The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 5 (August 1, 1939)
Pageant of Colour — In a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey
In Tauranga it is the season of oranges. They hang on their round green trees like golden globes decorating candlelit Christmas trees. You see them glowing against the blue winter sky upon odd street corners, in the clipped shrubberies of formal gardens. You see them in serried rows in the neatly-raked orchards, the thin-skinned golden navel, and that queen of all citrus fruits, the New Zealand grape-fruit, a great bright globe as big as your two fists, dripping with juice and all the bitter-sweetness of sunny winter days.
It is the time of the lemon harvest. Through the brief, still, sunny days, the pickers are busy; the piled boxes of pale-yellow fruit go out from the orchards; in the dim fragrant interior of the big Government sheds on Morris Street the graders and packers work at full pressure; the motor-lorries roll up, and carry away thousands upon thousands of finished cases, stamped, and ready for the market.
For in Tauranga these months are no time of grey days and colourless countryside.
Winter is ushered in with a blaze of trumpets, the fanfare of scarlet of the tropical poinsettia. In every sheltered garden down Cameron Road and the Avenues, you see great clumps of the flaunting scarlet bracts, high above a man's head, as gallant as an army with banners.
It is the time of the persimmon, that strange perverse tree which hangs its golden fruit like fairy apples upon bare grey boughs against the sky. On great brown tangled vines, the Chinese gooseberry is ripening. Its fruit is brown and oval, with a thick hairy skin; the interior is ice-green, custard-flavoured, at once sharp and sweet.
Tree-tomatoes are ready, salmon-yellow and purple, oval as an egg, dangling on their tall, great-leafed plants. They look like salads, astringent and appetising, and like chutneys, brown and sweet, with spice and sugar and raisins. On the ground, ready for jam, the Cape gooseberries lie, yellow and ripe in their little dry brown-lantern cases. The fruit of the feijoa is ripe, that strange green-and-silver shrub with its showy, red-stemmed blossom. The fruit is small and perfumed, and tastes of pineapple. Guavas weigh down their bushes with their prodigal crop of wine-dark berries, ready for the glowing crimson jelly with its sharp characteristic tang.
Now oranges ripen, and the grape-fruit gathers sweetness. All through the town, the rose and crimson of the rhododendron glows like a leaping fire. The azalea Mollis follows it, in a stately harmony of old-gold and copper and brazen-yellow. Soon it will be the time of the pink-and-white oleanders, and the flowering cherries heavy with gracious blossom. Roses, which have never ceased to bloom, are coming to full beauty. The first plum is ready in November, the prunus pissardi, that purple-foliaged, ornamental tree, with its small, dark, almond-flavoured fruit so mouth-watering in pies. Then come strawberries, round and red, heaped in their chips, freshly-gathered from the strawberry gardens back in the hills. Christmas plums are red-and-yellow, and the Christmas peach ripens, pink-cheeked, and dripping with sweetness. Early apples are ready, and the pageant of summer has begun.
The pohutukawas have long been crimson along the beaches. Through the town the Bougainvilia flaunts its royal purple. Early in the New Year blossoms that loveliest of all flowering trees, the Jacaranda, with its clear-cut lacy foliage and heavenly-blue blossoms dancing against the sky.
The season is at the full of bearing. All day long the mowers whirr in the hayfields, and the horses at the sweeps toil across the sun-bleached stubble. Harvest moons hang full and red through the dim haze of far bush burns. The apple orchards are full of cider and sweetness; drunken bees feast in the grass. Smoky purple plums ripen, and the golden-fleshed preserving peaches. Russet-skinned pears are ready, and the big pale-yellow, astringent quinces. Purple figs hang in languidly-sweet clusters. Grapes have reached maturity, and the heavy bunches, misty with bloom, drag down their prodigal vines.
Melons are ready; the hard-rinded water-melon, beloved of children, as pink and white as ice-cream; the golden rock-melon with its odd wrinkled skin and cloying sweetness; the pie-melon ready to be turned into gingered and amber-clear preserve. The sprawling vines are dragged about by slate-blue and golden pumpkins, by good yellow ironbarks, and striped green marrows. Cucumbers are ready for gathering, long and curled and green, and the round little apple cucumbers, white and cold and juicy. On their clinging rampant vines, the chokos are ripening, those strange prickly ovals, like seaurchins, and fruit and vegetable in one.
So autumn passes, lingeringly, the nights lengthen, and copper colours the English trees, slowly, reluctantly, so that the leaves may still be green when the first spring flowers star the gardens, and violets are in bloom.