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Sunday, 5 November 2017

Mangawhai Garden Rambling Diary

Just back from a trip to Mangawhai with the Te Atatu Floral Circle, saw 12 different gardens on the weekend. Sorry I do not have twelve different photos of each but the official website is here it's on next week so, if you out that way, go and see for yourself! In total there are 18 gardens so plenty to choose from.

Some highlights of the trip - Garden #6 an organic garden on top of a north facing slope called Hilltop Organics with many different productive fruit trees, vege garden, greenhouse owned by a young couple who moved their eighteen months ago. Their toddler son asked his mum 'How come all these OLD people are here?' but we forgave him. He must not have been meaning me as I was the youngest member there. When we arrived her husband was busy mulching with post strips and weedmat. At the back of their house hundreds of daffodils were grown for Daffodil Day and given away to raise money. Head gardener plans to open a PYO (pick your own) harvest - fill a bucket for $20. Sounds good to me. Permaculturalists, take note.

Gardens #1, 2, 3 and 4 on the same road that was a former kiwifruit orchard. The shelterbelts are still there so within each shelter is a section. You could fit maybe three homes on each section if it was in Auckland! Each section has a view of the surrounding countryside and estuary, again north facing slope. Wonderful thick lush kikuyu lawns - the men were gasping over them. Need ride on mowers for these. The gardens in this lot were gardened by retired or semi-retired housewives, mostly escapees from Auckland. A lot of subtropical plants in this frost free zone, plenty of cannas, bottlebrush, two gardens had an orange theme - orange flowers and plants. #3 was particularly creative, the head gardener there knows how to make garden features out of glass bottles, nails, golf balls, fan grills and beer cans!

#8 and #9 were also holiday home/retired lifestylers gardens full of colour, #8 was 4 years old with a stunning cottage floral border, and #9 had a rock border also with coloured succulents and ground covers. Pink Valerian grows like a weed here and ice plant runs riot.

#13 for anyone who loves pink pom pom thrift, the edges are bursting with it. There are fruit trees, veges and passionfruit grows over a water tank, then step off the deck into another world, a self-sown fern gully that steps down into a creek, with pet eel 'Slippy', flax and a rocketing Kauri tree.

#18 The Poplars seems to be a boy toy playground judging from the number of vehicles parked in the drive with a very modern trendy black no roof home (it looks like a giant shoebox to be honest) with new swimming pool but apart from that it had an olive grove, fruit orchard, an impressive stand of Totara leading to a peaceful wetland area.

 #7 called Break Free Gardens is perhaps the most established and the one that's been shown the most love by retired escapees from Te Atatu who love plants. 3 acres of parklike garden, not a weed to be seen, a wonderful specimen oak tree and others in all their glory and near the house, palms, and floral colour. Owners were saying they bought it for a song in 1992 when it was $44,000 bare land and now it is a wonderful all-season garden with a view to the estuary.

It was wonderful to meet the owners and chat with them and perhaps dream of escaping Auckland and making a garden - on forgiving soil no less - and not returning, because now Mangawhai is an up and coming town - it has a chocolate factory (with expensive to die for hand crafted chocolate).  The other industry comes from the P labs that operate round the empty holiday homes when everyone else is back at work, the locals say. Well it's true that's what they said!

 I came away with a baby Papyrus plant and a hunger to find an orange abutilon. Or maybe I ought to colour coordinate my plants with the house? Anyone like red plants?

Thank you Te Atatu Floral Circle especially Janette and Mary for organizing the  trip. We had lovely sunny weather for the most part (only got drenched in one garden) got to ride in a Mercedes Benz coach and stayed in a very German motel. They had goulash on offer for dinner but some of us chose to go to the local bar in neighbouring Kaiwaka. I had steamed mussels instead. Which were nice, I wasn't about to tackle the giant Nela burger which was $29 and had a cash prize of $250 if you could eat it in less than 5 minutes. We weren't in that much of a hurry!