Desk; the gardener’s cottage at Tupare, New Plymouth. The cottage has been left looking much as it would have in the 1960s. Image: Su Leslie 2019
One of the more unusual gardens included in the Taranaki Garden Festival was actually a cemetery — Te Henui Cemetery.
On the edge of New Plymouth’s CBD, Te Henui is the city’s oldest cemetery, with graves dating back to 1861. It occupies almost 10 hectares (24 acres) and is extensively planted with fruit and ornamental trees, while flower beds bring colour, texture and fragrance to the (mostly heritage) plots.
Large-scale maintenance is done by the council’s park’s’ staff, but the magnificent flower-plantings are entirely due to the efforts of a small group of volunteers.
I find cemeteries fascinating; sad and poignant, and full of glimpses into other people’s lives and families. Sadly, in New Zealand at least, I don’t often find them beautiful. Graves that are lovingly tended by partners and children quickly become neglected as generations pass on. Many of us don’t know even where our grandparents and other members of the wider whanau are buried, let alone have the ability to visit and care for their graves.
Through their wonderful gardening efforts, the volunteers at Te Henui are dissolving time and distance. The beautiful, tranquil, contemplative space that they maintain and watch over helps connect the present and the past, and remind us all of our humanity.
Sunshine, cake, a ukulele orchestra, more sunshine, views of the mountain and lots of beautiful gardens.
Mt Taranaki, seen from Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, New Plymouth, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019
Auckland to a New Plymouth with beach time at Tongaporutu, a short walk in Pukekura Park to remind myself how beautiful it is, and an evening stroll on the waterfront.
Plus tours of two of Sustainable Backyard Gardens; so interesting, I forgot to take photos.
While in New Plymouth earlier this month, the Big T and I went to the Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park.
This is a free event, which runs annually from mid December until the end of January. It started in 1953, and in recent years attracts over 100,000 visitors.
Throughout the park, lights are attached to trees and bridges, set alongside paths or in gardens to create a colourful wonderland each night. A series of light sculptures — like the light couch above — pop up around the trail to surprise and delight.
I particularly loved ‘Mirror – Ballistic’ — disco balls suspended above the Poets’ Bridge, and these ‘Jellyfish’ hanging over the lake.
It had been raining for several days when we went to the festival, and although some of the paths were a bit muddy (and it was incredibly humid), visitors were undeterred — simply carrying raincoats and umbrellas, and putting their kids in gumboots rather than sandals.
I found this quote, and for me it sums up the spirit of the Festival of Lights.
Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.
I’m feeling sad for the thousands of New Zealanders whose summer holiday spirit is being dampened (quite literally) by the frequent storms that are hitting our country. For many families, the period between Christmas and mid-January is traditionally a time to pack the car and head off to campgrounds, motels and holiday homes. I guess there will be a lot of Scrabble and Jenga being played right now.
For farmers and gardeners though, the rain is very welcome; bringing some respite from drought.
I shot the two images just above and below, within about 10 minutes of each other, at Paritutu, New Plymouth. The first looks like it could have been taken on any winter’s day, but it is the height of summer. And when the mist cleared a little, the lush vegetation brought some much-needed colour to the landscape.
Home from our road-trip, I’m starting to harvest the fruit in our garden. This morning I picked tomatoes and plums. Tomorrow I think the first fig will be ripe.