International Experience New Zealand Day 11: On the Road to Mt. Cook, Aoraki

Larnach to Mount Cook, Aoraki

We left the ghosts and fog of Larnach Castle and set our sights on Mount Cook in the center of the south island.  As we descended from Larnach we dipped below the clouds and headed into Dunedin for one last visit where the weather was warm and sunny.  We would travel north along the coast and then turn inward after taking in views of the ocean, blue skies and long, low clouds.

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Our first stop on the journey was directly along the coast to see a unique grouping of round rocks along the beach.  The spherical Moeraki boulders lay exposed amidst the surrounding eroded sands and provided a great chance to walk along the beach, dip our toes in the cold surf and play with some beached giant sea weed.

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Once back in the van, the road headed inland and the spectacular views of the New Zealand landscape never disappointed us.  As we wound our way inland, our guide, Colin, surprised us with a stop for lunch in the great town of Oamaru (pronounced O-omaru).  Historically, the town was a hub for farmers but is currently known for its thriving arts community housed in its former industrial district and is home to the eclectic Steampunk Headquarters.  With only a short time to visit, we explored the shops in town and lunched on assorted veggie and meat pies at a local bakery.  With several hours of driving ahead of us, we set off for Mt. Cook.

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As we approached Mt. Cook we passed a progression of long narrow tourmaline lakes that stretched out along the side of the road.  As the elevation increased, so did the wind and rain as we approached our destination.  Once at Mt Cook our hopes of glacier trekking were rained out but plans were made to do an early morning tramp to get to the glacier for a quick view.  As the sun set over our lodge, the skies cleared and a rainbow appeared giving us hope that the next morning would be clear and more hospitable for glacier viewing.

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International Experience New Zealand Day 10: Dunedin Chinese Garden and Dunedin Botanic Garden

We woke up to a brief glimpse of sunlight before the fog decided to obscure our view of the harbor. Preparing for a rainy day, we drove down the castle hill, and to our delight, the town below was dry and cool.
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After strolling through the ornate Chinese gate, Malcolm Wong, Chair of the Garden Trust, greeted us and showed us around the Dunedin Chinese Garden. Because of the architectural and landscape elements found in a traditional Chinese garden, we learned a lot about Chinese history and culture as well as their auspicious gardening style, which was new to most of us.

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The garden is modeled after the understated elegance of a scholar’s garden from the 1600s, between the Ming and Ching dynasties. Every piece of every element- brick, wood, stone, water, and plants- was installed with purpose. The concept of opposites pervades, such as mountain vs. water, and movement vs. stillness. It is a small garden, but feels large due to the winding paths and contemplative landscapes.

We then went on to the Dunedin Botanic Garden (DBG), the entrance of which is at the center of the steep, sloping lower garden.

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The colorful Mediterranean, xeric, and succulent plants are welcoming bursts of color among the terraced rocks. After lunch in the cafe, we met with the knowledgeable Barbara McConnell, a former international intern at Longwood Gardens, who now oversees operations at DBG. She was joined by Alan Matchett, Director of DBG, and Tom Myers, Botanical Services Officer.
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We then walked up the hill to the upper garden, through the geographical collections which included plants from South Africa, Mexico, and North America. Also in the upper garden was an aviary, which houses many birds, one of which is the colorful golden pheasant.
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Throughout our entire trip, probably the most valuable item has been conversation with the directors, curators, and other administrators in the gardens. Their willingness to share and openness into the inner workings of New Zealand gardens has been tremendous in our education.

Blog by Sara Helm Wallace, photos by Felicia Chua

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International Experience New Zealand Day 9: “Is it haunted?”

Before the arrival of the people who would become known as the Maori in the Thirteenth Century, there were no mammals endemic to the fauna of New Zealand. Birds filled most of the ecological niches of the islands. Although the natural history of the island has undergone dramatic changes over the last seven hundred years, there are still many birds. Unfortunately, this proved fatal this morning as several flew into the engines of the turboprop plane that we were meant to take from Wellington to Dunedin. Luckily, we were not on the plane and no passengers were hurt. Still, our flight was delayed seven hours and we spent a lovely day in the Wellington Airport.

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New Zealand is never without its magic. Our lunch quest led us away from the airport and through a pedestrian tunnel that opened onto a sleepy seaside cul-de-sac complete with grass-filled parking lots, a dog beach, and a Kiwi bodega.

