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A Garden Without Borders At Next Month's Ellerslie Flower Show

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
A Garden Without Borders At Next Month's Ellerslie Flower Show

What is the difference between a traditional Maori garden and a traditional English garden? Te Waipounamu Garden, an exhibition at next month's Ellerslie International Flower Show, hopes to answer that question.

The instigator, project manager and part sponsor Nuk Korako says the garden will serve as a "living experience" of what a traditional Maori garden is all about.

"This is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase just what a Maori garden incorporates, in both a physical and spiritual sense," Mr Korako says.

"I believe for a long time there has been a perception that traditional New Zealand gardens are exactly the same as English gardens. While many New Zealand gardens do reflect the beauty and colour of English gardens, traditional Maori gardens are very different and serve a different purpose.

"For a start, Maori gardens do not have artificial borders; their borders are created by the natural environment such as a forest, a river or naturally occurring riparian vegetation. There is also a physical and spiritual presence to a Maori garden, which is what we want to attempt to profile as part of our Te Waipounamu Garden at Ellerslie," he says.

"The physical element of a Maori garden is about harvesting for the well-being of the body; therefore, our garden will include a small collection of plants (Rongoa) that have played - and continue to play - an important role in medicine and healing.

"For many years it was illegal for Maori to practice traditional medicine as it was seen as some form of black magic. However, in the early 1960s that started to change which is why one of our key aims is to help people understand what plants have medicinal and other health benefits."

Mr Korako says the garden will also aim to highlight how Maori have long used gardens as a resource for clothing and decorating houses: "Harakeke (Flax), for example, plays an important part in traditional Maori weaving and will feature in our garden."

However, he is quick to point out that the garden will not simply be a "look back in time" as part of an historical navel gazing exercise; the garden will also take into account modernisation.

"In the Southern Hemisphere we have something quite amazing. For example, in Australia we have the oldest indigenous race in the world.

"Here in New Zealand, we have one of the most successful who can maintain traditions while adapting to modern practices. Maori are about new ways of doing things, about continually striving to survive, but that doesn't mean we forget about the past.

"We will show this through our garden; that we can adapt while maintaining some of our most important gardening traditions."

Korako is delighted to have on board a highly experienced project team for the Te Waipounamu Garden including leading environmental designers Boffa Miskell, MAP Architecture, Armitage Williams Construction, The Plant People and leading Ngai Tahu visual artist Nathan Pohio. He is also delighted with the overwhelming support for the project from local Maori from Tuahiwi, Rapaki and Wairewa.

"It's great to be working alongside some of the best in the business, both Maori and non Maori, in creating the Te Waipounamu Garden. The cross section of talent is just outstanding."

Working closely with them will be Malcolm McBride from Letz Go Native who will have a separate display of some of the plants that will feature in the Te Waipounamu Garden, but displayed as part of an "urban" context.

"Malcolm, alongside landscape architect Olive Screen, will demonstrate how people can build a natural herbal garden in an urban environment, which will complement nicely what we are trying to achieve with our garden. About 40 plants that are grown for medicinal and spiritual purposes will be on display as part of Malcolm's Tohunga's Garden."

"We have a wonderful opportunity to portray the natural world of Maori and the platform to do that is a garden. We want to educate, inspire and teach people."

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