Category Archives: New Zealand

Akaroa: a bit of French magic in New Zealand

My previous post was of Fisherman’s Bay Garden, just 20 minutes away from the pretty coastal town of Akaroa, on the south island of New Zealand.

Akaroa is the Ngai Tahu word for Long Harbour.  The Maori, who were the first to occupy this Bay, took advantage of the abundant supply of “food from the forests, seas, river, and skies”.

No wonder the British explorer, Captain Cook, when he had circumnavigated both islands, sent word back to England that he had ”found Paradise”.

During our holiday in New Zealand we were charmed in every way….not only was the weather perfect, but our B&B was set in a beautiful garden.

The volcanic soil and plentiful rain makes gardening look easy in New Zealand. ( As you can see I have garden envy!)

In this bucolic environment the morning began with a slow walk through the green lush garden, and then a stroll down the hill to the coffee shop.

In 1838 a French whaler Captain Jean Francois L’Anglois was so impressed with Akaroa Bay that he  made a provisional purchase of the land in the Banks Peninsula from the local Maori.

However, by the time the French settlers arrived in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs had been signed.

However, the French still established a settlement with 60 French immigrants and the descendants of these original French settlers are still in New Zealand.

Today Akaroa is seen as both a historic French and British settlement.

The small French community has had an immense influence on wine and other imports from France.

 

 

 

One of my favourite buildings ..the Coronation Library.

We watched children (and young adults) jumping off the pier to swim…what an idyllic way for children to grow up!

Our B&B host had told us that the butcher sold very tasty baguettes at lunch time, and she was right!

Every day we bought some baguettes overflowing with cheeses, ham, salad, local pickles, and chutneys …we sat under the trees near the town square, and watched the boats coming in and out of the bay.

In the town square was a sculpture of a French artist and well known engraver, Charles Meryon whose later work in Paris reflects the influence of his stay in New Zealand.

Sculpture of French artist Charles Meryon

On our last evening we sat in the garden of a restaurant called Mandala, which had Pacific Indian and Asian fusion food..

After a delicious meal we walked around the beautiful bay..needless to say, I took more photos than I could ever use!

The combination of seeing the Fisherman’s Bay garden, and staying in Akaroa made this a very special place.

When we arrived back in Australia we faced a long summer of bushfires and unpredictable weather. (now coming to an end, hopefully)

It has been a lovely distraction looking through these photos, and Akaroa will always have a special place in my heart.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fisherman’s Bay Garden, Akaroa, New Zealand..

I first read about Fisherman’s Bay garden in a book called Dreamscape. This incredibly diverse garden is set along the rugged Banks Peninsula in the South Island of New Zealand.

Needless to say, it was number one on my wish list, when we visited New Zealand in December 2019.

Fisherman’s Bay farm is just 20 minutes away from the pretty village of Akaroa, and includes 100 hectares (250 acres) of regenerating protected native bush in the two coastal valleys.

Jill Simpson, and her husband Richard have a farm and a garden in this beautiful but challenging landscape. Richard says it is just as well the native bush land is protected or they might find themselves making that into a garden too!

When  Jill and Richard moved to Fisherman’s Bay in the late nineties the house and the farm were their top priorities. However, over time, Jill went from drawing landscape designs to planting the garden intensely.

The day we arrived, both Jill and her husband Richard were very busy getting ready for Christmas, just 10 days away. Despite this, they were very welcoming, especially considering they were expecting their family….. including 10 grandchildren…to arrive soon!

They invited us to walk through the garden and take as long as we liked..and this is where we began..

In 2007, Jill and Richard cleared some areas near the farmhouse, and were originally thinking of planting a vegetable garden. However, Jill had always wanted a double flower border.

The plantings in these gardens are a fairly traditional mixture of roses, shrubs and perennials. Jill says ”as time has gone by, parts of the garden represent different parts of my life. This long border is a memory of cottage gardens popular everywhere when my children were young.’

The garden slopes down towards the coast, winding paths leading the way through a shady fern gully, to perennial gardens, to an exposed rock garden..all of it a feast for the eyes!

