Swap seeds at your library this spring – The Great Library Seed Swap

It’s nearly Spring (yay) and to celebrate the season of growing and greenery, we are hosting seed swaps. Bring in your leftover seeds to Lyttelton, Spreydon, South, Hornby or Akaroa Library and we’ll put them out to share.


We welcome vegetable, herb, flower, native, and heritage seeds. You can bring any spare potted-up seedlings. Seeds can be dropped in anytime before or during seed swap week. If you’re bringing in seedlings, please drop them off at the beginning of the week.

The Great Library Seed Swap at Lyttelton Library

Monday 4 September to Saturday 9 September
Find out more.

The Great Library Seed Swap at Spreydon Library

Saturday 9 September 10am to 1pm
Find out more.

While swapping seeds check out Gardening for Everyone & Anyone – Food Resiliency in Urban Environments, 10.30am to 11.30am

The Great Library Seed Swap at Hornby Library

Saturday 9 September 10am to 12pm and Monday 11 September 2pm to 5pm
Find out more.

The Great Library Seed Swap at South Library

Saturday 9 September 10.30am to 1pm; Sunday 10 September 10.30am to 1pm
Find out more.

The Great Library Seed Swap at Akaroa Library

Monday 11 September to Saturday 16 September
Find out more.

There ares plenty more green-fingered resources at your libraries. Take a look at our page about gardens and gardening and explore the books, magazines, and eMagazines in our collection.

Abuzz about bees

September is Bee Aware Month, an initiative from the National Beekeepers’ Association that aims to educate us on the importance of bees to our livelihood, environment and economy.

Cover of Bees in the cityTwo thirds of the food that we eat is pollinated by bees so without them we will be in trouble. As September is the beginning of Spring it’s a great time to plan what you’ll be doing in with your garden over the warmer months. This year’s theme is “feed the bees” so now would be a great time for gardeners to consider adding “bee-friendly” plants to their property, if not an actual hive.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that if you live centrally there’s not much point in having plants that bees like. There are “urban bees” in Christchurch (and most cities). For instance, did you know there’s a hive on the roof of C1 espresso? Honey bees can travel several kilometres to find nectar producing flowers so even if there are no hives on your block, your potted lavender may still be visited by a bee (or several).

Cover of Backyard beesIf you’re keen, to either make your garden a bee-haven or maybe get a hive yourself, or even just rent one, you might want to have a look at –

Refresh your spirit, feed your soul

After the summer’s trials of cool weather and lack of rain, my tomatoes are still not ripe and I have had to rescue the wilting hydrangeas on more than one occasion. So where else after this indifferent summer in the garden should I go but to the delights of the Ellerslie Flower Show to refresh my spirit.

Cover of the Ornamental Edible GardenNow is the time to remind ourselves that gardening is not all work and no play, but rather a chance to create a place for our own enjoyment. As the summer draws closer to its end we can sit back and take time to enjoy the spoils of our labour.

All that work weeding, staking and deadheading is to create a place of beauty where we can take time to rest and recuperate at the end of a busy week. The Ellerslie garden designers have created plenty of those places that make the spirit soar and imagination take flight.

Every small patch of ground can become an urban utopia for your sensual delight and a little knowledge can go a long way, so I have taken to browsing the library shelves for inspiration for my own little plot. Could my vegetable and herb garden be a visual delight like the potager at the Curator’s House in the Botanic Gardens?

Or my deck showcase hypertufa pots decorated with rescued broken china? Ideas for creative planters, pots and bird baths abound in the landscaping and DIY sections of the library, and give you the practical nous to fulfill your dreams of what might be. Never mind that my herb garden has already had two attempts at redevelopment and the ingredients for hypertufa have been languishing in the garage for several years!

I have found more inspiration in our Zinio online gardening magazines.

Cover of Gardening AustraliaCover of Homes & GardensCover of The Kitchen Garden

Do you have any garden projects planned this autumn? What projects are languishing in your garden shed? Have you tried Zinio magazines yet?

Find out more about the Ellerslie Flower Show and garden resources here and view our flickr photos of previous Ellerslie shows.

Bligh’s Gardens

photoRichard Greenaway is an expert on the local history of Christchurch. Some of you might have been on one of his fascinating cemetery tours. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories. This one concerns Bligh’s Gardens which operated in New Brighton from the 1880s.

