Thursday, December 19, 2013

Roland's Wood "wish list"

Roland’s Wood is being developed on rather a shoestring budget, with lots of volunteer labour and donations. There are some big items on the “wish list” which would really help with the management and development of the Woods, and so we are mentioning them here just in case there is someone reading this who would like to contribute towards achieving any of these goals…
  • A shed – ideally this would be a removable shed, located on FNDC land next to the Woods, for the storage of tools and materials.  The latest idea is perhaps a couple of smaller sheds could be good, with a sheltered / shade area in-between for a plant nursery / potting area.
  • Water tank – to collect the rain off the shed roof.
  • Ride-on mower & trailer
  • "Gator” & trailer
  • Fertiliser
  • Funds for plants
  • Benches and tables
  • Signage
  • Pond project – digger hire, plants
If you would like to help with any aspect to whatever extent, then please contact John Horrell on 407 8239 to talk about it...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December celebration

Rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the 60 or so cheerful people who came along to Roland's Wood on Tuesday, 3rd December 2013 to celebrate Roland's gift to the community with the unveiling of a plaque, as well as acknowledging all the hard work by John Horrell with the presentation of his 2012 FNDC Citizens Award.

The dogs ran around and sniffed all the wonderful earthy and interesting smells, and people stood under their umbrellas amidst the dripping beech trees.  The new FNDC Mayor, John Carter, spoke warmly about growing up in the same Maungaturoto farmland area as Roland's family, and about what Roland's gift meant for Northland.  He then praised John Horrell for all he had done to revive and reinvigorate the Woods, and presented him with the Certificate of appreciation for his "extraordinary services to the Far North District".

 Martin MacPherson, Rotary Kerikeri Chair, and His Worship the Mayor, John Carter, with the plaque.

   Hardworking and modest John Horrell, receiving his Certificate from the Mayor.

Some of Roland's family were there - his sister, Lavender, and his cousin Tony Edgar who had come up from Auckland, along with friends of Roland's and John's, along with people who regularly visit and enjoy the Woods who were not deterred at the prospect of getting a bit damp!

Photos kindly supplied by Peter Heath and John Hunt.

Noted New Zealand plantsman and gardener Gordon Collier, Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for distinguished services to horticulture, was not able to be at the event in Roland's Wood, but sent this message which was read out : 
I am sorry I can't be with you on this important occasion.  Roland was a special friend to me for many years. He loved the finer things in life and often spoke in wistful tones of the blue bell woods and trees of England - he was a delightful romantic. Were he here today he would be justly proud of his achievement and even more that the people of this area were enjoying his priceless Wood also.  Well done Roland - not many of us are able to leave a legacy for future generations as you have done.  And may I add a huge thank you on Roland's behalf to all those volunteers who have worked so hard to keep Roland's dream alive.
Gordon Collier, Anacapri, Taupo.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 Gardeners of the Year!

Warmest congratulations to John Graham and John Horrell on winning NZ Gardener magazine 2013 Gardeners of the Year
Here is a page  from the NZ Gardener magazine, December issue (with permission) with a great photo by Keri Molloy of the two Johns standing amidst the renga renga lilies
in the dappled shade of beech trees.

This makes a lovely trio of celebrations for Roland's Wood in November / December with this win acknowledging John Graham and John Horrell's efforts and providing some wonderful prizes for Roland's Wood, along with the event coming up on Tuesday 3rd December at 6pm to unveil the plaque to Roland Sansom for his vision and generosity, and to present John Horrell with his Far North District Council Citizen of the Year Award.

Many thanks also to all the other volunteers who help to maintain Roland's Wood, and thanks to all the people who took the time to vote for our local gardening heroes :-)  All of the entries in the competition were cause for celebration, for their gardening abilities and enthusiasm, and for their generosity of spirit and philanthropy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Roland's Wood unveiling ceremony

His Worship the Mayor, John Carter QSO, will unveil a plaque to remember the late Roland Sansom who generously gave his woodland to the community.

The Far North District Council will also recognise John Horrell for his community service and present him with the FNDC Citizen of the Year Award at the same event.

All those who knew Roland, who appreciate John Horrell's contribution and who enjoy the Woods are warmly invited to attend. 

The brief ceremony will be held on Tuesday 3rd December at 6pm.

