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Orchid Valley

A gully once infested with wild ginger is now covered in native orchids, thanks to years of extensive work by landowner Patrick Maenulein.


Images - photos of orchid and Patrick

When we got this land it was mostly gorse, pampas and pines. Luckily I was much younger so we were not scared and just started. When you start, it is daunting, you have no idea what you are tackling. You need nearly five years to get reward.

The first reward is probably the birds. Here we don't even pay attention to the tūī. And then the kereru came and that was amazing but now they are common, too.

We bought these two hectares in 1999 and built in 2001. We have QE2 covenants on the slopes.

It’s changed so much! The height of the gorse! We got it down with a chainsaw. And we had to play with a landslide. It was a little bit crazy. I was 45 at the time and I was not really aware what I was doing, I just did it. I was down the cliff, planting. You have to have a combination of madness and passion.

You also need the time. It’s like a garden. You don't have an instant garden. It’s not an instant makeover. That doesn't exist with Mother Nature.

There was a place we didn’t discover immediately because the land is so steep. Then someone mentioned ginger. What ginger?

We just couldn’t believe it. We actually named this place Ginger Valley. It was a gully, completely covered. I knew it was a pest plant and doing nothing is doing something, it’s making it worse and worse. When you see that, it’s “I have to do something”. We had a pocket full of ginger that could spread over the whole area and invade the neighbours.

When you do this kind of thing you work in the shade. You don’t do it for the glory. You have a duty to do this thing. A lot of people doing nothing are not aware, don’t even know it is going to be a problem.

I bought some herbicide, at the time, specific for ginger, but you almost needed a helicopter for the job and I wasn’t going to poison the whole gully.

We bought a machete and with the help of a friend, who never came back, we slashed all that ginger and waited for the growth. We were able to spray the new leaves without spraying the whole gully. Minimum effect. But it takes a long time. After so many years of bulbs they are now starting to rot.

I just can’t believe the amount of native orchids on the ground there now. It was totally unexpected. We are in the process of renaming Ginger Valley to Orchid Valley. The amount of orchids is, like, it’s incredible. At first it was quite exceptional and now I don’t even know. Is it common? They are almost boring now.

Except I can see some woolly nightshade! Great! Some new stuff. Get rid of one pest and another comes in. It is good we got so many orchids.

Keeping on top of the pest plants, it’s an ongoing thing. Sometimes you see it as a job because you know you have to do it with some type of deadline like the season or weather, but one day you know you will love it and it will look good. I give to the land but the land gives to me as well. It’s like your legacy, you are leaving something behind. It’s a mixture of pleasure and sweat and pain but, at the end, if you do have to leave this place I will leave a part of me.

A lot of people who have a lifestyle block, they call it a life sentence, and it can be like that. Now, to go on the steep slopes with a knapsack is a bit challenging for me. I fell down and had a concussion for three months but I am OK now.

The Smallscale Community Fund through Waikato Regional Council gives a little bit of help. It helps to have a little bit of help. We got some funding for rat and possum traps to replace bait stations. We wanted something non-toxic.

It’s a very good incentive. It encourages people to start small and tackle what they want. Choose your worst enemy – the animal or the plant.

Image - photo of wild ginger.