Friday, November 15, 2019


Pukeiti Gardens are listed as one of Taranaki's top 20 visitor attractions.  And, in all my trips to Taranaki, I had not been there.  I didn't know what I was missing and will definitely return again. It's owned and maintained by the Regional Council and hosts one of the world's biggest and most diverse collection of rhododendrons.  But its the backdrop of lush native rainforest that really sets them off.  The property covers 360 hectres (890 acres), including 26 hectares (65 acres) of garden with a total of 21 km (13 miles) of walkways.  Next time I visit it will be during the hours the mobility vehicle operates.  

Most paths are wide enough to accommodate the mobility vehicle

There are a number of walks to choose from ranging from 35 minutes to two hours.  My daughter and I did the Rhododendron Stroll with a little detour into the Valley of the Giants Walk.

I loved the little treehouses scattered around the grounds.  They are part of the Kids Treehouse Trail which is a free self-guided activity through the gardens using a satchel which can be collected from outside the Cafe.  The satchel holds cards which guide youngsters through the garden to each treehouse with hidden clues, facts and questions.  I suspect a clue to this treehouse might have something to do with the giant weta sculpture clinging to its side.
 Manicured lawns leading back to the visitors' centre and cafe, with the ranges of Mt Taranaki in the background.

 (I want to see the Giant Rata tree next time.)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Summer days are near again

Hirst Cottage and Waiongana

Hirst Cottage is just down around the corner from where my daughter has been living in New Plymouth while their new home is being built.  It is the middle house in a row of five timber framed, heritage listed (built 1862) colonial style homes.  The garden is quite minimalist and linear with a simple green and white colour theme - and the occasional splash of red.

My daughter trying out the gazebo and wondering if such a thing would work in her new garden. 

The house next door, although not an entrant in the Garden Festival, is very pretty also.

It's easy to spend a lot of time in Waiongana Gardens with its 4 hectacres of varied spaces.  

The Pavilion

Now I know we were there for the garden but, honestly, if you could have seen the cakes that were on offer in the Pavilion, you'd be distracted, too.

 Cakes from The Cake Diary

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Taranaki is becoming the place that inspires me to update my blog.  I haven't posted since my previous visit and this time I had timed my visit to coincide with the Garden Festival.  They don't always have the glorious weather they were blessed with this year.  

I visited four gardens, one a time honoured favourite, one that I have visited very briefly before and two new to me.  My lovely friend, Donna's peaceful country garden, 'Stanleigh' remains my favourite. I was looking forward to seeing this dragonfly that I'd seen photos of, in its new home on the pond.  The hundreds of visitors over the week of the festival must have scared the resident ducks away.  There had been well over a thousand visitors to this garden throughout the festival.

Donna has opened the back of the garden to the paddock next door which doubles as a carpark when she hosts large events.  And it certainly allows a terrific view of the mountain.  

A new addition is the art work from the Garden Art Studio.  Isn't it lovely?

One of the features of Donna's garden has always been the hanging baskets which she tends so lovingly to have them at their best for the festival - and the summer wedding season which starts this coming weekend.

The new romantic nook looks so perfect in the dappled light under the trees that I can't remember what was there before.  

I visited Donna a few years ago when the covered patio was being installed at the side of her home.  Just look at it now!  She is certainly a creative lady.

I've just realized that I only took photos of the changes in Donna's garden.  The rest of the time I was strolling with my daughter just enjoying the tranquility and beauty.  In the other gardens we visited the amount of work that goes into maintaining such beautiful spaces is evident.  I know how much time and effort Donna puts into her garden but somehow it seems rustic, natural and effortless.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Pukekura Park

After chasing a reflection at Lake Mangamahoe and driving through Te Henui cemetery, the clouds were rolling in but it was still too nice a day to be inside.  Pukekura Park is just around the corner from where my daughter is living at the moment, so I headed there, to the little cafe in the park, for my lunch.

A stroll around the grounds is always a delight.  The colours of spring were everywhere and, to add to my pleasure somehow or other a group of four high school boys came to be walking along with me.  They came up behind me on a pathway and when I moved aside to let them go by, one said they weren't in any hurry and they slowed their pace to walk alongside me, and for a few magical minutes we chatted so easily and happily, I was left feeling elated.  If the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, our future is in safe hands.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Mangamahoe and the cemetery

I don't know what I've been doing with my time since I returned from Taranaki but there hasn't been any left over for blogging.  

Whenever I'm visiting Taranaki I become obsessed with the mountain.  Slowly over the last 6 years or so I've managed to photograph it from many angles but there was one shot that evaded me.  Lake Mangamahoe with the mountain reflected in it.

The day before I was to return home, when I dropped my grandson off at school, the mountain was clearly visible and there was little wind so I scampered along the road to check out the lake.  I didn't have my camera with me so used my phone.  There were slight ripples on the water but this is the best result I've had so far.

Lake Mangamahoe supplies drinking water for New Plymouth District.   No boating or swimming is permitted in the lake so there is little to disturb the wildlife, it's duck heaven.  They were everywhere enjoying the sunshine.

Obviously they weren't hungry.  Although quite a few were gathered near the picnic area, they didn't bother to see if I had anything for them.

Male mallard

I think this is a young female mallard.  Her colours were softer than they usually are.

Kowhai lining the road into the lake

By the time I had rushed back to my daughter's house and grabbed by camera, the wind had got up and cloud was drifting across the mountain.  But it was too nice a day to not be outside so I decided to go to the cemetery.  As you do.  

There's a certain magic to Te Henui Cemetery that makes it unlike any other I've seen.  It covers 36 hectares and is maintained by volunteers.  It's very tranquil and beautiful and the volunteers look up from their weeding or mowing to greet you.  I could only drive through and stop to take a photo out the car window when I wasn't impeding traffic, as there was a funeral in progress and no parking spaces available.

Friday, September 20, 2019


Reminders that spring is here are all around.  My favourite shot this spring was taken up north at Houhora Harbour where I spotted these managing to survive in a dead tree stump in the harbour.  Not a great photo but I admired the tenacity of the plants.

My rhododendron tree has finished flowering but they were everywhere, in all their glory, around New Plymouth where I spent the  past ten days. Usually it's cooler there but this morning, my first back home, I wasn't so sure.  It felt like winter was giving it one last shot.  

The azaleas which line my driveway are abundant this year.  Maybe I'm imagining it but the flowers seem pinker than in previous years.

While in Taranaki last week I was reminded of walking around in Dingle in Ireland and spotting a plant I didn't recognise.  I asked several passersby if they knew what it was but each one suggested I ask the guard, he was the local gardener.  Except I wasn't quite sure if they were saying the guard or something else, and if they were saying the guard, who the guard was and where he/she lived.  Finding the guard led to a few more conversations with locals but I still had no idea I was looking for the local policeman which may have explained why some of those conversations seemed a little odd, to me at least.  I was wanting to identify a plant, why were people so concerned for my wellbeing and offering assistance if I needed it?

Anyway, the guard was delightful and only too happy to engage in his favourite subject - plants.  I was given a personal tour of the guard house gardens.   Turns out the plant was Gunnera and the ones I saw in Dingle were huge, much bigger than the plant I found in the back yard of my daughter's rented home in New Plymouth.  I can't recall seeing them here in the north of the country, I guess it is too hot and dry for them.

I also learned from the guard that the rhododendron is on the Irish Invasive Species List.  It really thrives in their climate creating dense thickets, blocking the light and reducing biodiversity.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Back down the east coast

After our day trip to the North Cape we had a leisurely all day trip back home via the east coast beaches.  We took the scenic route all the way.

After the horrid weather of the previous day this day was bright and shiney.

Finally, at Paihia in the Bay of Islands, Digby got to touch the water.

We took the ferry from Paihia to Russell.  Digby is a landscape gardener so appreciated the huge old Moreton Bay Fig,  planted in 1870, on the front lawn of Russell's first police station building.

We took a short drive to the Waitangi Golf Club:

We arrived home just as the sun was setting on my hills of home.  And dark clouds were gathering again.

Tired but nothing a cold chicken dinner,  a glass of wine and good company couldn't fix.