Capital plants

Had a few days in Wellington recently, thoroughly pleased to be back in this vibrant, compact city after having to postpone this visit twice due to Covid-related reasons.

On an early evening walk I discovered some Doryanthes palmeri (giant spear lily) flowering away beautifully, tucked in just off Civic Square, itself now mostly a ghost space thanks to earthquake strengthening works.

Doryanthes palmeri is native to a small area in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Once thought to be part of the Agave family, this slow-growing plant – which can take 13 years to come into flower – has since been given its own genus which includes just two species. Read more here.

A ‘ferocious’ lion guards a back entry to the old Government Building, now part of Victoria University. Flowering just inside the gate are rengarenga lilies. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Rengarenga lilies (Arthropodium cirratum) are brilliant when planted en masse and the upright stems of white flowers are a common sight in early summer. They seem to attract slugs and snails though, so control is needed if a planting is to look even passable. Apparently, many are now instead choosing A. bifurcatum, which is less prone to snail and slug damage.

Its native habitat is rocky coastal areas from North Cape to Kaikoura and Greymouth in the south, which gives rise to another common name, the New Zealand rock lily. Read about the significance of rengarenga to Maori here.

Delighted to see that Chatham Island forget-me-nots are still doing well in street plantings in central Wellington. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Eight years ago I wrote about the Myosotidium hortensia I’d seen growing in a street planting in the central city so am pleased to report that not only are they still there, but some of them were showing off their beautiful blue flowers. Read the earlier post here.

This central city treescape includes metal nikau palms (left) and a daring ledge garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The view above caught my attention – a cabbage tree in flower (there were more in the vicinity), a ‘hanging garden’ on the side of an otherwise bland concrete building, and the capital’s iconic metal nikau palms designed by architect Ian Athfield. There are 15 of the nikau, which are 10m tall, and were designed as part of the Central Library project. The library closed in 2019 and is undergoing work for earthquake strengthening.