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Header image: The newest additions to the nursery menagerie, our four female alpacas, checking our their wet weather shelter in the nursery shelterbelt. They are retired breeding stock from the Kepler Mountain View alpaca stud farm

News from the nursery and autumn outlook

Following a hot, dry summer - the 9th hottest on record - we’re now getting stuck into what might be a decent autumn for plant growth, with warm and wet conditions about equally as likely as average conditions. Stimulated by El Nino westerlies, there’s a good chance of above average rainfall, which would be welcome after a dry summer, with some areas of inland Otago such as Clyde recording only 50% of normal rainfall.

Top: The southwest corner of the outdoor growing area on a typical early autumn day

Bottom: A recent aerial view of our outdoor growing area, looking down the gorge towards Gibbston

We’re keeping busy collecting and sowing seeds, and trying to get as much potting done before the cold weather comes and growth slows right down. There’s still planning to be done for autumn planting projects, and so far we have seen promising results from plantings from previous years that are now established. These results include more sightings of native birds as they increase their range from a stand of trees by the old Waitiri homestead to all around the nursery.

Coprosma propinqua seeds before and after cleaning. Eco sourced from healthy breeding populations standing on Waitiri station, we think the natural variety in berry colouration is a good sign of genetic diversity.

Grey warblers are visiting regularly, and we have a few resident tui and bellbirds whose population we aim to increase by improving all year round food availability with careful species selection and providing nesting sites through trees like kanuka (Kunzea). We will be planting more kowhai (Sophora), kotukutuku (Fuchsia excorticata), harakeke (Phormium) and early fruiting Coprosma sp. such as dumosa and lucida. We already have a winter food source in the form of the old farm shelterbelts of Eucalypts and Grevillea victoriae that we have planted.

We recently released a juvenile hawk or swamp harrier (Circus approximans) that we caught incapacitated and unable to fly near the nursery. It’s possible he was suffering from some form of secondary poisoning (either lead or pindone), which is unfortunately common in juveniles and a side effect of the amount of rabbit control which is necessary in this area. Luckily he still had a hearty appetite and after a few days confined regaining his strength he was able to fly away without any issues. Big thanks to Remarkable Vets and Alan at Avian Rescue Otago for their advice.

Important to note, like all raptors a hawk cannot be successfully rehabbed in a cage and a DOC Permit is required to hold them in captivity. We were lucky in this case that this guy recovered on his own and did not require transfer to a rehab. Any raptor confined for more than a couple of days will see it’s health quickly begin to decline. If you find a sick or injured bird of prey, contact Avian Rescue Otago - they even have a chelation treatment that can reverse the effects of lead poisoning.

Bucky the hawk before and after his release at the nursery

Plants are the foundation of all terrestrial food chains and if you like to see birds, plant more plants. One major planting project we’re helping with this autumn is the Slope Hill project, organised by Mana Tāhuna, and the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust, whose 10th anniversary we recently celebrated. We are supplying some of the plants for the project, and this autumn will see over 15000 plants from our nursery going to the Coronation Planting and the wetland restoration. We’re stoked to be able to contribute to creating this “biodiversity corridor” in the Lake Hayes catchment. Big shout out to Mana Tāhuna and the WRT.

Some of the 7000 trees planted on Slope Hill for the He Rā Rākau Tītapu – King Charles III Coronation Plantings

Plant spotlight

We have a lot of plants looking good right now, but especially vibrant are the pink autumn flowers of these Sedum 'Autumn Joy' PB6.5. These succulents are particularly well suited for central Otago gardens, being drought tolerant and hardy, with an interesting shape and texture.

Top: Sedum 'Autumn Joy' in PB6.5 grade in the nursery

Bottom: Established specimens growing in an Arrowtown garden

We’d also recommend the Coprosma as looking great right now, in stock we have Coprosma propinqua, rugosa and virescens, plus the groundcover Coprosma acerosa and the more shade tolerant Coprosma lucida. These shrubs are an important part of the gray shrubland that forms a key part of the greater Central Otago ecosystem. If you have space, it’s best to plant a mix of species as they fruit at different times and a mix will provide the best food source for birds and lizards.

With 35 different species of Coprosma found naturally in Otago there's one for every garden. Coprosma propinqua makes a fantastic hedge as its resilience to the local environment is almost unmatched. In tough conditions without additional irrigation they will outgrow more water dependent exotic hedge plants. Small leafed Coprosma like rugosa are very resilient to clipping making them perfect for topiary. Coprosma virescens can be easily trained into a beautiful small tree by stripping lower branches to reveal smooth dappled pink and green bark.

Above: Coprosma propinqua showing it’s toughness as it grows through a split schist boulder

Below: C. rugosa and propinqua PB6.5 grade ready to go in the nursery

As always if you are planning any plantings or big jobs for this autumn or next spring let us know and we will prepare a quote. The more lead time you can give us, the better we can meet your needs.

Check out our Catalogue for more information or feel free to flick us an email or a call.

As always, if you want a quick overview of what we have in stock, you can check our order page.

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