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Native planting approach

"I have learned our natural heritage is a fragile thing and we should handle it with care."
HRH The Prince of Wales. 'The Elements of Organic Gardening' (2007, p.112).

When we first took on the Halfway House garden in Glenside, the only native plants obvious to us were self-seeding ti kouka (cabbage tree) and poroporo.

An early settler had planted a rectangular paddock boundary to the east of the house in pine trees and macrocarpa, most of which had died of old age. We left their stumps as they were, standing and fallen, as this represented what the land would have looked like after the original native bush was felled and burned. Additionally, rotting stumps provide a habitat for insects.

Our native planting has been in blocks in selected areas:

2010, along the streambank.
2018, totara along the driveway.
2019, along the west fenceline of the garden.
2021, for shelter beside the carpark.
2022, on the bank above the lane.
2023, the 'Bird and Bee Bank behind the Red shed - Wellington City Council provided 160 plants of kanuka, manuka, two types of hebe, kowhai and cabbage trees. Jay Street Nursery gifted a matai.

The native plants in this list below, are grouped how we have used them. Each plant is listed in alphabetical order with their Maori name first, followed by their Latin name and their common name.

You can use our planting guide for restoration planting beside the stream.

Streamside planting (riparian planting)

The plants in this group are ideal to plant beside streams in the area between Johnsonville and Porirua. They were chosen for their small leaves and filtered light, so as not to block the sunlight of the neighbours. They were also chosen for their ability to stabilise the stream bank and provide a habitat for eels and other native fish. We start planting from beside the stream bed and work our way out. The first plantings took place in 2010.

On the edge of the stream

Pukio – Carex secta – sedge grass

Native grasses like carex secta provide a habitat for fish to lay their eggs and a shady hiding place for eels. Fish eggs stick to the grass and when a flood, or fresh washes through the grass, it agitates the eggs and they hatch.

Ti kouka – Cordyline australis – Cabbage tree

This is a great tree for holding the stream banks firmly. Flax is not useful beside the stream in our locality as it washes out when it floods, taking the bank with it. Furthermore, when flax washes out, it tends to block the stream channel resulting in erosion and flood impacts. Flowers in early summer with berries from mid-summer to mid-autumn. Food source for bellbirds and tui. Moth friendly.

On the sloping bank, or in from the edge of the water

Akapukaea - Tecomanthe speciosa - Three Kings island vine

A vine with branches instead of tendrils, which winds around the closest tree, or its own self if no tree nearby. The leaves are shiny and glossy and the flowers are tubular, creamy green. Endemic to Three Kings Island and was down to the last plant in 1945 before it was saved from extinction. Natural habitat is stony gullies alongside kanuka. Doesn’t like wet feet, frosts or full sun on the roots. The vine will climb for the light and the sun to flower. Coastal hardy. Further information about this interesting plant is on the Auckland Botanic Gardens website.

Two tecomanthe plants gifted by Jay Street Community Nursery in 2020.

Makomako – Aristotelia serrata  –   Wineberry

Pretty leaves coloured light green changing to wine red in autumn on one side and fawn on the reverse. Clusters of tiny red flowers forming a larger flower head in October and November. Drops its leaves in winter leaving red coloured branches. A very fast growing semi-deciduous tree. Fruit was eaten raw by Maori and liquid from boiled leaves was applied to skin ailments. Makomako likes open sunlight and is frost hardy. The flowers and berries provide food for tui, kereru, bellbird and waxeye from spring to early summer. Plant a metre from a fenceline and a couple of metres from the stream edge.

Manatu – Plagianthus rigius – Lowland ribbonwood

Frost hardy, likes open sunlight. Can be planted as close as a metre to the stream edge. Grows fast up to 15 m tall. Good for fast cover and quick height. Loses leaves in winter showing its interesting tangled branchlets. Great for holding the streambank soil.

Ti kouka   Cordyline australis   Cabbage tree

Ti kouka holds the stream bank and provides food for native kereru bird. It has a nice sound of strappy leaves clapping together in a breeze. Drops its leaves, which makes great mulch and suppress weeds. Food source for bellbirds and tui. Moth friendly.

