Gardens are being announced and the planning and preparations are underway for the annual Pukaha Mount Bruce Wairarapa Garden Tour. Each year Welcome Tours puts on a small-group tour in conjunction with the event, departing from the Kapiti Coast.
I sat down for a chat with Alison, a guest on the Welcome Tours Spring Garden Tour in 2017 to ask what she thought of the weekend...
What was your impression of the gardens you visited?
The gardens we went to were all so different. Some small, some large, some colourful, some green. Apart from one I wasn’t keen on, the rest were brilliant. I couldn’t pick a favourite.
I was impressed by the hundreds and hundreds of roses. The clipped hedges. The loaded wisteria which was like a waterfall. Beautiful…
It was lovely to sit and enjoy a picnic lunch in one garden. The owner even brought us a cup of tea and made us most welcome. I think the hosts enjoyed having admirers of their gardens.
Did you connect with any of the properties in particular?
Brancepeth was very special. As a homestead on a large rural property, it took my heart and soul. It reminded me of the holidays I used to have as a city kid, staying with relatives on a large farm in North Canterbury.
The place was so well maintained and the history of it was very interesting. It has magnificent trees and I read that one of them was planted by one of the boys who brought it out from England as an acorn in his pocket.
Were they any surprises in the gardens?
There were lots of sculptures, fountains, and bird baths in the gardens… so much beauty and architecture. A blue Himalayan poppy was a favourite for me and a colourful cottage garden was a lovely balance to some of the larger lawns we saw.
Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to at the Gardens Weekend this year?
I’m looking forward to seeing a whole lot of new gardens in 2018.
Do you have any tips for first-timers on the garden tour?
It’s worth taking time to plan your route so that you see different types of gardens and you’re not too rushed. Sue took care of that for us and it worked well.
Keep an eye out for the owners - we loved the way they talked to us. That was a highlight. They shared their knowledge and experience and some of them had a question or two for us as well.
The images below are from Old Tablelands, the first garden to be announced for the 2018 Wairarapa Gardens Weekend...
If you would like to join Welcome Tours as we visit the gardens this year, please see here for more information, or call 04 478 6033.
All alone with a forest full of birds... that was my amazing experience a couple of weeks ago.
We hear a lot about the mental health benefits of getting outdoors. Well, I've always known that being close to nature does me good, whether it's sitting on the coast gazing out to sea or undertaking an expedition like hiking the Queen Charlotte Track.
I hit the jackpot recently by staying overnight with family members in a little cottage in Nga Manu Nature Reserve on the Kapiti Coast. I hadn't visited the reserve before but I learned a lot about it. Nga Manu is administered by a Charitable Trust, with a primary focus on New Zealand native bird conservation. The reserve has been open to the public since 1981 and covers approximately 15 hectares of predominantly coastal lowland swamp forest.
The watch tower, a viewing position by the lake, Nga Manu and adjoining blocks from above.
The best thing for me about staying over in the reserve was very early on Sunday morning when I crept out of the cottage on my own. Just me and nga manu (the birds). Magical.
In the still of early morning I was surrounded by the sights and sounds of different birds. Sitting quietly in several different spots in the forest paid dividends. I was visited by a busy quail family and a majestic white-aproned kereru. Tui and piwakawaka (fantails) were plentiful. Pukeko were very curious about my presence and a pair of paradise ducks honked to each other to reunite on the lake. The colours of a chaffinch up close were stunning and my bird identification skills were put to the test by a cute round robin (best guess!).
Paradise ducks reunited, a kereru on high, the endangered Whio
Apart from the birds that come and go as they please in the reserve, Nga Manu also has a number of aviaries and a nocturnal bird house. Birds in enclosures make me feel a little sad but it was very special to see the beautiful endangered whio (blue duck) which is part of a captive breeding programme at Nga Manu - the aim being to boost their population in the wild. It was a privilege to watch two curious kiwi going about their business in the dim light of the nocturnal enclosure.
Finding and sharing these experiences is what Welcome Tours is all about. Nga Manu is good for getting up close and personal with nature without having to bust a gut in the process, in fact most of the area is flat enough to be accessible by wheelchair or buggy. In addition to feeling zen from being at one with nature, there's an opportunity to learn about and support wildlife conservation. How good is that? For a particularly unique and memorable experience, I do recommend staying overnight in the cottage.
Welcome Tours has a gentle nature escape lined up that you are welcome to join. In November we're heading over the hill for the Wairarapa Spring Garden tour, which incorporates the annual Wairarapa Gardens Weekend. We'll have the opportunity to visit private gardens that open to the public exclusively for this Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre fundraiser - an excellent cause. Hop on board!
Sue is the Director and Chief Explorer at Welcome Tours. Sue blogs about new discoveries and the things that matter to Welcome Tours.