To touch a hundred flowers


Rhododendrons, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, NZ. Image; Su Leslie 2019

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

Of all the things I long for when the current rahui ends, long walks in public gardens is high on my list. In the meantime, I’m searching my archives for garden-visits-past.

Today we’re in Pukekura Park — in springtime.  Covering 52 hectares in central New Plymouth, the park first opened 1876. The boating lake was built in 1878, and in 1931, the Tea House was added — a gift by a former mayor and his wife to mark their golden wedding anniversary. Walking trails take you through fern glades and rhododendron dells, over bridges and alongside the lake. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place. Perfect for a Friday Flowers stroll.


Friday flowers

img_5823 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.

img_5826 Image: Su Leslie 2019
img_5836 Image: Su Leslie 2019
img_5822 Image: Su Leslie 2019

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.

img_5827 Image: Su Leslie 2019
img_5837 Image: Su Leslie 2019
img_5825 Image: Su Leslie 2019
img_5824 Su Leslie 2019

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.

img_5835 Image: Su Leslie 2019

A walk in the park

Three blue-purple teardrop-shaped lights on jet-black background. Seen at New Plymouth Festival of Lights, 2016. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

From the ‘Glow Zone’; light art at New Plymouth Festival of Lights. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

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.

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Lighting the waterfall is a regular feature of the festival. Seen at New Plymouth Festival of Light, 2016. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

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.

~Michael Strassfeld