When our first son was hardly two I tried to maintain a vegetable garden. The garden was doomed due to my horticultural ignorance and marauding wild peacocks, turkeys and possums. However the one shining gem from that time was finding a short stump off a broken limb from a nearby Cabbage Tree ( Ti Kouka). There was a small bud of new growth flourishing on its side and I planted it at one end of the vegetable garden wondering if it would possibly grow. As the following years passed the garden became overgrown and derelict and quite an eyesore. We decided to pull it out, remove the hedging and turn it into a weedmat controlled, carefully planted ornamental garden that wouldn’t grow up and restrict our view of the farm landscape. The sole survivor of that operation was the little Ti Kouka tree that had now grown to maturity and takes pride of place in our house garden.
In recent years I have gained an understanding of Ti Kouka through Maori lore. Ti Kouka holds a special place in Maori gardens, for it is planted on the lower slopes to hold the mana of the women who tend the cultivations. Ti Kouka is not of men, not their power and purpose. Its spirit is of the feminine, of women, of their flowing hair, their sinuous arms lifted sky-ward in embrace, and their nurture.
This beautiful tree is associated with change that is nurtured in gentleness. It is the place of the mind, the wintertime of the sage who needs to be reminded that youth still runs free to explore the world in innocence and trust. Ti Kouka encourages us to look to our roots, to family, to our wider heritage and to our cultural strengths. We are asked to remember that we are the sum of all that has ever been, a unique being, and the result of a rich weave of coloured strands.
Ti Kouka’s essence is of the feminine, the love that heals. It asks us to understand the story of those who have gone before us, remember our ancestors, seek harmony within family and to come to the place where forgiveness sets you free.
Today has been a beautiful day for me as I have walked with Ti Kouka. Today our first grandchild was born and I have been out on the farm planting two new Ti Kouka seedlings, one for the gifts that both sets of grandparents will endow and one for the gifts that our grandchild carries within. And this evening when I looked at the now thirty year old original Ti Kouka I knew it was the right time to photograph it and bless its mantle that has flowed over, through and around us all these years.