Looking back

The start of a new year is a time to look forward and set goals but, ironically, is equally about looking back and considering where we’ve been and what we’ve learned.

My biggest garden adventure for 2012 was a trip to see the cherry blossoms in Japan last April – and they didn’t fail to live up to their hype. We were fortunate to see new blossoms in Tokyo and peak blossoms in Nagoya and Kyoto.

Cherry blossom parties (hanami) were cancelled in 2011 as a mark of respect for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami so celebrations were doubly festive in 2012 and a burst of sunny, warm weather brought people out in their tens of thousands to enjoy the magnificent groves of trees.

The tour group visited two outstanding gardens in Kyoto and I made a personal trip to see another and stroll beside a canal under a canopy of cherry blossom on the famed Philosopher’s Walk.

The Philosopher’s Walk, Kyoto.

Ralph Levinson, owner of Travelworks in Auckland, is running what is likely to be his last Cherry Blossom Tour from April 1-14, 2013 as he and wife Jenny want to retire. The group will again be led by Robyn Laing of Waiheke Island who speaks fluent Japanese and is restricted to 18 people. For more information click on Ralph’s name to send him an email, or phone 09 578 3000.

Closer to home I met rose-breeding legend Sam McGredy in Tauranga’s public rose gardens for a brief chat about his life. My father was a keen rose grower and shower of roses so the McGredy name was well known in our household. Meeting the man was an honour.

Two of my worlds – gardening and haiku – collided in November when the When North Meets South exhibition opened in Dunedin. Four of my poems were chosen by three artists as their inspiration, but I wasn’t sure what would come of a florist choosing

to tie my shoelace –
moss flowers

Donna Ryalls worked with coconut fibre, sphagnum moss, succulents, etc., to create a giant living shoe!

Donna Ryalls with her piece for the exhibition, a giant shoe. Picture courtesy of Ruth Arnison.

Auckland Botanic Gardens and Hamilton Gardens never fail to please, no matter the time of year, and I always come away with lots of photos and plenty of ideas. Don’t forget to take a look at the large Kitchen Garden in Hamilton, it’s always interesting.

A view of the Indian garden at Hamilton Gardens, taken from inside the pavilion.

I regularly visit Palmerston North and always make time for a walk round the sprawling Victoria Esplanade Gardens (“the Esplanade” to locals). The extensive rose garden includes the national Trial Grounds, where our future favourite roses are judged over five years, while the display house (which looks as unprepossessing as our own) is stuffed full of orchids and other tropical beauties.

On a par with any of these is our local Te Puna Quarry Park, a project that began in 1996 and which has seen the overgrown site turned into a series of gardens that belie the fact the place has very little, if any, topsoil. I take any international visitors I have there and it’s one of my favourite exercise spots, although the  walk is almost invariably a stop-start affair as my camera works overtime.

Te Puna Quarry Park.

There’s always something, or a number of things, in flower, there are insects galore (particularly in the Butterfly Garden, but not only) and there are great views from the top terrace.

I’m still suprised at the number of Tauranga people who haven’t visited it – make it one of your resolutions for 2013 to go there as soon as possible and as often as possible!


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