The Halfway House Heritage Garden

The Heritage Gardeners have their own comprehensive website curated by our capable Head Gardener, Claire Bibby, which outlines the ethos behind the garden, details what is planted in it and progress on projects.

Sweet, Sweet Peas

I was working in the Heritage Garden last weekend and saw a lovely little tripod for sweet peas that one of the Heritage Gardeners had made.

Sweet peas - Heritage Garden

There were a few sweet peas already sprouting and it reminded me it was time to plant mine.  I love sweet peas.  I enjoy planting the nice, big seeds.  They’re greedy plants and I like feeding them with compost and blood and bone, imagining how much good I’m doing them.  When they start to wind and coil around my cane tripods it’s exciting to check on them every day.  They look so good it’s almost a shame to pick the flowers but pick them I do as they smell so delicious and picking them will encourage more blooms.  Sweet peas are becoming more and more popular in New Zealand which garden historian, Bee Dawson, describes as being paramount in the sweet pea breeding world.

A bunch of sweet peas - book cover

A few years ago I stumbled on a little book A Bunch of Sweet Peas which told the story of Reverend Fraser, a Scottish minister who, in 1911, entered a sweet pea competition in the hope of winning some money to help with the cost of repairing the roof of his church.

The competition was held in London so the sweet peas had to be carefully packaged for transport by train.  The Reverend Fraser won the first and third prizes and I was intrigued to see that news of his success, and his recipe for prizewinning sweet peas, was printed in the Taranaki Herald at the time.  Perhaps I’ll try his advice this year.

Taranaki Herald article on sweetpea competition

Taranaki Herald, 26 September 1911, 2.

The Charm of Snowdrops

“Snowdrops: Theirs is a fragile but hardy celebration … in the very teeth of winter”.  Louise Beebe Wilder.

Last week I went to the regular working bee in the Halfway House garden.  Things are picking up there weather wise and there were two groups of snowdrops nodding happily in the winter sun.  I was enchanted, as I always am, by these dear little bulbs and their bravery in popping their heads up in what is (here in New Zealand) literally the middle of winter.  Although New Zealand does have snowdrops they’re not as common a sight as they are in the UK where they are so much a part of the horticultural scene that one can brighten up a winter’s day by attending a snowdrop festival.  How I’d love to go to one of those.  But wait, perhaps all is not lost.  Today I’ve learned of the spring garden open day at Terrace Station in Hororata and this garden has loads of snowdrops.  Granted it’s not close by but is certainly something to note for next year.


Inspired by the snowdrops at the Halfway House I bought four small pots of flowering snowdrops at my local garden centre and have planted them safely in a pot nestled under a tree in the front shade garden.  I have tried snowdrops before, planting some in the cherry tree garden out the back, but they only came up for two years then vanished.  I’ve since been told they prefer well drained soil and the cherry tree garden is built on clay.  My new snowdrops are the traditional English variety, Galanthus Nivalis, but I know there are hundreds of others as I listened to a RHS podcast recently where a book on snowdrop collectors was reviewed.  There’s a whole world of snowdrops and enthusiasts out there.  I’m not sure I’m ready for that level of commitment but you never know and I’ve put the book on my “To Read” list.  Once my snowdrops have died back I’ll plant my collection in the front shade garden and hopefully they’ll naturalise.  I also plan to add to them next year, so who knows?  I might just become a Galanthophile.


The Galanthophiles: 160 years of Snowdrop Devotees.  Jane Kilpatrick and Jennifer Harmer.  Leominster: Orphans Press, 2018.