Today we decided to go exploring around the Banks peninsula. Our hostess had told us the garden we most wanted to see was actually closed due to earthquake damage. They still felt it quite badly out here. We went that way and could peep through the trees and see the tarpaulin over it and a little of the garden which wound down to the sea. Just a few yards farther on was a nursery with an open garden, so we stopped, only to find that they too had suffered extensive damage. Part of the house was having its roof replaced and the older part, built with no cement in the mortar joints, has to be completely dismantled, brick by brick, all labelled, then put up again with modern mortar. They also lost the water from their clay pond. The garden showed signs of neglect but was an interesting layout, using the water that runs through it, and lots of quite unusual plants and trees. They are Hosta specialists, so they featured heavily along the shady waterways.
We decided to explore right across to the furthest little town, Akaroa, which has an interesting past. The peninsula was formed by three small volcanos and has the peaks, and hills and lots of pretty little bays. The French discovered it and thought they had bought it, but while they were back in France collecting settlers who wanted to go there, the English had signed the Treaty of Waitangi and the whole of New Zealand had become an English colony! In Akaroa there are still lots of signs of French influence, in street and place names and it is what makes it unique. The tricolor flies from many flagpoles and the cafes have French music playing.
We had our picnic on the beach there and I was able to go for a really lovely swim too. We had a little wander and found an amazing garden full of mosaic sculptures. I spent the whole time with a big grin on my face, it is all so wacky, but also very beautiful. The planting was not really to my taste, but again echoed the odd taste of its artist owner. She had lots of topiary birds and box hedges, but also whole beds of black grass or swarzkopf succulents. There were lots of very vibrant colours too, as in lots of gardens here, enormous sunflowers and lots of soft roses around the house. But the impact came from the mosaics, the pools and the ballerina table, and the huge figures many modelled on friends and family. Some very unexpected moments, like looking up, in a loo covered in guest comments, to see a ceiling covered in tiny shoes!
We returned on the Tourist path that winds right around the tops of the volcano craters.