A bit of rubbish and a few weeds do not this Garden City destroy, says one green-fingered resident, Mary Lovell-Smith.
Mayor Lianne Dalziel recently said Christchurch’s reputation as a garden city is under threat. These comments reminded me of the first time I visited Toronto. I had decided the long grass lawns in the city’s inner-city squares and parks were particularly charming, meadow-like.
‘‘A nod to the prairies?’’ I asked my Canadian daughter-in-law. ‘‘A finger to the council,’’ she replied wryly, explaining the city maintenance staff were on strike, so mowing, weeding and rubbish collection had gone by the board.
Criticising the contractors for the poor maintenance of the city, Dalziel had said: ‘‘If we’re going to live up to our reputation as a garden city then we’ve got to look a lot better than we do at the moment . . . unrestrained nature in the form of weeds does not make for a beautiful environment befitting our country’s Garden City.’’
But few weeds are the least of this city’s woes. What about all the rubbish and litter, especially prevalent in the poorer suburbs? Or the patched, potholed and undulating roads in the eastern suburbs hardest hit by the quakes? Here, grass grows rank in empty sections, the berms are ill kempt and shaggy.
Despite being council land, Christchurch residents are expected to maintain them. However, in an area where many houses are still broken, being repaired or recently repaired, mowing your verge is unlikely to be a priority. Should the mayor’s comments be construed as a slap on the hand to the legions of city homeowners, given that a hefty percentage of the city’s gardens are privately maintained? In the city’s leafy (and more salubrious) suburbs, such as Opawa, Beckenham, Fendalton, with their mature trees, emerald lawns, bustling shrubberies, neat hedges and pretty flower borders, you’d be hard-pressed to understand what the mayor is talking about. The less well-to-do suburb of Shirley encompasses a pleasant post-war state housing district. Neat little bungalows sit amid sizeable sections. The backyards more than likely host a single fruit tree; the front garden, a sizeable shrub.
Few gardens have front fences and curving streets are lined with mature oaks. Fallen leaves blur where the street ends and the pavement begins. Truly picturesque, but you know that in wealthier suburbs, before this autumn bounty starts to kill lawns or block gutters, residents would be either sweeping them up themselves and making leaf mold or harassing the council to come and sweep up.
Rather than declining, the status of the Garden City is surely growing with the many post-quake works. The new cycleway on the causeway across the Estuary is typical of the level of forethought that has gone into associated planting. Here, a stylish array of low-growing coastal natives are now flourishing between the footpath and the road. (No trees alack as residents on nearby hills object to any tiny part of their watery view being impeded.)
Likewise, work is under way turning Manchester St – a major inner-city thoroughfare – into a tree-lined boulevard; great lengths of the Avon River banks downtown are being tarted up with imaginative landscaping and planting; and while the CBD green zone – earmarked for open spaces and higher density housing – is not perhaps as open or green as citizens had anticipated, it will be yet another green space in a city not short on them.
Then there will surely be the finest jewel in the Garden City’s crown – yes, ousting even the stunning Botanic Gardens for the title – the residential red zone in the east, where 5500 houses on 430 quake-damaged hectares have been demolished. Trees and shrubs more than a certain age were retained and the land grassed.
Depending on your frame of mind, it looks like a huge lawn cemetery, or a Capability Brown landscape. Plans for it are exciting and range from re-establishing the former wetlands and planting native forest, to edible forests.
A bit of rubbish and a few weeds do not this Garden City destroy. A bigger threat is infill housing and higher-density housing developments, where hard surfaces dominate and space for gardens and trees is not only limited but mature trees have been cut down to make room.
The abundance of beautiful and mature native and exotic trees contributes hugely to the city’s beauty. The city council should be doing everything in its power to protect them.
The Botanic Gardens have always been the jewel in Christchurch’s green crown.
Depending on your frame of mind, the Christchurch residential red zone looks like a huge lawn cemetery, or a Capability Brown landscape. Plans for it are exciting and range from reestablishing the former wetlands and planting native forest, to edible forests.