Additional parking will be available in Heron Hill.  Follow signs to the ceremony's location.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Some photos of the early days

There is a new page on this blog, called Early days, with some of Roland's own photos, showing the bare land, the young trees and the gradual planting of the hillsides...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Pearse family and friends

Here are some members of the Pearse family with two young friends (who had a rather easy ride up the hill!)

When they moved to Kerikeri they were glad to discover a place to bring their dog, Rocky, where he could run freely...   

Rocky was brimful of energy, tearing up and down hills, bounding through the undergrowth, covered in mud after a quick dip in the ponds...   Wouldn't Roland have been delighted to see that?!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Vote for our Roland's Wood champions !

John Horrell and John Graham are the “Make a difference” finalists
in the NZ  Gardener of the Year competition, 2013.
The winner is chosen from the finalists
by public vote
, so PLEASE go to the
NZ Gardener website

 and vote online before 29th October

When you vote online, there is also a question to answer : 

On what page does the herbal liqueurs story in the NZ Gardener magazine, October 2013 issue, start? 
and the answer is : page 98 

One vote per person, NZ residents only, tell all your friends and networks who would like to support Roland's Wood...

You can also vote on the official voting form in the October issue of  NZ Gardener magazine.

As well as acknowledging John Horrell's and John Graham's contribution, the competition prizes would be a real bonus for projects in Roland's Wood! The winner's prize pack includes :
  • a year’s supply of Kiwicare Garden products
  • $2500 worth of Mitre 10 vouchers
  • $2500 worth of Go Gardening gift cards
  • a trip to the 2014 Ellerslie International Flower Show in Christchurch. 
 Here is a link to an online poster about voting for John Horrell and John Graham, which you could post on your Facebook page, tweet, or email... 

Let's spread the word in the community, and hope that the votes are as prolific as the bluebells !

Photo by Keri Molloy, Bay Chronicle 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Roland's in August (2012)

Another of the anonymous poems I was kindly sent for the blog... (Apologies to the author - I meant to publish this in August!)

Roland's in August (2012)
A slice of spring brightened today with clear blue skies and vivid sunlight.
As we entered through the gate children's voices danced on the warm
breeze from within the park.
Excited screeches and laughter, dogs barking and Tui song - all mingled.
As we head towards the pond I enjoy the last of the bright yellow daffodils.
Sophie runs ahead tossing up brown leaves as the fantails flutter behind
searching for insects in her wake.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bluebells starting !

Crikey, where did August go?!  I haven't posted here for a few weeks - got overtaken with things for work and away from home, but visited the Woods last weekend and took a few photos of the first bluebells flowering - I'll go again this weekend and expect that there will be a spreading blue carpet just over the few days since...

Apparently these are Spanish bluebells - the bells are all around the stem which means they stand upright, whereas English bluebells have all the bells on one side of the stem and so bend over.  In England the Spanish bluebell is seen as an invasive species, threatening the native English bluebell - read more about this here, and about bluebells generally here on Wikipedia.

Did you know bluebells are part of the asparagus family ? 
From BBC Nature :  Asparagus, bluebells and their relatives are a large and very diverse family of flowering plants, containing many genera and thousands of species. Members in this family can be found from the arid deserts of Mexico to damp British woodlands. The plants in this family range from the edible, such as the vegetable asparagus, to popular ornamentals such as the yucca and aspidistra. The large succulent Agave and the more delicate English bluebell are also included.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bird's eye view of Roland's Wood

Take a look at Roland's Wood from a vantage point you'd never usually see!  Click on this link : 

Glenn McLelland has created a short video tour of Roland's Wood in winter using his "drone" helicopter.  The video was shot mid July, taking us along and over paths and then up high for a unique bird's eye view... 

Thanks, Glenn, for sharing this on the blog, and I hope you can do more filming to capture Roland's Wood through the seasons! 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Kate, Milo and Pepper - and not forgetting Chip

It was great meeting Kate with her adorable elderly dogs, Milo and Pepper, and borrowed bundle of energy little Chip.
Kate has been bringing her dogs to Roland's Wood for over a decade and has seen it develop from an overgrown wilderness with just a single track - which Leroi Ford tried valiantly to mow, avoiding rocks as much as possible, to the fantastic woodland garden it is now with various routes and areas to explore...

Here Kate is sitting with the dogs on Nancy Pickmere's bench - Kate remembers Nancy bringing Roland's dogs here (after Roland died) and with a friend, playing Scrabble up sitting at the table near the entrance while Roland's two ancient fox terrier dogs fossicked around and investigated interesting things...

