The personal touch of Oriental rugs

The people connected to handmade rugs fascinate Wellingtonian Anna Williams who repairs, mends and restores Oriental rugs. In a recent visit to her tiny city workshop, Anna showed us a rug made by a woman she'd met in Iran who makes rugs in her tent — "she had an enormous horizontal carpet loom in her dirt-floored home." Another weaving gift that she treasures was given to her by an Iranian nomad friend.

Sometimes she stays with Ali in Teheran who has a rug export business. He employs about 15 repairers (all men) who sit on a concrete floor in a large shed, surrounded by dishevelled piles of rugs.

Anna Williams demonstrates rug repairs to the visiting Friends of Te Papa group. Beside her are Friends committee members Ann Hodson (left) and Sheryl Shackleton

Anna Williams demonstrates rug repairs to the visiting Friends of Te Papa group. Beside her are Friends committee members Ann Hodson (left) and Sheryl Shackleton

Anna bas been breathing life into old rugs for years now, and never knows what might come through her door next — "You might get a rug that a family bas owned for years, or that dad or granddad brought back from the war," she said. The personal touch again.

She has always had a love of texture. At school, sewing was her favourite subject and at university, studying for her BA in Anthropology, she managed to find time for sewing. After discovering the joy of weaving, she gained her Certificate in Handloom Weaving in 1977. In 1992, a Wellington rug importer urgently needed a repairer as his shipment had arrived with damaged rugs. Anna slotted into the job perfectly.

She has visited Iran seven times now, she told us, living in local communities and studying with rug restorers. She buys yarns, wool, cottons and silks there but increasingly uses New Zealand wool. Even a damaged shoulder and arm have not deterred her. She just wedges herself to the edge of her workbench and carries on.

She showed us examples of some of the repair jobs she tackles. Often it's fringes that are badly frayed — some have been chewed off by the family dog! If edgings have been added separately, they often need to be reconnected to the body of the rug.

She sent us each off with a small piece of hand-weaving mounted on a greetings card — a reminder of a fascinating session and especially of the personal touch that is so important to her.

— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 70, November 2017

David Langdon Hogg - a tribute

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David (generally known as Dave) took on the role of Honorary Treasurer of our Association in 2004 and still held that position at the time of his death on 8 September 2017.

Dave had no experience in accounting, but the combination of his degree in electrical engineering from Canterbury University and his IT experience with IBM and the Bank of New Zealand meant that it was no trouble to him to develop a simple but very effective system for recording financial transactions and membership records of OBRA.
At every committee meeting Dave would give a precise report on finances and membership. As a Treasurer should, he also ensured that funds were spent properly and wisely.

Dave however was much more than the "money man". His contributions to committee discussions on all aspects of the Association's activities were much valued. He was always among the first to volunteer for tasks such as the now defunct annual inorganic rubbish collection and the bi-annual distribution of the Bay View newsletter.
Dave's mobility was significantly impaired as a result of a serious lung infection four years ago. However, he showed great determination to ensure that his contribution to OBRA and his enjoyment of life were not diminished. Bay Views were delivered and other journeys made on the Mobility Scooter available from the Freyberg Pool building. Dave and his wife Marg continued to enjoy their love of travel to exotic places. Their last trip was in April when they organised a group, including several Oriental Bay residents, to undertake an enjoyable 10 day adventure in Borneo.

Dave always had a positive view on life, a great sense of humour and an infectious smile. He was a very active member of our community, playing bridge with a group of mainly local men and car-pooling with friends to get to the Royal Wellington Golf Club. He was a regular and popular member of the Club Active at the Freyberg Gym, and with his wife Marg, hosted many memorable functions for their wide circle of friends.

Our community has lost a very valued and popular member.

— Colin Blair, Bay View newsletter 70, November 2017

The Grand Old Ladies of Oriental Bay

Rona and Lizzie are their names. Rona is 125 years of age while Lizzie is a mere 108 years old. These two classic old yachts are both in Oriental Bay — Rona, owned by the Rona Preservation Trust, is tied up in the corner of Chaffers Marina, while Lizzie, owned by the Wellington Classic Yacht Trust, is moored in Clyde Quay Marina just out from the clubrooms of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club.

