Tag Archives: Paloma Gardens

Bamboo but where are the panda bears?

Phyllostachys edulis but, alas, no panda bears

Phyllostachys edulis but, alas, no panda bears

We have the odd stand of bamboo around the place. This giant form is Phyllostachys edulis.

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There are no fewer than 42 different species that giant pandas eat. Mark told me that P. edulis is one of them so I briefly entertained the cargo cult dream – grow the food and wait for them to arrive – but sadly that seems unlikely. A net search does not highlight P. edulis as one of the pandas’ preferred species so maybe that is the problem? We have
tried harvesting the young shoots to eat and they were fine, if n???????????????????????????????ot sufficiently inspiring to ensure that they became a dietary staple. It is, however, a useful source of very long and remarkably stable poles. One is a prop for the washing line. Mark uses it to build shelter frames for his bananas and even to make super long handles for the rake he uses to clean out our ponds. Inspired by our awe of bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong, seen on high-rise buildings, he threatens to construct our own scaffolding but I think it is all talk.
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I photographed this bamboo screen in a Herne Bay garden during the recent Heroic Gardens Festival. It was a lovely small town garden which successfully utilised pretty much every bit of available space to integrate the indoors and outdoors as living space. I really liked the informality of the screen, with the varied lengths of bamboo rather than forcing them into uniformity and the natural weathering process. Mark was particularly taken by the close-up photo showing how the lengths were held in place. Cable ties – a wonderfully simple idea.
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Also seen at Heroic was this crafted bamboo gate in a Mount Eden garden, which was beautifully executed and appropriate to the restrained, immaculately maintained sub-tropical back garden. This is located in the heart of a densely populated urban area but the garden gives no hint of that. The gate has clearly been coated, presumably both to prolong its life but also to stop the weathering process and preserve the smart, new appearance. Sealing the bamboo will also stop the growth of lichens.

 

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???????????????????????????????At the other end of the sophistication scale, I photographed these two bamboo gates in an Okato garden last spring. These have been added on to existing gate frames in a garden where many different bamboos are grown, and then left to weather over many years. You can see the high humidity environment and clean atmosphere in our coastal Taranaki that encourages such abundant lichen growth. As long as the bamboo is kept off the ground, it can last a surprisingly long time.

The best bamboo collection we know is at Paloma, Clive and Nicki Higgie’s garden at Fordell, near Whanganui. Bamboo enthusiasts will find much of interest there. But no panda bears, alas.

Paloma Garden

Paloma Garden

The constructions at Paloma

First printed in the Weekend Gardener issue 322 and reproduced here with their permission.

Clive Higgie and his slightly surprising small companion, the irrepressible Pablo.

Clive Higgie and his slightly surprising small companion, the irrepressible Pablo.

Over the years, Clive and Nicki Higgie have amassed one of this country’s foremost collections of plants and turned them into a remarkable garden at Fordell, near Wanganui. With his farming background, Clive is both practical and innovative and enjoys turning his hand to both construction and sculptural installations for the garden. He is not afraid to mix and match different styles and the results can be both surprising and original.

Some of Clive’s work is edgy, even flamboyant, and pushes boundaries in unexpected ways. A plain board fence at the entrance has been transformed into a statement by using witty wall writing – it is rather too whimsical and well executed to be described as graffiti.

The seating deck built out over the large pond area is also a little edgy. There is something a little insecure about sitting in such an exposed position even if the water is shallow. Clive says he made a few design mistakes on this small platform, particularly making it so low that leaves accumulate below the deck. Clive also constructs the seats. He calls them his Barebum Chairs, which I originally misread as Ba-ree/-bum.

The boathouse is a work in progress. Showing typical ingenuity, Clive has used a concrete water tank as foundations for the structure. The roof is made from fibreglass matting coated with acrylic while the balls are ceramic.

The Iona Cross is distinctly monumental construction made by Clive, standing nearly two and a half metres tall. It is concrete and was poured flat before being moved to its location. By contrast, the Polynesian influenced vertical panel was boxed up and poured in its final location. These are just two of a series of installations surrounding his earth labyrinth which reference the ancestry of Clive and Nicki’s first grandchild.

Paloma Six

Clive is pleased with his recent constructions of simple concrete plinths. “I add a bit of oxide to colour the concrete and to stop it being that glaring white of fresh concrete. I really like the plinths. Sometimes a small vase or sculpture can get lost in a garden setting but the plinths make them stand out.”

The ribbed pillars have a clear debt to ancient times but have been created using labour saving modern techniques. The mould was simply a product called baby iron (small profile corrugated iron) bent in a circle and filled with concrete. These have reinforcing rods down the centre and are boxed up and poured in their final location.

Paloma orange

Elsewhere in the garden, Clive has made extensive use of pillars constructed from terracotta field tiles. He first saw the technique used at Tupare in New Plymouth. He explains: “The pipes are irregular so I mortared them together before filling them with concrete. The mortar joins give structural strength. They didn’t do that at Tupare and many of their pipes had cracked and split.”

Not all construction is in concrete. Clive used ponga longs of irregular shapes and sizes to build a simple stumpery installation. The pongas vary from waist height to around 3 metres.

