A Lost Paradise hidden in Pukekura Park

By Ilona Hanne

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A Lost Paradise hidden in Pukekura Park

Landscape designer Michael Mansvelt has transformed a part of Pukekura Park into a Lost Paradise.

Michael, from Plantation Design House in New Plymouth, has used bird cages, orchids, love seats and a whole lot more, to create this year's "immersive and fantastical" landscape design project for the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular.

Lost Paradise takes its inspiration from the 1998 film adaptation of the Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations, Michael says.

In this movie, the protagonist Pip, played by Ethan Hawke, is occasionally sent to visit Miss Havisham, an eccentric who lives in an unkempt mansion, and is always dressed in a decrepit bridal trousseau.

As Hawke walks through her neglected garden, the entire wedding banquet is still set up all these years later, entangled with overgrowth.

"The inspiration is that a once paradisiacal garden that was cared for, and nurtured, has now been ignored, yet the beauty of what the garden has become shows its own transformation into its own paradise," he says.

"The question I find myself asking in regards to nature's beauty is if paradise really does get lost."

During the annual festival, Lost Paradise can be visited for free in the Totara Dell of Pukekura Park, behind the TSB Stadium.

The towering totara tops are laden with phalaenopsis and cymbidium orchids and with fragrant, colourful plants around the seating areas, and tui feeders have been placed throughout the installation.

"Lost Paradise has been designed to involve all the senses and be a visual explosion that leads the eye into areas of the dell you might not expect to ponder on. My muse is the New Zealand rainforest and the aroma of the New Zealand native bush, which is one of the most comforting scents of my world."

Supported by the TSB Community Trust, the landscape design project, expresses the idea of fantasy and time, exploring the beauty of the untamed and the untouched.

"As a gardener and designer, I'm particularly inspired by the concept of time, and how nature reveals itself as it ages. It's the beauty that can be found in lichens and moss that cover age old stone walls, or the magic of discovering a long lost garden."

The totara trees in the dell already hold epiphytes, which have been there for a long time and that's a story Michael would like to enhance "because Taranaki was a rainforest". "For us who live in Taranaki through the seasons, we are very lucky to experience Taranaki as paradise."

The landscape designer, who has starred in television gardening shows Back to Basics and Mucking In, would love to see all New Plymouth covered in plants, including the walls of Centre City dripping with vines.

"I would love it if visitors to Lost Paradise were to walk away and be inspired to plant and hang and cover every square inch of garden space, and watch as it takes over to create its own paradise."

Lost Paradise is launched on October 27 at 5.30pm and will be open daily during the garden festival, from October 28 to November 6.

For more information visit www.gardenfestnz.co.nz

- Stratford Press

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