" Rona "

"Rona"

The Rona, a classic kauri racing yacht, was built for wealthy merchant and benefactor Alexander Turnbull and launched in 1893. It is the oldest continuously registered ship in New Zealand, winning the 1893 Auckland Regatta, the Wellington Regatta in 1895 and continuing to appear on the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club honours board right up until the 1960s.

According to the introductory sign beside the yacht, Rona’s state-of-the -art design and construction represents a rare blend of local and overseas ideas and shows New Zealanders were keenly aware of the best technological developments between the depression of the 1890s and World War I. The longevity of the diagonal hull construction relies on the unique stability of kauri. Had the Rona been built of any other timber, it’s extremely unlikely she would have lasted so well. She also provides insight into the way yacht racing was experienced by sailors then — there are no winches, and her low freeboard would have guaranteed a wet ride.

Rona was in a sorry state when bought in 1981 by Nelson architect John Palmer, who recognised its pedigree and spent nine years reconstructing and restoring it before it was purchased by the Rona Preservation Trust in 2006. Chairman of the trust, Tom Love, says the old yacht now needs a good deal of work, especially to the deck, which is leaking. They hope to tackle this soon and are fund-raising now to that end. Restoration of these old yachts is a long and painstaking process, stresses Gavin Pascoe of Wellington Classic Yacht Trust. “The trust tries to go back as close as possible, using the original building methods and building materials. Rona was initially restored in that way — that’s how she is now. She was finished quite a time ago. She was looked after on her moorings but she hardly ever went sailing. Now she needs some maintenance work.”

“There’s a discussion in the trust as to whether to keep her looking original but to use modern methods. Initially you spend more money going back to the original,” he explained, “but when you mix traditional methods with modern methods, I don’t think it really works. For instance, she’s got a slight twist to her stern, you can see it if you look at her from behind. The Rona Preservation Trust wants to untwist her and put in a whole modern deck to stop it happening again. But the thing is, it took 50 years for it to happen in the first place and with a modern deck there’s little air circulation underneath and it can rot quickly.”

"Lizzie "

"Lizzie"

The Lizzie is owned by the Wellington Classic Yacht Trust and bobs at its mooring in Clyde Quay Marina amongstthe modern yachts which are so much higher from the water than she is. It was the plight of Lizzie that caused the formation in 2010 of the Trust, which is registered as a New Zealand charity. A collective back then raised money to pay salvage and return Lizzie to Wellington. After more than two years of volunteer work and donations of money and material, she was re-launched in March 2013.

The very process of restoration and getting back to original material has given valuable lessons on techniques and materials and the particular practices of different boatyards of the classic era. These skills can be shared by the trust with anyone wanting to learn traditional boatbuilding methods in joinery, metalwork, ropework and boat handling.

Lizzie was built at Balaena Bay by Ted Bailey and launched in 1909. Ted Bailey was from Auckland — a younger brother of Charles and Walter Bailey (Bailey Bros shipbuilders) — but had set up business in Wellington around the turn of the century. Lizzie was the champion vessel of her division running up to World War I. Bailey, who also built champion racing centreboarders, carried the principles of what makes a fast boat into building Lizzie.

She had been significantly altered over the years, though her original keel structure and planking are complete. Over 2½ years, the Wellington Classic Yacht Trust restored her to her original configuration and she is once again sailing and racing in Wellington.

Lizzie is the oldest surviving Wellington-built racing yacht,” says Gavin Pascoe. “She was very successful in her early years, an original and innovative design, not bound by class rules. She has been restored back to her original state and it is our intention is to keep it all original.” Other classic old yachts in the Clyde Quay marina, owned by the Trust are Atalanta, Mabel and Galatea. Atalanta was launched in 1894 in Auckland by Bailey Bros as a 40-foot centreboarder. She won the Wellington Interprovincial regatta in 1895 but was disqualified, which gave Rona the victory. She remained in Wellington and stayed highly competitive in racing for more than 70 years.

