Fun with marble

July 30, 2015

As a means for stepping out of the kitchen on to a stone terrace (at a recent Nelson project), we needed to find a large stone slab to act as a step. We had already used a beautiful ‘grey’ marble (sourced locally) for the extensive stonework around the house, and therefore, the logical option was to find a slab of local marble (if possible). Knowing that there was still a certain amount of cut marble available at a local farm (the site at which Parliament Buildings was quarried from), I enquired about appropriate stone for our purpose.

Kairuru Marble is part of the farming operation of Wendy and Dave Henderson, who are the third generation of the Henderson family to oversee their land. After looking into several options, we found one 2m long stone that is well suited to our situation (pictured above, right), and this was duly transported to site and placed. Whilst selecting the slab, the native plants neighbouring the farm track attracted my interest, particularly as I have researched the plants of these marble areas to a considerable degree. One fairly widespread species, Melicope simplex (pictured above, left) formed compact shrubs amidst the marble, where they took on a reddish-orange hue in the stems (which I have not seen on this species in other areas1).

The mounded forms of Melicope simplex (which bears affinities with Teucridium parvifolium when viewed within this context) nestle at the base of very large specimens of a distinctive, local species of kowhai, Sophora longicarinata (shown above). Commonly known as limestone kowhai, S. longicarinata has particularly delicate foliage (with small leaflets widely spaced along the leaf, like droplets of water), and is mostly associated with limestone and marble habitats.

At the bottom of the former quarry area, where stockpiles of stone (both cut and uncut) sit, there is a pond that Dave and Wendy call Parliamentary Pool, due to the fact that it is an artefact of the former quarrying. Part of this lower area is pictured above (on the left), showing some of the marble that awaits a future use.

The remarkable natural form that marble can often assume has provided a spectacular pedestal for a gnarled specimen of Melicytus obovatus to grow within (pictured, above right), whilst much larger, semi-weeping specimens of that compact shrubby species (up to 3m tall) emerge from the slightly more benign setting of a nearby outcrop (shown below, in which M. obovatus is the pale green, dense shrub in the middle of the photo, growing cheek-by-jowl with Melicope simplex).


  1. Melicope simplex more commonly has dark red or purplish stems in places where I have observed it (mostly further north, and more commonly on the bush edge, rather than fully out in the open as it is here).