Monday, 21 February 2011

Blenheim Day 2 Feb 21st

What a full day we had today! We started by exploring the town of Blenheim, although that didn’t take too long. It really is an area dedicated to wine production and little else. We visited a very pretty church and an Art gallery that had an exhibition of the work of some young illustrators of children’s books. There was also a pretty little park, using chard in its beds and making a lovely bed of different coloured allysum, so cheap and easy, but it worked.
From there we visited an exhibition of Aviation Heritage, well Rich did. We had been to the library and I had bought a new book in their sale, so I stayed outside and read a bit. The museum was mostly filled with WW1 bi-planes and mostly German planes at that. There was one exhibit where it explained that an allied pilot having collided mid air with another pilot of his flight was caught in a spin.  He decided to climb out onto the wing ready to jump off at the last moment (no parachute in those days).  However his off centre weight corrected the balance of the plane and he flew it to the ground with one hand on the controls and standing on the wing to adjust the trim. On landing, he hitched a ride back to the airfield and flew off in another plane! There was also a display of the demise of the Red Baron who was shot down after he had shot down 80 allied planes. He landed badly in a ploughed field and died there and then. The ANZAC troops pounced on the plane and stripped it of souvenirs within minutes. Most of these souvenirs have now found there way back to this exhibit, almost a century later. 
We had a garden visit set up for midday at Upton Oaks  and were welcomed by Sue. Again her husband Dave does the construction and she does the planting. They have developed the garden from scratch, just having 2 trees when they arrived. Sue worked around the house at first and here has no straight lines, lots of romantic soft planting in pinks and greys. Then she began the knot garden, which is a delight, with many of the beds filled with one plant or one colour and one side much more dramatic oranges, reds and bronzy foliage and the other softer blues and purples. She too uses chard as a foliage plant. She uses a lot of dahlias, often singles, at this time of year, and they flower for a long time she says. Lots of white accents too.
We moved through an olive grove to a little pool garden, with Lutchens bench an expanse of grass and wide perennial borders, beautifully full still with flowers. Some lovely combinations here too, and much more subtly mixed rather than separated by box, although they do have a nice edging on the approach, holding the agapanthus that shine even in the shade. Box grows really quickly here, as does the hornbeam also used for hedging and Sue is quickly able to separate and edge the next area for gardening.
There it is again in the parterre formalising the vegetables and fruit along with beautiful oak obelisks. Everything was burgeoning and dripping with fruit.
The next project is to repair and place an old wooden house into the garden, with a view of a wonderful blue and white garden with central metal gazebo, to be used for weddings! We returned through the swimming pool area and the little courtyard outside the back door, to appreciate the soft lines of the paths and stachys spilling over the edges.
We were straffed by a huge plane while at the garden and again at the first vineyard we visited, maybe having an air force base so near has its disadvantages.  The wineries we visited were Highfield and Villa Maria. Both recommended by Joe Ferraby from the Barewood garden we visited yesterday. Highfield had some stunning views from the Tuscany style tower they have built recently. In both places we tried some new wines and we bought white, rose and red wines to take with us to the North Island to drink with her brother, Peter.  We took a scenic route back to Blenheim, via Havelock, Queen Charlotte Sound, and Picton. On our journey we were looking for somewhere to swim, but the tide was out and the shoreline was nearly always mud. We came across some shags nesting in a dead tree and they did not seem to mind me getting up close to photograph them. Also, while out on the road we came across this fence of shoes. We had seen this before lower down this island but this was the only chance I had to photograph them. Any ideas what this is all about...... answers in an email please. In the port of Picton was this huge logging dock. We had seen logs going north on road trains for days now and it seem they are all here. Tomorrow we catch this ferry to go to Wellington and the first 50km of the sailing is along this Sound, so more photos then. However I’m not sure how good Peter’s Internet is, so it may be a day or two before you get another posting. Hasta pronto. Photos here.

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