Down amongst the graves

Friends invited me to join them amongst the graves last week. The Te Henui Cemtery in New Plymouth must be the country’s prettiest, most vibrant graveyard. I credit this entirely to the energy and cheerful dedication of the small band of volunteers who tend to a multitude of discrete, grave-sized gardens.

My first sight was a monarch which resolutely refused to oblige by opening its wings, feeding on a shaggy echinacea

It is very seasonal and, on this visit, it was lilies, agapanthus and dahlias that did the heavy lifting in the floral display. The sunlight was so bright and the shadows so deep that I was struggling to get half way decent photos which is why landscape shots are missing. I need to go back on a day when light conditions are more muted. But it is a really interesting place to look at plant detail and planting combinations.

The most startling plant combination of the day, one to make you stop and go ‘wow’, was the dark leafed ligularia with Stipa tenuissima. The stipa is pretty controversial, as I learned a month or two ago, (banned from commercial production but not illegal to have in the garden) but the combination is one that would not look out of place in a super-smart Auckland townhouse.

Mark was not with me on this occasion but I have shared a life with him for so long now that I know what his response will be. And he does not like upward-facing lilies. He holds his opinion so firmly on this matter that it could be described as dismissive. It didn’t stop me photographing this handsome red lily that was looking splendid. I am guessing it is an Oriental hybrid, maybe even what I have just discovered is sometimes called an ‘Orienpet’ which is, the ever-handy internet tells me, a hybrid between and Oriental and a Trumpet lily. Why does Mark reject upward-facing lilies? Leaf and litter gatherers, he calls them. And when a bloom gathers debris, it marks badly and its flowering time is limited as a result. In the Garden of Jury, lily blooms are to be outward-facing, not upward-facing.

The cemetery has a good selection of lilies so locals and visitors may like to check them out from now until early February.

I call it a helichrysum but I think it is actually an anaphaliodes

It is over ten years ago that I wrote up Helichrysum ‘Silver Cushion’ and I have not added anything to my knowledge about what most people know as everlasting strawflowers in the intervening years. All I can say is that this plant is not what we have growing as ‘Silver Cushion’ though it must be related. Those everlasting blooms are larger and clearly hold better over a long period of time. They were dainty and charming, albeit somewhat reminiscent of tarnished tinsel daisy-stars at this time of year.

My best guess is that this and ‘Silver Cushion’ have derived from our native plant Anaphalioides bellidioides (formerly Helichrysum bellidiodes) but I doubt they are species selections and what else is sitting in the genes, I do not know. I would like a piece of this larger form, though.

Any input from readers who know more about anaphalioides is most welcome.

I am not a fan of Dame Edna gladiolus, not at all. I tolerate my vigorous yellow ones that are a legacy from Mark’s mother. But look at the startling colour in these two. Vulgar, yes. Lacking refinement, yes. But vibrant and with a clarity of colour that is not to be derided. Just not in my garden, I think. The foliage gets rusted and unsightly here. That is another good reason to go to the cemetery – to see plants and colours that I do not grow at home.

I do not understand why my dierama – angel’s fishing rod, do not perform as well here as amongst the graves. They flower, but nowhere near as freely. I don’t think it is varietal, it is more likely to be conditions. What am I doing wrong?

Our thanks go to the dedicated volunteers who tend to this particularly cheerful and colourful place which combines delighting the living as much as remembering the dead.  

A simple santolina, I think in the only landscape view I managed in the glare of summer sun


12 thoughts on “Down amongst the graves

  1. Angela Barlow

    At the beginning of November (sadly post festival) we did a road trip from Auckland to Wellington and came back via the surf coast, stopped for a few days in New Plymouth before heading home along the Forgotten Highway. One of the highlights was a walk around Te Henui and it was an absolute delight. So poignant, I felt, that a generation who venerated the dead are not abandoned as in so many cemeteries, but tended with care in an informal fashion by the volunteers. I fear my photos didn’t do it justice either on the bright, sunny day we were there, but the memories linger and a visit in another season is for the future.

  2. Pamela Barraclough

    One highly-recommended place we didn’t get to during our recent garden festival visit. Next time!

  3. robynkiltygardensnz

    Is your aversion to Gladiolus because they are hybridised out of recognition from the original species native to Africa? Do we prefer the simplicity of the original rather than the super-bred versions of many flowers – Dahlias and Roses, for instance?

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Very much so! I am quite happy with Gladiolus tristis and papilio. And fine with the single dahlias we grow. Bigger is not always better (except when it comes to magnolias!).

  4. wowy82

    Thank you Abbie for this story about this gorgeous cemetery, I will never tire of stories of the wonderful work done by Susan and her volunteers. I look forward to the day when similar stories can be written about a special old cemetery in Melbourne.

  5. elainebolitho

    Thank you Abbie for this very interesting post – as for all the others you have shared this year. Blessings to you Mark and family for Christmas and my your New Year be filled with plants growing in the way you like best.

    Elaine E Bolitho PhD


    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      And thank you, Elaine, for being such a responsive reader. All the best to you for this season – marked more by gratitude this year than festivity, perhaps? Kindest regards, Abbie

  6. Peter Martin

    Many thanks Abbie -for this and all your other posts during the year -all of which I thoroughly enjoy. Happy Xmas

  7. tonytomeo

    Cemetery landscapes can be a source of cuttings of some uncommon evergreens that were more popular a long time ago. I do not know why, but that seems to be something that they all have in common. Arborvitaes, yews, cypresses, junipers . . .

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