Garden Trail – Day Four

Covered Area 4 today – Te Puke to Mount Maunganui – and struck a map difficulty or two … as well as being damn near run off the road by a stock truck! By the time I got to El Jakedo I felt like I needed a stiff drink.

But let’s start at the beginning. Every visitor receives a warm welcome in the garden of Pat and Ron Howie and today was no exception. These people love plants – and it shows. They have some real rarities tucked away, including Dendroseris litoralis. I’ve asked Ron to let me know when (if?) it comes into flower.

Judy Norton, communications manager for Yates Australia, and Susan Kontic, a garden writer for the Express Media Group in Australia, had made a point of including the Howie garden on their two-day visit. Sue had won her trip courtesy of Yates from a series of lunches Judy holds for garden writers throughout Australia – sounds very civilised and something well worth copying here!

I caught up with them on Wednesday evening and they were having a great time. Judy used to take her prizewinners to Ellerslie but looked for something else after the devastation of the quakes and is unstinting in her praise of the Tauranga event.

Today’s map trouble started when I consulted the festival map and decided to use Quarry Road (metal for a lot of its length) on the outskirts of Te Puke to access the Steen garden on Reid Road. Got to the turnoff and there’s a sign: “Garden and Artfest, no access”. There is also an access through Summerhill but the sign there says “Private Road” so there was nothing for it but to plough on to Rocky Cutting Road and El Jakedo. A lot of dust and slow travel – and that unfortunate meeting on a blind corner with the stock truck. Why was there a stock truck in the middle of the road on that corner on a Saturday? Search me. Fortunately, there was a tiny grassed area to veer into but beyond that only a wooden barrier and sky.


What we’d like to do to the map-makers? One of the fun plantings at the Ferris garden in Matapihi. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Two years ago the same issue occurred with access from Quarry Road to Reid Road and I was advised then, in good faith, to take the road through Summerhill as the festival had agreed this with the owner. While I was in the Steen garden, then-director Arne Herrmann turned up to put up a sign to advise there was no access. Complaints had been made about the traffic using the private road!

This festival the map has once again put drivers astray, indicating that what is, in fact, a paper road is a link. Still, as one observer put it: “All it takes is one person to do the nice thing and let traffic through.”

The El Jakedo garden suited how I was feeling – a bit prickly! But a chat to owner Kerry Cossey and a walk round her amazing collection of cacti and succulents soon had me sorted. Potter Murray Garner was there too – due to a glitch in the programme he was showing in two gardens (although he reckoned it was down to his good looks!).

The Steen garden is worth the effort, by the way.

A search for an artstop in Papamoa went unrewarded and I left without finding it. I suspect the blob was actually on an unnamed road on the map, not the named road, but by then I couldn’t be bothered.

Fortunately, the final stop of the day was a delight – the Ferris garden in Matapihi. Not only did I have the chance to catch up with an old friend, the artist Paula Knight, I also ran into two visitors from Auckland, Ngaire and Diane, that I’d met last year at the Landscape Design Conference in Melbourne. They’re both graduates of Unitec and had come down for the day with another of their classmates for a good look round.

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Artist Paula Knight is displaying her work in the Ferris garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The extensive garden is witty and well-planted, two good reasons for getting out there tomorrow, the last day of the festival. Note that gardens are open only until 3pm tomorrow. Tickets from Palmer’s at Bethlehem and Welcome Bay, Pacifica in Papamoa.



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