Garden trails, Day 2

Hot out on the BOP Garden & Art Festival trails today so the cooling effect of water was much appreciated, including the free drinking water on offer at many gardens. Photos from the Plummer’s Point-Katikati area.

A pelican contemplates a dip at the swimming pool in Garden 25. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Ducklings were doing what they oughta in a pool at Garden 8, closely supervised by mum (dad was having a snooze in the shade). Photo: Sandra Simpson
Garden visitors were having fun playing with the self-activated seven dwarves water feature at Garden 13, a cool oasis of ponds and water sounds. Photo: Sandra Simpson

But what of the plants, I hear you say?

Garden 20 was a riot of colour thanks to its many roses. This one is Ziggy, hybridised by Bob Matthews of Whanganui and released in 2017.
Every garden features a health and safety alert sign, warning of steps, pools, bees, etc. This is a list of the hazards at Garden 14. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Davidson’s plum, an Australian native, flowers directly on its trunk. Also to be seen at Garden 14. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Read an earlier post about Davidson’s plum here.

Burgeoning vege beds at Garden 2. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Another rose to finish – this one is Crimson Glory and may be seen, with its spectacular backdrop, at Garden 6. Crimson Glory was released to the market in 1946! Photo: Sandra Simpson

BOP Garden & Art Festival

After some heavy rain yesterday, the organisers must have been breathing a sigh of relief this morning when the day presented fine and clear – perfect weather for strolling round numerous gardens!

Here are some of today’s images from ‘over the garden fence’. Remember, you still have 3 days to get out and enjoy some of the Western Bay’s best – and most generous – gardeners. Ticket information here.

A framed view in Garden 75. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Spot the lizard! A clever use of succulents in the same garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson
A beautiful double clematis, name unknown, in garden 76. I’d recommend getting along to this one as it’s the last time it will be open. Photo: Sandra Simpson
The owner of Garden 54 likes the historic lighthouse at Akaroa so much this is the second model he’s made of it! It resides in a spot overlooking Tauranga Harbour. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Waiting patiently at the bottom of garden 51 is this stone frog and two large ponds. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Garden 52 offers a quarantine-free trip abroad – all the way to Tuscany and an Italian garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson
The flowers of Passiflora antioquiensis (red banana passionfruit) were attracting a lot of attention in garden 74. This climber is nowhere near as vigorous as the weedy banana passionfruit (Passiflora tripartita or P. mixta) but still has edible fruit. The foliage is also very different. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Art of the Outdoors specialises in scrap metal sculptures and this one is particularly apt for the Bloom in the Bay hub at Tauranga Racecourse. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Bay of Plenty Area of the Floral Art Society of NZ decided to celebrate its show at the Racecourse with a ‘fascinator’ theme for one section. First place was awarded to this hat by Francine Thomas. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Francine Thomas was also winner of the BOP Area Designer of the Year title for 2020 with this tall piece on the theme ‘The Voice of Nature’. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Tree of the moment: Fuchsia excorticata

So excited to find this New Zealand native tree in bloom last week beside a track at Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park, having previously only seen photos.

Kotukutuku is the largest species in the Fuchsia genus – size varies widely depending on growing conditions, anything from 4m to 12m-plus – and was identified for Western science in 1769 by the botanists accompanying Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. Its Maori name includes tukutuku, or ‘letting go’, which may refer to the tree’s peeling bark or its semi-deciduous habit, see more below.

Kotukutuku or tree fuchsia is the largest fuchsia in the world. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Tree fuchsia is found throughout New Zealand and in cooler and cold areas its leaves will turn yellow in autumn and fall. It also has a bright, orange-brown bark that peels off the trunk revealing green streaks underneath. This combination of leafless branches and trunk colour may lead you to believe you’re looking at a dead tree, especially when it’s surrounded by the verdant greenery of our native bush. Unfortunately, in areas where there isn’t predator control possums can quickly strip a tree bare of new shoots and leaves, thus killing it.

