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Falco novaeseelandiae

Header image: An impressively large female kārearea (Falco novaeseelandiae) perched on a wifi box atop our potting shed

News from the nursery and spring outlook

Following a fairly mild winter with rainfall well below normal, the climate outlook for the next 3 months indicates inland Otago is about equally likely to have near average or above average temperature and rainfall. While the rest of the country is likely to have a drier than normal season coming up, there is a prediction for El Niño to bring moist westerlies to the west of the lower south island starting around mid September, which should improve our chances of decent rainfall here in Central.

Top: Antonia getting a truck load of plants ready for delivery

Bottom: Barbara potting rooted Olearia cuttings

As we enter our busy season it’s all hands on deck potting up cuttings, sowing seeds, and pricking out. Soon we’ll begin spring potting in earnest, potting on all our small plants we’ve grown over the past year. We’re also working on finishing up our new greenhouse (below) which is nearly ready for wiring and wrapping with it’s polythene skin.

Having a new large greenhouse area will allow us to continue our propagation work for revegetation and house our growing on lines, accommodating at least 60000 small plants.

Above: Samantha examining the healthy root ball of a Griselinia littoralis grow-on line (GOL) aka liner. These small plants are fated to be potted up and become stock in a PB6.5 or PB18 grade.

Millennium Seed Bank

During August our production manager Samantha visited the Millennium Seed Bank in Wakehurst Gardens, south east England. Seed banks are sites that preserve seed for posterity, guarding against any future situation where a significant plant is a victim to climate change, disease or human caused destruction. Storing seed preserves the genetic diversity of a plant, so it can be grown and re-established in a safer area to protect the plants from total extinction. It also helps safeguard against genetic bottlenecking, where populations become so small that genetic diversity is lost and the robustness of the populations are compromised as a result. This is the same reason we eco-source from genetically healthy populations of plants with 50+ individuals -meaning we sometimes have to source many kms away as the Queenstown Lakes area has been extensively depopulated of native plants.

The Millennium Seed Bank is of international significance, considered the most diverse seed source on Earth, with over 40000 different species of plants in storage. Operated by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Millennium Seed Bank works with seed banks from all over the world, sharing seed and knowledge with 189 countries. At the cutting edge of seed storage technology, the vault where the seeds are held runs underneath the main building housing many laboratories. With seeds held at -20 C, and some even cryopreserved down to -196 C, protective suits have to be worn to enter the vault. Understandably only staff are able to enter the vault, giving it a mystical quality.

Visitors are however able to view the laboratories and the staff working in them like a human zoo. The whole process is visible to track with information detailing each step that the seeds take from being received into the building, processed, prepared and finally stored in the vault. From the trip Sam was able to bring back valuable information that can help us improve the way we currently process and store our seed. It gave us a vision that in the future we could aspire to store our seed longer term as a small seed bank preserving genetic diversity for our struggling local native populations.

Plant spotlight

Spring brings our most diverse offering of plants for the whole year, though a number of lines are still waiting on a flush of growth to be ready for sale - the season has only just begun, after all. Some plants, like the Euphorbia robbiae PB6.5 shown below, are already rearing to go.

Euphorbia robbiae PB6.5

A useful plant for dry shady locations under trees, this evergreen perennial will eventually spread by growth from undergound stems to cover the ground up to 1.5m wide. The dark green leaves growing to 50cm tall are beautifully contrasted by the lime green flowers that appear from spring to early summer. Euphorbia robbiae is an easy to care for plant that only needs good drainage, and is hardy to -20 C. You can remove any seedlings in the wrong place but be sure to wear gloves as damaged foliage can release an irritant sap. Tolerant to rabbit and deer.

Coprosma rugosa PB6.5

Among other things, we have some excellent Coprosma, including the Coprosma rugosa PB6.5 shown above, many fine Hebe/Veronica species including Hebe 'Wiri mist' PB6.5 and Hebe odora PB6.5, and the underrated Ozothamnus leptophyllus PB6.5, one of the best growing natives for this area.

If you’re planting a hedge, we have large specimens of both the ever popular Pittosporum tenuifolium PB18 and Griselinia littoralis PB18, and the less known but excellent hedging native Olearia traversii PB18.

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.


Covering the ground with woodchip or other decaying organic material (cardboard works great) helps to retain moisture and suppress weeds. The best time to apply mulch is after winter, when the soil is moist from winter rain and the mulch acts as a cap to reduce evaporation. This can make all the difference through our harsh summers! Woodchip in particular also helps soil fertility, releasing nutrients as it breaks down. Woodchip will also increase the soil's ability to hold onto water and nutrients overtime once the woodchip has broken down. This is important as most soils in our area have very low fertility and drain readily.

Many believe that natives do not need soil amendments as they should be adapted to our soils. However many years after human induced fires the topsoil and organic matter from our local soils have eroded enough to leave them unsuitable for many natives. Forest and shrubland natives such as Pittosporum tenuifolium and Griselinia littoralis benefit greatly from added organic matter and mulch. Organic matter and mulch also help to feed and establish beneficial fungi; these ectomycorrhizal fungi have been found to be a key difference between a healthy Mountain Beech and one that diminishes or doesn't grow. Most of our native plants have been found to associate with fungi.

Above: Newly mulched bed in the nursery’s mother plants area, Ozothamnus leptophyllus front and left and Muehlenbeckia astonii on the right.

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