Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Last week found me yet again on Journey to the south of the North Island where my family are from. This time I was accompanied by a friend and we travelled as far as Cape Palliser. This is a wild and wind swept place where all plants must struggle just to survive in the teeth of violent storms that sweep in from the southern ocean. Right at the Cape, there is little vegetation at all on the steep hill sides, merely bare rock. One of the species most commonly seen here is taupata, Coprosma repens, a hardy plant growing in the most inhospitable of places. This plant often takes on a form reminiscent of bonsai, gnarled and contorted, some specimens living for long periods and still growing prominently on rocks I recall from childhood! It is this trait that makes taupata C. repens, a useful coastal hedge plant, one not so regularly seen in these parts. This seems a shame, as it has dark green glossy leaves and forms a perfectly handsome hedge. Other plants form this habitat are golden taihinu, Cassinia fulvida a small shrub with pale green leaves and golden coloured stems, thriving in dry windswept conditions, along with coastal flax, Phormium colensoi, pohuehue, Mueuelenbeckia complexa, mingmingi, Coproma propinqua and cabbage trees Cordyline australis. All these plants I feel are worthy a place in our gardens if for no other reason than their wonderful ability to withstand otherwise intolerable conditions.

It was interesting to note how much later the Pohutukawas Metrosideros excelsa were blooming, almost a month later than here. It must be said though Palliser Bay is much further south than their natural habitat. While in Masterton I naturally stay with my parents and I am always interested to see what’s going on in Mum’s garden. It might only be 1/8th acre, but it is jam packed with unusual and interesting plants. She opens her wee garden, Tussie Mussie Garden, to visitors by prior arrangement, Ph. 06 3773473. My father, Ross, has a small corner dedicated to natives and is in charge of structures, while Mum, Beth, is responsible for the rest including propagation in a tiny glass house. It is impossible to come away without some small bits and pieces for my garden here on the island!

On leaving the Wairarapa we headed north and rather than going through the Manawatu gorge we went over the saddle road which leads through the new wind farm. This is well worth the deviation, and is possibly no longer than winding your way through the gorge. The views are fantastic and the windmills are a real surreal treat! I can’t imagine why people are against this form of energy, the windmills are like a giant art installation always changing and providing enough power for a town of 30,000 people! At the top is a parking area located at the base of one of the enormous mills which completely dwarf cars and people alike. A couple of information boards explain the whole windfarm that is laid out all around the hills before you, one of the highlights of a trip through this region.

Meanwhile back on the rock we are now getting at least a little moisture to keep things going thankfully and the pressure is off the water tank!


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