Flowers, which come straight off the trunk and branches, open greenish streaked with dark purple and, once pollinated, end up a deep red. They have distinct length variations of styles and filaments to ensure cross-pollination by honey-bees and nectar-eating birds, and have the most amazing blue pollen. In 1882 William Colenso recorded that young Maori liked to use the pollen “to adorn their faces”.

Flowers are followed by purple berries, known as konini by Maori, who collected and ate them and also used them for dye, and early settlers who used them for jam. The berries are also a good source of food for birds.

This American website says both fuchsia flowers and berries are edible (even our garden hybrids) and includes recipes for fuchsia jelly, fuchsia jam and fuchsia berry scones.

The flowers are also notable for their blue pollen, a trait they share with New Zealand’s creeping fuchisa, Fuchsia procumbens, the smallest fuchsia in the world. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The following comment is from Gardening with New Zealand Shrubs, Plants & Trees by Muriel Fisher, E Satchell and Janet Watkins (1988). The ‘I’ isn’t identified.

Throughout this book I have purposely omitted to record the value of the timber of the various trees referred to. However, the wood of the tree fuchsia is said to be very durable but, because of its gnarled trunk, it has been passed by. What a tragedy more of our trees do not have gnarled trunks!

The wood is extremely difficult to burn.

Gardens of remembrance

By Sandra Simpson

By the time the battlefields of Belgium fell silent in 1918 the landscapes were unrecognisable. Instead of wheat and potatoes, the land offered up a crop of bodies – in the Ypres area alone nearly 200,000 from all over the Commonwealth.

Today, Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemeteries on the old Western Front are peaceful spots where the row on row of uniform headstones are softened by colourful garden plantings.

In 1918 the Commission’s founder, Sir Fabian Ware, brought together three eminent architects – Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Reginald Blomfield – to plan the cemeteries and memorials.

Although renowned English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll was never formally employed, she worked with Sir Edwin. Her border plan is still used wherever climate allows – 15-25cm mowing strip (to protect the headstones), borders 45-60cm wide containing the headstone and: Roses planted every two to four headstones (one variety per border); a front plant for interest; dot plants between roses and headstones; a low plant in front of each headstone (preventing soil splash but not obscuring the inscription); and bulbs planted either side of rose bushes to give early interest.

Remembrance roses at Bedford House Cemetery, near Ypres in Belgium. Photo: CWGC

Because of the number of blooms they produce, only floribunda roses are used and gardeners deadhead throughout summer to encourage repeat flowering. After a disastrous outbreak of a highly contagious rose-killing bacteria in Europe, the CWGC changed all its varieties in 2012 and now uses those of compact size, health and vigour, with Remembrance, a red rose named for the Commission by Harkness Roses, the most widely planted. White roses are not used because they don’t stand out against the headstones.

“It’s about not being confronted by a sea of headstones,” Peter Francis, the Commission’s media officer, says of the gardens. “But there was no template for anything like this. Every detail we take for granted had to be worked out.

“Because the architects couldn’t agree, Sir Frederic Kenyon of the British Museum was brought in. He wrote ‘War Graves. How The Cemeteries Abroad Will Be Designed’ in 1918 and that pamphlet is still our guiding light.

“He had a vision of a dignified place for the dead – and the living – with horticulture to soften the masonry. There are deliberately no paved paths as the overall effect should be of a garden, the sort that the people buried there might recognise from home. ‘Nothing gloomy’ were Sir Frederic’s words.”

Lijssenthoek Cemetery, near Ypres. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Sir Fabian also enlisted Sir Arthur Hill, assistant director at Kew Gardens, who in March 1916 headed to the Somme in northern France on the first of several trips to survey local flora and advise the Commission on endemic plants.

“Sir Arthur believed that using local flora was key,” Peter says. “Field poppies, cornflowers, camomile – the locals planting the first cemeteries in western Europe could use what was available to them, saving money and knowing the plants wouldn’t fail.”

Sometimes plant choices subtly reflect a cemetery’s burials – plants from Nepal in Gurkha cemeteries or maples to commemorate Canadians. The Ramparts cemetery in central Ypres, the resting place of several members of the Maori Battalion killed in 1917, includes New Zealand flax.