Bligh’s Gardens were established at an area on the Avon below Withell’s Island and on Evans Avenue. They were established as pleasure grounds by John Bligh (1838-96). John was a cook, restaurant owner and temperance hotel keeper. His hotel was near the Salvation Army citadel site in town. He also owned a large property at Blighs Road. When he decided to create the gardens, he brought plants and soil down the Avon in small craft. More detail of John’s enterprises can be read in the story of his hardworking wife Susannah an unsung heroine whose life was recorded by Richard.

Conifers were planted, garden walks laid out, a playing field formed, and house erected. Sailing clubs, families and business groups picnicked at Bligh’s Gardens, while conservationists enthused about how John had made the desert ‘blossom as the rose’.

Susannah was briefly involved in John’s apparent success. In 1885 picnic parties were encouraged to camp at Bligh’s Gardens where ‘Mr Bligh’s family will hospitably provide hot water &c’.

John Bligh had the picnic grounds in 1880s-90s but they were not a financial success. Later owners included the Suckling and Straw families. The land was broken up 1923. A remnant of land, still referred to as Bligh’s Gardens, was in the news last year as the site of the removal of 60 earthquake damaged trees.

NZ truth described John Bligh and his activities.

But it was at Bligh’s genteel boarding house that the corner house and adjoining premises passed through their roaring days. Jack Bligh was an American and one of the best cooks that ever put a pie in an oven; also his first missus was a splendid business manager, a circumstance that had a marked influence on the Bligh fortunes which rose as the years fluttered past.

The reign of the Blighs must have been somewhere between 1862 and ’84 and the name was a household word throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand …. It was the ideal hash house … and was the resort of honeymoon couples for whose convenience special bridal chambers were provided ….

… Poor old Bligh speculated not wisely and with disaster. He bought a fine property at Papanui and Blighs Road perpetuates his memory in that district …. A magnificent scheme of gardens at  New Brighton cost him upwards of three thousand pounds. He even carted soil from the city to make these handsome grounds and the venture about settled him financially. [The second] Mrs. Bligh struggled along after her husband’s failure and death but evil times fell upon her and she … left the historic buildings.

Church register transcript material on the Blighs:

This traces the sad history of John and Laetitia’s children.

Bligh, Susannah Letitia, b 18 March 1871, baptised 18 May 1871, daughter of John, cook, and Susannah nee Owens of St. Luke’s; the parents were the godparents. The Rev. E. A. Lingard of St. Luke’s Anglican church, officiated.

Susannah Laetitia Bligh, 10 months, daughter of John, cook, and Susannah Bligh of St. Luke’s, Christchurch, buried 1 February 1872 in the Anglican section of the Barbadoes Street Cemetery. The Rev. Edward Atherton Lingard officiated.

Theodore Rupert Bligh, born 17 August 1873, baptised 26 December 1873, son of John, lodging-house keeper, and Susannah nee Owens of Whately Road. The Rev. Edward Atherton Lingard officiated. Child died.

Theodore Rupert Bligh, 10 weeks, son of John, restaurant keeper, and Susanna Bligh of Whately Road, buried 6 January 1874 in the Anglican section of the Barbadoes Street Cemetery. The Rev. Edward Atherton Lingard officiated.

Susanna Bligh, 41, residence New Brighton, wife of John Bligh, was buried on 9 February 1888 at All Saints’ churchyard, Burwood.

Bligh, John, 45, widower, gentleman, b Liverpool, residence New Brighton, usual residence New Brighton, son of John, farmer, and Julia nee Donley married 23 May 1888, Holy Trinity, Avonside

Williamson, Kate, 25, spinster, – , b Shetland, residence Christchurch, usual residence – , daughter of John, farmer, and Andriana nee Williamson; witnesses, John Williamson, Olliviers Road, Linwood, farmer; Mary E. Williamson. The Rev. W. A. Pascoe officiated.

Louisa Mary Bligh, b 10 October 1893, baptised 3 December 1893, daughter of John, restaurant keeper, and Kate nee Williamson of Victoria Street. The parents, Florrie Bligh and Mary L. Pursey were the godparents. The Rev. Edward Atherton Lingard officiated at St. Luke’s.

John Bligh, 58, boarding house proprietor, residence Christchurch, was buried on 27 December 1896 at All Saints’ churchyard, Burwood.


The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies.

