I was fortunate to spend some time in New Zealand visiting my sister over New Year. I have returned inspired to garden... even though that’s what I do... having had gardening goose bumps more times than I can remember on this trip. This was my first visit Down Under and I thought this month I would share some of the pics and stories from my visit.
Firstly it does rain on the island quite a bit which as a sun loving South African is a bit of a challenge but the one result of that is, GREEN... it’s so green it almost hurts your eyes. Something that stands out is that there are annuals planted in all the parks and even the islands are maintained with many filled with the indigenous NZ Flax.
The national treasure for the Kiwi’s is the Silver Fern which is of course their Tree Fern. They really are everywhere adding to the canopy of green. They have tree ferns growing in forests, in gardens and in fact I don’t think in two weeks on the North Island I was ever more than 50m away from a tree fern.
They grow taller than I thought and it is not unusual to see them over 30 high. We know three varieties in SA but there are many different ones including one that I saw with fronds thicker than my arm at the base! A highlight was getting to hug one... hugging a tree fern that has a trunk that your arms can't quite go around is quite special...
A national collection
I love history and especially when it comes together with gardening. I got a little jump in my step as I approached the Winter Garden and Fernery in the Auckland Domain. A glass house and garden built in 1921 in the quarry left from building their great exhibition at the turn of that century. The glass houses are filled with colour and specimen plants from tropical regions of the common wealth. Cascading Begonias, multiple Geraniums and fragrant petunias add to the wow factor. What an uplifting treasure trove of plants and in an Edwardian setting #LoveIt!
On a day as normal as any other, I decided to go and find the Auckland Botanical Garden. It was an unexpected journey to one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen on my travels. It should be on your #GardeningBucketList and I still find myself dreaming about my visit.
The entrance garden pays homage to the Maori who arrived from Hawaii in 1340 to be settlers via canoes with a planting of indigenous flax in canoe shaped planter boxes which look like they have just landed with the water behind them. As side note, structured European settlement started in 1840. Against the wall three striking Nikau Palms, which are the only native palm to the island frame the entrance. This palm is the most southern growing palm in the world... worth seeing in its natural habitat too.
The garden is filled with sculpture, different gardening zones and display as well as educational gardens. Just when you think something is wow, you turn a corner and get a wow all over again...
As a botanical garden the garden is not only filled with the native plants it also features plants from around the world but presented in a NZ gardening way. A day is not enough to lose yourself in this garden. I found inspiration in the perennial garden, dreaming flowers and of other worlds. I experienced magic in the Magnolia and Camellia garden where I am sure I was followed through the trees by magical creatures. In the African Garden I felt at home and proud of our plant heritage on display for the world to see.
Northland and 200 year old roses
We toured the North Island where I got to put my feet in the Tasman sea, learn about the 30000 year old Kauri tree logs being dug from peat bogs and visited waterfalls along the way. Being a retailer I could not resist visiting some garden centres. We visited Redwood in Kerikeri which looked so inviting from the road with masses of bubblegum petunias the full length of the property and in hanging baskets’ across the building. See more about them here.
A wonderful country styled garden centre with some great plants and beautiful displays which made me miss Eckards and appreciate the work my team put in to keep us an award winning store.
At Redwood we had a real treat with one of their doyens giving us a personal tour of their bicentennial garden. The organic garden has many unusual and scarce perennials planted alongside old roses, herbs and annuals. Centre focal points are two China Roses which have been grown from cuttings with the lineage from the first roses ever planted in NZ in 1814. They are known simply as china roses and the year they were introduced to the UK.
So with 1792 and 1793 buds in hand we got back in that car and motored on with me explaining horticulture to my sister who admits to being an IT geek and prefers finance to plants.
100 year old trees
Visiting Auckland would not be complete without a visit to One Tree Hill and the gardens of Cornwall Park. The park was planned and planted by one of Auckland’s founding fathers and given to the city. To walk around a beautifully maintained park with trees over 100 years old is quite special. The olive tree grove recently turned 100 and the trees still bear fruit. Giant oak trees and beautiful cedars amongst many other trees speak to you as you walk the pathways. To see them and to feel the energy makes one believe in tomorrow and reminds one that being oneself in a big big world is possible.
For now I am back at Eckards and dreams are filled with my adventure Down Under.
This quote which comes from the 1935 Cornwall Park trustees and appears on a plaque in the park could not be said better...
When we plant here let us think that we plant forever, let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone.
Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for and let us think that a time is to come when these trees will be held sacred and future generations will say “See! This is what our fathers did for us”