Home » Human Life » Pineapples Don’t Grow in Poplar by Coral Rutterford

Pineapples Don’t Grow in Poplar by Coral Rutterford

I was delighted when I received the following piece from long time contributor Coral Rutterford about how a small interest as a child can lead to a long time passion.

It all started when I was in Alton Street School, Poplar when the “Flower Lovers League” was introduced to my school after the war had ended and we could think more of positive and creative ideas.

Here was an opportunity to buy a packet of nasturtium seeds for sixpence.

I asked my mother if I could have 6d to buy a packet of the seeds, knowing money was tight in our house, as indeed the same situation all over our area. She agreed and I was quite excited to get the project started and liven up the back yard.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

We lived in back to back street houses with short narrow yards and not a blade of grass to be seen. After the Anderson Air Raid shelter was removed, Grand Dad erected chicken runs in its place and above them rabbit hutches appeared.

There was an old lilac tree on the boundary of the back yard which was the place where cats would congregate nightly and howl or fight each other. When spring came around leafy buds appeared on the branches and then we were privileged to see the long lilac coloured blossoms, so beautiful to see in the colourless gardens around us. But all gone too soon.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

The packet of nasturtium seeds finally arrived and I planted them in a pot and placed it on our window sill that backed onto the outside toilet and waited, and waited for shoots to appear, then finally the flowers emerged, deep orange and yellow in colour and with the lovely green leaves that cascaded down over the lavatory roof and looked so lovely and that made me a something 10 year old girl very happy and proud.

That was my first effort at growing anything and didn’t grow anything for years with school and eventually starting work and teenage years taking my time.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

After emigrating to Auckland, New Zealand in 1964 and finally settling into our newly built house the task of starting garden beds again became my focus. Here in Auckland one can grow almost anything, put a cutting in a pot and you have a plant in no time. I started a vegetable garden and grew more than we could eat and  the neighbours were happy to receive whatever we gave them. The tending of the veges, tying up plants, watering which is necessary here in Auckland because of the heat and one could spend a lot of time doing all of that and can become a chore and stealer of time.

My husband built me a little glasshouse which backs onto our aviary which has colourful and mischievous Rainbow Lorikeets and other little finches.

My glasshouse is 14ft x 5ft with a bench on one side where I keep my potted plants and some plants grow in the narrow strip along the aviary wall behind me.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

I grow bromeliads mainly as they are very colourful and not all produce flowers. The centres of the plants are the colourful parts and I have to be careful of the serrated edges of the leaves and can be painful if a spike is lodged in your hand.

Pineapples are part of the bromeliad family and are not grown here in New Zealand because our climate does not suit its growing conditions and Australia does and they produce huge numbers and distribute them to many countries.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

Way back in 2009 I bought a pineapple and cut off the spiky leaves at the top of the fruit and included about one inch of the top of the fruit. I let it dry off a bit for a week or so and planted it in a gravelly mix to produce roots, this took about 3 months. Then I planted it in a pot with soil and waited, and waited for it to grow and mature and it finally produced a pineapple after 3 years.

I then repeated the process of cutting off the spiky leafed top and getting it to set roots and waited another 3 years for a pineapple to grow. From that initial pineapple I have grown fruit every 3 years and this year I experimented further and presently I have 3 fruits growing, by the time the youngest of them matures it will have taken almost 4 years. I feed them liquid citrus fertilizer.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

I have ventured into other colourful species of plants that are easy to grow here in Auckland.

All of this started with a sixpenny packet of seeds.

I was delighted to finally meet Coral in Auckland over the summer and although she left these shores many years ago she remains fascinated by the changing landscape of her birthplace.

May I wish all are readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 

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1 Comment

  1. Janet Hill says:

    Coral, interested to read about your success with pineapples. What a lovely garden you have! Regarding the Flower Growing League (or whatever it was called), I remember getting a certificate for growing a daffodil bulb. The planted bulb had to be kept in the dark until the shoot appeared so we’d keep it in the kneehole bit of mum’s dressing table. I was at Cubitt Town school from 1952-58.

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