August 2019 Memory Garden

Memory Garden2

Bush Dell, Howick

It has been over two years since I first chanced upon the beautiful bush dell in the Emilia Maude Nixon Garden of Memories in Howick, next to Uxbridge Arts & Culture. I was delighted to find mature native New Zealand trees and I met the current custodian Taini, who tends this garden. I was considering making an artwork using leaves from the bush area when I learnt of the surprisingly troubled history of the gardens. 

This winter I visited these gardens again and on a quiet day I found a few leaves in the bush and finally made the artwork I had thought about for so long. All the leaves are from endemic New Zealand species (including kahikatea, rimu and makomako), except for some gingko which had fallen from a tree in a neighbouring property and were scattered on the ground in front of the marae. Fortunately trees and plants pay no heed to human boundaries and disputes, they simply grow wherever the right combinations of seed, sunlight and soil are found. I’m often reminded in situations like this that art shouldn’t be rushed and sometimes ideas take a long time to bring to fruition, much like the seeds that lie dormant until the right conditions are present. 

It is up to all of us to nurture and protect areas of native bush and gardens such as these. They are special places that offer solace and respite from increasing urbanisation. In the face of climate change and environment destruction our role as custodians and guardians of the natural environment is more urgent and important than ever. 

(Please note: In my artwork I do not use foliage from any places where people spread or bury ashes. Apparently there are parts of the Emilia Maude Nixon gardens that are sometimes used for this. I avoided those areas, using a few leaves from some of the larger trees in the bush dell behind the memory garden and gingko from a neighbouring tree.) 

Memory Garden fir

Memory Grden detail

Bush Dell, Howick (detail)

Through winter I have also been making artworks using foliage from the Auckland Domain. The gingko and puriri painting below was made after a visit to the fabulous large gingko tree in the Auckland Domain as the last golden leaves fell. Gingko are a fascinating tree species of ancient lineage and the leaves are unusual and make beautiful nature prints.


Gingko and Puriri (detail)


Puriri tree and flowers (above)

Gingko tree

Gingko tree, Auckland Domain (above)

This winter I have reopened the Corokia Studio Felt shop with fine art prints available including the Lilac Garden artwork (detail below). Made with scented plants from the Sensory Garden in Auckland Domain, this artwork is devoted to the soothing and calming properties of fragrant plants and flowers.

Lilac Garden for FELT5

Scented plants also feature in my most recent painting entitled Fragrant Garden, nature printed with small and delicate plants including heather, white camellias, cotton lavender, geranium and small pink flowers from the Sensory Garden. Spring seems to be arriving in the plant world early here in New Zealand and that has had a big impact on my painting this month.

Fragrant Garden for FB


Spring for FELT5

Also available in the Corokia Felt shop is the Spring print (detail above) made with foliage from Orakei and the Blue Fern print (below).

Blue Fern for FELT3

Currently I have two original paintings for sale at Uxbridge in Howick, both made with native coastal plants. Please enquire to the staff at Malcolm Smith Gallery/Uxbridge Arts and Culture in Howick if you are interested in viewing these artworks.

Mangroves, Samphire and Reeds


330mm high x 480mm wide, acrylic on William Turner watercolour paper, unframed. $600

Manawa, Wiwi and Ureure

Mānawa, Wīwī and Ureure
(Mangroves, Knobbly Club Rush and Samphire)

Acrylic on stretched canvas, 705mm wide x 1000mm high, $1600.

In this large painting I used three of the native plant species which are found around the Tāmaki River. These plants thrive in the marshy, salty estuarine conditions and can help preserve and revegetate wetland areas. 

I was very excited to see my artwork recently on BioCups by BioPak in Australia. I was really pleased with how they turned out and I’m grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with a company that has a strong environmental focus. These Biocups made from plants, compostable and carbon neutral. If you see one at your local cafe in Australia or New Zealand please snap a photo and tag it #biocupartseries and on Instagram @celestesterling

Thanks so much!

Celeste Sterling, August 2019

Winter Herbal BioPak cup