Greater Wellington residents are offered help to transform their back yards into havens for native wildlife during Conservation Week (August 6 - 12). They’ll receive a free native plant for their garden in exchange for a weed at a weed swap.
It coincides with the New Dowse exhibition Of Gorse Of Course - which explores New Zealand’s love-hate relationship with the weed gorse and features sculptures, scent, wine and paper made from gorse wood, flowers and fibre by Wellington sculptor Regan Gentry.
The weed swap is targeting more invasive garden weed varieties, including periwinkle, wandering willie, artillery plant, Mexican daisy, cape ivy, and elderberry, which can be swapped for such eco-sourced native alternatives as tarata, manuka, koromiko, taupata, flax, broadleaf and renga renga (rock lily). There’ll be 1000 native plants on offer to people looking to transform their gardens - 750 donated by Hutt City Council and 250 from DOC.
DOC botanist John Sawyer says using plants native to the region can help to buffer existing reserves and create habitats and food sources for native animals. Native berries attract native birds and lizards, and densely-tangled plants provide shelter for lizards and invertebrates.
Kiwi Plants Ltd, and California Home and Garden have donated spot prizes. The multi-agency book Plant Me Instead will be on sale, offering gardeners environmentally-friendly alternatives to invasive plants in the lower North Island.
Participants will be able to enter a ‘before and after photo competition’. By taking a photo of their garden before and after they plant their native plant and sending it to DOC they can go into a draw to win a gardening prize pack.
As well as helping to maintain and restore local biodiversity, the weed swap highlights the wealth of healthy, fun, outdoor activities close at hand for New Zealanders - the theme of this year’s Conservation Week with its slogan: Another world. Just down the road.
“Gardening is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, keep fit, and reduce stress levels,” says John Sawyer. “And replacing weeds and potential weeds with native plants in your garden also creates a healthy environment.”
Around 300 plant species are now considered serious environmental weeds and 75 percent of them originated as garden escapes or have been dumped in parks and waterways, says John Sawyer. “Garden weeds have the potential to replace native species in the wild. This jeopardises our indigenous wildlife and has a detrimental impact on our recreational opportunities.”
The event follows successful weed swaps held in Wellington and the Hutt cities during Conservation Week last year, and at the launch of Plant me instead in Wellington in November 2005. Around 2000 native plants were exchanged for such weeds as Veldt grass, turnip weed, wandering willie, Japanese honeysuckle, blackberry, agapanthus, black nightshade, buddleia, and cape ivy. And a new site was uncovered of the aggressive weed Madeira vine, a tropical South American perennial creeper that poses a serious threat to our native vegetation.
To avoid mistaken identification, photographs of weeds growing in Wellington can be found in the book Plant me instead, and the following websites:
Greater Wellington Regional Council: www.gw.govt.nz
New Zealand Plant Conservation Network: www.nzpcn.org.nz
Information about outdoor recreation sites and activities can be found at visitor information centres and your local DOC office.Visit the DOC website to find out what’s happening in your area during Conservation Week, and be in to win great prizes: www.doc.govt.nz