Jill has designed her garden with the structure and texture of New Zealand native plants combined with a diverse array of non-native plants.

Red Daylilies growing in and around the Smoke bush.

She has made sure that plantings become more naturalistic and less structured as you move away from the house.

The white flowering bush (Cornus) was creamy white when we were there in December, and now (looking at the garden on Instagram) it is pink. …which is just as striking.

The huge skies, the cliffs and the views of the sea, are all part of the garden, thanks to Jill’s skilful design.

In recent times, Jill has been influenced by European and American gardens seen on overseas holidays. ”As time has gone by, parts of the garden represent different parts of my life.”

How true this is of many gardeners….

 

She has taken the ideas from the new perennial movement in the UK…

and the Prairie style in the US and interpreted these ideas and plants into her New Zealand landscape.

 

Toitoi and a New Zealand grass Anementhele lessoniana on the right.

Despite the pleasant summer weather during our visit,  Richard said winters can be a challenge.

Akaroa and the Fisherman’s Bay are at the Southern tip of the Banks Peninsula, and are exposed to winds from the Antarctic ..

Looking across the sea from here, the next land mass is the Antarctic.  Well, at least that is one  weather problem Aussies do not have! (except in Tasmania)

Jill is a keen collector of native hebes, and the garden has more than 150 species (at last count) and cultivars.

 

Arthropodium cirratum in flower

We saw many of these pretty white flowers in parks and gardens in New Zealand. They are very hardy plants and flower for an extended time in summer.

Jill is also featured in a book called Flourish…which profiles some New Zealand gardens and their creators..

what I’ve learnt is that you can’t go against such an amazing landscape. The garden has to work with it..”

At the end of our stroll through this beautiful garden Richard invited us to sit and have some coffee in their barn, now used as a tea/coffee room, filled with gardening books and interesting magazines which Fisherman’s Bay garden has been featured in… A lovely end to the day..

Many thanks to Jill and Richard, for allowing us to visit their garden at this time. It lived up to all my expectations, and more.

It was a joy to look back at this garden during a summer of bushfires in Australia. It is a reminder of the pleasure and sense of place gardens bring to us all.

References:

Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Australian Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Jill Simpson Instagram:  fishermansbay.nz/

Claire Takacs: Instagram: clairetakacs

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Season’s greetings and blinded by greenery in New Zealand..

Looking back at this photo,  taken in November this year, it hardly seems possible that the mountains were so blue and the trees so healthy looking just a month ago.

The Brindabella Mountains near our home in Canberra

During December Canberra has had strong hot winds, and no rain….it is a bone dry brown city.

Although Canberra is not directly affected by bush fires at the moment, there are many bushfires (large and small)  burning across the country, most contained…..for the time being.

Depending on the winds, the grey clouds of smoke from nearby bush fires creep through the city most afternoons.

It was heartwarming to look back through photos and see this lovely King Parrot in spring, eating happily in our plum tree.

In November we also had a new group of Galahs coming to the birdbaths every morning.

Since this early start to a very hot summer, we keep the birdbaths full, and put little pebbles in the smaller bowls, to help the bees and and other insects land on the pebbles, before drinking. All need shade, and water is paramount.

Paul was due to go to conference in Auckland, New Zealand, in early December.

We were somewhat apprehensive about leaving home during these uncertain times, however, we took all the precautions we could before we left, and also had someone to come and water the garden.

photo by Affordable Travel Club

Looking at the above map you can see we are closer to New Zealand than to many parts of Australia. The map below shows that it only takes three hours to get to New Zealand from our region.

Despite our proximity to New Zealand, it is a very different country to Australia.  New Zealand  is lush and green with an abundance of water.

After leaving our smoke-filled city,  we landed in New Zealand, and as we  got off the plane we were almost blinded by the light and the greenery everywhere!

Water…water everywhere..

New Zealand is full of friendly people, magnificent scenery, National Parks, and wonderful gardens..

