A large country garden - 434 Pencarrow Road
Ailsa and I travelled out to Pencarrow Road again on another beautiful cloudless winter’s day to meet with Christiene and Karl Ulrich. Christiene was at the door before the car pulled up. Our first move was a tour of her very large paintings throughout the house. Much of this art was purchased from America. Christiene is happy to show these works of art to any festival goers who are particularly interested.
The artists are:
Michael Cheval: Enigma
Chris Derubeis: The day we met.
Linda Le Kinff: Spending time with Max
Shan Merry: Retrouvailles
Itchak Tarkay: Happy Recolllections.
We met Karl in the dining room and sat down and chatted for a while. Christiene and Karl moved to this lifestyle block 11 years ago from their farm. The property was bare when they arrived, and the extensive planting has changed over the years. Christiene is the gardener and Karl says he is the gopher. They have lots of evergreens – Karl “doesn’t like bare things”.
Then it was time to view the garden. Christiene and Karl were in the middle of mulching the garden with woodchips. They expect to use 20m3 by the time they finish the job. They do recommend woodchips as a mulch and they sourced theirs from Cameron’s in Cambridge. A mulch they had used on an earlier occasion was full of seeds and resulted in lots of unwanted plants. On the other hand, they think sawdust looks more artificial and has the problem of blowing around.
Features at the front of the property are the two connected ponds and the sculptures. Beside the pond are some very attractive white Tibouchina ‘Cool Baby”. Candy, their top cow – produced +44 litres/day – is depicted in corrugated iron from Tirau. The garden is full of shrubs – lots of Michelia, Pieris japonica, maples and deciduous azalea. Christiene told us about her impressive Golden Rain tree that gets covered in masses of yellow flowers. This may be Koelreuteria paniculata. There’s a row of hydrangea along the fenceline and Karl had pruned these just above ground level with his chainsaw! Christiene grows large numbers of Dutch iris, lilies and “thousands” of her favourite daffodils.
The orchard is lined with well-shaped feijoa trees and there is a large, very productive citrus grove. They have the full range of citrus including lemons, lemonade, tangelo, mandarins and lime. When we visited, the trees were laden with large colourful fruit. Karl and Christiene are convinced that the lime tree was affecting adversely the taste of the other fruit in the proximity. They were advised to move the lime away from the other citrus. They did this and the problem was solved. I’m a little sceptical because I can’t find any reference to this on the Web, but its great that it worked for them.
The vegetable garden is covered with bird netting and there is a huge area for tomatoes. There is a star jasmine hedge behind the garden, and it should be beautiful when it’s in flower.
Along from the vegetable garden is an impressive berry “house”. As well as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, the feature is Berry Delight, a cross between boysenberry and loganberries. It’s a heavy cropper (3 plants produced over 100kg last summer) and is thornless, a big advantage compared with boysenberries. Berry Delight fruits on 2nd year canes. It makes lovely jam and cheesecake topping.
Christiene encourages birds into the garden with birdseed, beef-dripping for the wax-eyes and of course the kowhai and other flowering plants. Nineteen quail live in the area and regularly visit the garden. Speaking of birds, the pukeko, who make their home in the paddocks, are not welcome in the garden. Karl has installed netting around the bottom of the gates to keep them out. Interestingly the cattle don’t disturb their nests in the grass in the paddock.
The Ulrich’s are into propagation. Christiene grew lots of seeds in the hothouse. When they were on the farm, they grew thousands of elder trees from seed and planted them out when they were large enough. They favoured elders for their nitrogen-fixing characteristic. A tip they learnt was not to use a post-hole borer to make the holes for the trees. It causes the formation of an impenetrable layer for the roots and the trees do not flourish.
They have had the odd setback. Christiene said polyanthus have not done well in her garden; they had slaters in the kowhai trees and last year’s potatoes were shocking. They had a big crop, but they were all glazy and watery when cooked.
We finished our tour in the huge and extremely organised man shed. It even includes a lockable room for the poisons.
That done, we had to dash off to our next garden.