Winter in the mountains of California is a great time for a sunny trip to New Zealand, isn’t it? Come along with me.
Native plant culture is important to New Zealanders. Enough so, that many public areas planted with New Zealand native plants and are great examples to homeowners for what to plant and what plants look well and grow well together. The general climate in NZ is much like here in California, although they get some of their rain in summer so they are not limited to drought tolerant plants.
Sunday- Rarangi Beach
Monday-Blenheim Wineries and Gardens
Tuesday-Totaranui and Abel Tasman Nat’l Park
Wednesday-Birds of Abel Tasman
Thursday- Nelson, New Zealand
Friday- Picton and the Marlborough Sounds
Saturday-The Plants of New Zealand
On a recent trip to visit with my NZ natives loving sister, we visited many garden centers and native gardens where we wandered and enjoyed being of one mind about our love for native plants. Each of us have gardens of our own, mine with CA natives and Mediterranean plants, hers with NZ natives and some So African and So American plants
Mitre 10, Blenheim
First stop was at Mitre 10, a Home Depot-like store, where we stopped to talk with Valarie, a fellow Dave’s garden website poster who works there in the garden shop. It was amazing to chat with someone who I had only contacted by email and get her thoughts about gardening and the garden centers available in her area in NZ. Mitre 10 has a native plant section, well stocked along with other popular plants from South Africa and South America that grow well in NZ. Valarie has also worked at Devon Nursery in Blenheim.
Wither Hills Winery
First, we stopped for a wine tasting and a climb into the tower where vineyards could be seen for miles.
There are short rows of each type of grape in front and these bean bags on the lawn. So cool! Native grasses of one type only are used on the banks and effective in large numbers.
Devon Nursery has a huge variety of well marked plants grown in poly grow bags, one big difference I saw from nurseries in the US. These interesting, but simple bags of 3 mil black plastic have pre-punched drain holes, easily stand upright when filled with soil, and are widely used in NZ nurseries. What a great idea!
We had fun looking at the huge section of hebes, a native NZ genus. All hebes have an opposite pattern of leaf pairs that are perpendicular to the stem and to the next pair of leaves, making them easy to identify, whether large or small…and they do come in all sizes from the tiniest pinhead sized leaves to three and four inch long leaves.
We identified a plant my sister has in her garden, Brachyglottis greyi, also called Senecio greyi, with the common name, daisy bush! That’s easy to remember. With its sunny yellow flowers and grey-white leaves, they are natives to NZ and suited to seaside gardens.
We saw native Marlborough Rock Daisy there, Pachystegia insignis, also great for sandy soil and windy locations. Very distinctive with its felt like leaves with white undersides, they are gems in the garden.
Hunter Winery Native Garden
Jane Hunter has grown a native Wairau Plains dryland garden on the grounds of her winery, which my sister wanted me to see. It is host to the large garden show, Hunter’s Garden Marlborough, held each November in Blenheim.
We found these plants in the Hunter garden, Coprosma propinqua; its Māori name is mingimingi, Griselinia littoralis, which grows to fifty feet in a NZ forest but it will also grow well as a shrub in cultivation here as well as in Southern California, Kowhai, Sophora microphylla, a favorite of wood pigeons and NZ Beech, often the tallest tree in the forest.
Sculptures and art works accent to plants along the narrow paths under the tall slender lancewoods and muehlenbeckia. Hunter’s has been attracting a number of Tui, native NZ birds, to the garden by planting the large native flax they like and winery wastewater is used for supplementary irrigation for the gardens, both very cool ideas. Oh, and a wine tasting, just to be polite.
Tomorrow– Tuesday – Totaranui and Abel Tasman Nat’l Park