Gore park new home for endangered rhododendrons
Bannerman Park in Gore is set to become home to some of the rarest species of rhododendron in the world.
Taranaki Regional Council collection and projects officer Andrew Brooker was in Gore this week to oversee the arrival of 40 species of rare and endangered rhododendrons, ranging from small shrubs to trees.
The plants are part of programme to safeguard the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust’s world-renown collection of rhododendrons in Taranaki by planting species at alternative sites. The programme is a joint initiative between the regional council, the Trust, New Zealand Rhododendron Association and Massey University.
Gore District Parks Manager Keith McRobie said it was a “feather in the cap” for the Trust to choose Bannerman Park as a location for its rare plants.
“We are one of only three sites in the South Island, although the Trust is looking to include other sites in Canterbury, Southland, and Otago in the future.”
Former Council parks manager Gordon Bailey established Bannerman Park’s rhododendron collection. Today there are about 30 different species there.
Mr McRobie said the microclimate in Bannerman Park was ideal for rhododendrons – “they like a temperate, cool climate with good moisture levels.
“Climate change and the loss of natural plant territory in China and Nepal mean it’s increasingly important to have endangered plant species thriving in different locations.”
The Council will plant 22 additional species from Blue Mountain Nurseries to complement the Trust's collection. The nursery propagated many of these plants from seeds sourced during trips to China and the Himalayan region by Blue Mountain founder Dennis Hughes.
The rhododendrons would enhance other aspects of the park, such as the hosta collection, Mr McRobie said.
“Anecdotally, it’s (the hosta collection) one of the best in the country.”
The Gore District has a growing reputation for outstanding gardens, including collections of rhododendrons at the Gore Gardens and Gore racecourse.
“Garden tourism is a thriving niche market. I wouldn’t be surprised to see our gardens attracting more and more visitors to the area.”
The New Zealand Rhododendron Society will hold its annual conference in Gore in November.