On top of the stream bank

Hibiscus diversifolius - Swamp hibiscus

This plant is from the upper North Island. It grows in wetlands and enjoys growing in clumps. It's height is up to two metres, tall and thin like a hollyhock. When in flower it has large creamy yellow single flowers. At Waikanae in 2023, it was seen growing in a garden within a circlet of low growing native hebe and grasses and looked stunning. The gardener saved us some seed.

Gifter: Claire from Waikanae.


Kowhai – Sophora mycrophilla

Small fine leaves with bright yellow flowers in spring full of nector, which attract the tui and bellbird. A great garden specimen which grows up to 10 metres tall.

Olearia cheesemanii - streamside tree daisy

LIkes water. Pretty white daisy flowers. Planted in several parts of the garden which receive water run-off, to see where it is most happy. 

Supplier: Talisman Nursery, Otaki.
Planted: 6 x planted in 2023.  Two were pulled out and removed by someone the next day. 


Poroporo  Solanum laciniatum

The berries, which are drupes the size of an oval plum, are poison if eaten when yellow and unripe. In the early days, settlers made jam out of the ripe orange berries. Good bird food. Pretty mauve flowers. The leaves are poison to animals and we keep this plant away from the horse paddock fence-line.

Puawānanga - Clematis paniculata white

Vine with glistening white flowers. Frost hardy. The Te Ara on-line Encyclopedia informs us that Puawānanga is said to be the child of the stars Puanga (Rigel in Orion) and Rehua (Antares in Scorpio).

Gifter: Lorna Webb, in memory of Dave Cathro.
Planted: 2021. Fernery.

Hardy native plants for shelter

We selected these shelter plants for their mid-height, their fine leaves which filter sunlight, and their hardiness in the wind. They provide a filtered screen to neighbouring properties and provide light, not dense, shade. The first manuka went on the native plant mound on the west of the flower bank in 2017. This was followed by cabbage trees over the eastern side of the garden fence on the stream bank in 2018 and the main planting along Twiglands fenceline and on the eastern edge of the lawn took place in 2019.

Akiraho – Olearia paniculata

This is a shrub to small tree growing up to 6 metres tall. Tough hardy plant in wind and dry banks. It has pretty crinkly leaves, lime yellow on the top and silvery on the underside.

Olearia polita

Grows naturally in North West Nelson, near Wangapeka and at Glenhope. The NZ Plant Conservation network informs us that it "Does best in semi-shade (it is an attractive shrub to plant under taller trees, particularly deciduous species) in a moist, fertile soil. The small flowers are sweetly scented, particularly at night." Flowers October - November and fruits November to January.

Gifter: Claire of Waikanae.
Planted: 2023. 

Olearia solandrii – Coastal tree daisy

Shrub with tiny little leaves with white flowers. Grows to about 4 metres. Good fast grower and wind tolerant.

Houhere   Lacebark

There are three different types of lacebark houhere. This is a great tree for the garden, with lacy like leaves and masses of sweet scented white flowers smothering it all summer. Attracts bees, butterflies and is a host to the native puriri grub, which transforms into New Zealand's largest moth. In the old days, the lacy bark was used to decorate ladies hats!

Kanuka – Kunzea ericodes

Hardy tree growing up to 15 metres tall. Withstands wind, frost and relative dry. We used this for height, with lower growing manuka and rangiora beneath.

Kohuhu   Pittisporum tenufolium- Black matipo - Tawhiwhi - 

Grows up to 8 metres tall. Has pale green leaves which undulate (they curl, like a frill). The tiny flowers are a soft dark purple red to black with bright golden stamens. Scented foliage and a great greenery for flower arrangements.


Manuka – Leptosperum scoparium

Fast growing, frost hardy. Grows up to 4 metres tall. Masses of white flowers in summer, sprinkled all over. The insects that pollinate manuka are attractive to fantails and other insect eating birds. Bees love this plant from which manuka flavoured honey is derived. Great filler plant growing in damp areas and on dry banks.