“It’s an extra endeavour that people don’t always notice but we like doing,” Peter says. “Our gardens must help create a place conducive to remembrance – plus offer colour, texture, height variety and succession flowering, which can get challenging outside western Europe.”

Late afternoon sun catches the seed heads of an ornamental grass in El Alamein Cemetery. Photo: CWGC

The desert cemeteries of El Alamein (Egypt) and Tobruk (Libya), for instance, don’t have lawns and use drought-tolerant plants, such as Agaves, succulents and bougainvillaea.

The rocky Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey experiences snow in winter and temperatures exceeding 40°C in summer. The terrain means graves are marked by ‘pedestal’ headstones set close to the ground, surrounded by lower-growing border plants.

“There is lawn in the Gallipoli cemetery,” Peter says, “but we don’t irrigate because water is such a scarce resource. So the lawn browns off as part of the natural cycle and re-greens when the rain arrives.

“Of our significant plants, the Lone Pine at Gallipoli is probably the most important. Unfortunately, it was damaged by fire 20 years ago and it’s taken a huge amount of work to sustain it.”

Precision mowing with specialist equipment at a cemetery in France. Photo: CWGC

The Commission is in a unique position to chart climate change with regular reports flowing in from gardeners on six continents. “In the Far East, for example, they’re saying the wet season isn’t as long and when it does rain it all comes all in one go, which has a devastating effect on plantings,” Peter says.

“The 2018 northern summer was the driest on record in what had been the Western Front [Luxembourg, Belgium, France] and we lost one in three border plants – and when you measure your borders in kilometres that’s a significant loss.”

Since World War 1 centenary events began in 2014, all the western Europe cemeteries have seen record numbers of visitors – 350,000 people a year at Tyne Cot alone. “A couple of million pairs of feet creating wear and tear is a nice problem to have,” Peter says. “A pristine cemetery with no visitors is not what we want.”

The Commission finished its final World War 1 memorial in 1938 … “and then we had to start all over again”.    

Visitors at Kanchanaburi Cemetery in Thailand, the main prisoner-of-war cemetery for victims of the infamous Burma Railway. Photo: CWGC

The Commission:

  • Has a £65 million ($122.5 million) annual budget to care for 1.7 million graves of Commonwealth war dead from World Wars 1 and 2 – 23,000 cemeteries and memorials in more than 150 countries.
  • Is one of the largest and most varied horticultural organisations in the world, employing 850 gardeners, including arborists, who care for more than 700ha.
  • Has its biggest cemetery by area in Egypt (El Alamein) and by burial in Belgium (12,000 at Tyne Cot). The smallest is on Oracoke Island off the North Carolina coast in the US (4 burials).
  • Works with equipment manufacturers to improve tasks such as mowing, edging, composting, tree and hedge-trimming, and irrigation.
  • Uses as little herbicide and pesticide as possible and hopes to eliminate green waste.
  • Is undertaking one of its biggest reconstruction projects (headstones and gardens) at 13 sites in Iraq. In 2019 a CWGC staffer visited southern Iraq, the first time in 12 years it had been safe enough to do so.

This article was first published in NZ Gardener and appears here with permission.       

November, a month of gardens!

There are so many garden events in November, it always makes my head spin! And this year seems doubly so for not only are we emerging into a bountiful spring, we’re also re-awakening (fingers crossed and touch wood) from our lockdown anxieties.

Bay of Plenty-Waikato events this month (find further details on the Events page) include:

Nov 6: Morrinsville Rose Show, 11.30am-3.30pm. Matamata Rose Show, noon-5.30pm.

Bromeliads of all shapes, sizes and colours will be on display and for sale in Tauranga on November 7. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Nov 7: Bromeliad Display & Sales Day, 8am-noon, Tauranga. Tauranga Rose Show, from 11am. Crop Swap, 10am, Katikati. Garden Open Day, 9am-5pm, Athenree (near Katikati). The Full Monty vege gardening workshop, 9.30am-3pm, Karangahake Gorge.