Secrets, families and lots of weeding

I have  a secret fondness for books about old houses, or old gardens. Show me a wreck of a house, or a lost garden, and I am in booky heaven.  I don’t mind if the book is fiction or non-fiction, real or made up, even what happens in it – horror, history, DIY restoration, even romance, as long as the place itself has been lost in some way, and then found in some way.  Sarah Rayne and FG Cottam’s haunted house books are great for this, as is anything about the Lost Gardens at Heligan (SO on my list of places to visit when I finally get to do a geriatric version of the Big O.E.).

I think this is how I stumbled across Kate Morton – just the title The Forgotten Garden was enough to make me lunge at it across the shelves.  Now I have to confess here that normally I wouldn’t give those great big chunky sagas a second look, but with the promise of hidden gardens, old abandoned houses and mysterious family secrets I thought I could step outside the zone and try something new.  Although when I say ‘new’, what I really mean is ‘not new’ – The Forgotten Garden was published in 2009, but I only found it recently.  I’m guessing this is because Morton’s books are so popular – her most recent title The Secret Keeper has a lot of holds on it, so obviously you guys rate her pretty highly.

The Forgotten Garden turned out to be a great read – well-written, well-researched and grounded in real, close-to-home history, and with really appealing characters.  I loved the bits about the garden and the house, with all its mysteries and family secrets, and even surprised myself by enjoying the whole ‘sweeping saga’ thing.  Now I’m thinking I might give The Secret Keeper a go too.  I know there’s a waiting list, but since it’s the holidays I might even spoil myself and pick up a best-seller copy – for the price of a (large) coffee, I can take a best-seller home, with all the usual benefits of best-sellers: they’re shiny, they’re always available even when there’s a long waiting list for regular copies, and best of all, you can say to your family, “No, I’m sorry, I CAN’T do the housework, I have to get this book finished by the end of the week.”

Sounds like a pretty good holiday plan to me.

PS. Can anyone recommend any other books about lost gardens or abandoned houses?  Or even write me one, quickly?  I’m running out of things to read here …

Living a shady life

CoverWhen you think gardens, you think often of sunny, light bathed areas, filled with bright flowers, all the colours of the rainbow.

My garden does have these spots, but the vast majority of it is shady, and over the years in this house I’ve struggled to figure out how to bring colour into a shady garden.

Of course the library was the first place I headed. There must be plants who love the shade but also love showing off their colourful flowers or variegated leaves.

This book caught my eye, Success with Shade Loving Plants – success was what I wanted! Then, browsing the catalogue, I spotted this title and thought, ” this is a must”. Making the Most of Shade had an intriguing subtitle, ‘Growing a Fabulous Garden that Lightens up the Shadows’. I also checked out 200 tips for Gardening in the Shade , The Shady Border and I had a wee poke around an online library gardening resource via The Source , called Gardening, Landscape and Horticulture.

Until I started looking I didn’t realise there were so many books and other resources about shady gardens out there.

I felt I was really onto something now. So armed with new found knowledge, I’m planning a few changes, plotting through the colder months but nothing radical, just trying to inject some colour and interest, so that come spring and summer, the garden will be transformed into a place where it looks like someone cares.

Here’s hoping. I’m also going to try an idea I’ve had of growing sun-loving plants in pots, then moving them about into shady spots for a week or two, then back to the sun, just to see what happens.

Do you have favourite plants, garden styles, colours you love in your garden, or maybe plant combinations? Do share!

Bursting out all over town

The day of writing this post we certainly had a burst of water. A good drop of rain in February makes gardeners smile (except perhaps those who dragged the hose round the garden the night before!). So Burst! of water is a great name for the 22nd annual Festival of Flowers which has just begun.photo of flower

The festival includes old favourites like the floral carpet in the cathedral, a panel discussion and exhibition on the importance of water, garden tours and events like the Edmonds Factory Garden Party. The full programme is here

Cathedral Square is one of the focal points for the festival and includes a charming topiary baby elephant. Bring the kids along for a photo op.

There’s a free outdoor screening of Water Whisperers Tangaroa by Christchurch based documentary maker Kathleen Gallagher. Her previous works included EarthWhisperers, Healing Journeys and Breath of Peace.

Secret Gardens

Isn’t it a pleasure when you come across a previously unknown public garden around the city. At the end of last summerphoto of a bee I visited the lovely rose garden just off Beverley Park in Richmond. At this peak time for roses I must revisit it. Another “hidden” garden I enjoy is Millbrook Reserve beside the Avon just off Rossall Street. Some of these places are well known but others are known only to locals or intrepid explorers of the city.