Mabel was launched in Auckland in 1895, also built by Bailey Bros. She sailed down the east coast to Wellington, then on to Nelson in 1917. From there, she was in Lyttelton for a time before returning to Wellington some time in the early 1960s. She is being restored back to her original configuration.

Galatea was launched in Auckland in 1910. Built by Le Huquet, she was one of many of his yachts which came to race and cruise in Wellington during the first 20 years of the century, due to being particularly well-suited to local conditions. These Le Huquet yachts were consistently top boats in Wellington during the 1920s and 1930s.

We’re lucky to have these marine treasures in our neighbourhood.

— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 69, May 2017

The “Wanganella” part 2

Daylight made Wanganella’s plight more obvious. She had driven herself on to Outer Rock, mangling her bow and creating a gash some 40 by 22 feet (13 × 7m) for water to slosh in and out of her hull. Buoyancy forward was a thing of the past. An abortive attempt to tow her off made it evident that only a combination of restored buoyancy and a high tide could hope to release her from the reef’s fangs. Fuel oil was pumped out of her, then the two forward holds were to be sealed and compressed air blown into them; but only if the weather remained calm could this work be completed before her whole hull was wrenched apart.

Entering dock

Entering dock

And it did remain calm! ‘Wanganella weather’ became legendary, over the entire eighteen-day period until Thursday evening (6 February) when, after an earlier attempt a week before, she moved, then came free on the end of a line from the tug Toia. She was towed stern-first and heavily down by the bow, to end up, her bow on the harbour bottom, at Aotea Quay. Here she languished until the floating dock, occupied by another ship, became available, and it would be a couple of weeks before she entered dock, without tugs (they had gone on strike for higher wages) and with Darroch joined by Wellington’s deputy harbourmaster David Todd, who prided himself on his ability to handle ships without tugs. It was then the turn of the dock workers to demand higher pay, and to declare the ship ‘black’; and only temporary patching of her bow was possible so that shecould be towed back to Aotea Quay wharf on 27 May.

A great bite

A great bite

During her time in dock it was determined that her bow, with a great bite out of it, was beyond repair, and a replacement bow would need to be prefabricated. This task was carried out by Harland and Woolf back in Belfast; the new structure extended over more than a third of Wanganella’s length, and its component parts were shipped out in Hororata, a large New Zealand Shipping Company cargo vessel that was herself a survivor: she was torpedoed as she approached the Azores on the homeward leg of her maiden voyage in 1942. Wanganella was returned to the dock in January 1948, and her precious replacement arrived in early March. It took until the end of October before the vessel could test the precision of the assembly process — one minor leak, sealed in a matter of hours as the dock was flooded, was found. Wanganella was towed back to Clyde Quay wharf, and the opportunity was taken to eliminate the remains of her wartime service; in particular, any remaining hospital green paint was covered up. After sea trials at the end of November, the ship left for Sydney on 9 December 1948, fully booked.

Back in service

Back in service

Meanwhile, because he and Captain Todd had easedthe stricken vessel into a dock without a tug, the unfortunate Captain Darroch had faced a Court of Inquiry. This had found him negligent and, although his certificate was only suspended for three months, his career was effectively over. His only subsequent command was in 1952, of a small coaster, the Awahou, which disappeared without trace on a voyage to Lord Howe Island.

Wanganella herself fared much better, making regular weekly sailings in tandem with the Union company’s Monowai. With a refit in 1952, she remained popular and although her 1930s pattern squat motor ship funnels looked somewhat ‘dated’ (the forward one was a dummy, and nothing came of a proposal during that refit to transfer it to sit above the ‘working’ one) she was still trim in her Huddart Parker livery of black hull with a thin white band just below the white upperworks, and buff funnels. But air travel was becoming increasingly popular through the latter 1950s, and when in 1961 Huddart Parker was sold off and its fleet dispersed, Wanganella was bought by McIlwraith McEachern of Melbourne. Her name was retained, but her funnels were repainted in the black-topped red of her new owners, and she resumed her trans-Tasman schedule, managed now by the Union company, which had withdrawn Monowai from service the previous year.

