17 February 2014

Canterbury - natural vegetation at Prebbleton

Just on the Lincoln side of Springs Road and on its west side an old shallow shingle pit has been turned into a wonderful garden of native plants, the sort likely to have been there before the first humans - not so long ago.  The main driving force, and indeed the main workhorse for this labour of love has been Jim Hutton an old friend of some 50+ years. About nine years ago soon after Jim retired he started work on what was an unused overgrown 2.6 ha site, and with the permission of and some help from the Selwyn District Council has converted it into a relic of a past we might have known. In the bottom of the pit a small lake comes and goes with the ebb and flow of the water table. When we visited there were about 10 resident ducks and a white-faced heron.  Occasionally other visitors are seen. This time it was Catherine and Barry Smith and Alistair McArthur, three former colleagues and co-students of Jim from the University of Queensland Veterinary School. We'd heard of Jim's work and had decided to have lunch with Jim 'in the pit'.  Tasman and Hannah, two of our grandchildren, were curious spectators at this reunion of oldies! So after a picnic lunch in a sheltered spot in the garden, Jim gave us the grand tour.
Alistair McArthur, Jim Hutton, Catherine Smith, BLS

Lake Hutton!

 In the more lowland wet areas flax plants abound  and provide good food for the bellbirds in  summer. The lake (when it is there) also provides  a haven for ducks and herons.

One of the outstanding features of the gardens are the delightful divaricated small shrubs, some of them nationally endangered. These are represented by the genera Meulenbeckia, Coprosma, Olearia, Teucridium and Discaria. Some of them have interesting associations and evolutionary histories.

Divaricating Shrub 

Cat Fence?

One of Jim's concerns is the increasing cat problem. They are invading the area and threatening the wildlife of the area.  We saw a couple during our visit.  One of Jim's ideas is to create a cat fence out of the thick divaricating shrubs.

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