I’d photographed my first kōwhai flowers of the season.

There’s a pathetic little lilium longiflorum flower in a friend’s garden, but that might just be a symptom of climate change confusion.

Lilium longiflorum

Lilium longiflorum (20 Feb 2013)

Lilium longiflorum (20 Feb 2013)



I was well pleased with this image, captured in the shade on a sunny morning, with the aid of a little bit of flash.

In New Zealand, Lilium longiflorum is widely known as the ‘Christmas lily’, although some insist this name traditionally belongs to Lilium Regale.

From your Valentine

Antique Valentine (1909)

Antique Valentine (1909)




I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street.

(WH Auden, in As I Walked Out One Evening, 1935)


Saint Valentine’s Day – also known as the Feast of Saint Valentine – is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church.

At last count, there were as many as three saints named Valentinus associated with 14 February, and up to eleven commemorated by the Roman Catholic Church on various days. But in the 1969 revision of the Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to local and regional calendars. (adapted from Wikipedia)

The Wikipedia article also explains that “The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as valentines).”

With Lent falling so early this year (Ash Wednesday yesterday), roses and chocolate might seem frivolously at odds with spiritual practice – but the florists and confectioners are counting on the commercialisation of courtly love.