|Entrance gate carved with Maori sculpture|
Hoi Polloi may flock to rock concerts or sports stadiums. Give me a garden any day! Formal gardens brimming with color are accessible to most--but subtle, naturalistic gardens like Tilden Park Botanic Garden in Berkeley, or Cluny in the Scottish highlands--these are MY idea of bliss. Otari (short for the mouthful of a name spelled out fully in the title--I'll stick to this nickname if you don't mind henceforward), is just such a gem. It appears to have good support from their Municipality, and to have achieved a sort of botanical nirvana: fabulous plant collections and exquisite artistry. It's true, your average visitor might walk through and think it's just some bushes and weeds. Poor them. But plantsmen (and of course plantsWOMen) shall get it big time! Which is the point! This is a test: if you make it to the bottom of this very long post, know that 1) you are a bona fide plant nerd 2) live in a subarctic climate and are in desperate need of biophilic injections 3) need some exercise.
The Wellington Town Council page about the garden (please click the previous to find it) says that the Garden boasts 1200 species, which is well over a third of the entire flora of New Zealand! The American Horticultural Society's tour which I accompanied arrived on a cool, slightly overcast day. A point-and-shoot day and I took far too many pictures. And I've had a horrible time winnowing them, so I decided, what the hey--I'll show them all (I actually edited about half and got tired). I think there are still more than any other post I've ever done--but won't bet on that! I will be curious if anyone makes it to the end!
Of course, I can say all sorts of enlightening and misinformed things about the Garden--I know just enough about New Zealand's flora to be dangerous. There were labels, many of which I photographed and I'll certainly post them when I can. I don't think I need to tell you that the "Pampas" grass in this picture is not from South America. There are five species of "Toe" in New Zealand: Click on this URL: to find out just how crazy the situation can be.
The story of Wilton's Bush is a rich one (the Namesake farmer who saved a large section of pristine "bush"--which is what Kiwi's call 'veldt' (which is what South African's call wild land). Basically virgin forest. The garden contains this woodland and a several acre section along the highway has "gardened" in a series of gardens featuring plants from non-woodland environments like the dryland parts of the South Island, alpine plants in rock gardens and various shrub communities. Here a largish totara (the Maori name for Podocarpus totara) makes a handsome silhouette growing by itself in an area of outcrops.
There are many informative signs in the garden and the small Information building nearby.
There is even a lawn, which provides a crisp contrast to the naturalistic plantings.
As always I make a bee-line for the more compact, herbaceous plantings which are my greatest interes, and I wasn't disappointed: there are numerous elegant spreads of this or that groundcover and tufted plant in the rock garden areas. Hurrah! It was fun to see Selliera radicans which is widely sold even in the United States (and relatively hardy to boot).
And raoulias--my favorites! Although I imagine most people who visit don't notice this specimen--I was enchanted. No accounting for tastes!
A Carmichaelia ensyi (or nana) not quite as nibbled as I see them in nature.
A wonderful "Spaniard" (Aciphylla sp.) another of my favorite genera from these Islands. Rather than focusing on the specific taxa (most of which I would have to spend hours sifting through notes, books and pictures to verify) I really want you to enjoy a midsummer concerto of greens and silvers and grays: despite one of the hottest and driest summers in New Zealand history, this corner seems to have stayed lush looking. Not many New Zealand plants--with the glaring exception of Metrosideros and Sophora--are terribly showy in bloom from a distance. Their strong suit is form, character, and shape--and subtle textures and feel. They make for a wonderful palette for painting these subtle landscape views. Once you're attuned, you're hooked! And of course, the cool, idyllic, humid climate encourages a lavish growth of lichens, mosses and epiphytic vascular plants (especially ferns) which add enormously to the beauty of the scene. Suspend your plant nerd tendency, relax and enjoy! And inevitably I'll intrude from time to time...
The juxtaposition of different colors and textures throughput the garden, the sort of artistry perfected by Japanese Gardens, is evident even in the smallest vignettes. Of course, they are aided in a climate where rocks get completely draped by epiphytic ferns, like this.
Pachystegia insignis, one of the many wonderful white daisy genera endemic to New Zealand.
I never identified that reddish thingamabob on the left--like the intrusion of an abstract sculpture!
We have ephedras draping like that in our gardens. Not an ephedra. Not sure what it is...chime in if you know!
|A view of one of the many rock gardens|
We were too busy in the garden to visit this building, which I believe housed offices. Named for the great New Zealand botanist Leonard Cockayne: it's worth looking him up by the way.
Another face of Otari (and a major part) consists of meticulously cared for natural woodland (or 'bush' as Kiwis are wont to say. You get a panoramic vista of the extensive property from a sort of high bridge works near the visitor building. I found it mesmerizing!
You gaze at the primeval distance--probably not unlike the Mesozoic flora of the warm temperate planet must have been like. We didn't notice any pterodactyls this time. They must have sent to dinosaurs to serve our current "administration".
Seedpods on the native Proteaceae (Knightia excelsa): a common forest tree on the North Island that can grow 100 feet tall!
Our group gawking over a seedpod in Rewi Elliot's hand: I love gardeners!
Get a load of the epiphytic plant completely covering the trunk of a tree there! We're not in Kansas any more.
This MAY be the Knightia...but won't swear to it. They do get big!
I never tire of tree ferns. No better place to see them than New Zealand, and no better place to enjoy them there than at Otari.
|Yes...more tree ferns.|
|Rewi Elliot (curator of plants) speaking to our group|
Yet another rock garden!
|More epiphytic ferns!|
|Rewi had us mesmerized!|
I love the big green space--so neatly rectilinear--surrounded by wild madness!
A different species of fern we hadn't noticed before...
I can't get over the ubiquity of these little ferns!
They've done a wonderful job creating many small focal points throughout!
Thanks to a good lens (and better magnification at my computer) I was able to get a closeup of a New Zealand falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae), New Zealand's only diurnal bird of prey.
One of the commoner "whipcord" hebes that I've seen quite a few places on my hikes. in the countryside. There are several cousins of this that are similar in habit. We've had great luck with these in Denver.
|Melicytus alpinus (the gardener in the background is doing a passable imitation of this shrub too I think)|
|An enormous Hebe|
|Pseudopanax ferox--getting bigger|
|The label says Leptinella filirofmis|
|Yes, a Hebe|
|A wonderful, wispy broom like plant: Carmichaelia perhaps?|
Another fun color combo. Muggles completely miss this stuff.
|I love these silvery mounds among the mats...|
Rewi Elliot, like so many botanic garden professionals, is a delight to listen to. Years of passion, dedication and service burnish his words as they appear to have diminished his hairdo! We were all drawn to his wise words, and torn by a desire to enjoy the dazzling garden on our own. A pleasant quandary!
If it's a true grass like this, and showy in New Zealand, it should be a Chionochloa of some sort...
Yet another hebe...
|I believe this is Leptinella potentillifolia, or something close|
|A Raoulia--not sure which one...|
|Bill Lee, from Washington D.C.|
|Here begins the Araliaceae Saturnalia!|
|Oh those epiphytic pteridophytes!|
|The label says "Scleranthus biflorus" but the plant is another Leptinella--with orbiculate leaves. Want it.|
|I can't get over these epiphytic ferns!|
|MORE Geranium traversii|
|I suspect there were hundreds (if not thousands) of accessions here|
In my dream world I'd be here with a shopping cart and no obstacles at customs...
|A wide range of Celmisia in pots|
|Clematis marmoraria at right center|
Lots of plants for their annual plant sales...
Many shrubs and trees to be planted in the natural parts of the garden...gardeners eat this up.
Back to the woods...
So hard to catch that silvery sheen on the under surface of the fronds...
|The obligate fungal entry|
|Don't have a clue what this was|
I made a strong mental note on this one...Liberto, where are you when I need you?
|Nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida)|
|We finish with a flurry of shots of the "alpine garden"|
I love the way this Celmisia is tucked under the rock.
If you made it this far, you are an undeniable plant and botanic garden nerd! I salute you. And you should have Otari-Wilton's Bush Native Botanic Garden on your bucket list too I hope!