Nov 7-8: Bonsai Convention & Show, Tauranga Racecourse.

Nov 8: Plant Mini Market, 10am-2pm, Te Puna Quarry Park, off SH2 near Tauranga. includes Devonshire teas. Rose Garden Sunday, 10am-4pm, Te Awamutu. Tea, raffles and cut roses for sale. Vote on the best roses in the Gardens.

Nov 14: Edible Weeds & Green Smoothie Workshop, 10am-2pm, Tauranga. Amore Roses Open Day, 10am-4pm, near Hamilton. Garden Design, 9am-3pm for 2 weeks, Fraser High School, Hamilton.

Nov 14-15: Waihi Garden Ramble

Nov 16-20: Intensive Market Gardening, Pakaraka Farm (near Thames).

Nov 18: Grow On Seedlings Club for Kids, 3-4pm, Katikati.

One of the country gardens featured in the 2018 Garden and Art Festival. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Nov: 19-22 BOP Garden and Art Festival, based in and around Tauranga.

Nov 20: Buggin’ Around with Ruud, 2.45pm, Katikati. Explore two food gardens with Ruud Kleinpaste. How to Murder Your Vegetables More Slowly with Ruud Kleinpaste, 6-7pm, Katikati, free.

Nov 20-22: Pacific Rosebowl Festival, Hamilton Gardens, including on Nov 21-22 Waikato Rose Show.

Nov 24: Te Puna Quarry Park AGM, 1pm, in the Gallery at the park (off SH2 north of Tauranga). Guest speaker David Brown.

Nov 26: Waikato Horticultural Society: Lavender, 7.30pm, Hamilton Gardens Gate 2.

Auckland’s Lee Neale of Leroy Orchids will have her fabulous plants for sale at the Orchid Market in Tauranga on November 28. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Nov 28: Tauranga Orchid Market, 9am-3pm, Wesley Church Hall, 13th Ave.

Nov 28-29: Tauranga Fuchsia Exhibition, noon-3pm (Sat) and 8.30am-1pm (Sun), Arts & Crafts Centre, Elizabeth St West.

Nov 29: Ferment, Preserve, Pickle Workshop, Pakaraka Permaculture (near Thames).

Celebrating roses

Roses may be one of the world’s favourite flowers – and there’s a good reason for that. The blooms seem ultra-luxurious with their silky petals, come in many colours, even multicolours, and can have the most heavenly perfume. And when a garden is full of budding roses, is there anything more exciting? (I have a bias, as perhaps you can tell!)

Freshly planted roses in Bergen, on the west coast of Norway (the statue is of Bergen-born composer Edvard Grieg). This was midsummer, still cool and damp – the municipal gardeners were putting in plants that had been brought into bloom elsewhere. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Once upon a time you could only buy roses in New Zealand in winter with the bare-rooted, heavily pruned plants ready to go in the ground. But things change and with the buying public more likely to buy a plant in bloom, roses are now available in garden centres in spring and summer too.

The NZ Rose Society produces an annual Rose Review, a compilation of how various popular roses do in various places around the country, as well as National Trial Ground reports. The 2020 edition is sold out.

Green with Envy is a striking new release from Tauranga rose breeder Rob Somerfield. Photo: Glenavon Roses

Tauranga rose breeder Rob Somerfield has come up with an unusual plant as one of his 2020 releases. Green with Envy was the NZ Rose Society’s Rose of the Month for October. “It is the culmination of 29 years of breeding by Rob to get a green rose good enough to release to the market,” Rose Review editor Hayden Foulds says.

The blooms, produced in large clusters, are lime-green with the colour intensifying as the flowers age, the opposite to the majority of rose blooms which fade with age. The flower lasts a long time either on the plant or in a vase, Hayden says, and would appeal to those who do floral work. 

The plant won the People’s Choice Award at the 2013 NZ Rose Society International Rose Trials in Palmerston North.

