Term 1 – Week 2 – Plant Naming & ID


Dry garden in Cromwell

I’ve really enjoyed this week! I feel like I’ve learnt a lot. We started the week by learning about plant botanical names. How to correctly format them and what they mean. They need to be formatted in a very specific way. An extra quote mark or missing full stop and it’s wrong.

Knowing the botanical name makes it easier to communicate the exact plant you are talking about. Also, if you are not familar with a certain plant, the botanical name can give you clues about it, such as:

Colour: rosea = rose coloured
Geographical: nipponica = Japan
Type of flower: grandiflora = large flowered
Scent: fragrantissima = most fragant

Plant names are binomial; made up of a genus name and a species name. Example: the genus of lavender (common name) is Lavandula and should be italicized or underlined. A particular species of lavender is Lavandula angustifolia. 

Plant names can also include extra information, like if it is a hybrid:

Lavandula x intermedia – the ‘x’ denotes that this is an interspecific hybrid (species)

Or a cultivar:

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Imperial Gem’

There are lots of other variations to the nomenclature as well.

On Tuesday, with our new grasp on botanical names, we headed out into Cromwell to identify plants. We will be tested on 40 plants and need to know the botanical name, common name, identifying features and uses. We also need to make a specimen book of 10 plants. This was actually a really fun day. I don’t think many of the botanical names have sunk in yet but I’m working on it!

There was also a lecture on plant uses in landscape. It was really interesting and great gardens as examples; it’s amazing what some clever people can do with plants! Some of the points discussed were:

Design – creating unity in a space, linking certain features giving a visual connection, drawing your eye to a certain spot (enframement), camouflage

Environmental – air quality and dust interception, shelter and shade, reduction of noise and habitat creation for wildlife

Engineering – soil moisture and erosion, roots binding soil

Aesthetic – feature trees, accent planting, topiary

There is a lot to consider!


Otago Polytech roadside stall

On Wednesday we got our first look at the new orchard the Polytech has leased. It’s just before the Kawarau Gorge heading out of Cromwell. The orchard has a bit of everything. Peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, boysenberries, raspberries, cherries, plums, greengages, apricots.


Huge boysenberry!

We had a good look around and sampled a lot of the produce. Yum! One thing I really liked that I hadn’t tried before was a peach variety called Coconut Ice.


Peach picking

Then we got to work picking greengages and peaches.


Ute full of greengages

We packed them up straight away and got them out onto the stall for sale. We also got to take as much home as we wanted which was great! I’ll start looking like a peach if I’m not careful.


Freshly picked and ready to sell

Thursday was the first propagation class of the year. New students did a bit of an orientation while us oldies got stuck into some cuttings. I did semi-hardwood cuttings of Heliohebe hulkeana  (New Zealand lilac). It’s an evergreen shrub that flowers from mid-spring until summer. It has small light pink flowers; quite pretty.

The cuttings were dipped in rooting hormone and then sowed into a hygiene tray with 30% potting mix and 70% pumice. This mix makes sure there is good drainage and aeration. Then I popped it on the heat bed in greenhouse 1 and gave it a good misting with water. Hopefully I will get a good strike rate!


Heliohebe hulkeana cuttings on the heat bed. Lusi in the background.

The weather has redeemed itself this week; summer has decided to make an appearance! It has been hot and sunny everyday. Everything is staring to get really dry again.

Last week’s weather:



Term 1 – Week 1 – Back to School


The new school year has begun! There was an orientation for all students on Monday. It was great to meet the new horticulture students. Everyone has such different backgrounds and I find it fascinating how we have all ended up wanting to give horticulture a try. There are only about 7 newbies, so it will be a nice small class this year.

On Wednesday we had a day on health and safety. While important, it is not the most interesting topic. Although on the positive side it seems that whenever Wayne takes a class I always end up feeling like it’s a miracle anyone is still alive at all. Health & Safety, Agrichemicals, gun safety – his real life close call stories are very entertaining!

Thursday and Friday were set for the new students to do the tractor theory so I had a very light week.

Out at Bannockburn Road the nets have gone on to protect the grapes from birds and the apple trees are groaning under the weight of all their fruit.

The glasshouse at the nursery is still empty and the vegetable garden is very overgrown. I’m sure we will be getting on to fixing that next week!

Last week’s weather (somehow I remember there being more rain…)


Summer Work Summary


Rainbow over Central Otago vineyard

During the Christmas break and summer holidays I worked for Vinewise. They are a vineyard management company who focus on using organic and bio-dynamic techniques. I was put with a group of regular employees who have a lot of experience as well as some other summer workers who were short-term and inexperienced like me. Unlike me, most of the short term workers had no interest in vineyards other than their weekly pay check, so I took advantage of the regulars time and asked lots of questions. I really learnt a lot. My supervisor was great and went out of his way to give me different tasks so I could gain experience, which also kept it interesting. I also found it interesting going to lot of different vineyards, everyone does things slightly differently.


Meet Artemis – one of the cows at Domain Thompson, bio-dynamic vineyard


Over the few months I had with Vinewise I have had experience:

Shoot thinning
Wire lifting
Straightening, tucking and clipping vines
Leaf/lateral plucking
Fruit thinning
Checking for powdery mildew
Taking leaf samples
Helping to make bio-dynamic preparations


Bio-dynamic shed at Domain Thompson


Sunrise at the vineyard. Bio-dynamic preparation 501 starts early!


Dreaded powdery mildew

Considering it was supposed to be summer, the weather has been terrible! There were lots of cold, windy, rainy days. Not great for growing grapes. Quite a few of the vineyards I worked at ended up with wind damage and powdery mildew. I have heard several people say this has been the worst summer in Central Otago for many years. Helicopters were a common sight around Cromwell, desperately trying to dry the cherries. Hopefully this means we will end up with a late summer.


Fresh snow on the hills – in summer! (It didn’t hang around long though)


Grapes starting to ripen

I didn’t get up to much gardening at home over the holidays but that didn’t stop our apricot tree from coming out in full force! We have so many we don’t know what to do with them all. The only other interesting bits in the garden are the tomatoes and lettuces I got from the Polytech plant sale, they have done really well. The strawberry plant was a total failure (not from Polytech sale), only one strawberry! Not sure what went wrong there…good thing I’m heading back to class…


Apricot tree at home