Sunday, 8 April 2018


My favourite part of the Waitakere Gardens where I work is the fernery. I like breathing in the cool oxygenated air and the quietness of the green bush punctuated by the rustle of the wind and birdsong. When you live in a city that's growing everyday by leaps and bounds, the need to be still and quiet and just to breathe is something that I found is necessary for my spirit.

I had only recently discovered a place called Fernglen in Birkenhead, the North Shore, and resolved to take my sister Glennis there. Mum came a long too, so we hopped on the motorway and kept going past the Orchards retirement village where I also work, to Kauri Road. I was surprised to learn that the North Shore, like West Auckland was once all Kauri forest, and only recently was destroyed I mean 'developed' to make way for Nappy Valley (i.e. Glenfield) where the baby boomers could reproduce to their heart's content.

However one Bill Fisher had a heart for saving the ferns and the Kauri and friends and so his 12 acres of fern filled gully he left untouched. He also collected natives as back then with all the destruction going on to make lawns and roads, he thought perhaps they would disappear in his lifetime, and when he married Muriel, she was keen too and created an alpine house to grow alpine plants, as well as rare natives from the Poor Knights Islands. They labelled all their plants just like a botanical garden - there's a coprosma collection, a grass collection, and an offshore islands collection. As well as over sixty different native trees and shrubs.  They spread the natives plants salvation gospel far and wide to anyone who would listen. Plus they hugged a few trees as well to stop the developers from logging.

Today you can visit Fernglen  and even help out at the weekend working bee to keep the place tidy plus learn all about native plants. It's a green oasis amongst suburbia with walking tracks over streams and different native themed areas. Bill and Muriel have now passed away, and their property is gifted to the council to maintain as a public garden. There's a meeting house/education centre where you can have a cup of tea and talk about natives with others.  On the day we visited we heard the thrum of a leaf blower, it was their son Malcolm doing a tidy up. We had a chat with him and he told us he lived not far away and just came to check on the plants. He said it was a labour of love.

I have an affinity with native plants as they all scream 'I am born in New Zealand' and think they have the right to be here first. That's something I sometimes want to say out loud too but people all think I'm exotic and had to be born somewhere else. But I don't know, maybe we are being too precious with our natives and ought to be exporting them overseas where Irish people adore cabbage trees and English people plant flaxes in pots as accent plants. And the ferns make excellent oxygenators so move over HRV air conditioning,  install some ferns instead.