The importance of water

Untitled Document

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”  Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

How apt that phrase in my garden (and yours no doubt) this summer. Since Christmas there has been precious little rain – just a few showers here and there but hardly enough to dampen the dust and certainly not enough to replenish the lawn or garden.

The garden survives but only because I use every day allowed to me by the local water restrictions. My fervent hope is that decent rain comes soon before there is a complete hosing ban (surely it won’t get that bad?). During a visit to Kaitoke where the Hutt River (one of the sources of the Wellington water supply) exits the Tararua range, I was astonished at how low the river was. 

Mind you, I’m not wasteful with water; each potted plant gets a good soak three times a week directly into the pot. I use a sprinkler on a timer for the garden beds; and I use the rinse water from the washing machine for the trees. (An aside here – grey water from washing machines is not recommended for gardens and pots as a regular source of water. The soaps we use are high in sodium and strongly alkaline – ok for pink hydrangeas but not so for the more acidic loving plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons. This is why I only use the water from the rinse cycle.)

And as for the lawn, well it’s just crisp – quite a nice sound to walk on in bare feet! I just wish the paspalum grass would succumb in the same way as the finer grasses have.

To put it bluntly, plants need water!

To graphically illustrate this point, a friend had a new rose sitting in its pot from the garden centre but had failed to keep it watered – the result was obvious. He gifted it to me and on getting it home I chopped it back and soaked the pot in a bucket of water. Some leaves revived, so I repotted it into a large pot with quality potting mix and compost…and kept it watered! The plant responded with new shoots but then the noisome sparrows had a good scratch and peck and ripped off the fresh growing tips. The poor rose was most likely feeling unloved and debating whether it was worth the effort to try again, but it is and now has fresh new shoots. I’ve moved it to a spot under a window where hopefully the birds will leave it alone.

Particularly successful this summer has been the flower beds along Lambton Quay in Wellington. The red and white impatiens, although a little late for Christmas, have blossomed to their full height and filled the gardens – a spectacular sight stretching into the distance. The secret – WATER!



Paspalum, a perennial grass

An unhappy rose

Rose in recovery

Red and white impatiens on Lambton Quay