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Ground Rules

Saturdays 7.30am | TV ONE

Fact sheet 2004 - Ep 10

Winter Solstice

Throughout the show Lynda demonstrated how to warm up winter with some beautiful plant decorations for a winter solstice feast.  

This first idea was very affordable.  She used potted colour and new kalanchoe, and put them in a container with moss around the edge.

Another option on the same theme is the little native scleranthus - again they're just in their bags. But this time she put some candles in and sprinkled a few chillies and mandarins to add some colour.  

The next item Lynda used 2 glass containers, one goes inside the other - if you don't have the right sized vases, use a couple of jars.

Lynda used tulips- which are ideal, because you'll need foliage or flowers that spray out, covering the edges of the vases/jars.  And then she added jellybeans to give a colourful finish.

A variation on the jellybean finish was jaffas, which tone in well with the red hypericum berries and celosias.  A lovely warm touch for winter.

Lynda then used Aloe leaves as an arrangement.   She used 3 big stems and a couple of anthuriums.  The trick is to use a heavy glass vase with an outward curving top so the aloe leaves can bend out gracefully.

Still with the glass theme, a simple table decoration to make is the swirl of bear grass around the base of a vase, with a floating candle in it.

You can use a vase-or a large brandy glass would look great too. Fill the container about a third full with water, then take a bunch of bear grass - which you can get from any florist through winter, cut off the gritty ends, and gather it in a bunch and swirl it around the base of the vase.  Then top it off with a floating candle.

The last two ideas used garden produce, a pumpkin with flowers and candles in it-and spiced oranges&. First of all take a pumpkin-one with a flat-ish bottom so it will sit. Slice off the top and take out the seeds leaving plenty of flesh to make sure water won't leak out of it.  Then put a piece of florists' foam into the hole.. Lynda then added flowers, orange gerberas and some aromatic geranium leaves. Finally push the candles into the foam- at odd angles looks good. And a tip to make it easy to push the candles into the foam is to tape satay sticks to the end of the candles.

And the finishing touch to our winter solstice table was clove oranges. They're traditional winter decorations - but you can also use them as tea light holders. Lynda showed us a trick.  Buy a tea light with a metal holder-then you use the metal holder as a template to cut the hole in the orange. Use a really sharp knife to cut around the top and take out a small amount of flesh. Push the candle back in the holder, push it in and finish the top with a circle of cloves.

Thanks to Fionna Hill, florist, for the original ideas and help with these decorations.

The basics of native propagation

In the final Basics for this series of Ground Rules, we showed the Basics of growing popular native plants from seed and from cuttings.

There are a number of natives you can propagate at this time of the year from cuttings or division -Coprosmas, Hebes, flaxes, Kowhai. And now is still the seed season so it's a good idea to get around collecting madly now if you want to grow from seed.
Cabbage trees and Pohutakawa are particularly are good right now.

Once you get the seed, dry them in the sun and then put them in a brown paper bag in the fridge. That keeps the seed viable for longer.

A sheltered spot outside will do unless you're in a frost area, in which case make sure they're not put where they new growth will be frozen.

Collecting cabbage tree seed: 

At this time of the year cabbage trees almost look like they're flowering because some are so heavy with seed.  The trick to know is that cabbage tree seeds go white when ripe. It's very easy to grow cabbage trees from seed but NOT so easy to collect. Cabbage trees are always taller than you'd expect&

You could nail an ice cream container to the end of a long stick&that would definitely work& But one of the best ways is to lay a sheet out around the tree and then get a long stick and bang the seed heads.

They're very easy to grow from then on. It's best to soak them for a couple of days to get the fleshy outer coating off them - that cuts down on fungal problems with the seed. Then rub them between your hands to de husk them

Then you sprinkle them on a coarse seed raining mix and in two to three weeks they'll come up.

Growing Kowhai from seed:

You can grow kowhai from seed or tip cuttings at this time of the year. The seeds are little hard yellow seeds and these need to be treated specially to make them grow. In nature kowhai seed erodes away as it tumbles down streams and then when it comes to rest it germinates. But we have to break through the hard casing to make it germinate. The best thing to do is to get a pair of nail clippers and then take each seed and carefully make a nick-along the brown backbone of the seed is one of the easiest places to cut. But make sure you don't nick the inner kernel of the seed because that destroys it.  You could use a knife but these are slippery little things!

