On Monday and Tuesday this week we went on a field trip to Dunedin. Our first stop was at Blueskin Nursery to learn about their production. They have a garden centre and cafe as well. A lot of their plants are orders from specific customers. They sell about 100,000 plants per year.
It was a real surprise to see how basic the facilities are. Our equipment at Polytech is very flash in comparison!
After a quick lunch stop we raced off to Orokonui Ecosanctuary for a bush walk. There are heaps of amazing plants and native birds in the sanctuary. I saw Tuis, Tomtits, South Island kaka, Bellbirds and wood pigeon. There is a predator fence set up so there are no rats, stoats or possums that can harm the wildlife. There are even free range Tuatara in the sanctuary, but the only one I saw was one of the two they keep in a viewing pen.
Orokonui also claims to have the tallest tree in New Zealand, which is actually a Eucalyptus, not a native New Zealand tree.
On Tuesday we spent the day at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens which was fantastic. It was by far my favourite part of the trip. We had a behind the scenes tour of the propagation facilities. They did a full renovation a year ago and are now state of the art.
The gardens are massive and are so well done. My favourite areas were the Rhododendron Dell which was in full bloom and the Clive Lister garden which highlights different textures of plants.
On Wednesday we had a day on grafting. I had been looking forward to learning about how to graft and it was really interesting. November is the right time of year to graft dormant wood onto root stock (budding is done in February).
We started with rind grafting on to apple trees that had been stumped. This sort of grafting is called top working. Old trees can be given a new lease on life by removing the old grafted material and starting again with a new cultivar. Often you’ll need to leave a bit of the old graft (inter-stock section) or the stump will be too short.
On the stump you cut the bark and peal it back, then cut the end of the new wood on the diagonal. The new wood being introduced is called the scion. Insert the scion so the cambium layers join up (where the cells divide) so they can connect. Secure with tape. Leave two buds on and then cover the stump and cut wood with wax. We did four grafts per tree in the hopes that one will take. The others would be cut off later.
On Thursday we had propagation class where we did more cuttings. This time was herbaceous cuttings. They are from plants are soft stemmed and never get woody. These can be done at any time of the year.
The peonies on campus are looking gorgeous. The photo below shows the difference between early September and now.
Last week’s weather: