Sunday, 17 January 2016

Agapanthus - Beauty or Beast?

  It is agapanthus time and my home city of Auckland is awash with waves of these pretty blue and white flowers dancing gently in the breeze.  Native to South Africa, agapanthus seems to have found its dream location in Auckland and has spread so fast and naturalised so easily  that whole streets are now lined with these invasive plants.

  Their ability to cover scruffy banks, edge long driveways and resist salt spray originally made them a popular choice for low maintenance gardens but now the genie is out of the bottle and there is no stopping them.
All these photos were taken on the riverside walk behind my home.
When my garden was first landscaped the designer put in a few agapanthus plants.  I was delighted because they have fresh green foliage which looks good all year round and then those lovely cool flowers which bloom in the heat of summer.  However, it didn't take me long to realise what a nuisance these plants can be.  They produce prolific seeds which seem to be able to germinate in the smallest of cracks and, if left, will spread through the garden choking everything in sight.  I promptly took to digging them out, (they are almost impossible to poison), hard, sweaty work due to their dense root mats.  Even now I find the odd plant popping up here and there and I quickly deal to it. Also, snails love hiding in their thick foliage, a pain for the home vegetable grower. Agapanthus have become so invasive that the New Zealand Department of Conservation, concerned that they are now choking native plants, has classed them an environmental weed.

  Interestingly my daughter-in-law, living in London, bought some agapanthus flowers at a florist for an eye watering price and is keen to establish a plant in her garden.  It seems that what is a weed in one country is a rare and exotic beauty somewhere else.

Another good thing is that bees love them

  Despite their nuisance factor they do make a magnificent sight when in bloom, hide a multiple of sins and I enjoy seeing them each summer. Just one request, agapanthus, please stay out of my garden and our pristine bush and please leave room for our native plants too!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Travel - Don't forget to remember. With thanks to Bill Bryson!

Well  the Christmas / New Year break has come and gone and I have to say it was probably the weirdest one I have ever experienced.  On the 23rd of December I was struck down by a strange bug.  My Doctor called it a flu but it wasn't like any flu I'd ever heard of before.  Every symptom, apart from debilitating lethargy, and loss of appetite, was from the throat up.  I won't bore you with the grizzly details but suffice to say I spent the whole break feeling miserable.  Christmas Day was bizarre.  My son and daughter-in-law put on a brunch for several relatives, many of whom I hadn't seen for months, and I was completely unable to utter a word, my voice entirely gone.  I suppose many would say that was a blessing! My son based in London, ever the comedian, gently asked, when I told him that all my symptoms were in my head, if that meant I was imagining it all? I wish!  Anyway, as luck would have it, the weather here in New Zealand was glorious for the best part so I spent most of the time lying under an umbrella in the sun reading Bill Bryson's latest book, The Road to Little Dribbling. What a delight.  Bryson has such a relaxed, easy style, peppering his accounts with laugh out loud humour and wry observations making the book the perfect antidote to my flu.  And it also got me thinking.


 For those of us who are passionate travellers, life gets to be about the next adventure, the next journey, the where-can-I-go-that-I-haven't-been- before type of thing.  We are always planning and saving for a holiday somewhere, indeed, anywhere.  But how many of us actually sit and ruminate on past travels.  Sure places we have been will come up in conversation or on a TV programme and our minds will flash back briefly to our experiences there but do we ever just sit and relive past journeys.  In fact, once the photos have been carefully placed in an album and shown off to anyone interested, or even those who aren't, how often do we take time to go through the albums again?

In his book Bill visits several places in England that I had visited over the years and barely given a second thought to since.  Beautiful places like Tenby in Wales " is exquisite - full of pastel-coloured houses, sweet-looking hotels and guest houses, characterful pubs and cafes, glorious beaches and gorgeous views " (B. Bryson) or the uniquely beautiful Yorkshire Dales where I spent many happy hours with my son and his family. Bryson views the spectacular Ribblehead Viaduct and mentions in passing the picturesque village of Malham where he used to live and  where I enjoyed lunch. His praise for Oxford is fulsome. He refers to it as "...the most improved city in Britain" (B.Bryson) particularly enjoying the improvements to the museums and the pedestrianised main street. I have a very soft spot for Oxford having spent several weeks there when my son lived there and I came to know and love it well. Haunts familiar to me such as Woodstock and The Trout Inn all get a mention as does the TV series Morse.  I even, at one stage,  harboured a burning desire to be the lock keeper at Iffley lock, in the story book village  just along the river from Oxford "I found myself transported to a Cotswold village, or something awfully like it" (B.Bryson)

Here are some photos from my albums of the places mentioned above:
 Tenby, Wales - I noted beside it " A really delightful town"

 The Trout, Godstow, a short walk from Oxford. I spent many happy times there.

The  spectacular Ribblehead Viaduct, Yorkshire Dales

A wintry day in Malham, Yorkshire, the village Bill Bryson lived in for 8 years
These are but a few of the memory joggers for me in a book crammed full of them and I have to say that despite feeling ill and rather miserable I found it a pure delight to read a chapter, close my eyes and rest while going back in my mind to my memories of the place I had just read about. What a great distraction. So, thank you, Bill Bryson, I am well now and your book was just what the Doctor ordered. I promise I will look back more often but, of course, I will keep looking forward too!

So there we are then,


 The joy they bring you can be life long if you take the time to think back over them.