On 18 November we hosted a meeting of Restoration Groups that run Community Nurseries in Southland and Central Otago. People came from as far away as Ohau, Cromwell, Clyde, Wanaka and Queenstown and networked about the challenges of running community nurseries, from fundraising, to working with volunteers, to propagating native plants, to growing Threatened Plants. The group also visited Bushy Point Restoration Project https://www.otataralandcare.org.nz/bushy-point-restoration/
Our own property and Bushy Point is a good place to see native plant restoration in action. The aim is to turn paddock into bush and the best way to do that, in our experience, is to use the species that nature would choose to do that job, naturally. “First Responders” or “Nursery Species” have a role, and that is to prepare the way for the dominant species that will eventually grow in that site – ie the totara, rimu, kahikatea, miro, matai that in hundreds of years will be the forest of the future. In essence that means planting first the native species that grow fast, tolerate full sun, wind and frost, shade out the grass, and produce flowers and seed that bring in the insects and birds to spread more seed into the gaps that have been formed. That can be done without even planting any of the canopy species with the expectation that those species will come in eventually. Also, when the ground has been prepared like this, ferns and a wider variety of species will also come in, with birds assistance.
The first responders we use most in Otatara (and Southland generally) are – harakeke (flax, Phormium tenax), manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis), mingimingi (Coprosma propinqua), cabbage tree (Cordyline australis), kotukutuku (tree fuchsia, Fuchsia excorticata), makomako (wineberry, Aristotelia serrata) Kohuhu (black mapou, Pittosporum tenuifolium), tarata (lemonwood, Pittosporum eugenioides), Koromiko (Hebe salicifolia), shining karamu (Coprosma lucida). You might think these are “boring” common species to use but they stand the test of time and almost guarantee success, if you use them in the right place. Most have very attractive flowers, often scented, or full of nectar to attract native birds to your area. See over for photos of the flowers and fruit of the above species.
Right plant right place
You will probably notice that the seedlings that land in your garden often seem to do better than those that you plant in a certain place. Different plants have different ground requirements. All of the above species will tolerate sun, wind and frost but whether the ground is “wet” or “dry” will determine success to a large extent. Bushy Point has two distinct forest types – dry totara forest on sand dunes (summer dry/drought prone), and kahikatea swamp forest on seasonally wet peaty soils. You will notice that in wetter areas we have planted flax, toetoe, mingimingi, manuka, and cabbage tree and the drier areas broadleaf, kohuhu, lemonwood, koromiko and karamu. Fuchsia and wineberry like a mixture. We do plant some totara in dry places, and kahikatea in wet places but we largely expect that the birds do that job for us, dropping seeds into both areas and the trees suited to those areas will thrive. It is also worth noting that a very wet area can be “dried out” by planting wet tolerant plants, making the ground more suitable for a wider range of species over time. It is also expected that when the trees grow high enough to shade the flax, the flax will die out as they are not shade tolerant, creating gaps for other species to establish. These gaps provide sites for plants such as pate (seven finger, Shefflera digitata) and other shade tolerant plants and ferns will form in the understory – without us having to plant them. There is lots of advice including plant lists and plant tolerances on the Community Nursery website at https://www.southlandcommunitynursery.org.nz/restoring-your-patch/.
Additionally, as well as using the best species, it is always good to prepare the site pre-planting (spray or mulch the planting spots) and protect the plants from wind and browsing by using combi-guards of varying sorts.
We are also happy to talk to you about your particular site and visit to give advice if needed. Remember that locally sourced plants are best adapted to the local environment. Restoring new areas of native forest gives a great sense of satisfaction and in some ways helps amend for past forest clearance, but protecting older growth forest first is always the top priority.
We have again been privileged to have artist Jo Ogier taking a weekend workshop on printmaking here on 14-15 October at the Community Nursery. As soon as the word goes out I am inundated with bookings, such that a “reserves” list is usually needed. Concentrating on “leaves” the participants enjoyed learning various techniques from carving to painting to Gelli plates!!
