Posts Tagged ‘pohutukawa’

I frequently wax lyrical (or not so lyrical if I’m honest) about my love of the red splashes I see throughout our city at this time of year. I love the brilliant red blooms, and the promise they bring that summer is here and should stay awhile, and so always feel sad when I see the blooms fade and disappear, or drive past roads that have turned crimson as the flowers fall.

I think I’m appreciating them even more this year, simply as summer seems to have forgotten us, I’ll take whichever features of the season I can get.

So when my photo challenge for this week was “red,” I knew that I should take some photos of pohutukawa. I wanted something a little different, and I knew that taking a typical, close-up photo of the flowers wasn’t going to be possible, not with the winds that have been buffeting us all “summer” so far.

The view I’ve chosen is far from perfect. It’s not the perfect composition, or clarity, or light, or focus (it was very windy). I’m predominantly a travel photographer taking photos when I see them (or regretting it when I don’t) because it is very rare that I can (or will) return when the light is just right. (The only time I’ve done this is in Rome when we had the time to choose an evening to go back to the Colosseum just as the late sun hit it perfectly, causing it to glow.)

So I snapped this photo, as it is very representative of Wellington, showing pohutukawa blooms nestled among other buildings, rather than lining a northern beach. The fact that it was on the marae grounds (over the road from a shop I’d just been visiting) made it better, with the carving at the head of the wharenui, or meeting house, in the traditional red.


I liked the combination of the Maori tradition and the pohutukawa (even though pohutukawa are not native to Wellington, they flourish here) for another reason too. The other challenge for the week was “land.” Maori have a very deep relationship to the land, and it is extremely important in their culture. The land I have a strong connection to is the land where first my parents and then my sisters and I grew up. It was flat, green and fertile, edging the ocean. As much as I love Wellington, I don’t have the same relationship here with the land. But the Maori do.

And for a bonus, third dose of kiwiness, I leave you with Split Enz singing “I see red.”


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As predicted, our trip to the Coromandel didn’t bring us the satisfaction of seeing much pohutukawa in flower. Too late last time, too early this time, we looked at landscapes, at hills covered in green pohutukawa trees with the occasional teasing splash of red, and said, “won’t that be beautiful when it is all in bloom,” bringing back memories of our search for sunflowers in Italy!

It was a good lesson in appreciating what we had in front of us, and so we enjoyed the abundant tree ferns, flowering flax, and cabbage trees, and even a few sculptural nikau palms – all so uniquely New Zealand. The water was still far too cold to swim (except for a few hardy souls – not me), but we took a boat trip and enjoyed the marine reserve around Whitianga, the huge snapper swimming through the deep, clear, cold waters, and the gorgeous coastline. We saw cliffs made from lava formations, and further north the remnants of ash clouds from eruptions millions of years ago, and everywhere (including Mt Paku where we stayed) there were volcanic cones, reminding us of how this landscape was formed. We enjoyed, too, the slightly unkempt nature of the farmland up in the Coromandel – small properties, old wooden farmhouses, wildflowers everywhere, and more beehives than I’ve seen in ages, producing the famous honey from the manuka trees.

We didn’t give ourselves enough time to relax and enjoy the views from our apartment on Mt Paku, to read the books I had optimistically loaded on my iPad, or even to catch up on sleep, but it is rare (for me at least) to feel that a holiday is ever long enough, and so there is always a good reason to return.

One or two pohutukawa trees did oblige with flowers

One or two pohutukawa trees did oblige with flowers



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Out my window, there is a very annoying squeaky bird. Not a tui. I love hearing them. No, this one is irritating.

Out my window, I can see approximately 28 pohutukawa trees in full bloom. They are brilliantly red this summer, all over the city – a reminder I have been out with my camera only once, and I may well be too late.

Out my window, there are agapanthas in flower. These usually appear when the pohutukawa blooms fade. I probably am too late.

Out my window, the ngaio trees rustle in the wind, and their flowers bring hay fever.

Out my window, the first cicadas of the season start calling to each other.

Out my window, though I couldn’t see them at first, two kereru sat on a branch of our tree, resting in the late afternoon.

Sometimes, it’s worth looking out the window behind me, as I sit at my desk, talking to you.

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This morning, after the Hobbit-themed safety message, we sat in the Air New Zealand plane looking out the window as it taxied down the runway, and lifted off. The uniquely Cantabrian landscape of patchworked green plans filled with crops and sheep and dairy cows, the fields edged with dark green windbreaks, spread out below us, the large braided Waimakariri river wound its way through from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean, and the mountains rose steeply in the west. After a night in Christchurch, it was good to see that this hasn’t changed.

Thirty-five minutes later, we flew into a very different landscape, over the hills of Wellington and the blue harbour. We drove home through pohutukawa-lined avenues, the trees in full, crimson bloom, a dramatic, happy, welcome home.

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We drove around the Bays yesterday. “Why bother going to the Coromandel?” my husband asked me. I laughed in delight. He was right. Currently, Wellington – especially the eastern suburbs and the drive around the bays there – look like the Coromandel or Northland (albeit a month late) lined with pohutukawa in brilliant red. I had talked about making a special trip north one year to see the pohutukawa in bloom. But after Wellington, why bother?

I wish I had photographs of the bush-clad hills and the pohutukawa lining the edge of the harbour. I took a few at the end of our drive but they’re poor relations to the ones I oohed and aahed at.

Gorgeous, vibrant, red

Evans Bay. In the distance, my gym.
This is (in reverse) the view I get when working out.

The city – on holiday – felt like a beach resort. Everywhere there were people enjoying the sun. After a dreadful few days between Christmas and New Year, perhaps this smacked a little of desperation before going back to work. But it felt joyous. I’ve never seen so many people fishing on the harbour’s edge. My husband informed me this may have been as a result of someone recently catching a 10 kg (22 pound) kingfish. Inspired, half of the population of Wellington appeared to be out fishing for their supper. The other half were playing on the beaches, walking, cycling, running. Or picnicking, as we did on the world’s best bacon-and-egg pie (if I do say so myself) and enjoying the view. New Zealand’s Christmas Tree, decorated by nature, was out in full bloom, and it seemed appropriate that we were all making the most of the festive atmosphere before the year began again in earnest.


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