Ewen's garden

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

Sunday, October 15, 2006

On the Garden Safari

Once again all over the Island, garden owners are gearing up for the Retravision Garden Safari, in association with Art Out There, and supported by Sealink. I have taken the opportunity to have a sneak preview of a few gardens, as a tempter.
I started my trek in Oneroa at Le Chalet, 14 Tawa Street, the property of John and Vicki McLennan. As you enter this garden through an arch way, the first thing to strike the visitor is the vista across Oneroa bay. In the foreground stands a group of citrus trees below which floats a canopy of silver ferns, Cyathea dealbata. These have been released from the clutches of vigorous weeds such as Japanese honeysuckle Lonicera japonica, and the flotsam and jetsam of years of neglect. This transformation has only taken a few years and the results speak for themselves. The bright green fronds of the silver fern are a perfect foil for the ocean view beyond. Beneath the ferns a couple of pathways run and a habitat for a number of woodland plants has been established. One to catch my eye was the native, common rasp fern, pukupuku, Doodia media, with bright coppery red new foliage. This fern spreads into a clump by means of underground stolons. Further along the pathway is an area of mass planted cyclamen, and having just finished flowering the remaining foliage creates interest with the strikingly marked leaves. Next up beneath the ferns is a group of polyanthus throwing a splash of colour in the understory. Back to the house and a row of red clivias Clivia miniata adds another line of colour. I departed the garden past the vegetable patch and back into the entry courtyard.

Next garden up was in Surfdale, the property of Eleanor and Graham Ashby, 39 Ocean Road. This garden is a rich mixture of herbaceous perennials and small shrubs, including many roses. Colour is the name of the game here and, as with many properties, Eleanor and Graham have battled in a very short two years to create a wonderful collection of unusual plants on this steep site. Eleanor is keen on growing her plants from cuttings and seed, as was evidenced by her shade house, packed with dozens of new plants, growing on ready for planting out into the garden. The day I visited was rainy but despite this a couple of roses looked particularly good. One was called ‘Scentaisia’ a double cream flower, grown for blind people, unfortunately due to the damp weather the perfume was a little allusive. The other rose was ‘Golden Fortune’, a double yellow bloom, also with an allusive perfume.
A clematis of deep purple called ‘Earnest Markham’ is being grown to cover a ponga archway that leads to a small orchard at the bottom of the garden.
The number and profusion of different plant in this garden are too numerous to mention here, and is what makes this garden one to spend a little time in finding and admiring all the variety. Again there is also a small vegetable patch for the household.

Moving from Surfdale to Palm Beach I next visited the garden of Stu Farquhar, 31 Matapana Road, Palm Beach. Coming into this garden from the street the first area is planted with succulents, including Aloe bainsii, which, at a height of 1.5m tall, is already making its mark. Beyond a lavender hedge the rest of the garden comes into view. Pohuehue Meuhlenbeckia complexa, grown over a stone wall of the local stone helps to delineate the space behind which is covered with river washed greywacke rocks. Turning left is a view down the garden past the rose garden into the vegetable patch. One rose looking at its best when I visited was Rosa chinensis mutabilis, an old rose with origins prior to 1896, sporting large single flowers opening buff yellow, then changing to a hazy pink and finishing bronzy crimson. Stu makes the most of the property by taking pathways right to the very margins of the land. At the bottom of the garden is a shady mostly native area, where a pathway leads back to the entrance. In the shade are swathes of the tiny New Zealand fuchsia, Fuchsia procumbens. Scrambling over the ground, it presents carpets of almost lime green tiny foliage. Amongst other natives here were the New Zealand iris (not a true iris) Labertia ixioides, with clusters of small white flowers that appear to float above the strap-like leaves. Into the darkest part of this walk, Clivia miniata in orange and red forms throw colour and interest.

My last garden on my trek was that of Ken and Stephanie Sanders, 6 Te Makiri Road, Onetangi. All lawns have been eliminated here and replaced with stretches of local gravel. This makes a practical solution to creating useable areas in the winter. Steps of been made with sleepers and this all helps to create a sense of unity in the garden. A flight of steps leading to a sleep-out at the top of the property are flanked by olive trees and strawberries. Around a corner and behind a fence the chook house and the vegetable garden stand. Below this is an outdoor entertaining area complete with whale. Stephanie calls the spot Fiji, planted as it is with bananas and an enormous staghorn fern. Everywhere are vegetables planted amongst other ornamentals and fruit trees, including a custard apple or cherimoya Annona cherimola with some large fruit. To the bottom of the garden the water tank has been cleverly and skilfully disguised with local stone work Ken has built over the years. It is topped with castellations and will provide a platform from which to enjoy a drink while taking in the view of the neighbouring vineyard.

One thing all gardeners have said was how hard the winter has been, including the recent hail and strong winds. Despite all these adversities, the variety of gardens and interest in each is great. I am looking forward to seeing more of what’s on offer during the Safari, Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 of November, 10am to 4.30pm both days. Also don’t forget there will be art and refreshments in some of the gardens. The Garden Safari is a charitable event raising money for the Jassy Dean Trust to support sick or injured Waiheke children and their families.


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