Ruth Dainty (background) at work in the Heritage Rose Garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Also long gone in most home gardens is the style of growing roses alone in beds. When Te Puna Quarry Park volunteer Ruth Dainty took over the Heritage Rose Garden, she decided to surround the roses with annuals and perennials in a bid to cover the fact that many of the old roses flower only once.

“They’re not very interesting before or after they flower,” she says of the roses, “so this garden was filled with colour only for a very short space of time. The other plants I’ve put in help extend the season.”

Ruth has grown many of the plants herself from cuttings and seeds.

Full of promise – the Heritage Rose Garden at the Quarry Park. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Heritage Roses NZ is continuing work on its Rose Register, which aims to record all the roses brought into the country from the earliest days of settlement until, for hybrid teas,1945. Read more here.

Katherine Mansfield, one of New Zealand’s greatest writers, has a rose named for her that was released by the famous French nursery Meilland in 1978 – known as Charles de Gaulle everywhere else in the world – so it seems only fitting to close with a KM quote or two.

The tea roses are in flower. Do you know the peculiar exquisite scent of a tea rose? Do you know how the bud opens – so unlike other roses, and how deep red the thorns are and almost purple the leaves?
– From a letter written at the Isola Bella villa in Menton, France, dated November 10, 1920

As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that impress people at garden parties; the only flowers that everyone is certain of knowing. Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels.
– From The Garden Party, published 1922

Plant story: Rosa banksiae

Sometimes there are sights that just stop you in your tracks – and here’s one of them, a Banksia rose growing on a back street fence in the Gate Pa area of Tauranga. If I hadn’t been visiting the house across the street, I would have missed it. And that would have been a shame because seeing it brought me a great deal of pleasure.

Rosa banksiae lutea, also known as the Banksia rose and Lady Banks rose. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Named for Dorothea, the wife of botanist Sir Joseph Banks, the first plant to be brought to Britain was the white variety sourced by William Kerr in 1807 from Canton (now Guangzhou) in China. Kerr (died 1814), a Scotsman, was the first professional Western plant collector in China and had been sent by Sir Joseph, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

According to the entry for this plant at the Sir Joseph Banks Society website, the true species is thought to be Rosa banksiae ‘normalis’, later found growing through central and western China, which has single, yellow-white flowers, with just 5 petals. However, the more familiar varieties are its offspring ‘Alba Plena’ (white) and ‘Lutea’ (yellow).

The yellow version – which is thornless – arrived in Britain in 1824, collected by J D Parks (John Damper Parks, c1792-1866) for the Royal Horticultural Society in Calcutta’s Botanic Garden, India, and was the first yellow climbing rose to flower in Britain. ‘Lutea’ was given an Award of Garden Merit by the RHS in 1960. 

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the mass of flowers. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Banksia roses were distributed around the British Empire reasonably early with the William Hayes Nursery in Nelson, New Zealand, listing both the white and yellow forms in their 1860 catalogue, while an 1862 plant auction in Wellington also offered both forms.

The world’s largest rose bush (Guinness-certified) is in Tombstone, Arizona and is a white Banksia rose that arrived as a cutting from Scotland and was planted at a boarding house in 1885. The boarding house became a hotel (Rose Tree Inn) and then a private residence in 1954, although the patio and backyard remained open to the public. The building and yard are now the Rose Tree Museum, celebrating the aged plant, and there’s a viewing platform to appreciate the blooming canopy.

The world’s largest rose bush flowers on a man-made canopy. Photo: Wikimedia

The rose covers nearly 743 square metres and the town holds an annual Rose Festival to celebrate the plant’s flowering. Read more of the story here.

Newsy bits

Fungus enthusiast Shirley Kerr, who lives near Athenree in the Western Bay of Plenty, has made full use of her lockdown and published A Field Guide to New Zealand Fungi, which identifies more than 600 species, all illustrated with her gorgeous photos. Read more about the book and how to order it here.

The Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture has announced its awards for 2020.
Louise Beaumont (Havelock North) receives the Award in Garden History. Russell Lowe (Te Puke) receives the Plant Raisers’ Award for his work with kiwifruit. Bill Steans (Timaru), Clare Shearman (Wellington), George Tregidga (Whangaparaoa), Penny Zino (North Canterbury), and Yvonne Baker (Auckland) are the newest Fellows of the RNZIH. Alan Jolliffe (Christchurch), Bill Brett (Nelson), and Dr John Liddle (Waikanae) received Associates of Honour (AHRIH), the highest award conferred by the RNZIH.

Russell Lowe, who recently retired from Plant & Food Research in Te Puke, has also been awarded the Kiwifruit Innovation Award for his work in developing a red kiwifruit – and he was the man who spotted the new gold variety to replace the previous gold variety hit by Psa. Read more about Russell and his work.

Other news from the RNZIH journal is that botanical writer Philip Simpson (no relation) has been awarded the Peter Skellerup Plant Conservation Scholarship to support his research for a new book on our remarkable native plants. Philip’s previous books have included ‘biographies’ of the totara and pohutukawa trees. Watch a 3m video of him talking about his love for our native trees.

Ever thought about chucking it all in and living your dream? Nicky Brzeska, South Africa-born ex-Londoner and now resident of Raglan in the Waikato, has done just that and become a flower farmer. Read more here.

Someone has uploaded the 2020 series of Gardeners’ World to Youtube. This episode caught my fancy as it revisits some inspirational gardens in the UK, including Packwood House (Warwickshire), a green-theme garden in west London and Painswick Rococo Garden (Gloucestershire). Watch it here (almost 1 hour).

And, finally, it’s not often one gets to plant a tree in a famous garden but, thanks to the efforts of Shelley Dean, that’s exactly what I and other Francophiles in Tauranga have just done, adding an elm tree to the Grande Allée in Le Jardin des Tuileries, Paris.

The project is being run by the Louvre Museum, which anchors one end of the park. “The Tuileries Garden was the first part of the Louvre and Tuileries National Estate to reopen following the lockdown, on May 31, 2020 – an event that echoes its history as it was the very first garden in the city to be made public. It is now time to bring it back to its former glory, to restore the trees along the Grande Allée that were in André Le Nôtre’s original designs but were torn down during the French Revolution, leaving an uninviting path devoid of vegetation.”

The elms will re-establish the layout of the 17th-century garden, “thereby spotlighting the grand historical axis of Paris”, as well as providing more shade and greenery for visitors and boosting biodiversity. As of mid-week there were still 15 trees left to sponsor. See more here.

The tree my family has contributed to purchasing will bear a plaque, unless there are any other suggestions, that says: Francophiles de Tauranga Nouvelle-Zélande.

Now all that has to happen is for the world to become a safer place and then one day I will be able to stand in the shade of ‘my’ tree in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Oudolf Field

Hauser & Wirth is a commercial art gallery with branches in Zurich, New York, London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Gstaad and … Somerset! On the outskirts of the village of Bruton, to be exact, which has probably done quite nicely out of people beating a path to the gallery to see the garden created by renowned Dutch landscaper Piet Oudolf.

When Iwan and Mauela Wirth saw the Oudolf garden at the 2011 Serpentine Pavilion (the pavilion is constructed anew annually in London’s Hyde Park), they decided to commission one of his distinctive prairie-style gardens for their West Country contemporary art gallery.

The site, Durslade Farm, was a collection of 18th century listed buildings that had fallen into disrepair. They hired Luis Laplace, an architect based in Paris, to renovate the entire site with the gardens always to be an integral part of the overall plan.

Looking across Oudolf Field to the restored farm buildings with the new ‘cloister’ in the foreground. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Gallery director Alice Workman introduced Oudolf to Laplace, collecting the latter from his Paris base and travelling together by train to The Netherlands to Oudolf’s home, “where the relationship was cemented with long conversations over cheese sandwiches — which continued throughout the process”.

