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New Plymouth - A Paradise For Rhododendron Lovers
Photographs and article by Kate Methven 19/01/01

There are 1500 species of rhododendrons throughout the world - in New Plymouth and the surrounding Taranaki countryside you will find at least 1000 of them! So if you are a fan of these beautiful shrubs then a visit to this city is a must.

Taranaki Rhododendron Festival
Each year for the past fourteen years the city has hosted a rhododendron festival during the peak blooming period in late
October / early November. During the ten days of the festival around eighty gardens are open to the public. Many are privately owned, some are public gardens and others are professional... there is definitely something for everyone, but which to choose?

For those who cannot make the festival, there is still plenty to see as I found out by just visiting two of the city's public gardens.

Pukeiti - A garden for all seasons
Pukeiti is New Zealand's premier rhododendron garden situated in magnificent rain forest on the lower slopes of Mt Taranaki. Set up by a dedicated group of people Pukeiti is now a registered Charitable Trust whose members are dedicated to providing one of the world's great collections of species and hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas in an area covering 360 hectares. There are more than 10,000 shrubs set amongst centuries-old, lush rain forest - a truly delightful experience at any time of the year.

Leo A. M. - wonderful rich red colour - Pukeiti Gardens
Leo A. M. - wonderful rich red colour - Pukeiti Gardens
Winsome A. M.  - a colourful display - Pukeiti Gardens
Winsome A. M. - a colourful display - Pukeiti Gardens
Golden Ball - in the shade house - Pukeiti Gardens
Golden Ball - in the shade house - Pukeiti Gardens

The flowering season
Each month of the year has special features so there is always something to see...

  • Jan - Summer flowering rhododendrons, hydrangea species, auratum lilies
  • Feb - Early vireya rhododendrons, hydrangea species, auratum lilies
  • Mar - Vireo rhododendrons, climbing rata, autumn crocus, Japanese anemones
  • Apr - Vireya rhododendrons, rata, autumn crocus and many types of hydrangeas

  • May - Vireya rhododendrons, cyclamen and hellebores

  • June - First hybrid Rhododendron Pink Delight’ daphnes, mahonias and witch hazels

  • July - Large leaf rhododendrons, sasanqua camellias, snowdrops

  • Aug - Large leaf rhododendrons, reticulata camellias, crocuses, primroses.
    In the Display House, pleione orchids and vireyas

  • Sept - The early hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas, michelias magnolias, daffodils

  • Oct - Hybrid rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas at their peak.
    Viburnums, candelabra, primulas, hostas

  • Nov - Rhododendrons such as the Loderis, elliottii and late hybrids in full bloom along with deciduous azaleas, kalmias, spiraeas and hostas

  • Dec - Late rhododendron hybrids, meconopsis, iris and the spectacular giant cardiocrinum lilies

Getting there
Join Carrington Street off Powderham Street in the main city and follow this road for thirty minutes or so until you arrive at 2290 - now named Carrington Road (it is well signposted). On the way you will get great views of Mt Taranaki and as you climb further you should see Mt Ruapehu in the distance.

Opening hours
The garden and Gatehouse Cafe are open 9 - 5 daily. I can recommend the cafe which has a good selection of home baking - can't beat fresh, hot muffins for morning tea or homemade soup for lunch!

Pukekura Park and Brooklands
A few blocks from the city centre at the end of Liardet St you will find Pukekura Park and the adjoining Brooklands developed into a park of many faces.

Pukekura Park was opened in 1876. Originally it was a barren swampy valley which had been set aside as a recreation area for the local community. Over the last century it has been developed to provide a park full of interesting landscapes, native bush, sweeping lawns, fresh water lakes and streams as well as formal flower beds.

Manmade waterfall at Pukekura Park
Manmade waterfall at Pukekura Park
Duck pond at Pukekura Park
Duck pond at Pukekura Park
In contrast Brooklands was a family estate established in 1843 and bequeathed to the people of New Plymouth in 1934. It has been developed with a large landscaped plateau from the original gardens surrounded by dense subtropical forest. A large amphitheatre - the Bowl of Brooklands provides an excellent outdoor venue for concerts and outdoor entertainments.

A park for all the family
There are three playgrounds which offer a variety of equipment suitable for toddlers to early teens. There is a children's zoo with farmyard animals, tropical birds and monkeys. A picnic area alongside is a great place to sit and relax whilst watching the animals at play. Older children and adults can enjoy a lazy sail on the boating lake.

Another interesting feature is the manmade waterfall. Built in 1970 this 10.6 metres high waterfall circulates an amazing 180,000 litres of water per hour. At night the combination of light, sound and movement make this a popular visiting spot.

For rhododendron lovers the Sanders Rhododendron Dell and Stainton Dell are filled with many varieties of shrubs.

So from sailing on the lake or feeding the ducks to taking a bush walk this park has much to offer all ages.

An ideal stopover for 'rhodo fans'
We certainly enjoyed our two night stopover in New Plymouth and recommend you try it some time especially if you are a 'rhodo fan' like me.

For further information contact New Plymouth Information Centre
Phone (06) 759 6080

If you enjoyed reading this, you may wish to read the following articles.

Christchurch, the Garden City in Spring

Ilam Gardens

Awa Awa Reserve

The Canterbury Rhododendron Society

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