Milo and Pepper are good at sitting and waiting and wagging tails,  whereas Chip is FULL of energy and raring to run...

John Horrell, "green-thumbed superhero"

I'm nominating John Horrell for New Zealand Gardener of the Year, a competition run annually by the NZ Gardener magazine, for his enormous contribution to the maintenance and development of Roland's Wood, not to mention initiating the Kerikeri Garden Safari, and his and Judy's own prize-winning garden which is open to the public.  While many people are involved in making Roland's Wood the great community resource it is, we know that John Horrell is a key driver, spending many, many hours working there, planning and organising...

Go to the NZ Gardener link for full details if you'd like to add a nomination or let me know if there is anything you'd like to add to mine.  Entries close at the end of August, finalists are announced in the October NZ Gardener and then the winner will be announced as a result of a public vote in December. 
From the website :
NZ Gardener, in association with Kiwicare, is searching for NZ's green-thumbed superheroes - send your nominations now!  It's time to find our keenest pair of green thumbs. Our annual search for unsung horticultural legends, now in its seventh year, is back with more prizes than ever!
$25,000 worth of prizes.   
Send nominations to 2013 Gardener of the Year, NZ Gardener, PO Box 6341, Wellesley St, Auckland or email

Gardener of the Year

Poetry of Roland's Wood by Sophie's owner

I was sent this collection of poetry anonymously with no message, but presumably to share here on the blog for everyone to enjoy, and as it says on one page, as "a tribute to Roland's Wood & all the volunteer workers from all the furry friends and their owners who enjoy the seasons and nature of Roland's legacy and gift."

Roland's Wood
Like confetti thrown on the church-yard forecourt,
Roland's Wood scatters a carpet of autumn leaves.
Colours of the earth;
auburn reds and oranges, rusty browns and bronzed yellows.
Oak trees in skeletal form, gnarly and silhouetted.
Amongst the seasonal carpet jonquils poke their heads out releasing their perfume.
Ginkgo trees fan the muddy pathways leading through the English woodland.
Sophie bounds ahead, white tail wagging in anticipation.
Blue spruces, oaks and copper beeches,
rhodo's beside tiny pink and white flowered magnolias.
The late afternoon reveals the shadowed contours of the surrounding hillsides.
Arum lilies with bright yellow stamens contrast against the rocky edges of the cloudy pond.
As we walk the steep incline I scan the tops of the tree-lines balding as the cool days pass.
I admire the decorative bark which now takes pride of place as the leaves
fall from their dwelling.
This season fills my soul with a peacefulness; ,
the same feeling of serenity and calmness that the sea offers my being.
The scent of mildewed foliage and damp grass reminds me of the approaching winter when
the walks will be earlier and the nights longer.
The winter offers sanctuary to ponder and rejuvenate before the rebirth of spring
when the scented fragrance will fill the air in Roland's Wood
as the bulbs of spring will brighten the muddy corridors of Sophie's daily trail.

(First poem here, two more to come in later posts.)

Magnificent magenta magnolias

Beautiful against a blue sky, the deep magenta magnolia buds emerge, along with the fresh new leaves...

Such intricate, varied, surprising shapes and colours - fuzzy and smooth, ridged and dimpled, fragile and robust,  in purple and green, bronze, silver and gold...

Three generations enjoying a winter walk

Three generations of the Dawson family enjoying a winter walk - and one getting a ride...

(and they hastened to mention that the flowers weren't picked, just picked up!)

Daffodils and Scouts

There are swathes of jonquils in Roland's Wood now, and a couple of weekends ago the first early buds of daffodils were opening up...

 and now they are well in flower, catching the sunshine in pure gold
this one complete with small jumping spider...

This year, hundreds more daffodil bulbs were donated by Daffodil World (ph 09 407 1508) and planted by many helpers including the willing Kerikeri Scouts who have lent a hand with planting for the past three years.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

SPCA Bay of Islands Dog Squad needs you!

Do you love dogs?  Can you spare a couple of hours a week?
The Dog Squad at the SPCA Bay of Islands Lemon Grove Dog Shelter, Kerikeri,
needs help to exercise their beautiful dogs.
If you can help, you would make a big difference to the dogs' lives and well-being.  
To find out more, please contact  Juanita 021 407 236 or Sandy 021 1828199
or email

Monday, June 3, 2013

What has 12 legs, 7 wheels and a trunk?