Oudolf Field opened in late summer 2014, after England’s wettest winter on record — we visited in August 2018, after one of the hottest summers on record. It was a thrill to find the garden was more or less on our meandering route, especially as the great man closed his private garden to visitors the year before we arrived in The Netherlands, darn. But can you wonder? I’m not sure I’d want busloads of people roaming through my garden, no matter how short the visitor season.

The entry to the Field is through an enclosed ‘cloister’ garden, one not visible from the other. The Field is described as a perennial meadow with Oudolf a famed practitioner of the New Perennial movement. What is the New Perennial movement? The short answer is, it’s about mimicking nature and creating communities within the planting. A longer, and more erudite answer, is here.

The view in the other direction. The ‘spaceship’ anchors one end of the garden and is a viewing platform. Photo: Sandra Simpson

With 3,000 square metres of flowerbeds (17 in total), all edged with metal (Coreten steel?, anyway there’s more than 1km of it) that follows the flowing contours, Oudolf had plenty of room to flex his muscles and the result was planting more than 26,000 herbaceous perennials in signature drifts, plus a small pond. Many of the wildflower seeds are gathered locally.

Despite looking pretty good, there had clearly been a few failures in the extended heatwave of 2018. The dense planting, however, gives a look of abundance and there are plenty of airy grasses for movement when the wind blows. Oudolf chooses plants for texture and foliage, he says, before he thinks about flowers and their colour, but there was still plenty to delight the flower-lover’s eye.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

This is a garden that changes with the season, especially as many perennials have been chosen for their longevity of flowering, changing the colour palette and points of emphasis as it goes.

I’d love to go back and see it in spring or autumn …

Photo: Sandra Simpson
Photo: Sandra Simpson

The man with the golden totara

By Ata Ellery

Every time I drive through the Te Puna Quarry Park gates, I see the golden totaras shining brightly in the sun and I remember my father, James Yates, who discovered and nurtured the sickly yellow seedling he brought home from the local bush, with other native hardwood seedlings in the 1920-30s.

He grew the seedlings on to plant out in mixed plantations on the farm he was developing at Aotearoa (near Wharepuhunga), southeast of Te Awamutu. The yellow seedling totara didn’t thrive for a couple of years, but eventually it started to grow and was planted at the northern end of a plantation near the cottage he had built with pit sawn timber.

In 1937, Jim thought the golden totara, growing well and very colourful, was worthy of recognition and wrote to Wellington to inquire what should be done. Two horticulturists from Massey College (now University) came to view the tree in 1938 and returned to Massey with cuttings for propagation.

A pair of golden totara growing at Bason Botanical Reserve near Whangaui. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The trees, given the botanical name Podocarpus totara Aurea, have slowly spread around New Zealand, and are very noticeable in winter. The first tree is still growing on the farm, shining gold and can be seen from a long distance. Up close it’s not a spectacular specimen however, as it grows sandwiched between other trees.

It will be one hundred years in 2021 since James Yates pack-horsed from Te Awamutu, into the wilderness, along the Maori track from Waikato to Taupo to find his survey pegs. He was an early conservationist, and grew New Zealand natives (hardwoods) to give to friends and societies to plant around Te Awamutu. His philosophy was ‘cut a tree, plant a tree’.

When James arrived at his block, so the story goes, he patted his horse on the rump and let it go as there was no grass – only fern and trees. He and a bushman cleared two-thirds of the site and left one-third in standing bush.

This story first appeared in the Te Puna Quarry Park newsletter and is published here with the permission of the author.

Editor’s note: In the 1975 book Ornamental Conifers (Reed), general editor Julie Grace notes that the entry for golden totara may be the first of its kind and that the tree has been ‘around in New Zealand for probably 20 years and is now obtainable from most nurseries’.

The Te Ara Encyclopedia of NZ‘s entry for golden totara says it originates from a natural hybrid of totara (Podocarpus totara) and needle-leaved totara (Podocarpus acutifolius). All golden totara plants are male and propagated from cuttings. However, other sources say the tree is a hybrid between P. totara and Hall’s totara (Podocarpus hallii).

It grows more slowly than its parents and can be happily trimmed as a hedge.