When I was in NZ six years ago – I saw a T-shirt that proclaimed that ‘The grass grows greener in New Zealand’ – something I think farmers in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the western half of England might dispute!
However, flicking through my photos from my recent visit there does show how much grass dominates the landscape and why it drives the country’s economy.
Here is a gallery of gorgeous grasses from my travels:
The great advantage for Kiwis is that the grass never stops growing. Even at the equivalent of our late February there were tonnes of grass for cattle of all ages to eat.
A typical scene – small, hardy cows with heads down eating – bred to graze – it’s the only way they know.
Calves are outside from an early age – these youngsters looked fit and healthy grazing hills close to Tarawera Mountain – a restlessly sleeping volcano which last blew as recently as June 1886.
Smart beef cattle – enjoying the early spring sunshine.
I also came across wild grasses and clovers growing in the most inhospitable conditions:
Grasses at Waimangu hydrothermal valley have adapted to living with their roots in boiling water…
… while plants try to colonise the massive and constantly shifting Te Paki sand dunes, at the northern tip of 90 Mile Beach in the far north-west.
Even clover has adapted to cope with extreme free-draining conditions – here growing on the beach at Taputaputa Bay on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Imported weed grasses also find conditions just right in NZ. On many roadsides in North Island the noxious Cortaderia selloana grows in abundance – originally from South Africa.
I visited the sublime Ayrlies Garden (south west of Auckland), an oasis of horticultural pleasure, ten acres lovingly developed from farmland – where grasses are used for their sculptural form, colour and contrast.
This is Chondropetalum tectorum with its dark plum seed heads – eight clumps of which form a circle in the meadow area of the garden.
Gold and silver grasses elsewhere in the garden.
There was even wheatgrass growing on the counter of cafes and food shops – this as part of a wonderful display of home-grown/home-baked goodies at Matakana Kitchen.
And finally, of course, grass turf makes the perfect roofing material for hobbit holes!
Forty-four of these can be seen at Hobbiton – a farm-based tourist attraction outside Matamata, the location for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Well worth a visit!