My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London


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The winding Coromandel coast road towards Whitianga has some tremendous scenery, to the extent that road signs warn of the dangers of driving and sightseeing. On a boat trip we admired the stunning natural features carved into the volcanic coastline; rocky islands grew out of the bluest water and pohutukawa trees clinging to the clifftops looked like bonsai trees from a distance. It was liberating, great fun and the best way to experience the island. Not only are distances deceiving on these windy roads, but we were constantly stopping to take in a series of ridiculously stunning views.

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We spent three days in the Mackenzie region, taking in the glacial lakes at Tekapo, Pukaki, Wanaka and Wakatipu. The panorama from Mount John over Lake Tekapo is wonderful, with the turquoise water and sky separated only by the craggy, snow-capped Southern Alps in the distance. And as one of only 12 International Dark Sky reserves, night becomes as exciting as day, with the finest stargazing on earth. The flora in this region is generally tough and alpine. The visual impact comes from the sheer scale of the plants sitting in the landscape: immense drifts and swathes of just a few species.

Copper-coloured carex grasses fill wide plains; craggy hillsides are smothered in bright yellow broom. After crossing the Ahuriri river we were met with an unanticipated splash of colour: lupins in hues of pinks, purples and blues carpeted the braided gravel river bed as far as the eye could see, pumping out the sweet scent of summer, with intoxicated yellow butterflies flickering among them. The lupins look perfectly at home, but are an alien invader.


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Introduced in the Forties to brighten up road verges, they are now colonising vast areas. Rather than drive the only road to Milford Sound in Fiordland and back again around three days all in we took some local advice and flew in a seater for a day trip from Queenstown.

Richard Jefferies

Flying over the snow covered Southern Alps, my O-level geography kicked in as we looked down on textbook images of glaciated valleys, truncated spurs and dotted deposits of moraine. There was another sharp change of scenery as we hit the west coast north of the Alps. Vast, deserted sandy beaches lie between wild rocky outcrops which dip into the Tasman Sea; dense rainforests are set against snow-capped mountains in a superbly incongruous combination.

Here the plants are fuelled by in of annual rainfall — although we were lucky to have blissfully dry conditions. Jackson Bay is a little off the beaten track for most, but left me with lifelong memories of the perfect day. Under blue skies a pod of dolphins swam under the boardwalk, we tramped along a rainforest trail to explore the rock pools — and we even saw a real kiwi that day not that any of the locals believed us. Punakaiki was the furthest north we ventured on the South Island. The neatly layered limestone of the aptly named Pancake Rocks jut perilously into the sea and blow holes blast at high tide.

Here, the flora notches up yet another level into huge, impenetrable drifts of informal topiary crafted not by hand and shears, but the perennial battering of wind and rain. Ancient podocarp conifers and silver beeches towered behind. I also finally spotted the nikau palms growing wild. They flourished in regal profusion, their fronds puncturing through the bush beneath to define this special landscape. It reminded me that although the natural world can be inspiring, profoundly moving and at times spectacularly exhilarating, as gardeners we should never attempt to compete with it.

There will only ever be one winner. Joe travelled as a guest of Austravel , austravel.

My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London
My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London
My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London
My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London
My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London
My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London
My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London

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