For decades Christchurch has been known internationally as ‘The Garden City’ but it appears that this is now being seriously questioned.   How can each one of us make a difference?

Whilst at my local Mitre10 Megastore I noticed that my Monarch Butterfly books were placed next to the Christchurch Press. Feeling proud, I took a random photo of my books on the stand and didn’t notice the headline on the front of The Press newspaper until a few days later. The headline from May 4th 2017 hit me deeply – “Are we no longer the garden city”?  I started to think about the lack of flowers around and the general lack of beauty, unkempt parks, and rubbish on the streets around my city.

I have lived in Christchurch for over 14 years and, whilst walking my dog in a variety of parks and streets, I have seen a decline in many of them. Overgrown grass and weeds in parks and street verges, plus emptied bins in the parks, make our city look uncared for. This gives the appearance that, as citizens, we have lost our sense of pride for our city and no longer care.  We can no longer blame the earthquakes. We are still all paying our rates, which go to the basic needs of looking after our parks and city.  It’s up to us to move forward and keep Christchurch colourful and beautiful. I have seen dumping around empty sections and on pavements which make areas look run down. I feel ashamed to see this happening.

On family walks around Burwood Forest, the Port Hills and other natural areas, my husband always picks up the odd fizzy can or crisp packet and continues his walk with the dirty rubbish in his pockets. From a small age, our children always asked why he was doing this. They have now followed his lead. He would explain how people don’t care and drop litter, and it’s not correct to leave rubbish in nature or on our streets. I know it’s only a little amount that we pick up but imagine if everyone picked up a handful of rubbish on their weekend or daily walks, on the beach or up in the hills? How clean and beautiful our parks would be!!  Even when we walk to school my children pick up bottles and take away containers, and we put them under the buggy until we get home to throw them in our bins. Even better if it’s bin day in our street, so we can throw them straight in the bin! This is something that we don’t have to remind them to do, our children just care and pick up the rubbish on the spot as they walk.  It’s disgusting, lazy and ignorant that people in cars, park up, eat their takeaway food and throw their rubbish out the window.

Standards and levels of service are not being met, such as maintenance of roads, footpaths, parks and green spaces. Christchurch must look a lot better than it does currently if it wants to keep its Garden City label, Mayor Lianne Dalziel says.

How can we improve the look of our city?

I have noticed that where once there were colourful gardens to feed birds, butterflies and bees, low maintenance gardens with non-flowering natives have popped up instead.  As a result, the bee, bird and butterfly numbers have declined. They are needed to pollinate our plants for food.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we tried to spend an hour or two each week in our gardens? You could just sit back and smell the roses literally; it’s so grounding for human beings to get into their garden.  You can instantly lose track of time, and you reap the rewards from being outside as you chip away weeding and planting surrounding yourself in nature. Make a point during the weekends to buy a punnet of flowers, from a garden centre, school fete, or plant sale and plant these flowers in your garden with your children and explain why you are doing this. We need to feed the butterflies and bees as we need these insects around for future generations. Without flowers around our environment, there will be no more bees and butterflies. Having spoken to friends who work in the garden centre’ they tell me it’s the mainly middle-aged and older generation that mainly buy flowers, this is sad to hear.  I would like to point out and talk about how important it is to have nectar flowers in the city for the pollinators bees and butterflies which are declining worryingly.

If you take a drive around the Red Zone area you will see mainly grass where flowering gardens used to be. There are now very few flowering plants. I’m not talking solely about winter, there are not many in the summer either. There are a few existing fruit trees and hedges remaining there, but the flowers have gone. To increase our bee and butterfly numbers these areas need nectar flowers in these large vast empty spaces that have been just left. The impact of this is there is NOW a large decline in butterflies and bees around in the Eastern Suburbs and this is something a few small groups and myself will help change in the near future. Already 2,500 flowering bulbs have been planted by local school children and volunteers that will blossom this coming Spring in Rawhiti Domain in New Brighton. Christchurch is also home to all the beautiful blossom trees the whole way down Harper Ave in the central city and for years I’ve seen tour buses stop and tourist take photos of the pink blossoms. It’s so great to see, but there needs to be so much more.  If you haven’t got a large garden or renting your house you can still make a difference, you can have a couple of hanging baskets or have a few flower pots with flowers in your entrance area to attract bees and butterflies and a form of food source for them.

Litter our parks with flowers not rubbish

Ideal nectar flowers to plant or purchase to help the butterflies and bees, which are the important pollinators in our world, are ones that are easy to care for and long-lasting, plus they are very pretty.

  • Dahlias
  • Sunflowers
  • Echinaceas
  • Rudbeckias
  • Azaleas
  • Verbena
  • Nasturtiums
  • Tithonia diversifolia
  • Zinnias
  • Cosmos
  • Chrysanthemum

As well as these nectar flowers, people can plant flowering herbs in pots such as sage, rosemary and thyme which bees love and so will your cooking. There have also been exciting news in The Press this year. Christchurch’s floral hub may be given a new lease of life with a major revamp planned for the city’s Botanic Gardens, but in these plans “A broad design plan includes adding more native plants and installing a new bridge between the visitor centre and cark park”. No mention of a new area full of flowers specifically for bees and butterflies.

Come on, Christchurch people! Prove me wrong and show how we can all help by making our back gardens and parks pretty again, and by this, you will be creating colour and joy in your life for yourself, others and wildlife that share our earth and ensure our food source for the future.

Watch the change & share the buzz, let all get “beeeeee-hind” the garden city.

#provemewrong #savetogether #keepthestreetsclean #projectswanplant4000

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