Napier, NZ is a remarkable cityscape of Art Deco architecture. As beautiful as it is, its very existence is the result of a great destructive tragedy. In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake lasting 1:31 minutes demolished the city, rearranged the sea coast and forever changed the topography of the area. During our seven week visit to New Zealand, we experienced a brief 10-second rock and roll aftershock of the devastating Akaroa earthquake in 2016. I found it a sobering glimpse of what an earthquake means to a community. For Napier in 1931, the added economic weight of the Great Depression would seem to dash any hope the town could rebuild itself. Commercial buildings and homes all needed to be rebuilt. But within two years Napier did rise from its destruction and as a result built a modern, artful city.
During 2016 Rich, my husband, driver, and photographer, and I, flower fanatic, writer, and gardener, visited 134 new gardens. We traveled in the west to Seattle, San Francisco, Cheyenne, Boulder, and Ft. Collins. We did a tour through Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and a small area of northern Florida. We traveled seven weeks in New Zealand visiting 102 gardens. Viewing the world through the lens of a garden has given us a further education in history, geography, sociology, botany, art, and cultures, especially horticulture and agriculture.
If you want to visit gardens in NZ, as the locals would say, “Good on ya!” This is a country of gardeners. New Zealand’s soil and climate make for beautiful gardens and everything seems to grow here.
Wellington Botanic Garden, NZ
In the capital of New Zealand, Wellington Botanic Garden is a remarkable public space. The beautiful grounds include a significant collection of plants and trees. A small Peace Flame Garden is found just inside the entrance. I found this space emotionally touching. A bronze plaque tells the story, “This Peace Flame is the preserved fire from the atomic holocaust of Hiroshima, 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, 9 August 1945. The Flame calls attention to the indiscriminate and uncontainable nature of nuclear weapons which kill beyond borders and generations. It implores us to honor the Principles espoused in the United Nations Charter of settling all disputes by peaceful means.”
I’m not gardening with all native plants! Life is too short to limit one’s garden to plants that are “indigenous to a given area in geologic time.” Sure there are lots of benefits for that approach in gardens but I’m diversifying. Every garden travel adventure introduces me to new plants. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Tropico’s plant database reports “Botanists have published more than 1.2 million plant names since 1753,” so there is no way I will ever see all the genus, species, and hybrids. Just thinking of all the possibilities for my little piece of earth makes me do a happy dance. When I find a Bat flower (Tacca chantrieri) blooming in the shape of a flying bat or the African turtle plant, (Dioscorea elephantipes) that grows a big woody base resembling the shell of a turtle, I get curious, I get excited, I want to see if I could grow it in my garden.
In a country where everything grows, a garden showcases native NZ plants.
I’ve just returned from visiting gardens in New Zealand. There are so many shades of green, so many plants it seems everything grows in this country of passionate gardeners. It is a country with a long history of influence by English gardeners, a land of rich soil and favorable climate. There are many wonderful gardens to visit in NZ. The Kiwis (NZ residents) have long embraced importing plants from all over the world though more recent environmental practices have both restricted imports and placed a greater emphasis on native plants in gardens country wide. Broadfields Garden is a garden of NZ plants and a garden of international significance. Some twenty years ago one man, David Hobbs, decided he wanted to make a garden. He acquired flat land used as paddocks (pasture) drew up plans and set to work. Today his ideas and plants have grown into an 8.5 acre garden of NZ plants. His goal is the use of native plants supplemented with only nonnatives hybridized and grown in NZ.
The Parnell Rose Garden overlooks Mechanics Bay in Auckland, NZ. Arriving here on a rainy day it seems repetitive to visit another rose garden. Yet here it overlooks the bay, there are sailboats out on the water and a Golden Retriever is sitting on a bench under a tree. The roses are flowering, slightly beaten down by the rain and the first rose I see is purple. A true purple floribunda, not a wine color red, nor the lavender rose I’ve seen before. There wasn’t a label for the color but the deep color petals were purple. I was quite intrigued by the shade. But then I’m fond of purple and as I walked about the garden I found more purples to enjoy.
Masses of people come to New Zealand to travel the trail of Hobbits and dragons. Not I. Arriving at Te Puna Quarry Park I had to will myself out of the car. I’ve seen so much beautiful and so many gardens how could I be amazed again? We set out, it was a big car park and we didn’t know which way to go. I headed to a small circle of trees with a lawn and there be a dragon! An enormous dragon, I walked its length and my footsteps measured 90’ long. He guarded the stairs, the huge head on the ground, the three-toed leg hugged the steps. His eyes deep and blue made in slivers of glass. This sculpture by artist Roger Bullot is made of Hinuera stone & concrete. Hinuera stone is a volcanic creation and unique to New Zealand.
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 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.