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Arriving in Dunedin, and traversing the cliffs to the picturesque Larnach Castle, we were greeted by Head Gardener, Fiona Eadie, who was kind enough to keep our much-delayed appointment and tour us around the grounds of the castle. Fiona has been working with Margaret Barker, the owner of Larnach Castle, over the last twelve years to transform the gardens of the Castle into lush havens for native New Zealand plants with a focus on an impeccable visitor experience. Larnach features a South Pacific themed garden, an alpine garden, English style borders, tropical forests, and many other extensive plantings with a light Alice in Wonderland theme permeating various installations.

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Up to this point we were unaware that a significant 6.2-magnitude earthquake had struck Wellington just hours after we had taken off. Over the past week we have come to love New Zealand and its people; our hearts go out to the North Island and those affected by the quake.

Dinner at Larnach is accompanied by a story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Castle. Its relatively short history includes episodes of extravagance, adultery, tragedies, insanity, and death. We were left indulged and intrigued, whispering the question… “Is it haunted?”

Photographs by Gary Shanks

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International Experience New Zealand Day 8 – Wellington Botanic Garden and Otari-Wilton’s Bush

It was a breezy and sunny morning as we made our way to the Wellington Cable Car Station to catch the ride to the Wellington Botanic Garden (WBG). David Sole, who has been the manager of the WBG for the past ten years, greeted us upon our arrival. WBG has a garden area of about 25 hectares and was established in 1868. It is funded by the City Council and attracts about one million visitors annually. A master tree plan consisting of about 1,800 trees has been in place since 2011, with 40% of the plan dedicated to regeneration of native plants. David explained that native plants would be replanted in place of any deceased exotic plants in order to promote the use of native plants.

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Though there are many themed gardens in WBG, the gardens are inter-connected to weave a seamless design and flow for the visitor experience and education. A new Children’s Garden with an area of about 1,500m2 is under-going development and is scheduled for opening in 2016. The in-house nursery was recently renovated in 2010 and the roofs of the greenhouses were modified to collect rainwater for irrigating the plants. There are free summer concerts six times a week during January to attract more visitors and a display of about 1,200 Begonias in the Begonia House adds to the attraction.

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Rewi Elliot, who has been the curator of Otari-Wilton’s Bush (OWB) since 2005, joined us after lunch. OWB has a natural bush area of about 100 hectares and is divided into two separate themes – the forest (or bush) and the garden. The forest was founded by Job Wilton, a farmer, who decided to protect the site and fence off seven hectares to preserve the native plants. Dr. Leonard Cockayne and J.G. McKenzie founded the garden in 1926 to restore and promote the growth of native plants. OWB is the single largest collection of native plants with over 1,200 species and cultivars growing in the garden. An 800-year old, healthy, Dacrydium cupressium can still be seen growing on the steep mountain across OWB. Before the end of the tour, David gave us his enlightening quote of the day – “At the end of the day, gardens are all about the people.”

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Blog by Felicia and Photos by Bryan

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International Experience New Zealand Day 7: The Taranaki Triptych

Today, still in the greater New Plymouth area, we visited with Greg Rine, Regional Gardens Manager for the Taranaki Regional Council, and his wife Sue. Greg has the privilege and skill to manage three amazing gardens, all very different from one another.

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First stop: Tupare
Tupare was started by a wealthy businessman who enjoyed landscaping the 10 acres of valley and hillsides around his 1941, Tudor-style home. Greg first took us to an overlook where we caught a breathtaking view of the valley before descending the switchback pathways to the house. The paths were lined with hundreds of tall, bright blue and white hydrangeas and the pervasive purple and white agapanthus, all in full bloom. The garden designs and structures were created in the Arts-and-Crafts style, and are maintained as such when it’s practical.

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Next stop: Pukeiti
The mountain forest here is steeped in Maori spiritual history, and the garden is renowned worldwide for its rhododendron collection, including vireyas. Since the 790-acre rainforest/garden recently became public in 2010, Greg has plans in motion for a modern visitor center, dramatic garden landscaping, and sustainable biodiversity in the rainforest.
Our trip through the 65-acre rhododendron collection was a series of pathways with “hotspots” of interesting plantings that always kept us wondering what we would find around the next corner.

IMG_2282Last stop: Hollard
Bernie Hollard was a true plantsman, collecting “one of everything” and planting them around his home near Mount Taranaki, a dormant volcano. As he collected, he worked his way further and further from the house, and soon had a unique paradise. In amongst the original eclectic plantings, Greg’s team has implemented a home kitchen garden, a swamp garden, a barbecue and playground, and an edible forest garden.

IMG_2238Greg’s philosophy of management really gets to the heart of why we are all enthusiastic students of public horticulture. The gardens are there for public purpose and public value. The community and the people are the ones who truly own and benefit from their conservation and beauty. Spending the day with Greg and his wife was a truly great experience before piling into the van for a 4-hour countryside drive to Wellington.

