Monday, 12 November 2018

The Great Garden Ramble

This years trip (after Taranaki got callously indefinitely postponed again by my employer) was with the Te Atatu Floral and Garden Circle to Whangamata where we saw nine different gardens and had a blast. Small sea-side surfie town Whangamata wasn't so small after all in fact it was bigger than I imagined, having never set foot there before, so I had no idea what to expect.

Like Mangawhai, it contained a lot of retired escapees from Auckland building their dream home and dream garden as well as dream yacht and dream million dollar views. Whangamata-ites must contend with burning salt winds and fickle microclimates. Apparently the weather can change in an instant just like Auckland or it could sit for days. When we arrived, the sun shone and the birds sang. Thirty three intrepid gardeners packed a coach bus with plenty of room for cuttings.

First stop was Jane's place in Whitiroa just opposite the beach. I saw day lilies growing in sand. Her front garden consisted of 'anything that can stand the conditions'  - lavenders, bromeliads, succulents, poppies, petunias, aloes and then you went round the back where it was more sheltered it was all lush green border of veges, roses, perennial flowers, fruit trees, and more. There was even a pineapple growing in a shadehouse. Most impressed and most generous was Jane offering cuttings and bulbs and succulent offsets.   A beautiful cottage style garden with a bit of everything. I managed to snag some ivy geranium a gorgeous burgundy colour, and a blood lily bulb. Apparently the club rule is one must never ask to take cuttings from gardens we visit. But she offered!

The next day was also bright and clear, we saw a smart town house garden with a clipped rosemary hedge, tiny vege patch and lawn, very low maintenance and pebbly but just right for a widow enjoying her seaside retirement. Queen palms, aloes, and succulents with jade plants were easy care - she told she had feng shuied her garden.
Another was an artist's studio garden that had a gorgeous Australian frangipani in bloom, lots of bromeliads, and spanish moss in hanging baskets.
By the inlet was a lovely suburban home with a perfect view of the sparkling sea framed with pohutakawas. It had a border although this was secondary to the lawn that stretched to the water and all along the rest of the cul de sac were well maintained gardens of retired homeowners who had chosen to live right near the neighbourhood marina.  Fantails flitted about the trees and we marvelled at the bird life here, maybe because of the lack of city traffic.

Then we climbed the hill to what to me was a veritable mansion with landscaped grounds on a sweeping lawn dotted with blue herons. It commanded a view of the sea, surrounded by a native shelter belt of Kauri trees, flax, and in front olives, renga rengas and birch treees.  The house/mansion was nestled in border filled with lavenders, rosemary and marlborough daisies.  Us townies were a bit gobsmacked and lost amongst the vast rolling lawn, which apparently only took 45 minutes to mow with the ride on mower.  So this is what farmers/wealthy landowners do when they retire. Downsize to 'smaller' mansions.
Another property was a plant lovers garden with 12 fruit trees, vege patch and borders crammed with anything that would grow, that bordered a stream separating it from next doors retirement village.
Yet another crafty studio house was home to a florist and felt maker, boasting raised vege patch and she-shed. We were a bit chagrined to learn the florist sourced her flowers from Hobsonville.

The last two gardens were as we made our way back to Auckland in Thames.
Pepper Tree Nursery had plants for sale and also 4 and a half acres of gardeners delight with 180 maples, meandering paths, lots of perennials and flowering shrubs and other colourful trees hidden amongst a valley that was once all gorse. Impressive. Like Ayrlies very naturalistic and park like it also had ponds but filled with waterlilies.
And then a firm favourite was the last garden on flat paddock transformed into a blooming rose garden edged with buxus, all colour coordinated, very chic and just three years old. Arches covered with banksia rose, a cute raised bed potager and faux shed facade with a touch of whimsy (giant strawberries, balancing tea pots) and a sign that said 'My garden peaked last week, sorry you missed it'.  Plenty of seats for us tired gardeners to rest our weary limbs which we appreciated in this one.

And that was the Great garden ramble..had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Photos? I think I was busy gasping with delight to take many or sipping my morning tea. But thing is you have to be in amongst it to truly experience a garden and so I make no apologies for not providing you with an overload of eye candy.