Then put it to soak in water overnight-by the next day it should be swollen and ready to plant.  Fill a tray with seed raising mix  - it has to be coarse for good drainage. Water the potting mix tray to avoid disturbing the seeds later.  Scatter the seeds over the top of the seed mix then cover them with their own depth of seed mix.
They'll germinate in a couple of weeks.  

Taking Cuttings from Kowhai:

You can also take tip cuttings from Kowhai at this time of the year.

  • Look for the growing tip on each branch.
  • Take a cutting that is approximately a hand's width, tip of thumb to end of outstretched little finger. 
  • Strip off all the lower leaves, but leave the top growth on. Trim the cutting back to a node -where a leaf was stripped from the stem. 
  • Put potting mix in tray
  • Water the potting mix tray. 
  • Then stick the cuttings in the potting mix - bury about 2/3rds of the cutting in the pot. 
  • Put the pot into a plastic bag to keep an even humidity. 
  • They may take quite a while to root-6 weeks to 2 months. Once they have rooted though, transfer them to individual pots and then plant them out in spring.

Seed gathering from Flax:

Flax is very easy to grow from seed - collect right now because it's the last of the seed-gathering season.

The best way to collect it is to put a bag over the seed head, then cut the stem and shake the seeds into the bag

Division of Flax: 

  • Find a fan on the side of the bush. 
  • Separate it gently and try to pull it apart as far as possible. Then put a spade down and chop through making sure you get roots as well. 
  • Cut all of the flax leaves apart from the central one and the one each side of it back to the central leaf shoot, then plant. The reason you always cut the foliage back on cuttings is to relieve the strain on the root system as it develops.
  • Heel straight into a free draining bed.

Top 5 boggy plants

1. Iris ensata 'Variegata'
The beautiful creamy white and green vertically striped foliage of this variegated iris, will brighten up a damp garden site.

2. Leptocarpus similis  Oioi
The native 'Oioi' is great for moist to wet soils, it has fine grey-green rush like stems, marked with dark brown bands.

3. Phormium cookianum Mountain flax 
The Mountain flax grows to 1metre, with light yellow-green arching leaves and an attractive flower spike.

4. Ligularia 'Britt-Marie Crawford'
A bold choice is Ligularia 'Britt-Marie Crawford' a deciduous perennial, with dramatic dark foliage and brilliant summer flowers.

5. Primula helodoxa 
For a moist, shady site Primula helodoxa, with its bright yellow candelabra type fragrant blooms is perfect.

Beautiful backyard: Lois Magill

This week's beautiful backyard was the garden of Lois Magill in Reporoa. Plants featured in this garden were:

Ficus pumila (Creeping Fig), Carpinus betulus (European Hornbeam) and Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum).

Top 5 Winter flowering

1. Camellia sasanqua
Flowering from autumn into early winter, Camellia sasanqua withstands quite cold climates and flowers abundantly.

2. Helleborus niger 'White magic'  
Bred in New Zealand, Helleborus 'White magic' is a stunning perennial with pretty white flowers that turn pink as they age.

3. Daphne odora 'Leucanthe' Winter Daphne
The Winter Daphne is the perfect choice for perfumed gardens, Leucanthe has large clusters of deep pink flowers throughout mid winter to spring.

4. Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price'
This hardy Viburnum tolerates full sun or part shade. The red buds open to white flowers tinged with pink through winter to early spring.

5. Leptospermum scoparium 'Martinii'
'Martinii' is a native tea tree that's magnificent in full bloom, with large, rich pink to red flowers from late winter .

Shoppers' guide to garden gadgets

This week on the shoppers guide we looked at a selection of the best gadgets on the market. These are cleverly designed devices that can make boring jobs like trimming hedges and watering plants faster and more efficient. 
We showed you the:

Stark Hose Swivel priced from $15 available from Mitre10 and Bunnings.

