Treasures of North Island: A Gardener's Paradise

(page 3)

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Auckland itself contains many green spaces. Around the University campus are some interesting plantings, often featuring unusual species. A good collection of cycads, many in cone, comprise one such bed. It is a pity that theft of cycads is an ever growing problem and the plants at the university were planted through sheets of mesh wire to stop would-be thieves from digging them out!

Close by, is the former residence of the English governors of New Zealand from days gone by. The grounds are full of old plantings, which include a huge Erythrina Indica tree, planted over 100 years ago. There are also mature Rhopalostylis Bauerii originating from the original seed collection of this plant on Norfolk Island, they are truly impressive. Neighbouring the university is Albert park, which is worth taking time to walk through to admire a wide variety of mature trees and shrubs.

The Domain, is another area of parkland worth a visit. A range of glasshouses contains a mix of plants, some of which could undoubtedly be grown outdoors!, as well as a fern quarry. As it was summer the ferns looked a little the worse for wear, but with winter rains they must be superb. Many, many species can be found here, including a good selection of tree ferns.

Leaving Auckland, Keith and I headed down to the Taranaki area and the oil city of New Plymouth. This is sheltered from cold Southerly winds by Mount Taranaki, which also acts as rainmaker, by trapping cloud around its peak. Coupled with its warm, Northerly aspect, New Plymouth has a good Micro Climate for a whole range of plants.

It is here that Pukekura and neighbouring Brooklands parks can be found, old, yet immaculately tended by the city. It rained during my walk through Pukekura, though that served to add to the atmosphere! A lake dominates the park its shores surrounded by many, large, tree ferns, mainly Dicksonia Fibrosa, which revel in the damp climate.

Rhododendrons and Camellia's make imposing trees here, and it must be spectacular to see them in spring, covered in bloom. Floral highlights during my visit were to be found in the glasshouses! A large display of red and orange South African Disa orchids and numerous individual pots of a Streptocarpus species that bore one giant, furry leaf and a spray of mauve flowers were very eye-catching.

Later in the day and when the rain had stopped we headed for Brooklands park. Here a group of the Australian cycad Lepidozamia Peroffskyana caught my attention. This lovely plant, with a liking for cooler, moist climates, grows very well in much of North Island. A male plant with cone shedding much pollen was fascinating. The cone is huge and resembles a work of modern art! Not bad for a plant, little changed from the days of the dinosaurs. This easy going cycad is a great choice for the amateur cycad grower and well worth cultivating.

Just outside the town, at Waitara, lies the nursery and garden of Barbara and Brent Dury. Set in a spectacular location, along an estuary,(complete with large Bream in the clear water), this is a garden of treasures. Barbara has been collecting palms and other plants for some time and the nursery she now runs specialises in producing Cycas Revoluta and Taitungensis, both of which do well in New Zealand.

In flower at the time were many forms of the bulb Amaryllis Belladonna. The result of a breeding programme undertaken by Barbara's father many years ago, the plants pepper a grassy slope, in a naturalistic setting, down to the estuary. They carried their large, trumpet flowers in varying shades of pink, some deeply coloured with contrasting white throats.

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