New owners. Note dummy fore funnel

New owners. Note dummy fore funnel

In mid-Tasman on a voyage from Sydney to Auckland, she showed her age in spectacular fashion. On 26 March 1962 a piston rod in her port engine snapped; the broken rod fell into the crankcase where, boosted by the rotating crank, it was spat out through the casing. At Auckland they cleared up the mess enough for her to return to Sydney on one engine, and here she spent April while proper repairs were made. The implications of this episode were enough for McIlwraith McEachern to decide to sell Wanganella just three days after the repairs were completed, and an engine room explosion and fire in June confirmed the wisdom of their decision.

After finishing her final voyage on 25 July, Wanganella was laid up in Sydney; on 15 August her new owners took her over, and she became the property of the Hang Fung Shipping and Trading Company of Hong Kong. She made one trip there to change funnel colours (to black with two silver bands) and port of registry, then returned to Auckland to undertake a Melbourne Cup cruise, which in turn led to other cruises round the Pacific and Australia, and then to a spell in November as a floating hotel at Fremantle during the 1962 Commonwealth Games. A few cruises in early 1963 followed, and there were grand schemes which came to nothing. Instead the ship was laid up in Sydney and offered for sale.

Then came the final, novel and quite unexpected phase in her career. The Manapouri power scheme planned for water from Lake Manapouri to enter a tunnel down to an underground assembly of turbines, from which it would discharge through a 10km tunnel into Doubtful Sound. Utah Construction and Mining, which bought the ship, was one of the firms in the consortium to undertake the tailrace tunnelling, and Deep Cove, where there was nothing apart from a trampers’ hut, and certainly nothing to provide accommodation or services, would become Wanganella’s retirement home. She crossed the Tasman Sea one final time, still dressed in Hung Fung livery and with a largely Chinese crew, called at Auckland, then entered Doubtful Sound on 29 August 1963. She anchored in Hall Arm, just around the corner from Deep Cove, from where workers using her boats could be ferried across to construct anchor points for the heavy steel cables that would form the ship’s final moorings.

Home to 500-odd workmen

Home to 500-odd workmen

Once the anchor points were ready, she made her final voyage under her own power, was secured with her own anchors and the cables that now awaited her, and became home to 500-odd workmen who combined the cutting of a road over Wilmot Pass to link the sound with civilisation, and the tunnelling itself. They became a close-knit community, hardworking and hard drinking; and during their period as guests aboard, the ship developed assorted excrescences as additional covered space was needed. Road access was established in 1965 and the tunnel breakthrough was three years later. The work force dispersed by 1970; Utah sold the ship back to the Government in 1969, who on-sold her to the Australia Pacific Shipping Company of Hong Kong. Fortunately an ocean-going Dutch tug, the Barents Sea, was in the vicinity, and in April 1970 took Wanganella in tow, to transport her to Hong Kong where her new owners had ideas of restoring her. But on arrival, the engines were found to require total replacement. She was therefore sold yet again, to Taiwanese shipbreakers, where she arrived in June 1970, almost 41 years after her launch.

Under tow

Under tow

At the breakers. Note ship cove buildings

At the breakers. Note ship cove buildings

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I came to enjoy Wanganella as one of Auckland’s regular visitors when, as a boy, I happened to visit the North Shore and found her berthed at Princes Wharf. I even attempted to paint her once, but was defeated when her black hull came out looking like a lump of coal. My wife’s knowledge was more extensive, since she was a Wellington girl, while I did no more than catch a glimpse of the ship in the floating dock when I was on my way to or from Dunedin. Apart from casual references in various of my shipping books, in this story I have relied on a gem of a book, ‘A Tasman Trio’, which documents the life stories of three celebrated trans-Tasman passenger ships: Wanganella, Awatea and Monowai. Without it, I could not have assembled such a precise account.

