Clear blue skies greeted us this morning at the start of day 3 of our Go Natural, Go Dunedin Garden Tour. I’m not about to sit here and lie by telling you that I was feeling 100% peachy after the late night out with Jamie, Eliza and others last night. No siree! There was a definite degree of fogginess going on upstairs in my gnoggin’ as I leapt out of bed. That probably put me ahead of the game when compared to some others though (not naming any names – you know who you are)!
Although I should have probably relished the opportunity to get some extra sleep in this morning before meeting the rest of the crew, I simply couldn’t ignore the sunlight streaming into my hotel room window and decided to try and snap off a few shots of some of the more prominent landmarks around the centre of town while the skies were blue and the light still soft.
While the plan was to meet in the foyer of Dunedin’s “Scenic Hotel” around 8am to be transported to our choice of either the Otago Farmer’s Market, or a quick shopping spree in one of Dunedin’s central tourist malls (Mulberry Lane, The New Zealand Shop, I Love Merino) just off the “Octagon”, I instead opted to continue running around taking photos (see below). After all, the last thing I need after having just spent 6 weeks in South America is the opportunity to buy more trinkets and souvenirs!
Otago Farmers Market
Beside the Dunedin Railway Station – Anzac Square, Dunedin, New Zealand.
For those of you who are still interested in knowing a little about the Farmer’s Markets, however, here’s what you need to know. Held every Saturday morning (rain or shine) between the hours of 8am-12:30pm, over 65 vendors gather in the Dunedin Railway Station north car-park giving tourists and bargain hunters alike the opportunity to purchase a wide variety of the finest fruit and vegetables available in Otago.
Considering the extra plastic bags of fresh produce that appeared on board the coach as we all piled on ready to tackle the day’s travel itinerary, the markets were definitely worth checking out.
86a Beach Street, Waikouaiti, New Zealand.
First garden stop of the morning was the beautiful “Glebe Cottage Garden”. To get there we had to drive roughly 45 minutes out of town. This probably seems like a fair whack of travel time, but with Midge (tour guide) and Brad’s (coach driver) continual good humoured ribbing and story telling keeping everyone entertained along the way, the time pretty much flew by. Add to this a great little pep talk from our host Jamie Durie before each stop, and it was always smiles all around throughout the tour group.
Set on just over one hectare of land in the East Otago sheep-farming town of Waikouaiti, Glebe Cottage is a private garden lovingly managed by Gwyneth and Les Pullar who open their creation consisting of a woodland, cottage and formal gardens overlooking the Hawkesbury Lagoon to the public upon appointment from September to April each year.
As Jamie has pointed out on numerous occasions on this tour already, the best gardens are ones that pull you into the outdoor space and motivate you to explore simply by their layout and design. Glebe Cottage sure does prompt this sort of exploration.
The top garden features a rose walk and woodland area in a space that displays blossom rhododendrons in the spring. Leading further down a gentle slope heading towards the water, you pass through a tree and shrub lined walk which helps support the bird and wildlife that find sanctuary on Hawkesbury Lagoon.
Glebe Cottage was a pretty little place that Midge, Eliza and I enjoyed wandering around for the 45 minutes or so allotted to us.
600 Blueskin Road, Waitati, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Next up – the Orokonui Ecosanctuary. Disembarking the coach, our group were greeted by staff of the Ecosanctuary at the entrance to the multi-million dollar Visitor and Education Centre where a traditional Maori greeting was extended, followed by a brief introduction.
Orokonui, through 10 years of hard work, now serves as the the only place on mainland South Island of New Zealand where a number of native bird, animal and insect species are able to exist free of predation in an environment that has been restored back to a pre-human state.
Assisting in this restoration is a $2.2 million dollar, 8.7km pest-proof fence which was erected in 2007 and now borders the Ecosanctuary’s 307 hectares. In 4 short years, pests, with the exception of the odd mouse here and there, have been almost entirely eradicated.
In small groups of no more than ten at a time, we entered the Ecosanctuary through a strictly controlled gate, and spent a half hour wandering a couple of trails through lush, ancient forest where our guide was able to point out at least a few bird species that were now thriving in the predator-free environment.
Like “Nature’s Wonders” yesterday, Orokonui is definitely one of those inspirational places where passionate and dedicated people can clearly be seen to be making a difference in their attempt to reverse some of the damage that humans have inflicted on the environment.
Back inside the impressive Tourist and Information Centre, we were able to take a load off and enjoy a buffet lunch put on by the centre. It gave me the opportunity to mingle with yet more tour members who I hadn’t met formally by this stage, and also for us all to discuss what we had just seen on the “safe” side of the big fence outside.