And here's the answer to the riddle -
I was just leaving Roland's Wood this afternoon and came across the Gundry family and their friend India taking their elephant for a ride in Roland's Wood...

It was the end of the day and the camera flash made the bike reflectors look like pieces of sunlight caught in the spokes...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fungi in Roland's Wood

While we celebrate the autumn foliage, admire the swathes of renga renga lilies and eagerly await the arrival of the bluebells, the observant visitors to Roland's Wood will notice some smaller but equally dramatic species growing - the fungi...

Here Georgie and Ollie admire, looking not touching, an Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, a poisonous fungus of the genus Amanita.
Wikipedia describes it as "The quintessential toadstool, it is a large, white-gilled, white-spotted, usually red mushroom, one of the most recognisable and widely encountered in popular culture."  It describes how it has been unintentionally introduced to many countries in the southern hemisphere, generally as a symbiont with pine plantations, and is now a true cosmopolitan species, associated with various deciduous and coniferous trees.

Here are some photos by Keri Molloy of other beautiful fungi in the Woods - these have somewhat more subtle colours, but are still full of the mystery, magic and other-worldliness of their kingdom. 


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Celebrating autumn at Roland’s Wood

This was a piece that I wrote to go into the Bay Chronicle but it hasn't made it in there this month, so thought I'd put it up here... 

It was a long hot summer, wonderful for playing and enjoying the outdoors, not so wonderful for the farmers and people on water tanks, and though the sunny days seem to be holding on up here in the North, you only need to see the deciduous trees turning all shades of gold and red to know that we are well on our way to autumn.  

Roland’s Wood is a good place to visit to celebrate the changing season, with maples, beech, claret ash, gingko and tupelo trees all putting on a splendid display.  If you haven’t been for a while, there are new tracks to explore taking you on different routes through the Woods, and all the clearing and mulching has really tidied the place up, making it lighter and more open – new vistas and even new trees to meet.

Plenty of people and their dogs have been enjoying the Woods over the school holidays – lots of children visiting and clambering over logs, discovering fungi, tightrope walking along the edge of the ponds, and running up and down hills via this path or that…

Georgie and Ollie clambering over logs at Roland's Wood

Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to contribute your own writing or photos to this Roland's Wood blog – it would be great to have input from others to help tell the story of the Woods and the pleasure it brings people.

Magnolias and camellias flowering now

The magnolias and the camellias which Roland loved are flowering now, and they are quite a significant collection by Northland standards - our good rainfall helps them put on a show of wonderful blooms...

It is exciting to see is the young camellias flowering now which were seedlings John Horrell transplanted just three years ago from original plantings by Roland.  They are on the steep slope running down towards the swamp - it's not marvelous soil but they are coping admirably and doing well.

Their names are long forgotten but it is nice to know these plants were chosen by Roland himself, and thanks to John, their seedlings are flourishing and enriching the Wood, next generations of plants for next generations of people!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

White rhododendron catching the last of the day's sunlight...

Walking through Roland's Wood at the end of the most beautiful, clear, still, warm, sunny day today, I noticed a little grove of white rhododendrons - about 4 or so planted together up in the top corner near the road - catching the last of the sunlight and almost glowing against the dark background...


 Looking forward to when this glade is a sea of bluebells in September...

and lovely to see the promise of jonquils showing their leaves already in May... 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Autumn colour

The seasons are so pronounced in a deciduous wood like Roland's Wood, and though it seems like summer is not going to end, if you take a walk through the woods and see the trees turning all shades of red and gold you know we are well into autumn...

Beech and maple, claret ash and tupeloe, liquid amber and ginko... just glorious.

 Photos by Keri Molloy.  Click on photos to enlarge.

I came across this passage in the book The Sin Eater by Gary Schmidt, about the sensory rediscovery  each autumn brings...

"You can’t tell someone what fall leaves look like in New Hampshire. In fact, you can’t even really remember what they look like from one year to the next. Every fall they throw a surprise party, and suddenly you remember what you’ve forgotten. And it’s not just the colours. It’s the cooler breezes that draw across the leaves, making them shiver. It’s the cold dew that beads on them and wets the arm of your jacket. It’s the dusty smell when they are dry in the afternoon. And it’s the thick smoke that coils up from them when they burn just before suppertime."