I intend writing a few posts on New Zealand after Christmas….but spoiler alert..

our Air BnB in Akaroa ..surrounded by a wonderful garden

The pretty little French town of Akaroa on the South Island is  a delight  to  visit…..

….and I have a few tempting photos of an incredible garden which will just take your breath away, Fisherman’s Bay Garden…

Jill Simpson, a keen gardener, has, with the help of her husband Richard, created a garden along the rugged and dramatic coastline of the Banks Peninsula. (New Zealand’s South Island)

In more recent times she was influenced by the new perennial movement in the UK and Europe, and the Prairie style in the US.

The garden has something for everyone…and to think they are at the Southern tip of the Banks Peninsula and are exposed to the winds from the Antarctic…..there is no excuse for the rest of us!

This is a garden that will make you want to jump onto the next flight to New Zealand, and if you can’t do that, well, at least you can read my blog posts early next year on this garden and more..

Meanwhile, back home, it has been a very tough week for most of Australia. Record high temperatures, fires and smoke in almost every state. Thank goodness the temperatures are due to drop next week…and hopefully in time for Christmas.

I know what Australians would love most for Christmas……… rain!

Many thanks for reading my blog today, and during the year. I enjoy writing about green spaces, and I love reading blogs from all over the world….a little slice of life from other people, who may be far away, but share ideas and ideals…. how similar we all are despite our differences.

Season’s greeting to you all, and may Christmas and the New Year, bring peace, harmony and some common sense to the world in 2020.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

New Zealand’s resilient spirit in the city of Napier

It is hard to imagine anything positive resulting from a massive earthquake destroying a town, as happened to Napier in 1931.

Gilray Fountain and ”The Spirit of Napier”

It is testimony to the New Zealand spirit, that they faced the destruction of their town, with 260 people killed, by starting again.

Napier is now a lovely seaside city on the east coast of the North Island with unique Art Deco buildings in the centre of the city, as was the style in 1931. The silver lining is a popular Art Deco festival held every year.

We have missed the festival, but we’re up early to walk along the Marine Parade Reserve.

Ecliptic: Artist David Trubridge. To find the point where the sun rose at the start of the Millennium, follow a line from this rock through the centre of the arch to the horizon.

The Reserve runs along the edge of the sea, and is lined with interesting gardens, sculptures, huge Norfolk Island Pines, and wooden homes lining the streets…

The National Aquarium has a stingray-inspired shaped roof, and while we were there, a group of seagulls sat very still on the roof, no doubt enjoying  the early morning sun as much as we were.

This life-like bronze sculpture is called Trawlermen,  and is dedicated to the commercial fishermen who toiled at sea.

The Trawlermen by artist Alan Strathern. He won an award for this sculpture in 1972.

The aquarium has an impressive amount of fish, piranhas, terrapins, eels, kiwi, tuatara….and snorkellers can even swim with the sharks…needless to say, I’m much happier watching the seagulls.

Further along is a wonderful statue, fountain and garden…even more special in this morning light.

The statue, by Hungarian-born artist Franc Szirmay was inspired by the Art Deco period to design the form of an upward reaching young woman which represents Napier rising from the ashes in 1931. It is made in silicon bronze, and called ”Spirit of Napier”.

At the base of the statue is a fountain, which is not turned on this morning….but is an eye-catching feature at night when it is lit up. This sculpture and fountain are near the entrance to the city…a lovely welcome.

The fountain at sunrise..

Paul took this great photo, just as the sun was rising…

…wish you could have been there..

Distant views of Cape Kidnappers

The sun was shining by the time we walked back along the Parade to the storm water outlet, and interesting jetty..

A great place to watch the cruise ships and tankers passing by..

Napier is a pretty city, full of gardens, trees and shrubs, and colour..

This flower looks as if it comes from the Poinsettia family, but I have never seen one with young red/pink leaves, and then older, green/grey larger leaves… perhaps someone knows the name of this one?

In the centre of the Marine Parade is a sunken garden,

and a waterwheel built in 1911, owned by a farming family and donated to the garden by Mrs H Philip.