— Wyn Beasley, Bay View newsletter 69, May 2017

The Easy Option Up to Your Home

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Wellington must be New Zealand’s ‘cablecar city’ with the variety of cableways or cablecars of various shapes and sizes that rise up our hills. Oriental Bay and its neighbourhood is very much a part of this — in Oriental Bay itself and in Roseneath and along Evans Bay.

With our hilly sections, it’s not difficult to see the reason for cableways. They can replace the zig-zag path by which many of us reach our homes or they can be installed instead of the multiple steps which are equally familiar to us. Very often, they mean that disabled people or older citizens can stay in the homes they love.

Most of the cableways or cablecars are two-person, either an open platform with waist-high walls around it or an enclosed ‘sentrybox’ style. Others are square-shaped and may be extra solid to support a gondola. The systems for disabled use can be equipped with door ramps and larger floor areas to facilitate easy wheelchair access. To further aid independent use of the cableway, automatic landing gates can be installed.

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Some have street frontages, others start from a front path or driveway a little distance from the road. A popular option is to rise out the back or side of a garage. The average length of the cableways is about 30 metres, with one of the longest in our neighbourhood being the one that rises 65 metres to a house in Palliser Road. Some are built on the boundary of two sections and used by both homes, while a very few serve several households with stops and platforms for each.

Private cablecars in Wellington started off as builders’ hoists when the steep hills of the city were first being developed. Timber and builders’ equipment would be transported to the building site. Then they were adapted or installed for the convenience of the householders themselves, especially for disabled people. Next step was their adaptation for general household access — first simply a platform, then maybe a semi-enclosed unit on a monorail or a more elaborate structure on dual rails.

The monorail involves less construction work than the dual rail, with the rail often being only 200 mm wide. The cablecar either sits on the single rail or is cantilevered off one side. They are usually run by an electric industrial motor fitted onto a gearbox with an electro-magnetic brake. Dual rails can be manufactured at various widths. The dual rail option has more visual impact on the environment but are especially suitable when the terrain demands a change in direction or for shared use.

Building consent is required for a new ‘line’. They must be checked and their warrants of fitness renewed regularly. There are believed to be about 300 private ones in Wellington.

Of course, the Grand Old Lady of cablecars is the Kelburn Cablecar — the funicular railway that joins Lambton Quay and Kelburn. It rises 120 metres over a length of 612 metres. It is a 1000 mm gauge single track with pine sleepers. It opened to the public on 22 February 1902 and has been going strong ever since, with a few facelifts along the way.

— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 69, May 2017

From Our Harbour Ranger

An additional buoy in Oriental Bay will be placed in the location shown in the photo. There have been a number of issues with rowers and swimmers not seeing each other, particularly in the area between the eastern-most 5 knot buoy and the lighthouse.

The purpose of the buoy is to provide ocean swimmers with a turning mark, exactly 1km from Freyberg Beach. It is hoped this will serve as a training aid and reduce the numbers who would otherwise be tempted to swim to the light. The buoy will be yellow, conical in shape, and unlit. It is larger than the 5 knot buoys at approximately 1m wide by 1.5m high so that swimmers can clearly see it. The shape prevents it being used for mooring.

― Bay View newsletter 68, November 2016

New Insights into ‘Fitz’

Fitzgerald’s Folly was a landmark in colonial days when the large verandah’d house lorded it over the growing city of Wellington from its commanding site on Mt Victoria. It was built in the early 1870s. When St Gerard’s Church was built, Fitzgerald’s Folly was demolished.

Clyde Cliff (its official name) was the home of James Edward Fitzgerald – subject of a recent biography by Jenifer Roberts, an English historian. She is the great-great-granddaughter of James Edward and Fanny Fitzgerald. She had access to family papers and sources previously inaccessible to researchers, so her biography provides new and intriguing information about one of New Zealand’s most outstanding colonists.

The ‘folly’ tag came about because the seven acre (2.8 ha) of land was considered “a remote and undesirable site”, being high on a cliff between Clyde Quay and Oriental Bay and some distance from town at that time. One of Fitzgerald’s sons, Otho, certainly appreciated its site. He’s quoted as saying, “My home as a boy was built on a point overlooking a harbour, one of the most beautiful spots and one of the finest views I have ever seen.”

