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Gardening with Gael: Discovering the joy of gardening



19 Sept, 2022


thumbnail Ligularia facebook-429Stories and associations often shift our perception. Last week I had the good fortune to be one of the audience at a talk in the Library Hall organised by the Kaiwaka/Mangawhai Garden Club.

‘The Joy of Gardening’ was both the topic for the talk and also the latest book by Lynda Hallinan, a signed copy of which I now possess. I purposely have not read it before I wrote this article for fear the article would probably turn into a book review. Funny, knowledgable, self-deprecating and highly entertaining, Lynda reminded us all the everyday joys our gardens provide. A brief insight into her experiences of plant buying during Covid lockdowns reminded me how much we gardeners have in common.

It was the background story of Ligularia reniformis also known as ‘tractor seat plant’ that really tweaked my interest. I do recognise that they are a great landscaping plant but until this week had not really felt the need to include them in my garden. Native to East Asia, Lynda told the story that they are reputed to have been brought to New Zealand by the renowned Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The wonderful Hundertwasser building in Whangarei brings his work close by. The plant features in his artwork and suddenly I was looking at the leaves and the plant in a new light.

The term ‘tractor seat’ comes from the large, lush kidney shaped leaves which are exactly that, shaped like a tractor seat. Growing in clumps they can be divided every few years. In spring they send up tall yellow daisy-like flowers. It is the leaves, however, that give the plant a lush appearance and for which it is mostly grown.

Box and I are busy getting our previous home ready for sale. The design of the original garden featured steps and walks to the cottages that we had for rent. With the sale of these cottages the steps and paths that were the original feature suddenly just led to fences and it has taken me time to get my head around the reformation of the garden.

Part of the joy of gardening for me are the memories and the stories behind each of the plants. Plants that are in memory of friends. Plants that were presents from family. I have had to redesign the garden with new owners in mind.

Gardens evolve over the years and a garden that once featured roses, dahlias and hydrangeas is now in the shade of a beautiful crepe myrtle. It has been a wee bit neglected. ‘What are you doing with this?’ asked Box surveying the saddened state. At that point I really didn’t know. Lynda has come to my rescue. Ligularias enjoy part shade. They are just the boost this part of the garden needed. My spirits lifted. My

energy returned. I remember seeing some at the market last Saturday on Helen’s stand. ‘Yes I do have some more’ said Helen, and kindly delivered them. They look wonderful. The bright green round leaves contrast with the spikey dietes the garden also features. The rotted grass clippings are providing them with the humus rich soil they enjoy. I have a new plant to add to my joy of gardening.



Weeds are rife now. The rain and warmth (and dare I say grass clippings) have them sprouting in abundance. I am reluctant to dispose of this available green matter. My friend Marg has an old wheelie bin she uses for rotting them down. To the weeds she adds seaweed, some grass clippings and whatever is on hand. She swears by the results.

The ‘tractor seat plant’ is a great landscaping option, enhancing any area with its big, lush, shiny leaves. PHOTO/FACEBOOK

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