NZ’s Government House, Wellington

little girl was queen for the day

Yesterday my Monday morning walking group joined a public tour of New Zealand’s Government House.  (Check their website to book a tour )

This was my first visit there as when public events have been on I have missed out because of number restrictions or have had other engagements on. We all enjoyed it and intend making a booking for just our group to visit the gardens in particular.

I will blog about Government House (1910) and our Governor-General’s later but for today, here are a few photos of the beautiful gardens.

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Wharepuke. Eco-cottages I stayed at in Kerikeri, Northland

In Kerikeri, Northland earlier this year, for the first time in many years, I stayed in some delightful eco-cottages.

These stylish self-catering, eco cottages at Wharepuke are nestled in 2 hectares of gardens which were first planted by Robin Booth – starting 18 years ago  on bare land – and have been awarded the ‘garden of significance’ status . The cottages feature original fine art prints and paintings by resident artist, print-maker and tutor, Mark Graver who has his studio on the grounds too.

Wharepuke has solid green credentials and actions – they include:

  • the cottages are purposefully designed for energy conservation
  • they use available local goods and services
  • they use organic cleaners and products
  • they encourage the reuse of sheets and towels by guests to save water and products
  • they recycle any rubbish
  • they have their own sewerage system which bio-treats water and which ends up back on the garden
  • And, they offer local and organic food and drinks where possible

These cottages are peaceful to stay in, and as this a great wedding venue, I imagine both guests and brides love staying here – I know I did!  I also valued the little torch on the key-ring to lead me home through the subtropical bush late in the evening.

Another asset about this place is the restaurant set within the gardens. Food at Wharepuke is a fully licensed cafe and restaurant specialising in Thai-inspired and modern European food.

Judged the “Northland Cafe of the Year” I can vouch for the fabulous dishes produced by the Welsh chef Colin Ashton , and his staff. An advantage they have is their herbs are mostly all grown on site.  Interestingly, the restaurant was once army barracks and was trucked to the site. Even if you can’t stay at the cottages make sure you eat at the restaurant.

One of my food recommendations is the Thai Tasting Plate. Dishes I especially loved were the very tender squid, the raw fish, spring rolls and the lavash bread!

Mark Graver- the resident artist – is the author of the book Non-Toxic Printmaking. (A&C Black, London 2011) and tells me he had to self learn how to create non-toxic printmaking. He was awarded First Prize at the 2010 Lessedra World Art Print competition in Sofia, Bulgaria and has work in public and private collections worldwide.  See his website for details about his work and the workshops he gives.

frankie stevens IMG_8755
Singer Frankie Stevens signed the chair .. that I sat in for lunch. Only days earlier he had been MC at the concert in the Treaty Grounds I’d attended. (see an earlier blog post)
Lush subtropical gardens
cottage bedroom
a peaceful retreat
food at wharepuke
Fabulous gardens
Food at Wharepuke can be served indoors, on the deck, or here in the garden
Food at Wharepuke
Food at Wharepuke
mark 2
Mark Grover at work on his etching … water based inks on copper
thai tasting plate
Thai tasting plate
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A saying to live by
veiw to lake
View from my cottage
view from veranda
another view from my cottage

monach butterfly MG_8871 sign

Add Butchart Gardens to your bucket list

Love gardens? If so, the Butchart Gardens, on Vancouver Island, Canada need to be on your bucket list of gardens to visit.  They started in the early 1900s with a few sweet-pea seeds and a rose and a large hole in the ground dug by her limestone and clay digging husband and voila –  a series of gardens began to surround the family home. Japanese, sunken gardens were among the first: an Italian garden, a rose garden and some 500 flowering cherry trees.

The gardens are on display all year and whether you visit in the wonderful winter or the full flush of summer the garden will impress. It even is open in the evening when the garden takes on a magical appearance.

Right now (1st December – 6th January 2012) tens of thousands of coloured lights and music fill the garden with the sounds of the Christmas season, and ice skaters have a great time.

I went to this National Historic Site of Canada during an August so never saw the Christmas lights but every month is different: see more here

In May this year, HRH Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol, the youngest daughter of Thailand’s King, and her entourage made a private visit to The Butchart Gardens today for a tour of the gardens. The connection of The Gardens to Thailand, formerly known as Siam, extends back to September, 1931 when the King and Queen made a visit to The Gardens for a tour and luncheon.

Thanks to the Butchart Gardens for these Christmas photos.

The Thai Princess at Butchart Gardens

Garden of significance: Efil Doog, North Island, New Zealand

When PR man Graham Bell, from The Butchart Gardens (BC Canada) tells me about some local gardens I ‘absolutely need to see’, I believe him. After all I have seen the Canadian gardens so know what he’s comparing them with.

One of the founding “Garden of Regional Significance” awarded by the New Zealand Garden Trust, the  Efil Doog Gardens are in the Akatarawa Valley (near Upper Hutt, Wellington – 11.5k from State Highway 2 and about the same from State Highway 1 on the west side of the island. see directions and prices here )

As well as the owners love, devotion, and passion, one of the other advantages this garden has is the clear Akatarawa River which runs through the native bush, hills, farmlands, and Efil Doog. The Akatarawa Valley is home to several other popular tourist attractions related to nature and country lifestyles. These include gardens, nurseries, a wildlife park, emu and blueberry farms, and a holiday park.

I was confused about the name as I hadn’t seen that Efil Doog is ‘good life’ read backwards.  The owners, Shirley and Ernest Cosgrove, have had the property since 1976 and moved onto it some twenty years later and for them it is, and has been, ‘the good life’.

At 300 metres above sea level, these 11-acres of gardens have magnolias, azaleas, about 2,000 rhododendrons and other exotic flowers.  Trees and shrubs provide the bones of this “Garden of Art” and have fifty sculptures by contemporary artists scattered throughout. The artists are both national and international, can be found throughout the gardens. Ernest is a skilled bonsai gardener too and has a fine collection on show. This property is well worth visiting for a day (take a picnic lunch).

When I first arrived I thought ‘how peaceful and quiet’ until I heard all the noise the birds and bees where making. So yes, it’s ‘peaceful and quiet’ in the country until you stop and really listen – it’s just wonderful.

Another surprise for me was the purpose-built art gallery that displays a fine collection of original and (mostly) early New Zealand paintings and famous works by New Zealand artists such as Frances Hodgkin, Charles Goldie, John Steele, Margaret Stoddard, James Nairn, Dorothy Kate Richmond, Elizabeth Kelly, Claus Fristrom, Isobel Field, Mina Arndt, William Baker, Alfred O’Keefe, and many others.

I will be returning – and have already told a friend it’s on our ‘to-do’ list when she comes to Wellington in January.

Let me know what you think of this great place by leaving a comment.


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