It was first used on the farm to power the milk separator and butter churner, then it was harnessed for shearing, sawing wood and pumping water…and in 1915 it was coupled with a dynamo generating electricity for the next 15 years…….what an amazingly useful wooden wheel!

Recycling at its best…

Miss Williams led the ''New Napier Week Carnival'" in 1993 to celebrate the town's recovery from the earthquake.

A wave in time: The story of Sheila Williams, and her dog Raven. (daughter to Ernest Williams on of the architects of the post-earthquake re-built area.)

Napier’s  Art Deco Festival is in February. During this time  people dress up, drive around in vintage cars, and and enjoy a festive time ..

Emporium. Photo from Trip Advisor.com.au

We had missed the festival, but, we hoped we hadn’t missed the fish restaurants… as we always try to sample some local fish dishes when we are at the coast.

It was worrying to notice how many people were looking at menus in restaurant windows that evening, just as we were….

Emporium and Art Deco Masonic Hotel…photo by Napier Sunrise

The fish restaurant we chose was booked out, (and that is the last time I’m going to be the one to hesitate)  but we noticed very nice fish dishes being served in the Emporium, which is also a gastro pub.

As we waited to be seated, I said to the waitress, ”do you think you could find us a quiet spot?”…..then I added ”only joking!”

…how could I ask for such an impossible thing!

In the nature of all New Zealanders we met, the waitress was very friendly and obliging,  and went off to discuss this with the boss. Very soon we were ushered us into the Emporium lounge, which surely must be kept for very special occasions during the Festival.

Emporium: The Lounge photo by Tripadvisor.com.au

We felt very under-dressed in our shorts and sandals….. but oh the joy of sinking into the velvet king size seats after a day of walking.

What a feast! The fish and chips and salad were divine, we enjoyed more New Zealand wine,(that is becoming a theme) and we could hear ourselves talk.

We sank further into the seats, and lingered gratefully on…

 

 

Happy (belated) Easter to everyone and hope you are having time to enjoy sunrises, sunsets and green spaces….

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wellington: Botanic Gardens, fish pie, and a cyclone…

We recently visited Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, on the southern tip of the North Island. From the waterfront promenade we could see the craggy shorelines, dotted with houses and sailing boats.

Just as we arrived, we heard Wellington was expecting the tail end of a cyclone that had devastated the Pacific Island of Tonga.

However, all was calm, and we had a few plans..

One of the attractions of the city is catching the little red cable car that clatters up the steep slope to the top of the Botanic Gardens…you can then wander down through the gardens,  all the way down to the Harbour….

Paul took this photo on the way up the hill (in my view, a mountain). The weather, we had to admit, wasn’t looking great.

We began our Botanic garden walk in the tracks of the original forest..

As I mentioned in my last post, many parts of New Zealand were used for the filming sites for the Lord of the Rings trilogy….

and quite often we felt we were entering Middle Earth territory….

This map shows New Zealand, Australia, India, Africa, South America, and Antarctica once formed a land mass called Gondwana.

Gondwana broke up about 167 million years ago and trees from the Araucaria family were spread all over these countries and continents.

Today trees, including the South American monkey puzzle, the Australian Moreton Bay fig and the Norfolk pine, are found across the southern hemisphere. Many of these trees were found in the Botanic gardens.

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Wellington’s Botanic garden was established in 1868, and has native and exotic trees, succulent gardens, seasonal displays of bulbs and annuals……something for everyone! (and all growing on the side of the mountain.)

I felt as if I was in South Africa, in particular Cape Town, walking around the succulent gardens..

The Aloes plants are welcome source of food in winter for insects and native birds such as Tui,  they love the nectar.

My favourite flower, seen frequently in NZ, seems to grow wild in some places…

Kaka Beak

The  succulent below looks a bit space age to me…

Haemanthus (Blood Lily)

 

Dwarf Pohutukawa

There were bee hives tucked away in all the garden beds..

