Monday, 25 November 2013

South Island

My South Island adventures are well and truly underway. There was a slight hiccup as I was supposed to be in and around the Christchurch area for some time, however for one reason or another that section had to be cancelled. Don't worry because what I did to replace my Christchurch time has been fascinating and it's taught me a lot. So here goes....

Alexandra - Central Otago

I headed over to see a rose enthusiast, collector and all round lovely guy called Murray at his property a short drive from Alexandra. I have no problem saying that this man was a complete inspiration and one the most knowledgeable rose enthusiast I've ever had the pleasure to come across. The 10 acres of rocky hillside that Murray lives on is covered in Heritage Roses, and I don't meant "quite a few around the house" - very nearly the entire site is planted with old roses. It was a sight to behold! It hasn't been planted as a traditional garden because the terrain doesn't allow for that, it has an enormous collection of many thousands planted out in their family groups, not in beds but just planted between the rocks over a vast area. This fantastic collection contained many varieties I had never heard of and a lot that I had only ever read about and Murray knew where every single one was, the names (as often there was no label), and the history behind it.

He is involved very heavily with the New Zealand Heritage Rose Register, which aims to locate, identify, register and propagate all the old roses growing in this country. They are also looking through old nursery catalogs and original shipping documents from the early settlers to establish exactly which varieties have come over here. Murray's "aim", if you want to call it that, is to grow one of each variety that has ever been available in New Zealand. Not for a personal agenda, but for the good of the whole country so that these roses will never again become 'lost' and so that people can enjoy them for generations to come. Budwood is provided to rose nurseries and the new plants each year are given to public parks and garden so that they really can be enjoyed by all.

I think that everybody involved with the register should be extremely proud if themselves for selflessly dedicating so much to this great cause!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Auckland continued...

As I started to mention in my last post I spent some time working at Highwic gardens and the Nancy Steen Rose Garden. This is all down to the wonderful Sarah Yates, who just happens to be the granddaughter of Nancy Steen (heritage rose legend) and a direct relation of the owners of Highwic.

The Nancy Steen Rose Garden is in a public park in Auckland, with many beds of heritage roses, companion planting and brick pillars and archways it was very much my sort of thing. The garden is nearly entirely run and managed by volunteers, which I find impressive as these people are willing to give up their time in order to make a public space better for everyone. I would highly recommend taking the time to see it as it is quite beautiful. Sarah and her team of volunteers work so hard to keep it looking good and I'm sure they don't get the recognition they deserve.

Highwic is a stunning old property in the area of Newmarket in Auckland which is now run by Historic Places Trust and is well worth a visit. The house is furnished and set out in the same way that it would have been many generations ago and is utterly fascinating. The gardens are looking great at the moment too as they have a Sweet Pea festival this weekend. So if any Aucklanders are reading this then I highly recommend that you check it out. The Sweet Peas are varieties bred by Dr Keith Hammett, who is horticultural royalty, and were all looking and smelling brilliant.

Thursday, 14 November 2013


The first week of my Fellowship has been in Auckland and I have to say that it’s been fantastic and has far exceeded my expectations. I’ve met some wonderful people, seen some really interesting gardens and have already learnt a great deal. Here is what I’ve been up:

I was very kindly met by two incredibly knowledgeable gardeners from Auckland – Mr Martin Keay and Mr Chris Webb. These chaps took me to see a garden called Fernglen which is planted entirely with New Zealand native plants. For me this was very interesting to see as the native flora is so varied, some of the plants I recognised (even if it was only the Genus) and some of it was completely new to me. Something that I found fascinating are the varieties of native Gunnera, I’m used to seeing the ‘Manicata’ and similar with their huge growth habit. The NZ native couldn’t be more different, they are a tiny low growing ground cover (The set of keys give you a scale).

Here are a couple of other photos from the garden.


Today I met with the convenor for heritage roses in Auckland, Delphine. Together we went to Waiheke Island just off the coast of Auckland as they were having a ‘garden safari’; this is where people open up their private domestic gardens to visitors in aid of charity. We visited a total of 6 gardens, each one very different to the one before and all equally beautiful. It was in one of these gardens that I first noticed how big ‘Mutablis’ grows in comparison to ours at Mottisfont, it must have been ten feet tall, nearly the same in width and covered in blooms. I must have been so star stuck that I forgot to photograph it. Stupid boy! Below is a selection of photos from the day.

The start of a new week and I was heading out to the Auckland Botanic Garden with Paula Lollback the Rose Curator. Paula had very kindly agreed for me to spend the day with her and her roses, and what a day it was! I learnt so much from her and this is where the trail of giant China and Tea roses continued. Pictured below is one of the biggest specimens of a shrub Tea rose I’ve ever seen, complete with my boots to give you an idea of scale. Please remember that these boots are size 13.

This rose was labelled as ‘Archiduc Joseph’ syn. ‘Mons. Tillier’, these two roses are often confused with one another as they are very similar and more often than not ‘Archiduc Joseph’ is sold as ‘Mons. Tillier’. However they are different roses. In this case that is beside the point as this rose was massive and in beautiful condition.

Paula operates a no spray system for all her roses modern and heritage, which I found very interesting. Trials are run in-house to see which varieties will grow best in the Auckland climate and which ones prove to be the most pest and disease resistant. This means that the options are limited but the results were remarkable, the plants were very healthy on the whole and where disease or pests were present it wasn’t at an unacceptable level. I’ve seen roses that are regularly sprayed and look a lot worse.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of New Zealand’s greatest names in Horticulture today, firstly I went to Airlies Garden which is the home of Beverly McConnell. What a fascinating lady she is! She gave me a guided tour of her property which extends to many dozen hectares and was nothing but open hillside when she first arrived. The whole area has been landscape into a beautiful garden with lakes, flowing streams, woodland and fine planting schemes. This is rosa Graham Thomas growing quite happily as a climber.

It is easy to see why Mrs McConnell is held in such high regard, her knowledge is second to none and her energy is that of someone many years her junior!

Wednesday and Thursday

I spent Wednesday and Thursday morning with Sarah Yates at Highwic – a lovely heritage property and at the Nancy Steen heritage rose garden. More on these to follow but right now I have to board my plane down to the south Island…..

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Fellowship begins.....

The first leg of my travelling fellowship is well underway, This is a quick update from Changi Airport in Singapore where I have got a little stop before I catch my connecting flight to Auckland. Firstly I have to say how brilliant Singapore Airlines are, they were completely faultless throughout the entire flight here with top quality service and some really nice food on the plane! Secondly Changi Airport is second to none, I have been fortunate enough to have traveled far and wide in my few years on this planet and I am in love with this airport. Hot showers, swimming pool, so many plants and flowers inside the terminal that I could spend a week here, and to top it all off a Butterfly house/garden inside too! 

I must run and catch my flight but I will keep you  all up to date with what I'm up to and all the beautiful people and gardens that I encounter over the coming weeks.