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Written by Sara Helm Wallace, photos by Sarah Leach Smith

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International Experience New Zealand Day 6: Traversing Taranki

Sunny skies greeted us as we woke up and made our way to the charming garden of Valda Poletti. Located close to the center of New Plymouth, Te Kainga Marire is comprised purely of plants native to New Zealand and the surrounding islands.

The unusual Collospermum hastatum.

The unusual Collospermum hastatum.

Valdas house surrounded by native flora.

Valdas house surrounded by native flora.

We were surprised to learn that on purchasing the property in 1972, the first thing that Valda did was to design and implement the garden, never mind the house! The property was completely bare apart from some invasive gorse bushes and Valda has turned it into a native wonderland that still flourishes today. Highlights include a luxurious fern walk, a water garden and a dark tunnel, which is said to house glowworms at certain times of the year. Valda prides herself on having some rare native plants and they certainly are unlike anything we have seen in the United States. Two stunning examples are the blue-flowered Colensoa physaloides and the epiphytic Collospermum hastatum.

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Birds are also encouraged in the garden and we were lucky enough to spot a Tui in the trees. This species is found only in New Zealand and until recently was absent from the valley adjacent to Valda’s garden.

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Following our visit to Valda’s sanctuary, we then entered the Garden of Eden in the form of Pukekura Park. Within walking distance from New Plymouth, the Pukekura Park is comprised of native forest areas, botanical collections and open areas dedicated to parks and recreational activities.

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We met with Christopher Connoley who has been the curator of the Park for the past seven years. Pukekura Park was established in 1876, and initially was comprised of Pinus radiata, which, coincidently, is a native of California. Only a few of the pines remain with some examples dating back 150 years. Even more impressive was a native tree estimated to be over 1000 years old. Chris guided us through a portion of the 52 hectares of parkland, while educating us on the collections, as well as park management and community involvement and support.

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Colorful Lobelia hybrids.

Colorful Lobelia hybrids.

An unexpected highlight was the display houses, which contained flowering species from all over the world. Judging by the condition of the potted plants, the daily maintenance is expertly handled by the staff, leaving a lasting impression and a fitting end to the visit.

photos by Kevin Williams and Gary Shanks

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International Experience New Zealand Day 5: Let’s see what’s behind door number 2!

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Imagine that you are in a circular room with 5 closed doors leading to 5 different worlds. No matter which door you choose, there is sure to be an amazing adventure ahead. Today we visited Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand and had a decidedly “choose your own adventure” experience.

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We met with Director Peter Sergel and Manager of Operations Gus Flower to discuss Hamilton’s management plan and tour the gardens. Hamilton Gardens focuses on telling the history of gardens around the world. They do this by presenting five garden collections: Paradise Gardens, Productive Gardens, Fantasy Gardens, Landscape Gardens, and Cultivar Gardens. For example, the Paradise Gardens comprise of several individual gardens rooms based on world cultures. There is a Chinese Scholar’s garden, an American Modernist garden, an English Flower garden, a Japanese Garden of Contemplation, an Italian Renaissance Garden, and an Indian Char Bagh Garden. Each garden forks off from a central courtyard, allowing for garden guests to choose which garden to visit and then build anticipation upon approach. This is where Sergel, a landscape architect, has perfected the “reveal.” One of the most memorable experiences from the day was our visit to the Indian Char Bagh Garden.

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A short walk though a covered walkway opened into a bright white hardscape with a light teal blue fountain, and four beds of colorful annuals. Bright golden yellow paired with deep burgundy alongside vivid fuchsia and orange provided for a vision reminiscent of a Persian carpet. Upon entry to the garden, we all let out a simultaneous exclamation of “Wow!” Both the Productive Gardens and Fantasy Gardens also had this great layout. Hamilton Gardens balances out this highly structured layout with the less-formal Valley Walk, one of the Landscape Gardens, which takes guests to the northeastern edge of the property and features a naturalistic aesthetic created with native Waikato plants.

After our visit, our fearless driver Colin took us on an exciting road trip southwest to the quaint coastal town of New Plymouth. This drive included breathtaking views of the countryside’s rolling hills and densely forested valleys. We took an exciting detour to a black sand beach and dipped our toes into the chilly Tasman Sea!IMG_2284

In New Zealand, it seems, no matter what adventure you choose, it is sure to be fantastic. Tomorrow: Pukekura Park and Te Kainga Marire!