Paul took a photo from our path across to Druid Hill where we could see a large copper sculpture called Listening and Viewing Device: Andrew Drummond 1994.  When the structure was first built, the original plan was to lift the two pieces into place by a helicopter, but the weight was more than estimated, (over a tonne)  and another more heavy duty helicopter sent from New Plymouth had to finish the job!

..back into Middle Earth again with these wonderful tree ferns…

this path led on to curved shady borders of Agapanthus, Hydrangeas, Rhododendrons, Irises…sadly the flowers are mostly spent now that summer is nearly over..

Along with the spring bulbs this must be a wonderful spring/early summer garden to visit.

After that long and interesting walk through the gardens we felt we had earned an evening meal at the Waterfront.

Wellington is not only the capital of New Zealand, but is also a University town, so we were spoilt for choice when it came to choosing a place to eat.

 

Charlie Noble (Eatery and Bar) looked great…… local ingredients,  wood-fired  grills, and rotisserie, natural wine and craft beer…

I tried the House Pot fish pie, and no, I didn’t see the word large anywhere on the menu! ….actually the pastry gently deflated into the wonderful fish dish.

New Zealand wine and local craft beers…….. how could we resist!

Fortunately we did enjoy our meal on the Waterfront, because the next morning, looking out of the window of our hotel room, onto the Botanic Gardens….the rain and wind from the cyclone had hit Wellington. We were hotel bound for a short while.

Perhaps because I live in the driest continent on earth,  my first thought, when I looked out of the window was….”well at least the Botanic Garden is getting some rain”

…and some!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud..

A cloud, a cloud, a white cloud…a long white cloud!”

This saying is attributed to Kuramarotini, a wife of the legendary Pacific voyager Kupe, on first sighting New Zealand.

On a sunny February day, we flew into the North Island of New Zealand, and Paul took this lovely photo of our first glimpse of the long white cloud.

New Zealand is a three hour flight from Canberra, Australia…it is closer to us than many parts of Australia.

The landscape is a little like Scotland, or perhaps some parts of Europe….far far removed from the Australian landscapes.

Aussies are well known for thinking hills are mountains..

We are visiting the North Island of New Zealand for our 40th wedding anniversary (amazing really….and still so young!).

As we landed in Wellington (the capital of New Zealand) we faced the tail end of a cyclone, which had earlier devastated the Pacific Island of Tonga.

However, like most potential problems in life it turned out to be less dramatic than expected.

I will do a post on the interesting capital city of Wellington, but first,  our absolute favourite part of the holiday, a visit to Lake Taupo.

This lake (impossible to fit into one photo) was created 2 thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption so big there were recordings of it as darkening skies at that time in Europe and China. It is now the biggest lake in Australasia, and roughly the size of Singapore!

Today it is a holiday place for many tourists and locals alike…….many wanting action packed and active holidays, skydiving, jet boat riding, white water rafting…

……we opted for a quiet southern end of the lake….  this is the view from our self-contained accommodation. Absolutely stunning view of the lake and not a jet boat in sight!

We are close to Tongariro National Park,  and Mount Ruapehu….

New Zealand’s summer is at its peak in February, and during this time, many European walkers come to New Zealand  to do the most popular all day walk, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing…(perhaps some are just coming to escape the winter!)

We did a shorter very beautiful walk to a waterfall….

No wonder this area, along with other parts of New Zealand were filming sites for The Lord of the Rings trilogy…

Our reward was late morning tea/coffee in the Chateau Tongariro ….a reminder of genteel bygone days.

New Zealand is the land of rich and wonderful dairy produce…the cream  (and ice cream) is delicious!

On our last evening we decided to have a meal sitting on our lovely deck, looking at the sunset..

I’ve never seen so many black swans in one place….they fitted into the landscape perfectly…

Across the river was a small Maori village, with an elegant small church steeple just slightly in view. It was Sunday, and the local choir came and stood by the water, facing the church, as they sang most beautifully…..

We had smoked salmon, fresh baked potatoes and salad, locally baked bread, and some of New Zealand’s lovely wine….and our own choir..

A day to be remembered…

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved