Hamilton Gardens – Productive

The third collection to explore at Hamilton Gardens was the Productive Gardens, representing different aspects of the relationship between people and plants. The area that is now the centre of Hamilton Gardens was once a Māori settlement known as Te Parapara. The garden of the same name was once home to Haanui, a famous Ngati Wairere chief, and the site was particularly renowned for sacred rituals associated with the harvesting of food crops. Te Parapara Garden is divided into two sections. The first surrounds the path from the main piazza  and comprises wild food plants from the forest and grassland. This is separated from the cultivated garden by an intricately carved waharoa or gateway. The designs are based on ancient carvings from a house called Te Urutomokia, built for Potatau Te Wherowhero who became the first Māori King in 1858.

Beyond the gateway is an area for cultivated food plants, surrounded by a palisade fence with forty carved posts.

Six varieties of Kumara are grown in the garden and produce from the annual harvest is distributed to charities.

The path surrounding the fenced garden is edged with more food plants as well as beautifully adorned traditional Māori storehouses.

With the goal of producing enough to feed a family of four, the Sustainable Backyard Garden shows some of the ways in which the typical suburban backyard can be transformed into a productive and edible landscape.

There are some quirky sculptures to be found; a stone bench with some unusual inlays, a wild wiry scarecrow and a delightfully decorative adobe pizza oven.

Complete with hens, bees and a worm farm, the garden is managed and maintained by volunteers from the Hamilton Permaculture Trust.

The concept of herb gardens is a fairly recent one. In medieval times, all plants were believed to have medicinal value and all were referred to as a ‘herb’. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the word ‘vegetables’ was used to describe food plants and ‘herb’ was the name for practical plants. The Herb Garden at Hamilton follows the formula of early 20th century horticulturalist and garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, with a framework of paving and four rectangular plots containing herbs defined by purpose – culinary, medicinal, cosmetic and perfume.

Like the herb garden, the adjacent Kitchen Garden is divided into four raised beds, though on a much larger scale.

The features are of a classic 18th/19th century garden used to supply the households of large European estates, with rows of crops mixed with displays of colourful flowers.

The walls of the garden not only create an atmosphere of mystery and security, they also hold the daytime heat. Research has shown that the amount of heat reflected close to a sunny brick wall can equal seven degrees latitude. As in northern Europe, the fruit trees are trained and espaliered against the wall, the result being that these fruits often ripen before others in the region.

There aren’t many gardens with a lovely bronze scarecrow. The Strawman was created by English sculptor, Lloyd le Blanc, and was installed in 2016.

All surplus produce from the Kitchen Garden is donated to Kaivolution, a local food rescue project that aims to stop edible food being thrown away. This is food, good enough to eat but not good enough to sell or is excess to producer requirements, that is diverted to those in need.

Mudbrick

There was no shortage of spectacular views, along with magnificent food and wine, on our Taste of Waiheke Tour. Just when we thought we’d seen it all, our third and final winery, Mudbrick, delivered in spades. The initial vista was very impressive across the Hauraki Gulf, Rangitoto Island and Auckland in the distance but there was more to come.

We made our way to the terrace for an introduction to the winery, its history and a spot of tasting.

Robyn and Nicholas Jones bought the land as a lifestyle block in 1992. Both accountants, they had no experience in winemaking or hospitality but obviously had incredible vision. They spent weekends at the property planting everything from shelter belts to vines on the bare block as well as completing a multi-purpose mud brick building. The café soon followed and, 18 years later, is now a world famous restaurant. With glass in hand, we embarked on a tour of the vineyard while learning more about Mudbrick and the process of making their award winning wines.

There wouldn’t be many better places in the world to have a house.

As we climbed higher, the views became even more stupendous.

At the top, we had a 360 degree view of Waiheke Island from the helipad. Yes, you can arrive and depart Mudbrick by helicopter.

We returned to the restaurant

and wandered for a while around the flourishing potager garden.

Vegetables, herbs and edible flowers provide fresh ingredients each day to grace the plates presented to diners. Any organic waste from the restaurant is returned to the soil in the form of compost, recycling at its best.

Our day on Waiheke Island was almost over, what an exceptional day it had been.

venerable veggies

My poor veggie patch has lain sadly neglected for months. Normally resplendent with a winter crop, this year was just too wet for anything to survive. Apart from weeds. A hefty dose of mushroom compost was added somewhere between showers but even the mushrooms were few.

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I am pleased to say, the weather has improved and I have been busy. Into bed one went the tomatoes.

The pots next to the plants are to allow for deeper watering (I stole the idea from a picture in a magazine). Onto bed two with some green beans,

mixed Asian greens,

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and Bloomsdale spinach.

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Beetroot went into bed three

along with carrots and garlic. I haven’t learnt from past experience and planted four zucchini and two pumpkin in bed four.

I was inundated with zucchini a couple of years ago and gave most of it away until I discovered it can be grated and frozen to be used for zucchini slice throughout the year. It just needs to be thawed overnight in a colander to drain the excess liquid. The Jalapeno chilli has a small box of its own

and I added basil

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to the herb bed.

The fruit salad tree is doing well, producing an abundance of lemons.

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Four weeks on and the growth has been astounding, we are already harvesting the Asian greens.

I forgot to mention the rhubarb. It has been prolific through all seasons and mostly is donated to various friends & acquaintances.

I’m looking forward to reaping the rewards in the coming months.

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veggie patch paradise

Many years ago, I saw this picture in a magazine and have coveted this veggie patch ever since. It is Pete’s Patch, a working vegetable garden in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Hobart, made famous by local legend Peter Cundall.

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There was a veggie plot of sorts when we moved in, with two long, narrow, concrete edged beds and a big space in the middle for spuds.

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Our new design incorporated the existing beds as paths and we set about building.

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We procured reclaimed hardwood roof trusses from the local salvage yard to make the boxes.

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The centrepiece was designated for our fruit salad tree – one tree bearing lemons, limes, mandarins & oranges.

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The posts were sunk and braced in readiness for the concrete.

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I was eager to get some vegetables going. We ordered a truckload of loam and, after laying six sheets of newspaper, filled the boxes with a lovely soil/ mushroom compost mix. The planting began.

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Another truck, another load – road base this time – was wheelbarrowed and spread along the paths.

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I don’t mind admitting the whacker packing is man’s work!

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Seven months into the project, the first bricks were laid.

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We collected old bricks from wherever we could find them. Fortunately for us, a house nearby burned to the ground (it was empty at the time) and we scavenged most from there.

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Michael laid, I laboured, just over 3,000 bricks!

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Now to keep the critters out! A double layer of shade cloth around the bottom also helps with protection from the wind. Wire around the top to deter any climbers.

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Almost done.

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The “verandah” of wire around the top is supposed to keep possums out because they won’t climb upside down.

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Michael very cleverly made the doors to fit the angles of the slope

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and we were finished.

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Now we can just enjoy the veggies.

Or so we thought! Following a stealth attack by parrots, we decided we needed a roof. Gable supports and bird netting did the trick.

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With some left over bricks & timber and an old laundry tub, Michael constructed a fantastic washstand to complete my dream.

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