The Fitzgeralds were proud of the modern conveniences in the house. There were gas points in each of the seven bedrooms; running water in the kitchen and bathroom – the latter had a geyser to heat water for the bathtub. The separate WC boasted a toilet seat of polished kauri.

Fitzgerald was the first Canterbury pilgrim to set foot in New Zealand and the first superintendent of the province of Canterbury. In 1861 he founded The Press newspaper in Christchurch. When the first New Zealand parliament was formed in 1854, he was elected to represent Lyttelton. In 1867, Fitzgerald – in poor health – resigned and accepted an appointment as comptroller of the public account (ie controlling the issue of public money) and, later, auditor-general. The family moved to Wellington, living in Karori and then moving to Oriental Bay in 1874 where their thirteenth and last child was born.

These years in Clyde Cliff were filled with family disaster. Robert, aged 23, died after acute lung inflammation. A year later, in the 1880s, another son and two daughters died. Next year the tragedies continued with one son diagnosed with Bright’s Disease and another son with TB, both dying after several years. Fitz dealt with these terrible blows with high activity, drafting the Local Authorities and Audit Bill; then the Civil Service Bill and another to amend the Revenues Act.

Through 1895, his health continued to deteriorate and he died in 1896, five years before Fanny. After her death Clyde Cliff was bought by daughter Amy, who later sold it to the Redemptorists Order. They built St Gerard’s Church in 1908 and the Monastery in 1932. In 1988 the property was purchased by the International Catholic Programme of Evangelisation.

 JCD, Bay View newsletter 68, November 2016

Where to Now for This Iconic Site?

The much-loved Band Rotunda site in the centre of Oriental Parade has had many transformations over the years. The first structure on this site was an appealing little open-sided hexagonal building. It made its appearance in Oriental Bay in 1919. It was the place you went to for an ice cream, for a chat with friends plus a bit of sea-gazing.

It was moved to Central Park in Brooklyn in 1936 to allow for a sturdier building to be built which could also accommodate bathers with changing facilities underneath. This new building with its art deco flavour became a well-known feature of the Bay.

Then a suggestion for a restaurant on the site was made. The New Zealand Home and Building magazine (1985 edition) describes the row that broke out when the restaurant plans became public. Locals were fearful of a licensed premises open until 11 pm in such a tranquil area and nervous that their views would be affected.

After much talk and debate, conditions were set. The building must not be too high or overhang its original boundaries; the design must ensure that the public had access to the top level; the style must not be at odds with the area’s architecture and the extra storey should be in sympathy with the original 1930s building. These last two requirements resulted in the pleasing art deco style that locals have come to love. Construction started in 1984 and Nicholson’s Restaurant opened its doors in March 1985. After 16 years, Nicholson’s was sold and became Fisherman’s Table, “affordable dining with million-dollar views” was the catch-cry of the new owners or “cheap and cheerful” as the locals put it. Over sunny weekends when families crowded the beach, Fisherman’s Table did indeed prove popular. But after 13 years, the owners reached retirement age and decided to look for a quieter life. By this time the building was yellow-stickered and required earthquake strengthening.

Tracy Morrah of Wellington City Council describes the current situation of this iconic site: The Bluewater Bar and Grill, which operated in the Band Rotunda building, closed at the end of March 2016. This followed an agreement reached with the head lessee who sought an early surrender of the lease, largely due to declining business.
The Band Rotunda is effectively two buildings. The lower structure, which was most recently used as Community Rooms, was built in the 1930s. The upper structure (restaurant) was built in the 1980s.
As could be expected for a structure which is about 80 years old and with most of its foundations within the sea itself, the structure is in need of remediation. There are also concerns around the ongoing structural integrity of the inter-floor concrete slab. Remediation could not be reasonably carried out with a tenant in situ or with the community rooms in operation. No detailed costings are available for this remediation, however we expect these will be significant.