Following new pathways

New paths have been created in Roland’s Wood, providing opportunities for people – and their dogs – to explore new routes, come across vistas not previously seen, meet some of the oldest trees in the Wood previously inaccessible, and, of course, for canine visitors, investigate a wealth of exciting new smells...

The new paths have been carefully planned to help alleviate the damage caused by sudden downpours of rain which have been causing erosion.  Using tracks to shape the landscape enables the water to be diverted and spread over a much wider area instead of gushing down in torrents into the gullies.

Ultimately, all the paths will be mulched as mulch, time and labour are available, and this will pack down and make good, soft, all-weather walking tracks.  The downward sloping sides have been mulched already to avoid erosion, and the new plantings of renga renga lilies and clivias are also part of this water management plan.

John says, “From the gate, head up to the first picnic table and from there down the hill – this track links around without going right down to the swamp area which can be slippery after rain, and also it “takes the grunt” out of walking up from the ponds to the gate – you might walk a little bit further but it is on a more level track !”

The tracks are designed to maximise people's enjoyment of the Woods, with not only the seasonal differences adding variety but also the different plantings so that each route has its own character.

Now perhaps we need an artist who will create a map of Roland’s Wood – any takers ? How about this map of the The Lost Gardens of Heligan as inspiration ?

Moving mountains of mulch

Back in late February (sorry, this post is rather delayed for one reason or another) Roland's Wood benefited hugely from the organisational skills of John Horrell and the generosity of a number of kind donors to provide and spread mulch for the plants in various parts of the Wood.  It was a godsend in the hot dry summer weather, especially for the young trees and understory plantings of clivia and renga renga lilies...

The mulch came from Mt Pokaka and Bay Lumber Waipapa as well as a number of other kind donors.  It was delivered for free by Dan Carter bulk carriers - big heaps of it were piled up in mounds up at the top back corner of the Woods. Mark Klinac donated the use of a digger and bobcat for a day to spread the mulch in strategic locations around the Wood, leaving it in smaller piles where it was then spread by the bucketload by volunteers.

John surveying the piles of bamboo mulch...

Here are the guys unloading the digger and the bobcat, and then a bit of discussion about what goes where, where to start...

I nipped out to Roland's Wood from work mid morning to take these photos on the day it was all happening, and then went back that evening after supper with friends visiting from England - it was almost dark - we saw an owl swooping from tree to tree as we walked along which was wonderful - but it was easy to see even in the half light the difference that had been made already that day - new paths, mulch spread around, and the mountains of mulch much diminished.

Many thanks from John and the Roland's Wood team for all the community support - your contributions are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Naked ladies in Roland's Wood

Now there's a headline to conjure with...  Amaryllis belladonna must have one of the most beautiful official plant names, along with its cheeky common name of naked ladies...

The name Amaryllis belladonna was created by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 - Amaryllis taken from a shepherdess in Virgil's pastoral Eclogues, from the Greek word amarysso, meaning "to sparkle". There has been some controversy in the plant world about their classification, depending on whether Linnaeus's was a South American or a South African plant, and you can read all about it in Wikipedia.

Anyway, they are flowering in profusion at the moment in Roland's Wood - along the top ridge, under trees and out in the grassy areas, pink and white drifts in the sunshine.

Like the bluebells, these bulbs will continue to multiply and spread, along with the additional ones which have been planted, so come back in ten years time and it will be a sea of pink and white naked ladies - of the flowering variety!

Beech trees humming with bees

If you take a wander past the beech trees in Roland's Wood on these summery days you'll hear the busy hum of thousands of bees.

It needs a better photographer than I am to capture the buzz of activity, but you can just see one in this picture, and trust me when I say that there were dozens more all zooming all around...

They are collecting honeydew, a sugary, sticky liquid which is exuded by woolly aphids - you can see their white fluffy bodies on the undersides of the leaves and along stems, and the sticky coating of their honeydew making the leaves all shiny. In this picture you can even see a droplet of it funneled down a leaf to the branch, ready to splash down and varnish the leaves below, making them irresistible to the bees.

The honeydew can become covered with black sooty mould which may look bad but once it gets colder and the aphids go, the mould dries up and falls off the plant.

Isn't it great to think of Roland's Wood providing such bounty for bees which are having a harder time of it these days...