In his new Garden of Death, his friend, sculptor Steuart Welch, made the hanging crucibles which he calls Dracula pots. Clive has filled them with bleached animal skulls to complement the theme of the garden which is based around the social history of poisonous plants.

The attractive large planters came from a quarry stone crusher and, originally, the smooth sided bowl fitted inside the ribbed one, breaking large stones down to form road gravel. Being magnesium steel, they were of no scrap value but now contain large plantings of ornamental oxalis.

Clive is pleased with his simple solution for the side gate leading from the lower garden to the Matchless Arboretum. Because sheep graze beneath the trees, it is important that the gate be kept closed. A simple system of a counterweight pulls it shut behind visitors.

Paloma Gardens are open to the public all year round. For further information, check out their website: http://www.paloma.co.nz, email clive.nicki@paloma.co.nz or phone 06 342 7857 For my earlier story on Paloma, check Breaking the Mould of the Modern New Zealand Garden – the Dreams at Paloma.

Breaking the Mould of the Modern New Zealand Garden – the Dreams at Paloma

The combination of foliage and colours brings life to the Bamboo Forest

The combination of foliage and colours brings life to the Bamboo Forest

I wrote in my last column about the brave and grand visions of Bob Cherry in Australia. I recently revisited another garden which never fails to surprise me and it is considerably closer to home. Paloma is Clive and Nicki Higgie’s creation at Fordell, just on the other side of Wanganui. It, too, takes in a sweeping vision on a scale which is not common. It is not a pretty garden in the accepted sense. I can’t recall seeing any roses there. There is a distinct lack of frothing perennials. I think I am on safe ground when I say that there are no clipped buxus hedges defining the spaces. In fact, Paloma has avoided pretty much all of the modern clichés of good gardening. But it is an outstanding garden.

Beginning with a blank canvas but reasonably extensive land with interesting contours (they are farmers), Clive and Nicki started by sourcing pretty much every interesting plant they could find back a decade or three when specialist nurseries still existed. They lean to the exotic plant side from preference. So from the start, palms, cycads, large, tree-like succulents, rare trees and bamboo dominated but the plant collection has gone way beyond those families. They were certainly pushing the boundaries of what could be grown in their climate right from the start but, as plants mature, micro climates change and the tender plant material looks completely at home these days.

The Garden of Death - social history and toxic plants, not a memorial

The Garden of Death - social history and toxic plants, not a memorial

When you are building plant collections from the start, it is natural to group families of plants in the situation that best suits them. With the passage of time, those groupings mature to different themed areas but it takes advanced skills to turn those collections into a garden. The owners in this case describe the garden as having distinct zones which include the well established Palm Garden (a very good collection of palms), the Jardin Exotique (a strong Mediterrranean influence, named for Nicki’s French heritage), the remarkable Bamboo Forests and two arboreta. I am not even going to try and draw a word picture of this expansive garden. It is an ongoing project but, being in distinct zones and project-based, it does not fall into the rambling but-wait-there-is-more trap of some large gardens.

The recent Desert House project

The recent Desert House project

The large desert house is a new installation, made necessary by the gift of a huge collection of well established cacti and succulents. A traditional earth labyrinth (dug by hand) is nearing completion. Clive is having a great deal of fun building the new Garden of Death. This is not to be confused with a pet graveyard. Rather, it is a unique environment for another themed plant collection which is focussed on poisonous plants and their social histories. With a touch of whimsy, they refer to it as the GoD garden.

It is that sense of whimsy which gives Paloma its special character. Those of us who count Clive as a friend tend to be in awe of his productivity and his wide range of practical skills. This is not a garden where money is spent bringing in outside contractors and tradesmen. Clive must be the ultimate D.I.Y. man, the epitome of that New Zealand ethos. But this is not about cobbling together a walkway or putting in a bit of retaining wall. He builds. He welds. He creates. In the early days of making the garden, those creative energies were primarily directed into projects using the plants. These days the bulk of the planting is done, although the arboreta are ongoing projects. An arboretum, by the way, is a deliberate collection of different trees (not to be confused with a forest or a plantation) and, being Latin, the singular is arboretum but only the determined and the fortunate have the plural of arboreta. Garden maintenance is always necessary but it is hardly creative so I would guess that the creative instincts have found new direction in sculptural installations and building. There are neither classical repro statues nor kitset octagonal summerhouses here. Paloma is characterised by one-off originals, at times combined with strong colour, occasionally provocative, often quirky.

Wit and whimsy on arrival at Paloma

Wit and whimsy on arrival at Paloma

If you only enjoy visiting gardens that look like your own, you may find Paloma disconcerting from the moment of arrival at the simple board fence which has been transformed with whimsical writing. But if you like the challenge of being stimulated rather than soothed on a garden visit, the multiple layers and complexity of this garden environment will be a surprise. I do like a garden where you can’t take it all in on the first visit.

Paloma is not a seasonal garden in the usual manner so there is no single best time to visit. For more information, check out their website (www.paloma.co.nz) , email them (paloma@paloma.co.nz) or phone 06 342 7857.

Turning  plant collections into a garden - Paloma

Turning plant collections into a garden - Paloma