Oriental Parade and band rotunda (1932) Thanks to National Library. 

Oriental Parade and band rotunda (1932) Thanks to National Library. 

The site’s profile; complex building structure; planning restrictions (including heritage aspects) and high remediation costs means the Council needs to draw advice from a range of disciplines in order to make a considered decision about the building’s future. The first step in this process is to carry out invasive testing in order to obtain detailed structural engineering advice. This work is currently underway and will inform the next stages of this project.

Iona Pannett, chairperson of the Environment Committee and Portfolio Leader Buildings, added that “Council is obviously keen to make sure that this building is safe but it is a complex project. Once we are further down the track, we need to talk to the local community about what use it might make of the space in the future.”

Here’s hoping that we continue to enjoy that grand old building in whatever form it takes – it is so much a part of the Oriental Bay landscape.

 JCD, Bay View newsletter 68, November 2016

Herbs for Small Spaces

We continue our series on gardening in small spaces. First gardening on decks and patios was discussed. Next we gave some tips about windowbox gardening and then we looked at how to use a terrarium.

For this issue, Jess of California Home and Garden in Miramar suggests that herbs are perfect for gardening in small spaces – they don’t grow too high for the wind to attack and are unperturbed by salty winds. They adapt to small spaces. Luckily, there’s a selection of versatile and foolproof Mediterranean herbs which will flourish in difficult circumstances.

Thyme
A deceptively dainty looking groundcover plant, looks great spilling over the sides of pots. Culinary multi-purpose with a wide variety of looks and flavours available, including ‘lemon’, ‘chicken’ and ‘pizza’! Varieties will mix happily, but avoid the inedible woolly thyme.

Oregano
An essential flavour for many a Mediterranean dish, with a similar but slightly taller growing habit to thyme. The ‘True Greek’ variety is sturdier than the common type, but more pungent and not as sweet.

Sage
A shrubby plant with peculiar leathery leaves, which sat ignored in my garden until I discovered how deliciously it worked in pumpkin dishes. You can choose from a red, green and variegated variety for equally tasty plants, but avoid the alluringly named ‘Pineapple sage’ for it is something else entirely!

Rosemary
Needs little introduction, with its distinctive waxy leaves and sprays of vibrant blue flowers. The variety ‘Chef’s Choice’ is lauded as being best for cooking, with a spicy flavour and high oil content. It also has a small, tidy growing habit so sits very prettily in containers. However, all rosemary is edible, and it would be a shame to overlook the trailing type which can cascade for over a metre – a real statement in a tall pot or pouring over the edge of a balcony.

General care
The biggest killer of these plants is sitting in soggy soil, so a fast-draining potting mix is an essential part of their care. I would recommend a specialised potting mix, such as Tui’s Herb Mix, or add one part coarse sand to four parts standard potting mix.

The potting mix will contain a little bit of fertiliser to kick things off, but every spring and following autumn I recommend sprinkling some slow-release fertiliser, such as Osmocote for Vegetable, Tomato, Herb & Garden Beds, on the surface of the mix at an approximate rate of 1 tablespoon per 15cm of pot. Your herbs won’t die without food, but you’ll notice their growth slows down.

Only water when the top inch of soil is dry, which may be about once a week in summer but don’t panic about going away, these are plants which are designed to survive the odd drought. If you do take a vacation, perhaps leave the plants in a spot where they could catch some rain. In winter you may find you never need to water at all, particularly with the driving rains we’re prone to. When you do water, be sure to give plants a thorough soak until water comes out the bottom of the pot.

Bear in mind when selecting pots that soil in porous containers, such as terracotta and wood, dries out more quickly than in glazed and plastic pots. Aside from that, simply buy whatever suits your space and style. I personally like pocketed herb pots (pictured) to maximise space.

And lastly, be sure to use them generously! All of these plants respond well to being regularly trimmed, and may grow woody and straggly if you don’t make a habit of cutting stems for your cooking. After all, isn’t that what they’re there for?

 Bay View newsletter 68, November 2016