Of New Zealand Dahlias

Not only was I captivated by Hagley Park’s begonia display but its dahlia border garden, too. The dahlias occupy a small strip along the periphery of the much larger rose garden, a great attraction in itself. The stunning variety represents the hybridizer’s craft. On one end are the single-row specimens from their native Mexico. How they were hybridized into much more complex forms is and will remain a mystery to me. This amazing morphological variation is showcased in the much larger dahlia garden section by flowers developed by New Zealand horticulturists, including the intriguing ‘cactus’ varieties.

Double-Flowered Begonias, Townend House (Christchurch, NZ)

In January-March, flower lovers are treated to one of the most spectacular displays of begonias in the world. Townend House, part of the Hagley Park Conservatory, has a seasonal exhibit of double-flowered begonias, many of them hybridized by New Zealand horticulturists. All I could do was gawk—and snap away with my camera.

Redwood + Ivy, Hagley Park (Christchurch, NZ)

Hagley Park in Christchurch has some magnificent sequoia redwood specimens. I happened to be walking past one when I noticed something odd. Seemingly growing right out of the base of the trunk was an ivy, incredibly old by the looks of it, appearing more like tropical vines, a growth that needed to be cut out. It apparently is doing no damage to the tree. The more I stared at it, the more I admired its artistic effect and the chutzpah it took for the caretakers to leave it alone.

Hagley Park North (Christchurch, NZ)

The weather in Christchurch has been schizophrenic lately, yesterday pelting sheets of rain with gusty winds in the late afternoon, other days cloudy, rainy or sunny, giving Melbourne a run for its money. Today was another spectacularly beautiful day with some clouds and mild temperatures. Hagley Park still amazes me with its beauty, especially its stately tree-lined paths.

hagley park 1

Urban Oasis: Christchurch’s Hagley Park

It dominates the center of Christchurch near the Central Business District, a verdant stretch of forest and open space that was set aside in 1855 by the Provincial Government. In a city known for beautiful parks, Hagley Park is the largest. It is no wonder that Christchurch is called the Garden City. At 1.6km2, it is half the size of Manhattan’s Central Park but is no less important for the respite it provides to its residents or pleasure it gives to horticulturists. The Avon River defines one border of the park where punting is enjoyed through much of the year.

hagley image

On previous visits to Christchurch, I’d experienced the park’s Canterbury Museum, botanical garden and rose garden. Many trees on the grounds are over a hundred years old which bestow a stately grace across the beautifully maintained lawns. Today, four of us visited the stunning dahlia garden and walked through the New Zealand forest (top image).

Because there never seem to be crowds at Hagley, you feel as if you’re almost alone in the park, as my son-in-law pointed out.

hagley lane2

Today, fall was in the air, still on the warmer side but punctuated by a definite chill when the breeze picked up. Autumn colors were beginning to make an appearance, but the seasonal showcase was a spectacular garden of dahlias, many cultivars developed from the original Mexican and Central American specimens imported in the nineteenth century. It was attractive enough that my 19-month old granddaughter wanted to roam through the garden and admire the flowers.

Fall color at Hagley Park

Fall color at Hagley Park

Hagley Park is one of the world’s great urban oases.

Continue to dahlia gallery