Jo is very generous with her expertise – giving readily her information, tips on techniques, materials and the use of her vast array of different pens, crayons, paints, etching pens, different papers etc etc. The artwork which everyone produces, all in different ways from the same idea, is testament to Jo’s teaching style and her enthusiasm for her work.
Linda commented “our mark making differed greatly, but by looking closely at the beautiful shape, colour, details and texture of the leaves, along with new techniques and materials we were able to create a series of highly individual prints”. Look at the photos below to see just what she means.
Jo is a full-time artist and passionate about her conservation or nature art – if you are unfamiliar with Jo’s work have a look at her website at https://joogier.co.nz/
Next year Jo will be exhibiting at the Eastern Southland Gallery a collection of works in collaboration with the Gallery and Hokonui Rūnanga on many of the native species, which would have, or still live in and on the banks of the Mataura River. Linda and I had a sneak preview of one or two of the 28 panels Jo is drawing and painting and it will be amazing to see the works in their entirety in the Art Gallery. We will be sure to let you know when that is on, late next year.
We will be running a raffle of a print Jo kindly donated – proceeds to the Community Nursery. We will have the artwork on display in the Nature Centre and at any events prior to Christmas Break-up but in this digital age you can also purchase a ticket/s through internet banking for $5 a ticket – 031355 0645582 00 – make sure your name is in the reference field so that you are included in the draw which will be held at our Nursery Christmas Break-up event on Friday 15 December 23. See Gallery for this wonderful print.
Also, last opportunity to book in for the free Southland Ecological Restoration Network (SERN) bus trip to some great restoration sites in Central Southland – see poster for more details. SERN is a network of people doing work on the ground – you will see from the website that there are sites all over Southland. If you live near one of the sites then link up with that group and help out – many hands make light work! www.sern.org.nz
And many of you will know Daniel Cocker from his days at the Nursery – Daniel is championing the Southern NZ Dotterel in F&B’s “Bird of the Century” and you can vote for the Southland underdog the Tūturiwhatu Southern New Zealand dotterel at https://www.birdoftheyear.org.nz/ - see details here
Over the last month Nursery Volunteer Fridays have been busy, getting plants out of the Nursery for planting. The largest was the Bushy Point project where 1000 plants were loaded up on a Nursery Friday by volunteers and then planted by another hundred volunteers on Sunday 10 September – read all about it at https://www.otataralandcare.org.nz/news-events/
Other orders also went out so we are now filling the empty spaces with newly potted plants. Its also an exciting time for seedlings emerging in the trays and soon pricking out of seedlings will begin. If you want to join our thriving team of 10-20 volunteers on a Friday and learn about growing native plants, and much more come along from 9am to noon on a Friday morning.
I am pleased to announce that Jo Ogier is coming down for another 2 day workshop – on the weekend of 14/15 October 23 – Workshop details here. It will be limited numbers and first come first served but please don’t pay until I have confirmed your place. We will also have a “reserves” list in case anyone pulls out. Please register your interest by emailing me at
Hope to see you all on our opening day. There will be lots to do!
During our closed period we have not been idle – apart from a holiday, we have been busy around the property – pruning apple trees, weeding and preparing veggie beds, watering cuttings. Brian and I have also been busy visiting properties and giving advice on restoration. At the Community Nursery we also hosted Jordan and SIT first year environmental students recently at the Nursery and Bushy Point. Also busy with planting days – Te Rere Penguin Reserve last weekend and Bushy Point coming up on Sunday 10 September where 1000 plants will be moving from the Nursery into the ground – no need to book just come along and help – details at https://www.otataralandcare.org.nz/
There is also a new display at the Community Gallery, Owaka Museum – “Humans in the Catlins – The Environmental Impact” – worth a look if youre in the Catlins from 2-29 September.