Home again & today’s column

Summer holidays are all very well, but it’s a hard time of the year to leave a busy garden. This year we decided to trust the long-range weather forecast and not burden anyone with the task of watering.

We got plenty of water on the West Coast of the South Island and the Southern Alps and glaciers remained invisible behind thick cloud. I asked the woman at the Sunset Motel at Fox Glacier whether the overnight downpours were “normal” or “heavy” by Coast standards. “That was heavy,” she said. It followed us all the way south to Haast and over much of the Haast Pass. Still, it was atmospheric. (A day later a 180m-long single-lane bridge on SH6 that links the West Coast to the Haast Pass was washed out.)

On our last trip south we took the advice of a tourist brochure and headed off the highway on our way from Manapouri to Invercargill to Borland Nature Reserve, a delightful short walk through native forest. What caught my eye in the brochure was the claim that it was a good place to see native mistletoe in flower. And so it proved to be – a couple of weeks later we saw a DOC ranger on TV saying it was the best flowering in 10 years!

This time we weren’t so lucky, but did see a beauty native mistletoe right beside the Haast highway (thanks to the driver who turned around and went back.) It was in full bloom and even though it was a gloomy day, it still looked spectacular.

Native mistletoe in the Haast Pass, the colour of the flowers barely visible in the gloom.

Other highlights were the tiny village of Ophir in central Otago (named after one of King Solomon’s mines in the Bible and pronounced Ofa by locals) and the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, which this year are celebrating their 150th birthday (more on that in another post).

This year we were passing through Ophir, but last time we stayed the night at The Old Bakery and fell in love with the old houses and cottages and the roses and hollyhocks that burst from every garden. (There are heaps of places to stay, some self-catering, some B&B.)

The old Cottage Hospital (now a home) and its abundant roses, Ophir.

Ophir has a record for the coldest temperature recorded in New Zealand – minus 21.6C in 1995 (although Ranfurly says the record is theirs, as if it were a good thing!). Hard winters may be why the summer gardens are so bountiful.

Anyway, we’re home and our garden seems to have received as much water as it needed from Mother Nature. A lawn mow, a bit of dead-heading, some weeding and it should all be ship-shape again.

Today’s column in the Bay of Plenty Times is about using the vertical space in a garden, particularly for growing food. The gardening, in case you’re wondering, has been buried behind World and Sport in the second section.

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