Bottle Top Sprinklers Available by mail order from Garden Gloves (0800 87 7767) or website: Price $2.20 each or 5 for $10

EZE-LAP Diamond Sharpener Available by mail order from Garden Gloves (0800 87 7767) or website: Price $20

The Paper Planter Maker priced from $19.95 Available from the Eco-Store (09) 360 8477; website:

Stihl CombiSystem Available from Wright's Outdoor Equipment (09) 479 5545; website or Price: Start at $895 for motor and one attachment, each add-on attachment is between $250-$900 each.

Plant doctor

This week the Plant Doctor showed us how to Spray safely in the Garden
Spraying for disease and bugs is a reality for gardeners, and whether you are using organic or chemical sprays, your safety is a very important consideration.

Storage of chemicals:

Keep garden chemicals and spray equipment in a locked cabinet, or on a high shelf out of the reach of children in their original labelled containers.  Don't put leftover chemicals into softdrink bottles!


Garden chemicals often come with trade names, which give little initial idea of their degree of dangerousness. All should be treated with extreme caution. But on their labels all harmful substances and active ingredients-things that do the job - have to be listed. Learn how to read them.

Before a pesticide can be sold in New Zealand it must comply with the Pesticides Act 1979 and be approved by the Pesticides board. Manufacturers must provide evidence of toxicity, residues, effect on the environment and efficacy. The most toxic category for home gardeners is a Standard Poison (on the label you'll see POISON). Less toxic are the Harmful Substances (on the label you will see CAUTION for these.  

  • Read the label carefully and accurately. Follow the directions and precautions to the letter. 
  • Don't try to out-guess the experts by mixing two or more different chemicals together, this can be very dangerous.


Windy/rainy days - neither of these weather conditions is conducive to spraying.

  • Don't spray on windy days. Coverage will be spotty and spray drift can be dangerous.
  • Don't spray in the rain, as much of your spray, whether it's pesticide, fungicide or weed killer, will simply be washed away.

Time of day

  • Spray in the early morning or late afternoon when winds have dropped. A dry plant can be burned when there is insufficient moisture in its tissues.
  • Even midday spraying in winter can result in serious burning of plant tissue by the sun.

More is not better

  • Do not be tempted to mix up a more concentrated solution than that specified on the label. It is unnecessary and can even be harmful.
  • Using higher than the recommended rates will not be more effective and may endanger desirable plants and insects.
  • Using lower than recommended rates will be less effective.


  • Gardeners don't think about putting protective gear on whilst mixing chemicals, but this is when the chemicals are most concentrated and harmful.  If you get some chemicals on your hands or breathe in powder while standing over them, it's extremely dangerous.  So you MUST wear protective clothes.
  • You MUST wear protective clothing when spraying including, long PVC rubber gloves, a mask, protective glasses and footwear, which covers feet.  If you've got bald spots, wear a hat or cover up your head with an old jumper. Also protect your neck.
  • MASK -check to make sure you get one that is used for spraying. Not JUST A DUST MASK.  If using sprays marked POISON then it's very important to have one with a charcoal filter at least.


  • Well, it goes without saying - never eat, drink or smoke while spraying or dusting chemicals.

Withholding periods

  • With edible crops, observe the withholding period (minimum time between spray and harvest), specified on the label.

Separate spray bottles for fertilisers and weed killers

  • Use separate spray bottles for fertilisers and weed killers.
  • Even sprayers cleaned out thoroughly can retain some potency, therefore it is best to avoid using a spray bottle that has contained a weed killer to then spray fertiliser on your trees and shrubs, as some damage may still be caused.


1. Remember spraying as a preventative is always better than spraying once you have an established problem. 

2. Just because a chemical is organic and derived from a natural source, it doesn't mean that it's non-toxic to humans. 

Disposal of chemicals

Rinse spray equipment with water after use. It's a good idea to wash your face and hands with soap and warm water. Make sure you wash your hands before eating or smoking.

The incorrect disposal of garden chemicals may pose a threat to both the immediate and long-term health of humans, animals and our environment.

  • Never pour garden chemicals down sink, into storm water drains, or into the ground.
  • Empty garden chemical containers can be rinsed out three times, and thrown out with household rubbish.
  • Don't throw empty aerosol containers into an open fire or an explosion may result.
  • If you have garden chemicals that you no longer want, in Auckland you can take them to a Hazmobile Collection. In other parts of the country your Regional Council for information about hazardous household waste collection facilities.