NZ Gardener - - Front Page - TEXT & PHOTO: SAN­DRA SIMP­SON

On Mon­day af­ter­noons there’s al­ways plenty of ac­tiv­ity at McLaren Falls Park near Tau­ranga, as Bay of Plenty Tree So­ci­ety mem­bers get stuck in – but there’s plenty of laugh­ter too. The an­swer to, “What do you do here?” comes back as, “Dig holes”, while an­other wit chimes in with, “Give ad­vice on dig­ging holes”.

This light-hearted ap­proach, to­gether with a gen­uine sense of ca­ma­raderie, is what’s driven the so­ci­ety for 52 years as it has qui­etly cre­ated one of the best col­lec­tions of rare and un­usual trees in the country. So far this year, 120 trees have gone in, with many raised from cut­tings, some of which will be swapped for trees they’d like to add. “As our in­ven­tory’s grown, it gets harder to source new stock,” says John Ni­cholls, who uses his con­tacts in the nurs­ery in­dus­try to seek new plants.

Now the park is well-es­tab­lished, vol­un­teers – from all walks of life in­clud­ing farm­ing, forestry and hor­ti­cul­ture – are turn­ing to un­der­storey plant­ing, as well as adding colour and smaller trees, al­though there’s the oc­ca­sional ma­jor spec­i­men to be re­placed.

Orig­i­nally farm­land that was pur­chased as part of an early 20th cen­tury hy­dro­elec­tric scheme (the power sta­tion was de­com­mis­sioned in 1981), the park is owned by Tau­ranga City Coun­cil and at­tracts steadily grow­ing num­bers – 100,000 ve­hi­cles in the last year.

Vis­i­tors driv­ing, walk­ing or pic­nick­ing among the 1600 or so dif­fer­ent taxa of trees may be sur­prised to know that ev­ery one has been planted by mem­bers of the Bay of Plenty Tree So­ci­ety, which for many years also pur­chased the trees. The coun­cil came on board with fund­ing only about seven years ago.

As well as plant­ing, vol­un­teers also build and in­stall pro­tec­tion for young trees, and have a pro­gramme for nam­ing spec­i­men trees.

Their re­ward? “The en­joy­ment ev­ery vis­i­tor, no mat­ter what age, gets from be­ing out here among the trees,” says BOP Tree So­ci­ety pres­i­dent Dave Ker­shaw. “It’s so peace­ful we can for­get we’re work­ing.” Cue more laugh­ter amid com­ments that, “it must be time for a lie down”.

New vol­un­teers are wel­come too. Call the park’s Info Centre or phone 07 577 7000 and ask for the McLaren Falls ranger.

From left back: Rob Candy, John Ni­cholls, Ge­off Brann, Dave Ker­shaw, Leo Jensen and John Sich. Front: Gill Nola and Tim Sim­cock.

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