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New Zealand Plants and their Story

Methods of Propagation and Collecting

Methods of Propagation and Collecting.

Quite a number of New Zealand plants can now be procured cheaply at some of the nurseries, and from such many will obtain what they may require. However, there will always be some who prefer to collect what takes their fancy in the forest, on the hillsides, or elsewhere. This, as well as being a healthy and delightful occupation, will stock a garden with mementos of many a happy hour, and will recall scenes of beauty.

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As to the digging-implement, something light, strong, and easily carried is required. For many years the writer has used a shingling-hammer with the head beaten out into a small pick-axe, a tool first designed by the late Mr. H. J. Matthews. By means of this the strong-rooted plants of an alpine meadow may be attacked, large stones cleared away, and so on. Within the forest, small seedling trees and shrubs are in plenty. But, rather than secure those of the forest-shade, procure those of the outskirts, which are exposed to more sun and wind; and in such a situation the majority of the forest trees and shrubs, from the lordly kauri to the wiry-twigged coprosmas, may be found, while the smaller the plants are the better. These, when dug up, should be quite freed from soil, nothing being gained by taking up great pieces of earth. The roots should next be closely wrapped round with wet moss, using bog-moss for preference. Alpine plants, too, can be mossed similarly. Finally, to save room and conserve moisture, a number of such plants can be tied into one bundle, the mossed roots being all together. It is astonishing how long plants will remain in good condition if treated in this manner.

These collected plants, upon being brought home, should be planted in boxes or potted, or put into nursery-beds in a shady part of the garden. Of course, if there is a greenhouse, frame, or, better still, a shade-house or plant-protector fitted with a blind, into one or other of these the boxes or pots should go. Some species, difficult to grow from seed or to strike from cuttings, are best collected in their habitats —e.g., many alpine herbaceous plants and subshrubs, various species of Dracophyllum, orchids of all kinds, Gunnera, Dacrydium laxifolium, the various beeches, and the species of Gaultheria. Cuttings in many instances will serve as well as if not better than young plants. The following may be propagated in this manner: Veronica, Olearia, Senecio, Cassinia, Aristotelia, Myrtus, Griselinia, Rubus, Podocarpus totara, P. nivalis, Gaya. Cuttings are best taken in the autumn, and should be struck in coarse sand in a shady place. If placed in pots or pans, those pieces pressed against the edge of the pot have the best chance. They can be struck also in a shady, some even in quite a sunny place in the open. The ground should be kept damp, but not sodden with water.

Most New Zealand plants suitable for gardens can be raised from seed. This should be as fresh as possible. Species of the following page 170genera usually germinate with great ease: Sophora, Carmichaelia, Veronica, Epilobium, Pittosporum, Melicytus, Pennantia, Hoheria, Celmisia, Hymenanthera, Gaya, Plagianthus, Fuchsia, Muehlenbeckia, Calystegia, Notospartium, Acaena, Rubus, Clematis, Leptospermum, and Coprosma. Small seeds should be covered with very little soil. Seeds are much better sown in boxes or pots than in the soil of the open border. The soil in which they are sown should consist of 50 per cent. or more of coarse sand.

So far as a school-garden is concerned, it is quite out of the question to draw up any general scheme. Everything depends upon the situation of the school, the enthusiasm of the master, and, above all, on the interest of the scholars. Perhaps one rather narrow bed alongside a fence, and out of the way of damage during the play-hour, would in many instances meet the case. In other places certain corners here and there would possess special advantages. The ground should be dug deeply and the drainage be good. Every plant should be labelled distinctly but not obtrusively. As well as the name, the place where the plant was collected should be noted. Labels may be made of some durable wood (totara, for instance), zinc,* or iron. As fox the plants to be cultivated, that also will depend upon teachers and pupils. At any rate, it is better to grow a few well than to have many neglected.

The following plants are easy of cultivation and not difficult to procure:—

Trees.Sophora grandiflora, S. microphylla (kowhai); Plagianthus betulinus (ribbonwood); Gaya Lyallii, G. ribifolia (mountain-ribbon-wood); Hoheria (any of the species), (lacebark); Griselinia littoralis (broadleaf), G. lucida, where hardy; Pseudopanax crassifolium, P. chathamica (lancewood); Phyllocladus trichomanoides (tanekaha, celery-top pine); Nothopanax arboreum (ivy-tree); Meryta Sinclairii (puka), where hardy; Metrosideros tomentosa (pohutukawa), where hardy; Agathis australis (kauri); Corynocarpus laevigata (karaka), where hardy; Vitex lucens (puriri), where hardy; Pennantia corymbosa (kaikomako); Pittosporum Ralphii, P. eugenioides (tarata), P. tenuifolium (tawhiri), P. crassifolium; Brachyglottis repanda (rangiora), where hardy; Phebalium nudum; Leptospermum ericoides (tree-manuka); Myoporum laetum (ngaio), where hardy; Olearia Traversii page 171(Chatham Island akeake); Cordyline australis (palm-lily); Nothofagus fusca, N. cliff ortioides, N. Solandri (native beeches).

Shrubs.—A selection of distinct veronicas—e.g., V. Traversii, V. Dieffenbachii, V. buxifolia, V. elliptica, V. anomala, V. cupressoides, V. Lavaudiana, V. Hulkeana, V. pinguifolia, V. Hectori, V. salicifolia, V. macrocarpa, V. diosmaefolia, V. chathamica, V. decumbens. Any of the taller-growing veronicas, if they become too big, can be cut out altogether and replaced by young plants grown from cuttings. There should be a selection of olearias—e.g., O. nitida, O. avicenniaefolia, O. virgata, O. ilicifolia, O. Solandri; in fact, almost any can easily be grown except O. semidentata, O. angustifolia, and others of that class, and even these grow well in south Otago, Westland, and Southland. Most senecios are easy to cultivate, and are very showy when in full bloom—e.g., S. compactus, S. perdicioides, S. Greyii, S. laxifolius, S. Monroi. Other shrubs easy of cultivation are the carmichaelias (native brooms), Notospartium Carmichaeliae (pink broom), the cassinias, many of the coprosmas, Melicope simplex, Myrtus bullata, M. obcordata, M. pedunculata.

Lianes.—The various species of Rubus are interesting plants. R. australis, with its great mass of white blossoms, is handsome when in bloom; R. schmidelioides goes through a juvenile and adult form, the former having much thinner leaves, and occurring usually on the forest-floor; and R. cissoides var. pauperatus makes a pretty bush, partly owing to its yellow prickles, and has a very curious appearance, with its leaves reduced to midribs. Then there is Senecio sciadophilus (the climbing-groundsel), and the various species of clematis.

Ferns.—Here, again, it all depends upon the climate of the proposed garden. In many parts of the North Island (the Manawatu, Taranaki, and parts of Auckland), tree-ferns, especially the black tree-fern (Cyathea medullaris), thrive splendidly in the open, and a grove of these may be made a striking feature. But in many districts the most shaded positions alone must be chosen, or even a special structure would need building for the ferns to thrive. The following are some of the most easily grown species: Cyathea medullaris, C. dealbata (silver tree-fern), Dicksonia squarrosa, D. fibrosa, Asplenium bulbiferum, A. lucidum, Polystichum vestitum, P. Richardi, Adiantum affine, Hypolepis tenuifolium, Pteris incisa, P. scaberula, Blechnum fluviatile, B. capense, B. discolor, Polypodium pennigerum, P. Billardieri, P. serpens, Nephrodium hispidum, Pellaea rotundifolia.

* Zinc labels can be easily written upon, using as ink a solution of sulphate of copper.