The last of the mojitos?

The deck is being replaced and I’ve pulled out the mint which was further threatening its flagging integrity by growing up between the planks. It was also making its way along the edges of the house and making a bid for the territory of the rhubarb. While the rampant mint smelt lovely when it was crushed in the french doors, I had to admit that it was better contained in a pot.

Some pieces with roots were saved to plant. It will be a while before there is sufficient for cocktails, however. Some leaves were picked to use later, but they are looking a little the worse for wear, despite being in a cool spot. I have a flourishing pot of Vietnamese mint, but I guess it won’t do for a mojito.

A further blow to the prospect of mojitos is the scarcity of limes. My young lime tree had one lime this year, having had six last year. It has been fed and mulched and is showing new growth and plenty of flowers now. I have had no luck finding any limes at the local shops recently, although a month or so ago there were plenty of NZ limes, and imported ones too. For tonight’s mojito, I used the last half of a lime which was lurking in the fridge.

Note the scallop-edged china cupboard or cabinet handle (broken) beside the vase of mint leaves. I found it in the soil dug up for cement piles under the deck. It looks Victorian. It joins the jar full of other fragments of interesting china discovered in the garden (see earlier post ‘Digging Deeper’, July 16, 2021).

Double take

I picked up these pine cones near the beach some months ago. They are smooth to touch and look as if they have been lacquered, unlike the usual dry, dusty cones which are collected in sacks to sell for fundraising and which we burn on our fires.

These cones reminded me of the neat little cone my dad made into an owl when we were little. He varnished the closed cone, inverted it so it was point-side down, and added spindly legs and bead eyes. It sat on the glass shelf arrangement called a shadow box on our living room wall.

If you look closely at the photo, you can see that each scale of the cone has two grooves, each holding a seed which looks a bit like a coffee bean. Most of the seeds had dispersed when I found the cones.

I had put a third cone on the outside table. While the deck is being repaired, the table has been moved onto a paved area exposed to the elements. It rained heavily not long after, and I did I double-take yesterday when I noticed the cone had closed. It was a spine-tingling moment of wonder. How could something I thought was dead move its scales to protect the seeds inside? I knew that pine cones open as they dry out. That’s why sacks of pine cones bulge more and more as the cones inside expand, and they make cracking sounds as they open wider if they are in the sun. But to close up in the rain seemed to suggest a mind at work!

Scientific studies have been done to show how pine cones react in wet conditions. It’s quite nice to have a rational explanation, but it’s still an awe-inspiring phenomenon.

I have also learnt that you can hang a pine cone outside to predict dry or wet weather.


For the miracle of a garden and a blue sky on a warm day.

For McLaren treating Betty and Mabel with due respect.

For my nephew splitting logs for me early yesterday.

For my niece sharing photos of her little boy and that he loves books too.

Travis Wetland Walk

Spring is a great time to visit this restored wetland, but it’s about more than the triumph of new growth over winter. It is testimony to the hard work of Anne Flanagan, initially, to save the land from housing development, and the ongoing efforts of many volunteers to replant and maintain the habitats (from sand dune to swamp) which make up the reserve. The city council bought the land in the early 1990s and employs a ranger to oversee the work. Weeding is probably the biggest job, the ranger told us. As the trees establish and drop seeds, the new seedlings have to be allowed to thrive.

After the showy brightness of our Springtime rose gardens, it takes a little while to retrain the eye and appreciate the variety and scale of native plants. Many of them are flowering, discreetly. This stream looks as if it is covered in some sort of algae, but it is a native fern which floats on the water. Close up, it is a complex combination of trailing soft roots and tiny fronds. The flag iris to the right, however, is not indigenous.

Mānuka is flowering (alongside introduced buttercups) and we saw the last area of original mānuka on the Canterbury Plains. Plants being re-established include totara, ribbonwood, lacebark, various coprosmas, kōwhai, mataī and kahikatea. Bees are about.

Many birds have chosen to settle here or to return each year. A recent one is the Cape Barren goose which has self-introduced from Australia. Since it was not brought to Aotearoa by humans it is considered a native species. Spoonbills, pied stilts, Paradise ducks, swans, little diving scaup, kingfishers, warblers and pukeko are some of the established birds. We stood on the bank of the large lake and watched short-finned eels cruising by, while Welcome swallows swooped low across the surface of the water to feed on insects.

Even though, if you look closely, you can see houses in the distance, this view all the way to Te-Poho-o-Tamatea (Port Hills) gives some idea of what it could have been like for Māori – before Europeans arrived with a different view of what land was for. I couldn’t help feeling sad for what we have lost, but hopeful too for the future of this place.

Acknowledgements: The walk was organised by the WEA. Our expert guide was the very knowledgeable environmental advocate Colin Meurk who humorously identifies with the mataī tree in its various manifestations (from a tangled mess of twigs to a giant of the forest) and finds it a useful metaphor of ‘patience and humility’ as he wrote in a chapter in Tree Sense which ends with this inspiring sentence:

We need to acknowledge now, before it is too late, the strong physical, political and spiritual links between trees and place-making, well-being, strength and power, alongside humility, steadfastness, wisdom, patient long-termism, sustainability, and kindness to people and the planet. Like never before, it’s time to think like a matai.

Meurk, Colin D., ‘Think Like a Matai’, p167, Tree Sense ed. Susette Goldsmith, Massey University Press, 2021.