Heritage-Precinct-Gardens
This planting, one of the newer gardens designed by Karen Rhind of The Tent House, is between The Office Restaurant and Bar and Cromwell Heritage Precinct Bike Rentals. Photo Jan Hawkins

While the buildings, the view, the shops and cafes and the Farmers Market may readily grab our attention at the Cromwell Heritage Precinct, it is worth taking time to enjoy the various gardens scattered throughout the area.

They tell their own stories of the people who lived and worked here.

Of particular note is the almond tree in the upper precinct, the original of which is estimated to be about 140 years old.

This tree was grown from a nut grown by an early pioneering family.

The tree was felled during the formation of the Heritage Precinct site, and the late Muriel Craig grew several seedlings to replant. This beautiful tree is from one of those seedlings.

The heritage roses around Muriel’s Cottage (Armando’s Kitchen) were grown from cuttings by the late Joy Chapman. They were taken from several places around the Cromwell basin, most of which are now covered by the waters of Lake Dunstan. These included Annan’s orchard in the Cromwell Gorge, the riverbank walk between the Old Cromwell Bridge and Chinatown, the old stone school grounds, several sites in the main street and Fred Bayne’s garden beside the Lowburn Bridge. One of these roses, the Nevis Moss, is from a cutting from the Nevis cemetery.

The walnut trees in the upper precinct are prolific, as are the quince trees between Armando’s Kitchen and the Octa Gallery. The Williamson Ice Plant, situated outside Marie Velenski’s Studio in the courtyard, was grown from a cutting given to Marie by the late Elizabeth Williamson from her garden. Elizabeth’s plant in turn was from a cutting from her father’s garden, so this small plant has a history stretching back at least 60 years.

Particularly pretty this year are the sweet peas which have mysteriously appeared in the same area. They seem to be a variety of the heritage wild sweet pea, growing in bright pink clusters.

In the last decade, several new gardens have been designed and developed by Karen Rhind, of The Tent House. Besides the plantings behind her shop and Sequoia Finewares, there are gardens at the Erris Street entrance, each side of and on the steep bank near The Office Restaurant and Bar, and recent plantings around the bike trail signage.

Karen has selected native and exotic plants that are drought tolerant and low maintenance – low plantings that do not obscure the signs. Those on the steep bank are required to hold the soil and prevent erosion.  The native plants blend well with the colour of the lavender plants.

Help for this article from Helen Scholes, Megan Huffadine and Karen Rhind is acknowledged.