The Giant’s House in Akaroa is the work of artist Josie Martin. Years ago in an effort to repair a damaged front step, before visitors arrived, she used some broken crockery to repair it in mosaic form. It worked and she liked the effect.
We drove to Governor’s Bay, through the harbor town of Lyttleton, the actual epicenter of the 2010-2011 great earthquake which was generally known as the Christchurch quake. Just beyond the Governor’s Bay Hotel is Ohinetahi. Can’t figure out how to pronounce that? Neither could I, however, the resident, creator, architect and gardener Sir Miles Warren told me. Divide it into five syllables, O-hen-E-Ta-HE. Sir Miles is a well-known architect, he designed the New Zealand Embassy in Washington, D.C. to note just one of his projects.
We arrived in Christchurch and within 20 minutes of our arrival, I felt the earth move. Sitting in a desk chair, the ground moved me up and down, back and forth and up and down. Then it stopped. We haven’t felt anything since. So, with a heightened sense of awareness, we arrived at the Botanic Gardens near the CBD (central business district) of Christchurch. This awareness increased as we noted the extensive construction scaffolding around the building’s of Christ College that joins the garden. This is a city still rebuilding and repairing.
What was originally a small holiday house on 40 acres in the Wakitipu Basin overlooking The Remarkables mountain range is now a grand home surrounded by a glorious garden. While many who travel to New Zealand do so intent on tramping through some of the great walks in this country, I did a different walk beginning near the barn and the lavender field and walked my way up to the Asian Garden at the top and looked out toward The Remarkables mountain range in the distance.
Driving down a coast road I wondered, “What will grow along the sea, with salt air, wind and waves?” Turns out really quite a lot of wonderful things. I knew immediately a grand gardener lived here as we arrived at a coastal side patch of grass and waves of orange gazanias (daisy style) blooms accented by a rustic bench set to enjoy the views of the rocky beach. Coast Haven garden on the Taranaki Garden Festival tour has been under the care of one gardener for the past 30 years.
We’ve been traveling in New Zealand for just a week and already I’ve been asked “Do you ever get tired of visiting gardens?” Exploring the world through gardens brought me here. How can anyone get tired of seeing such incredible beauty, creativity, and passion of gardeners?
Mount Taranaki peeks through the clouds above New Plymouth, New Zealand. As I begin to explore the gardens ringing this mountain I realize the pitch of the peak is the landscape gardeners would transform into magical gardens in their own backyard. The houses may sit on a bit of flat ground but then as you go round back and the gardens descend into terraces and zig zag pathways leading you to a seat with a view of a river or the mountain itself.
Rippon Lea House & Garden
Elsternwick, Victoria, Australia
My local PBS station is promoting a new Australian series in the fall lineup, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries set in 1920’s Melbourne. Miss Phryne (Fry-nee) Fisher returns from England after serving in the hospital corps in WW1. Phryne, an independently wealthy, independently spirited, glamorous lady detective speaks multiple languages and seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything. I find period dramas remain endlessly fascinating as the characters recreate the dress, manners, and behaviors of another time as the setting reinforces the story.
“Signs, Signs, everywhere there’s signs,
messin’ up the scenery, breaking’ my mind.”
(The Five Man Electrical Band)
Public gardens welcome curious visitors from all over the world. They enter eager to learn about the land, plants, trees and rocks of a particular place. Many gardens proudly highlight the entrance with an eye catching sign, often nestled among a beautifully landscaped bed of flowers. Once inside,posted signs act as the voice speaking directly to visitors. When it comes to signs everywhere, some are creative offenders and a few are just plain offenders.
This month begins the ninth year of A Traveling Gardener, wandering, wondering, noticing. . . and I want to thank all of my readers who have been encouraging, interested, and appreciative of my garden stories. I hope you have been inspired to visit more gardens when you travel. I went into my archives and found the first story of exploring the world through gardens. My enthusiasm has only increased as I travel to these wonderful places. I am sharing that original article with you and including update resources for finding gardens all over the world.