This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Oamaru, Otago, New Zealand, July 5, 1869.
Sir, - It is my intention in sending you these papers not to confine myself entirely to subjects under cultivation in the gardens here, but also to give a brief description of the climate, soil, etc, plants indigenous (as observed in their natural state, many species of which I have seen cultivated in the gardens of Europe), as well as those foreign, to New Zealand. I will proceed, then, to give a few remarks on the:
By reference to a map of the world it will be seen that this place is situated in lat. 44 1/2° S., long. 171° E., or nearly. But in giving the following statement I would have your readers understand that what is given here applies only to tins district, and therefore is not to be regarded as applicable to the whole of the Middle Island of New Zealand, or even Otago itself. Since the establishment of telegraphic communications by Government in all the settled districts, we are enabled to know the exact state of the weather all over at the same time, as reported at the stations at nine o'clock a.m. daily.
The change of the temperature from month to month is gradual. January is generally the warmest and one of the finest months in the year. The mean temperature, taking an average of several years, is 64°, nearly the same as July in England. But in New Zealand, as in Great Britain, there is now and again an exceptional season. For instance, in January 1868 the weather was wet and unsettled, and continued so until February 3d, when the wind increased to a perfect hurricane, and the rain came down in torrents for nearly twenty-four hours, thereby causing the greatest flood ever known in New Zealand. At Sotara, seven miles from where I write, occurred the most lamentable event in connection therewith. The Creek, a small stream, rose so rapidly during the second night, that several dwellings and their occupants were washed away before they had time or opportunity to effect an escape, and nine persons thus perished. At the same time and place one of the finest orchards in the district was completely swept away, or so buried beneath the debris left when the waters had subsided, that scarcely a vestige of its former existence was recognisable.
Even here, where the garden and grounds have a considerable fall, and within a few hundred yards of the ocean, the lower portion of the orchard and flower-garden was submerged to the extent of 2 feet of water, and flowers and fruit-trees, as I thought at the time, hopelessly destroyed; but, strange to say, after passing through this watery ordeal they bore as prolific a crop this season as if nothing unusual had happened. By the violence of the same storm two large vessels, riding at anchor in the roads here, and loading wool for London, became total wrecks, and four lives were lost by the disaster.
I fancy some of your readers saying, "Shipwrecks and floods have no connection with horticulture: let us hear what you have got to say on that, and steer ships clear of the columns of the 'Gardener.'" If I were inclined to raise an argument on that head, I am disposed to think it could be sustained in the affirmative. But to resume.
The temperature of the month of February is almost the same as that of January. Mean temperature 65°; it is generally very dry.
In March the temperature falls, but the weather is commonly as dry as the preceding month. Mean temperature 62°.
In April the weather becomes colder, more unsettled, and rainy. Mean temperature 57°.
The weather of May is much more wet than April; the air is sensibly colder slight frosts often occur before sunrise. It frequently happens that we have some of the finest days in the year about the end of this month, calm temperature, and bright. Mean temperature 54°.
In June the weather is cold and chilly, but sometimes there are delightful days, rivalling those of summer - calm, mild, and clear - without a cloud to be observed. Mean temperature 49°.
July is in general the worst month in the year, the middle of winter, cold and wet. The ground retains the moisture longer at this season than at any other period of the year. I have seen a slight coating of snow on two occasions in this month, but in neither case did it lie over twenty-four hours. Mean temperature 48°.
In August the weather commonly improves; rather less rain than in July, and towards the end of the month the air becomes much warmer. Mean temperature 47°.
In September spring commences with fine genial weather; but it often changes on a sudden to bleak cold days, doing considerable damage to fruit-trees in blossom. Mean temperature 50°.
The weather in October is rarely the same two years in succession, occasionally very fine, but more commonly rough and cold, attended with showers of sleet or hail. This is the worst month in the year for the gardener. Mean temperature 54°.
In November the temperature rises rapidly, although the weather in many seasons is often very unsteady, generally less rain falling than in the two preceding months. Mean temperature 59°.
December is warmer and more dry than November - not so warm as January, but having nearly the same number of dry days. Mean temperature 62°.
The number of dry, wet, and showery clays that occurred at Oamaru, during the year 1865, was as follows: -
What are termed wet days are when the rain was of four hours' continuance or longer, and showery when it did not last four hours at one time.
In the previous year, 1864, no rain fell during the months of January, February, and March, and there was only one wet day in April in that year. 1866 was also a remarkably dry year. 1867 was more moist; but in 1868 more rain fell than in all the previous six years combined; and the present season, 1869, as far as gone, the wet and showery days nearly double those of 1865. Compared with other districts in New Zealand, this is the driest of any - nearly double the quantity of rain falls at Dunedin, 90 miles south, and about one-third more at Christchurch, some 150 miles north, of this place. Snow never lies twenty-four hours at one time, although in the interior of the district heavy falls often take place, lying from a month to six weeks. Sharp frosts often occur in January, and I can say, from experience, that the winter in the interior of the Middle Island of New Zealand is quite as severe as winter in the north of Scotland generally.
The following flowers and plants have stood in the garden and grounds without the slightest protection for five winters, and mostly all bloom vigorously throughout the season - viz., Geraniums and Pelargoniums, Fuchsias var., Indian Azaleas, Magnolias, Begonias, Camellias, and Myrtles. All the Cape and Japanese bulbs that were introduced have done remarkably well. The Peruvian Heliotrope, which is very susceptible of frost in England, has passed three winters out of doors without the slightest injury. Many of the tender annuals, as they are termed in Britain, flower better in winter than in summer. I shall not enumerate these in the present paper, but, with the permission of the Editor, shall continue the subject in a future number of the 'Gardener.' Andkew Simpson.
(To be continued).