Friday, September 25, 2009

My kiwi gatekeeper

As Sydney's climate is warmer than New Zealand's, it's no great surprise to find that the popular kiwi plant called 'NZ Christmas Bush' is in flower here already, in spring. It's doing a great job for me in my ugly side passage, where all the various wheelie-style garbage bins and the air-conditioner unit live. From the street, all passers-by see is a tall potted plant with green-blue foliage topped with fuzzy red pom poms. And that was the plan, and each year it's working better than the last.

Here's the top half – the showtime section – of my kiwi gatekeeper this morning. This year's blooming is better than last year's, which was better than the year before, etc, etc.

Standing back at street level looking down the side passage, and the cover-up is complete. Instead of boring bins you see greenery, and beyond the Christmas bush the greenery of the angel wing begonias.

The flowers are little starbursts of hundreds of fine crimson needles, each tipped with a tiny golden bobble.

Though it's covered in flowers there are plenty more to come, just waiting to burst from their little clusters of buds.

Caught in the act, the explosion of each flower is slow-spreading fire. Indeed, several cultivars of this plant, whose name is Metrosideros, have 'fire' in their name (such as 'Fiji Fire').

I've blogged about this lovely plant before, here. It's one worth recommending to people in similar climates for several reasons, apart from its beauty and hardiness. One big positive is that it is doing well in a lousy spot, with just partial morning sun from about 8am, and shade from about midday onwards. I know that these things also do well in full sun and they cope brilliantly with coastal spots full of salty sea spray, although that isn't an issue for me.

Mine is in a pot that has built-in pot feet, and I think good soil drainage is a reason it's happy. I also feed it slow-release plant food, which is ideal for anything in a pot, and I'm a good boy when it comes to watering it, too.
In return, it has never misbehaved, been attacked by pests or looked unwell. My only worry is that someone, a passer-by, will steal it some day. They'll need more than light fingers, though. It now weighs a ton!


Lanie said...

Your NZ Xmas bush is beautiful. How big is the pot that it is growing in? I hadn't thought about growing them in pots. I'm also impressed with the fact that you have a side passage wide enough to fit a pot! Cheers, Lanie.

Urban Green said...

It's a beautiful plant and if they grow in pots, even better. I wonder if I'd find it here in India, though I'll try. Thanks for posting.

John Turnbull said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Turnbull said...

In recent years, the flowers on our Christmas Bush have dropped before fully maturing (and before Christmas). Is there anything I can do to overcome this (previous to this, it always had a lovely spray of flowers at Christmas time)

Jamie said...

John, flowers dropping could have several causes, and I am no expert, but I suspect something unhappy down at the plant's root zone.

Here's a few ideas to explore.
1. If it's in a pot and has been in the same pot in the same potting mix, there's a strong chance that's your problem. Potting mixes do become exhausted of nutrients, and if they get too dry they can become "hydrophobic" meaning that they can't actually soak up water. The solution is simple enough, repot the plant into a slightly larger pot, removing as much of the old potting mix as possible and replacing it with fresh, new top quality mix.

2. If it's not in a pot it could have similar-but-different problems. If you're in Australia, there's a product called Seasol Super Soil Wetter. It's a combo product combining Seasol (great for healing up sick roots on stressed plants) and a soil wetting agent. You mix it up in a can then water it around the plant. The wetting agent is like a detergent and froths up like a detergent, so three-quarters fill each can, then add the Super Soil Wetter. This product will help to "re-wet" exremely dry soils, and in many cases it can help stressed plants get back to good health.

One final thought is that you can use Seasol Super Soil Wetter on potted plants, but you will need a really big plastic trug, bigger than your pot. Place the potted plant inside the trug, make up enough batches of Super Soil Wetter to completely cover the pot (yep, to the brim, so it is submerged) then leave it there for a couple of hours. That also can work (it did for a friend's potted ficus). This seems like a radical treatment, but it can do the trick sometimes.

Anyway, good luck, John!