Taranaki takes garden festival to new plane
20 Jul 2010
2010 Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival
29 October - 7 November 2010
Taranaki - known as the garden of New Zealand - will honour its long standing reputation when the region’s annual rhododendron and garden festival opens in October.
The Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival event, one of New Zealand’s longest-running garden events, turns 23 this year with 10 days highlighting diversity and sustainability.
Unique soil composition and climate provide ideal growing conditions in Taranaki which is renowned world-wide for producing exceptional examples of many species.
Each spring, thousands of rhododendrons burst forth providing a floral showcase for the garden festival, but there’s more to the event than flowers.
Kiwi 'bugman' and television personality Ruud Kleinpaste launched the 2010 festival with the message that gardeners can "save humanity on this planet".
He says the world has turned on its axis for some 4.5 billion years, heating and cooling many times, and surviving without a carbon credit in sight.
"All we need to do is help redress that balance and that begins with gardeners in their gardens capturing carbon dioxide in plants and using the natural world as a remedy," says Kleinpaste.
Mankind is the only species that believes carbon dioxide is harmful, but the rest of nature uses it to produce trunks, leaves, fruits, flowers and coral reefs, according to Ruud.
The 50 quality gardens in this year’s Rhododendron Festival, including gardens of national and international significance, were all doing their bit to save the planet, he said.
The gardens, including inner-city potagers, native and classic rambling country gardens covering many acres, all had incredible plant and insect biodiversity to help save the planet as well as intrigue visitors, said festival manager, Lisa Ekdahl.
"Sustainable gardening has been a theme we have been nurturing in the last few festivals. This year we have three dedicated vegetable gardens, and one of the guest speakers, Fiona Hill, will be hosting an event on how to grow edible plants known as micro-greens."
Gardens of significance
Of the almost 50 gardens on show in 2010, 11 are rated as being of national or regional significance.
Nine new gardens have been added to the festival programme, including Taunt Garden, Pukemara, Waiongana, Gateway Garden, Lockinge Garden, Wards’ garden and Wintringham. Merleswood returns this year.
Six gardens from the first festival in 1988 are still part of the event - Pukeiti, Ratanui and Tupare gardens in New Plymouth, Tikorangi The Jury garden in Waitara, Ostlers garden in Stratford, and Hollards garden in Kaponga.
"Gardens and their gardeners are ever-changing, which makes the festival a fresh experience every year," says Ekdahl.
Organisers aimed to give visitors a diverse range of high quality gardens that were among the best in the country, she said.
"Visitors can enjoy strolling through large park-like country gardens, geometric gardens, intimate inner city potager gardens, sub-tropical or rainforest gardens - we even have an authentic Japanese tea house garden."
Landscape design project
The landscape design project, a novel festival feature and well-kept secret, has been revealed as a "vertical garden" created on the exterior walls of an inner-city building.
A lush tapestry of plants, designed and created by Tracey Peryman of Vertical Plantscapes - growing on the Brougham Street façade of the Taranaki Arts Festival office building - will be opened to the public just prior to the festival.
Past festival landscape design projects have included a whale bone sculpture garden on the New Plymouth coastal walkway, and a multi-media virtual garden.
Festival organisers say this year’s vertical garden will be something not seen before in New Zealand.
Festival steam train
Garden-lovers can also add a little travel romance to this year’s festival, with the opportunity to travel by steam train.
The JA1271 steam train, built in 1956, will leave Paekakariki station - just north of Wellington on Friday 29 October - stopping at all major stations en route to New Plymouth.
The train journey, a major hit at last year’s festival, is being offered as part of a travel package that includes international flights.
This year’s festival programme also includes jazz and wine parties, guided walks, workshops and celebrity speakers.
Last year’s festival attracted a record number of visitors notching up 59,000 garden visits and contributing NZ$5.4m to the Taranaki economy.
Of those people surveyed, 75% of visitors were from outside the region and 97% rated the festival as excellent or very good.
Taranaki's gardens of significance
2010 New Zealand garden festivals
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|Garden-lovers can take the JA1271 steam train to the Taranaki Rhododendron Festival