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International Experience New Zealand Day 4: Ayrlies and Auckland Botanic Garden

20140115_110041Ayrlies is known as the quintessential country garden. It has received the highest ranking possible from New Zealand and was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal.

To say this garden is beautiful is only part of the story;

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it draws you in and teases you with vistas and then quietly envelops you in an intimate grove of sequoias.

20140115_100548As we wove our way through the garden with Head Gardener Ben Conway, he shared the story of Ayrlies. In 1964, Bev McConnell began the transformation of her home and dairy farm into a garden.

Ten years later, Bev added a gardener to her staff who was instrumental in creating this truly breathtaking garden.Bev is still very much involved in creating seemingly impossible combinations of plants that highlight the ideal growing conditions available to gardens in this region.

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Before we left Ayrlies, we had the chance to sit down with Bev McConnell’s son, John, and Jack Hobbs, Director of Auckland Botanic Gardens, to discuss the Longwood Graduate Program.
20140115_114412The group had a great conversation about the future of public horticulture professionals and one that we were able to continue with Jack as we visited Auckland Botanic Garden (ABG) next.

 

 

20140115_165023We began our visit to ABG inside the library with a short overview of the Garden. Jack explained that this relatively young (32 year old), 156 acre garden is free to the public and boasts an attendance that has more than doubled in the last 8 years to over 900,000 visitors annually.

20140115_152853Jack has an excitement to share horticulture with garden visitors that is contagious.We followed Jack into the grounds where he pointed to a number of techniques used to interact with visitors. 

 

20140115_162848Impossible to miss are eclectic sculptures in the garden, water features and native plant collections important to the Maori people. 

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Jack explained that there are more naturalized non-native plants than natives in New Zealand and the garden showcases native plants that can be used in the home garden to encourage greater use.

 

 

 

As we finished our walk we explored the children’s garden and stopped to enjoy one final sculpture before thanking Jack for being a great host and sharing his garden with us.20140115_161954

 

 

Blog by Bryan and Photos by Felicia

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International Experience New Zealand Days 1–3: “This group is keen to hear about bureaucracy.”

My everlasting, heartfelt compassion and understanding goes out to all of our colleagues who made the trip to New Zealand for the 2013 BGCI conference. No matter where in the world you depart from, the flight is a beast, but I knew from the moment I saw the sunrise over Hauraki Gulf that every second spent in the air was worth it.

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We were greeted at the airport by Adele Marsden of New Zealand Educational Tours, and our driver Colin Berquist with whom we explored the Mt. Eden volcanic crater. A park run in conjunction with the Auckland City Council and a community board, Mt. Eden attracts tourists with its intense vistas, and locals with its hilly walking trails. The crater itself is swathed with low-growing grasses that sway and ripple in the ever-changing winds of Auckland. Several panoramic group photos followed, and we made our way to Auckland Domain where we enjoyed breakfast with Adele and Colin at the Wintergarden Pavilion and Café in Auckland Domain park. Adele introduced us to “jandals,” the Kiwi word for flip-flops, and a Cadbury candy favored by New Zealanders called “Chocolate Fish.”

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After breakfast, Adele passed us off to David Millward, the Manager of Metroparks for the city of Auckland with the caveat “This group is keen to hear about bureaucracy.” David gave us a thorough explanation of the history, and financial and operational structure of the Auckland Domain and city parks system. Auckland Domain was founded in 1880 as a 200 acre public preserve created on the cones of an extinct volcano. The Wintergarden Glasshouses were built in 1920 to feature temperate and tropical plants in a constant rotation of bloom. David toured us through the Wintergarden Glasshouses and a native Fernery, where we all agreed that the traveller’s palm in the Glasshouses was the largest that we’ve ever seen.

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Text by Kevin Williams, photos by Sara Helm Wallace

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Electronic Recycling Day December 2013!

On December 4th the Longwood Graduate Program once again hosted its very successful Electronic Recycling Day (ERD). The Graduate Program holds this event twice annually, and it is the perfect opportunity to get rid of obsolete and unwanted electronic items. Most of the electronic items are recycled or donated, and items that still function were claimed by interested parties.

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 All the cell phones that were collected were sent to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) for their Donate a Phone Program. This organization has been in operation for over 34 years, raising awareness and providing assistance to affected families. The University of Delaware student organization buildOn held a similar event on north campus to help raise money to build a primary school in Nicaragua. The PC’s that we collected went towards this cause.

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Nearly 100 items were collected over three hours and most went directly to recycling through the University of Delaware. We would like to thank all the Graduate Program Fellows who assisted in this event, as well as those individuals who dropped off their electronics; we look forward to a greater ‘’harvest’’ next year.

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