We mention some gardens to visit on our website but the little parks don’t feature. The Christchurch City Council has a no doubt comprehensive but rather soulless Parks A to Z.  So help me out here folks – share one of your local treasures.

Bellbirds in the winter garden

"Wonders of the winter landscape" Book coverWinter garden are beautiful with the stark contrast of twig and berry. I am enjoying the bellbirds, fantails and wax eyes visiting my garden seeking out winter flowering shrubs. 

As the cloud level comes down and the weather cools, native birds arrive to take their luck in domestic gardens. If you’re lucky enough to have a neighbour with large trees or you have nectar rich flowering shrubs in your garden you may have had a visit. The liquid sound of bellbirds singing in Christchurch gardens is on the increase. Have you had any visit your garden? 

Investigate these books on: 

  • Attracting birds to your garden.
  • Winter gardening
  • Plants in winter
  • If you haven’t had any bellbirds visit you could take advantage of the wet ground and plant a tree or shrub with the family. Take a visit to your nearest garden centre and get the children to select their own to plant, break out the gumboots and spades and spend the weekend planting. It’s a great way to get everyone outside enjoying the garden and connecting with nature. The kids will remember the time they planted their tree or shrub and you can compare how much they’ve both grown in years to come. 

    Explore our Library Website: 

  • Sustainable living
  • Loving winter
  • Gardening
  • Autumn Gardening
  • Winter Gardening from Richard Poole 

    Mrs Beswick planting a Coronation oak in the Christchurch Domain [22 June 1911]Got a pocket sized garden? Then take advantage of Council planting programmes and connect with your local community. It is surprising how many hands make light work big planting schemes, you’ll see the rewards of your labors quicker than you think. A few years is all it has taken to make a change from paddock to park at the Halswell Quarry. 

    Christchurch has a proud tradition of public planting days we first celebrated Arbor Day on 4 August 1892. Augustus Florance waxed lyrical and advised on how Arbor Day might be even more successfully observed in the future. 

    Christchurch City Council Links: 

  • Arbor Day
  • Year of Biodiversity
  • Volunteer events including clean-ups and tree plantings.
  • Popular Parks
  • I remember my children as they got their hands dirty and planted shrubs having enormous fun and enjoying a sausage to celebrate their achievement afterward. Have you ever attended a planting day?

    I went to The Garden Show and all I got was this ninja garden tool

    I’m just resting my feet after a pretty full day at the Ellerslie International Flower Show . If you are planning to go I can say that it seemed to be pretty relaxed, no major queues and lots of effort into keeping people happy – places to sit, places to eat, lots of shade – as well of course as the offerings on show.

    It is my first time at Ellerslie so I can’t compare it to last year but I did like the Sculpture Garden which meanders under the pine trees by Victoria and Albert Lakes and includes statues in the lake itself. Of the garden displays I saw, I really enjoyed the modern efforts such as The last laugh by Andy Ellis and Danny Kamo and Finding Solace in the Sky by Cameron McLean, Desmond Stock and Gareth Ford. The last laugh has been awarded Gold and Finding Solace Silver.

    Nature and sustainability were to the fore in many displays. Sustainability with Style from Soil and Health Canterbury and The Good Gardeners Association caught my eye. The Student Designers section was a delight with the winner being The Labyrinth by Katie Hilford.

    In my experience, garden shows are good for buying plants and tools and accessories that you find yourself persuaded to buy by spruiking salespersons – the ratchet loppers and pruners are a classic example. The best thing I ever got was a Japanese gardening tool that looks like something out of a Ninja’s arsenal. I still have it and it is invaluable for weeding and planting. This time I’m ashamed to say no gardening gizmos but fudge and cheap merino gear!

    Other things I really liked were Craig Pocock’s 0800 POOL HIRE garden using dumpsters and mini skips, Bush Telly, Carl Pickens, Te Waipounamu Garden and City Self sufficiency with Lynda Hallinan.

    Around town shops have been decorating their windows. I love the window display at Smiths Bookshop in New Regent Street.

    Once the excitement is over there is time to go back to our libraries at your leisure and explore our wonderful gardening resources which will surely feed your inspiration. Books, DVDs and magazines on landscaping, growing, using and visiting gardens to delight.  Associated with Ellerslie is a programme of garden tours. If you can’t make the tours you can still savour many famous gardens through our library resources

    Bargain hunters should turn up to the big plant sell off on Sunday at the end of the show.

    Are you going to Ellerslie this year – do you have any particular displays you are keen to see?