Monday, August 31, 2015


I’ve been struck with willow-fever and I’m as surprised as anyone that this would happen to me. Salix-sickness is a state I’d never dreamed I’d find myself in, having spent most of my adult years at least, talking willows down, avoiding planting them and even hauling them out wherever I found them growing in gardens I was developing. They seemed so ordinary; too easy to grow and too vigorous to live amongst the trees I fancied. But I’ve been struck with a bout of willow-fancy and my enthusiasm for them is showing no bounds. Or rather, few bounds, as I’m still not taken by the crack willows that choke our Southland rivers, though I’m told the trout fishers like them. It’s the rest of the family I’ve taken a shine too; the pussies in particular and the reason I’ve been seeing the salix family in this new light is because I put two and two together, or rather, combined the  concept of coppicing and willows and realised that I could grow salix of all stripes and manage them in a way that satisfied both me and them. Cutting willows to the ground every other year means they stay at a reasonable height and produce brighter pussies, cleaner stems and less shade. They suck up less water too, though here in Southland, dry isn’t a big issue. It was an apiarist who alerted me to the value of the pussy-willows, telling me that his hives thrived on the high-protein pollen collected by his bees in the early spring from the puffy willow flowers. That was a fairly good reason to plant a pussy willow, I thought and then I saw my first violet willow – oh, my goodness, those pussies! They were pearly-white and silky, set off to perfection by the purple stems of the salix and I was smitten by the sight of them! I collected pussy-studded stems and arranged them in a water-less vase to keep them sound and un-blown for as long as possible, and took cuttings from flowerless branches and stood those in a jar of water to do what willows do so well; root. I’m going to grow a stand of violet willows, once they’ve developed their skeins of white roots, somewhere in my garden, and coppice them regularly to keep them fresh and vibrant. My old aversion to willows is well and truly gone, thanks to the glorious violet willow and I’ve begun to search for others in the salix clan that might excite me also. Only today, I was shown by the owner/planter of a private arboretum I was visiting, after a little wheedling from me, two more spectacular willows; one hailing from China, salix magnifica, with leaves like those of a magnolia and flowers that stand bolt up-right rather than hang pendulously in the way of the willow, and the other from Lebanon, dry and un-willowy Lebanon, salix something-or-other; my friend couldn’t recall the botanical name but did know that it’s one of the very, very few willows that don’t enjoy soggy ground. I’ve brought home stems from both trees and will tease roots out of them as soon as I can.

The Secret of Kells - backgrounds

Today's mail

Friday, August 28, 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Country Calendar

We're on tonight at 7. 

The drone's-eye-view of our garden looks great in the trailer and Robyn and I look pretty much the way we look. I'm looking forward to watching Country Calendar for the I-don't-know-how-many-th time, having begun when I was a wee boy in Nelson. This episode though, should hold my attention better than any other.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


My favourite sign at last weekend's TPPA rally,
"I for one, welcome the new corporate overlords."
  Any government considering this agreement is nothing more than a joke.

Geraldine Pene

(Letter to the Editor, The Southland Times)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

We failed to represent -- letter


I am embarrassed for my fellow Environment Southland councillors.

At our Wednesday meeting I tried to get support from them to give all Southlanders a voice around the release of genetically-engineered trees in Southland.

But they rejected my proposal and voted instead to hand that power over to the National Government.

While they were giving up our right to choose, thousands of New Zealanders around the country, 16,000 of them, made submissions to the Government, urging them to leave the decision to accept or reject GMOs, genetically-engineered organisms, to the people of New Zealand.

Here in Southland, we failed to represent our people.

I'm sorry about that.

Robert Guyton


Friday, August 14, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Councillors fail GMO test

Environment Southland councillors submit to National Environmental Standard


Last updated 05:00, August 13 2015
Environment Southland will make a submission on a government proposal to create a nationally consistent approach to managing plantation forestry, but agreeing on the wording was not smooth sailing.

Councillors debated an amendment to its submission on the proposed National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry at a council meeting on Wednesday.

The proposed NES would replace regional and district councils' existing district and regional plan rules for managing plantation forestry, creating a nationally consistent approach.

The submission outlines Environment Southland's concerns that the national environmental standard would have a huge impact on the rules the council has in place to manage forestry in Southland and says implementation of the standard could affect the management of regionally specific issues, such as implementing the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the potential loss of further biodiversity values.

However, councillor Robert Guyton was concerned the council was ignoring an important part of the national environmental standard.

The proposal includes the permitted planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

READ MORE: Guidelines an attack on democracy - councillor

Policy and Planning manager Anita Dawe said the council did not have a say on whether GMOs could be planted either way because it was not allowed for in the regional policy statement.

Dawe believed land use restrictions came under the jurisdiction of district councils.

Councillor Neville Cook questioned Guyton's need for an amendment.

"How would we know if such material would be brought in? Are we going to have border security? I don't think it is enforceable on a regional level."

Most councillors agreed it should remain a central government decision.

Councillors Jan Riddell and Guyton both proposed amendments to the submission, asking for a statement about the concerns of the council about GMO planting being a permitted activity.

It was time the council had an opinion on such matters, Riddell said.

"I think that it is about time that this council took a lead on this in the community and formed an opinion on GMO products."

Both amendments were scrapped, with only three council members voting for the amendments to be added.

Following the meeting, Guyton said he was very disappointed the council failed to even try to retain the powers it had to act on behalf of Southlanders.

He believed the council should shoulder the responsibility for deciding on local issues and not "fob" it off to government, he said.

"The majority of the councillors today showed they were unwilling to represent the views of Southland people on genetic engineering and instead preferred to let the government make the decision about whether Southland should lose its GMO-free status."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Heritage fruit-tree sale - Riverton