Make sure you check out Orokonui’s great website to find out more about the project. The breathtaking native wildlife photography in the rotating page header is reason alone to check it out.
Head over to: www.orokonui.org.nz
Dunedin Botanic Gardens
The return coach journey back into the inner-city region of Dunedin gave Jamie the opportunity to command the microphone for a spell and, upon request, give an entertaining account of his very interesting life thus far and explain how it is that he became so completely wrapped up in the world of horticulture. One thing you can say for sure about the man, it’s that he makes the most of every opportunity that comes his way. I greatly admire people like that, so it’s been really fantastic for me to be able to have had the chance to hear him share his story.
In under 30 minutes we had arrived at perhaps one of the most hotly anticipated stops on the weekend tour – the Dunedin Botanic Gardens.
Like the gardens of Larnach Castle we visited yesterday, Dunedin’s Botanic Gardens share the esteemed label of “Gardens of International Significance”, the second of only five in all of New Zealand.
The oldest Botanic Garden in New Zealand being established in 1863, Dunedin’s version consists of a hillside native forest and formal lower gardens which together contain over 6,800 species of native and exotic plant species covering 28 hectares. Ably guided by a couple of the Gardens’ most experienced botanic-savvy staff members, we gradually made our way from the top of the gardens, down the hill towards the primary gated entrance, passing a beautiful smorgasbord of plant life as we went.
Now a quick reminder again – I’m NO green thumb. Jamie and our guides’ expert knowledge on everything we stumbled upon (latin names were being thrown around thick and fast in an impressively giddy manner), no doubt delighted the keen gardeners amongst us, but they left me reeling to unsuccessfully take notes in a bid to throw something remotely credible together for your reading pleasure.
I failed… so I’m just going to have to ashamedly quote some of the notes provided by Midge on this one.
Mature specimen trees set off the lower garden’s formal rose garden, herb garden, herbaceous borders, and the Camellia collection. The character changes on the upper slopes of the garden to one of a more informal nature consisting of pockets of regenerating bush, an extensive collection of rhododendrons containing about 3,500 specimens and a woodland garden with large groups of Meconopsis, Primula, Astilbe, Hosta and Iris.
The native plant collection is also found in the upper garden, with many rare and endangered species including a native wetland and the Rene Orchiston collection of heritage flax (Phormium).
What I did notice for myself is just how well managed each of the presented microclimates are. Of particular interest to Eliza, being the Marketing Manager of “Proteaflora”, was a section of the gardens devoted to the establishment of a collection of South African plants including a stunning selection of Protea’s (see lead image).
Given our first real chance to catch a glimpse of some brilliant Autumn colours, I know that everyone enjoyed this stop on the itinerary immensely. And with the prospect of a much talked about dinner ahead of us at the last stop of the day, Glenfalloch, everyone loaded back onto the coach at the front, lower entrance of the Gardens and we were away again.
430 Portobello Road, Dunedin, New Zealand.
With the daylight starting to fade, we arrived at the Glenfalloch Restaurant and Gardens around 4pm. Glenfalloch, Gaelic for “hidden valley” is situated on the Otago Peninsula in a location that allows for dramatic panoramic views of the harbour down as far as Tairora Head where we visited “Nature’s Wonders” yesterday.
As much as we’d all liked to have wandered through the 12 hectares of gardens, this evening’s tour was limited to a gorgeous little herb garden where the chef and owner of Glenfalloch, Steve Richardson, conducted a brief herb demonstration. With fresh herbs collected, we all headed indoors to the restaurant where the bar was open and waiting for us!
With seats and wine glasses filled, Steve appeared once again to conduct a fantastic intimate cooking class where, using the herbs he had collected earlier outside, he prepared a delicious herb chicken entrée (see image below) that we all enjoyed as a lead into our incredible buffet dinner. The man sure knows his trade. Within minutes he had created a gorgeous looking entrée that is definitely easy enough for even culinary mortals like myself to prepare at home. Good stuff!
Demonstration over, Steve had to run off to his other restaurant in Dunedin, “Table Se7en”, leaving the rest of us to tuck into some really great dinner and conversation.
With a distinct lack of sleep starting to take its toll, all that was left to do for day three of our tour was to head back to the hotel, head up to my room, collapse and fall asleep reciting all the latin botanical names I had learned earlier in the day.
Again, I failed… and simply passed out without blinking. Zzzzzzzzzzz…