For several years, I had been reading Noel's regular articles in the english 'Gardens Illustrated' magazine, and always liked what he had to say. So when I read that he was to lead a tour to the Gardens of the Northern Dutch Provinces in July 2013, including a workshop with Piet Oudolf in Piet's own garden at Hummelo, I knew this was something I shouldn't miss. Especially as I was sorely in need of inspiration, following damage to my garden after a series of earthquakes. When I shared this information with my garden friend, Penny Zino, she was a definite starter, as she too, had been thinking about making some changes to her large country garden. So together we enrolled for the tour and it exceeded all expectations for both of us.
We saw for real, the perennial and grass meadows we had previously only read about and were inspired.
It wasn't only the gardens, it was the people we met as well, the clever and eccentric gardeners of Northern Holland including the modest and unassuming Piet Oudolf. We felt English gardens had some catching up to do!
It was Noel and his wife Jo travelling each day with us, who we really became acquainted with. Despite our invitations for Noel and Jo to come and visit us in New Zealand, he was rather half-hearted, although there was a definite spark in Jo's eye.
Noel felt New Zealand was too far away, and wasn't the native flora -well - boring, with little floral content and virtually no perennial colour? All true we had to admit, but there are lots of other advantages we insisted - like the primeval quality of our native vegetation, and spectacular landscape. Was there a spark of warmth developing in Noels eye after all?
There must have been, because four years later here they are! For a whole month on their way to the Melbourne Conference, and Noel, in spite of past doubts, does seem interested in discovering native plant communities in New Zealand, despite the lack of native perennials.
And in this image above, Noel and Jo are doing just that. Even though spaced out by jet-lag, they were keen to discover New Zealands unique vegetation, so we headed to the nearby Christchurch Botanic Gardens, just for a taste of native. Even though this photo was not taken in original native forest but at the Botanic Gardens at one of the entrances to the Cockayne Memorial Native Plant Collection, this garden does give a feel of native plant communities growing in the wild.
But they were to discover brighter and better as they headed off for the weekend discovering gardens and native plant communities on idyllic Banks Peninsula, before tootling south in their 'Jucy' campervan.
Just as they begin their adventures, cyclone Gita which has been trawling around the South Pacific creating mayhem in it's wake, is about to hit central New Zealand. They will need to avoid central and western areas for a few days. to escape the worst of the cyclone, but I hope that eventually they will be able to head to the wild West Coast where hundreds of miles of some of the best of New Zealand native forests and plant communities can be found growing in the wild. We wish them well.