One of our later trips was to the southernmost points of the North Island (in and around Palliser Bay), via Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa. On our way through, we stayed with Bruce Martin, a Hawkes Bay potter with whom I struck up a friendship several years ago whilst working nearby, at Te Mata Peak. The house that Bruce and his late wife, Estelle, built at the end of the 1960s has come in for a lot of attention in recent years, as one of the finest examples of early modernist architecture in New Zealand.
However, a good deal of the discussions that Bruce and I have had surround plants, as the large garden (which has a park-like quality to it) also reflects the careful consideration that Bruce and Estelle extended to their pottery and their house and studio. Subtle pond margin plantings of Japanese grasses and irises meld beautifully with the understated feel of the property, whilst many interesting species (that would have been particularly uncommon at the time of their planting) occur throughout the different areas of the garden, including Sophora longicarinata, Podocarpus waihoensis, a magnificent, perfectly symmetrical specimen of Hoheria sexstylosa and one of the most challenging of our native plants to successfully cultivate in the lowlands, Cordyline indivisa (or mountain cabbage tree, which has started coming away from its base since its main stem died off in the last couple of years).
Staying overnight with Bruce on our way through was one of the highlights of all of our travels; having fish and chips with wine for dinner, and talking to Bruce about the nature of what we were undertaking, amongst many other subjects. As an architectural photographer, it was a wonderful experience for David to absorb the house, which reinforces a notion that has thankfully gained some ground within the media at present - namely, that we should be looking into beautifully conceived small houses, and consider how much space really is necessary for living. And almost inevitably, temptation took hold, and it became an opportunity for me to add to my collection of Bruce and Estelle’s pottery.