When you read the word Paloma, it may make you think of its many meanings. Spanish for dove, the name of a beautiful woman, Paloma Picasso, and of course a spiky, salty, tangy tequila based Spanish cocktail served on the rocks.
Well, a wander around Paloma Gardens is actually a bit like all of these meanings. It is exotic and intriguing, spiky and tangy, beautiful and alluring. It is peaceful like the symbol of a dove, artistic and colourful like the works of Picasso and definitely lively like the cocktail! When you’ve finished walking around, you’ll feel like you’ve been tripping on a bit too much alcohol….in a good way.
For many years, Paloma Gardens has been been awarded ‘ a garden of national significance’ by the NZ Garden Trust. It is not surprising because there’s something truly spectacular about the textures, the layers, the expansive pathways, the abundance of different trees and plants chosen. This garden is full of surprises and playfully planted to encourage further wandering.
There are many rare and unusual trees from all around the globe. It is remarkable to have a garden that looks like it should be in the tropics, the deserts of the Americas or the Mediterranean, and yet it’s nestled inamongst hill farm country of Whanganui.
Clive and Nikki Higgie have been developing this spectacle for over 30 years. The Palm Garden was established in 1982 and has over 130 palm species. You will also find cycads, cacti, succulents, orchids, clivias, bromeliads, agave, yucca, bamboo, and sculptures that sit handsomely amongst their backdrop.
Sculptures by Steuart Welch, Clive Higgie and Peter Burrell.
I enjoyed being shown by Clive, this collection of New Zealand pottery that he and Nikki have mounted on especially made plinths.
Since 2011 there have been over 14,500 visitors through Paloma. I have been several times over the years and see new things each time. At $10 a visit, it is a cheap afternoon’ s activity and I would definitely recommend a visit.
You can find Paloma Gardens on Pohutukawa Road, only 20k’s drive from Whanganui, on the 3 Valley Heritage Trail. The route is a very picturesque drive through farmland. Hopefully, you will meet Clive and Nikki. But if not, you will surely see signs of Clive’s sense of humour!
You may not see Paloma doves but hopefully you see this colourful resident.