No place like home

HEIRLOOM: An old crayfish pot made from supplejack, which commonly grows at both Pohara and Moeraki in North Otago.
HEIRLOOM: An old crayfish pot made from supplejack, which commonly grows at both Pohara and Moeraki in North Otago.

Rather than silver candelabras or fine furniture, some of my most treasured possessions include an heirloom crayfish pot and a bed of violets.

That's because they come from a place close to my heart, full of childhood memories, seaside holidays and the endless summers of my turangawaewae.

The craypot and violets were on my mind last weekend, when I was kicking back, enjoying the glorious weather and thinking about the redevelopment plans we have for our Pohara garden over the next year or so.


Right now it looks more like a bomb site than what you might expect from a gardener, but it is in what you might refer to as "transition".

Currently, it's a fairly eclectic mix of citrus (as a unifying theme), figs, flaxes, feijoas, guavas, an avocado tree, cabbage trees, nikau, hydrangeas, and a large pohutukawa that dominates the garden, with an understorey of agapanthus and renga renga for seasonal colour and low maintenance.

But, in the ambitious manner of house and garden renovations (our obsession with which almost borders on being a national disease), we have plans for extra decking, paths, a new vegetable garden and shed, outdoor dining, fireplace and pizza oven, lookout decks, a kids' swing and adults' lounging areas. We also need a place for an old dinghy to be converted to a kids' play boat.

Then there's the outdoor bath and shower area, the wood storage, clothesline and implement area, and that most essential of seaside necessities, the men-only area for cleaning fish and fishing trip debriefings (or debates, depending on the success of the trip).

We also want to include more bird-friendly plants to attract the tui and bellbirds we love and to provide for our resident weta population. As we love to spend summer evenings on the deck, we want to add evening scented plants such as nicotiana, brugmansia, Pride of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa) and Cestrum, the night-scented jasmine.

Because the layout options are largely limited and defined by the landform and location of existing fixtures, the redevelopment is fairly self-defining.

It's the less tangible, more esoteric aspects of style and ambience that I am mulling over, in an effort to find the right mix and capture something similar to that place from my childhood.

That's what got me thinking about my turangawaewae, the North Otago seaside village of Moeraki, and the sense of place it gave me when growing up. It's the idea of a sense of place and the attachment to it that I find fascinating, which is, perhaps, similar to the Maori concept of turangawaewae.

According to Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, turangawaewae comes from turanga (standing place) and waewae (feet), and translates as a "place to stand" where "we feel especially empowered and connected". It gives us "our foundation, our place in the world, our home".

Under the concept of turangawaewae, the external world is a reflection of an "inner sense of security and foundation where the mountains, rivers and waterways, to which you may claim a relationship, are outward expressions of the internal sense of foundation".

This is not unlike the idea of sense of place and place attachment any of us can experience. Described as something of a buzz phrase in social science terms, sense of place can mean many things to different people - and for those of us who have lived in different locations, there is probably no single place that gives us such a meaning.

In social sciences literature, the relationship we have with a place is regarded as transactional, where we take something from and give or do things to the environment, which can then alter the environment's influence on us. Our sense of place is an experience created by the setting and what we bring to it.

In that way, sense of place is regarded as something we create, and which cannot exist independently of us. It is also peculiar to each of us.

Similarly, place attachment is described in the literature as the symbolic relationship formed by giving emotional meanings to a particular place or piece of land, which in turn provides for an understanding of and relation to that environment.

Place attachment is regarded as more than an emotional and cognitive experience, and includes cultural beliefs and practices that link us to such a place.

Which brings me back to my own sense of place and attachment to Pohara, which I regard as the Moeraki of the top of the south. Both have similar environmental attributes, with warm, almost subtropical climates where not only citrus and tamarillos flourish but also native flaxes, kowhai, ngaio, copromsa and introduced pohutukawa.

Both places offer seaside experiences - the sound of the sea and seagulls calling on the wind, the sights of boats and sunrises and sunsets over silvery waves, the ozone smell of the ocean, and seaweed on the beach.

Both have areas of remnant bush and a somewhat wild, untamed lushness about them, characterised by that devilish pest plant, banana passionfruit.

Indeed, it was that plant that linked the two places for me when I first encountered Pohara nearly 40 years ago.

Since then, I've built up my own transactional experience of the place, my unique sense of place, and have in turn developed a strong attachment to it.

Once, when starting a job in Wellington a few years ago, I attended one of those touchy-feely, get-to-know-your-fellow-employees sessions, where we had to take a coloured sticker and place it on a map to show our turangawaewae.

Rather than identifying just one place, I carefully tore my sticker into several pieces to distribute over the map. A small fragment for Wellington, where I was living at the time; another piece for Nelson; and other pieces for Moeraki and Pohara.

If you were asked to do the same, where would you place your sticker or pieces of sticker to show your turangawaewae - your place to stand? And what would be the attributes that define the sense of place it gave you and the attachment you might have to it?

The craypot and violets I brought with me years ago carry something of the old place to attach new meaning to the garden of the new place. And together, with other attributes of Pohara, they give me a place to stand, a new turangawaewae - something we surely all need in life.


■ Persimmons are ripening now as the cold weather bites. Young trees may need crop thinning before harvest to lighten the load on brittle branches that can easily snap with excess crop weight. Persimmons are also very vulnerable to cicada damage (egg deposits) in the soft young shoots. Prune your trees in spring before bud break to remove damaged shoots and to encourage a strong branch framework. If planting a new tree, they do best in well-drained soil.

■ Prune sasanqua camellias once flowering has finished, to encourage shoot development in young, leggy plants and to open up old established bushes to encourage floral bud development next summer.

■ Spray deciduous trees for lichen where it is unsightly. Use lime sulphur, which is harmless to mature branches and the bare wood of deciduous plants. Green shoots and evergreen plants are vulnerable to "burn" from it.

■ Harvest citrus fruit as it ripens from this month. Black sooty mould is caused by fungus living off the stickey honeydew residue left by a range of insects such as aphids, ants, scale, passion vine hoppers, and white fly or mealy bug. Rather than spraying the sooty mould, treat the bushes with your pesticide of choice once all the crop is harvested but before flowering in early summer.

■ On dry, sunny days, keep up winter pruning of pipfruit and grapes, and make a start on roses when you can. The general recommendation is to start after midwinter on June 21, but you can start at any time once growth has stopped.

■ Check out new rose plants and varieties as they come in to your favourite garden centre.

The Nelson Mail