December 21, 2014

In preparation for a new design project, I headed down to Gisborne via the long road past East Cape; during which time David Straight and I looked into landscapes of this part of country (as research for an upcoming book). The trip also provided an opportunity to view some interesting plants, including this planting of yellow pohutukawa near Te Kaha.

A yellow form of pohutukawa (that originated from Motiti Island near Tauranga) has been in cultivation for several decades. Another example of a distinctive variant of a common native tree is the East Cape form of nikau, which has robust leaf bases (as can be seen below, left) and large, luxuriant fronds. Due to these desirable characteristics, we have planted many specimens of this form in gardens.

The major reason for the trip was to visit Longbush Ecosanctuary, where the Welcome Shelter (a structure that will serve as the nucleus for education at Longbush) has recently been completed. One of the benches that sits off the side of one of the Welcome Shelter’s ‘pods’ runs level around the side of the building whilst the land falls away, thereby creating the illusion ably demonstrated above by David Straight (in which he looks like a midget).

Kanuka is an important tree in many ecologies in the eastern North Island, and as we drove through the East Coast, I was impressed by the expressive, weeping form of the branches on the very large kanuka that line the roads and emerge from scrub and forest. At Longbush, many trees were laden with flowers (as shown above).

Near East Cape, a pohutukawa with more conventional colouration than the yellow form shown from near Te Kaha dominates a paddock by the school at Te Araroa. This is the tree that is reputed to be the largest pohutukawa in the country. It is certainly not an isolated phenomenon, as the eastern Bay of Plenty coastline is home to many enormous pohutukawa.

Although I had been through much of the region previously, this trip was the first occasion that I have visited Mahia Peninsula. As we returned from driving through that impressive landscape, the spectacular sunset below unfolded – no doubt enhanced by the proximity of the storm that was lying just to the north.