MingiMingi - Muehlenbeckia astonii

Thi is a wonderful plant with a deep root system that helps it to survive in dry conditions. It can grow on open rocky hillsides and stony ground, and likes free-draining, warm, sunny slopes, on moderately- to highly-fertile soil. The tiny leaves are heart shaped. They fall in winter revealing bright orange interlaced twigs. 

The plants were supplied by Moore's Valley nursery in 2020, with additional plants by the carpark supplied by Wellington City Council in 2022.

Host plant to New Zealand's copper butterfly.

Ramarama   Lophomyrtus bullata

Small shrub or tree growing up to 5 metres tall. Has wonderful shiny bright crinkly leaves in rich crimson and green colours. We use this plant for its resilience and to bring colour to the garden.

The plants were supplied by Berhampore Nursery in 2019.

Rangiora   Brachyglottis repanda

This medium sized shrub has large soft leaves the size of one’s hand. The silvery grey underside of the leaf was used to write on by early settlers wanting to send messages to each other. Rangiora grows well in Glenside, with cream yellow sprays of tiny flowers from late winter to mid-spring. Great for clay banks.

Rangiora was first planted in the garden on the flower bank by Lorna Webb in 2019.

Low flowering plants


Ngutukākā  Cliantus maximus   Kaka beak

Has a bright red flower similar to a kaka bird's beak. Grows up to two metres high. A great shrub for the garden. Not native to our locality, however favoured by early gardeners as a speciman plant for its beauty and novelty. There is another type called clianthus puniceus, which is smaller and a lighter red. Very few plants are growing in natural conditions in the wild.

The seed for our plant was originally harvested years ago by botanist Olaf John and donated to the Otari Native Botanic Garden. Olaf planted this descendant in the photograph above, at the Halfway House in 2018. He lived in the house from 1954-1956. Kaka grown from our tree seed by the Community Garden at Jay Street, were planted along the stream bank and west end of the garden in 2021.

White kaka beak 

Ngutukākā   Clianthus puniceus albus    Kaka beak

The last known natural habitat of the white kaka beak is the Tiniroto cliffs near Wairoa, where they had not been seen in the wild since the 1950s. According to the Endangered Species website, the white-flowered kakabeak was saved from extinction when a jar of seed left
in a gardener’s shed was discovered to contain kaka beak seed, which on being grown turned out to be the 'lost' white-flowered form. In 2015, 100 white kaka beak, raised by the Crown Research Institute, Scion, were returned to Te Reinga, in the Wairoa area.

Our plants were gifted by Olaf John, in 2018. Olaf lived in the Halfway House from 1954-1956.

Purangi - Hibiscus diversifolius

Shrubby type plant that grows up to nine feet tall. Found beside streams and wetlands and in coastal habitat. Often found growing with Raupo. Purple centered white flowers. Susectible to frost. Flowers from spring to end of summer.

Seeds gifted by Claire of Waikanae.
Planted 2024.

 Native hibiscus

Purangi   Hibiscus trionum

There are three hibiscus growing wild in New Zealand. Two are considered true natives, Hibiscus richardsonii and Hibiscus diversifolius. Hibiscus trionum has been in the country for such a long time it is considered a native however more recently it is believed to be a true native of Africa. It has a very pretty cottage garden style of flower.

Lorna Webb first raised these plants from seed she planted in the garden in 2019.

Rengarenga   Arthropodium cirratum   Rengarenga lily

This is a strappy leaved plant good for growing in dry shady places under trees and shrubs. It is a "plant me instead" alternative to the invasive introduced agapanthus plant. The rengarenga has spires of beautiful white flowers. 

These were first planted at the Halfway House in 2016.

Driveway avenue

Totara   Podocarpus totara

Nine totara were planted along the driveway in 2018. Totara was chosen for its longevity, height, wind resilience, and shelter. The totara closest to the carpark was driven over by a visitor by accident and a replacement was planted in 2019 by park ranger Denise Clements. Totara was the predominant tree in the area before the bush was felled. The ridgeline, where the road goes from Johnsonville into Ohariu, is marked on early maps as Totara Ridge.