New Zealand is truly known as a Gardeners Paradise. Both young and old New Zealanders often proudly nod knowingly when in conversation it is mentioned that New Zealand’s nickname is affectionately called ‘God Zone Garden Country'.
It is well known that in New Zealand ‘one can plant a tree and rest beneath its mature shade within a single lifetime’. On the average, most plant material, especially shrubs, trees and vines, grow seven times faster here than in most other traditional gardening locations around the world, especially within the world’s great gardening temperate zones.
Perhaps because of the botanical benevolence of the climate, and also the multi-cultural and highly international traditions of this beautiful South Pacific nation, gardening is amongst the most endeared of all hobbies and leisure pass-times. Nearly half of New Zealand’s 4+million inhabitants enjoy and participate in gardening. Most of them consider gardening to be their top hobby or leisure time activity. Many are highly skilled at it and on a worldwide scale would be included as dedicated and passionate Master Gardeners, although few would openly admit to that. Most would feel much more comfortable saying that they “enjoyed working with the earth” and “making things grow” followed by a most humble qualifying response that there was always “so much more to appreciate and learn”.
The recent Heroic Garden Festival held in the Auckland Region 18-19 February 2012 is a fine example of New Zealand Gardeners’ abilities to lead the world in environmental appreciation, balance and excellence. The ‘Heroic’ name is most appropriate for a country that so passionately embraces botanical arts, protection of the natural environment and its practical integration into the daily lives of those who live here. In this modern age where environmental protection and sophistication are an ideal to live up to, many people in New Zealand have done much more than support this noble ideal, they are living within it! Truly, the Gardeners of New Zealand are modern day Heroes.
This Festival has been running for 16 years. From its start it was organized and run by the Gay Auckland Business Association (GABA) and Fifth Season Garden Club as a means to exemplify and highlight gardening contributions made by the Gay and Lesbian Communities. It has always been a charitable event in aid of important causes like HIV/AIDS care and now for several years the funds raised go to Mercy Hospice Auckland.
Mercy Hospice Auckland provides care for people in the Auckland District Health Board area living with terminal illnesses and supports their family and friends. Hospices care for the whole person – their physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in, hospice care is free of charge. Visit the Mercy Hospice Auckland website at: http://www.mercyhospice.org.nz
This year’s Heroic Garden Festival was organized and run by the Mercy Hospice Fundraising Team Leader Ms. Sandy McGregor MFINZ with expert assistance from Mercy Hospice Fund Raising Team members Ms. Lesley Dawson and Ms. Rebecca McCaughan. They received further assistance and professional support from a number of fine sponsoring organizations as well as a wide range of passionate private individuals and dedicated volunteers. Thanks to one and all for your most helpful contributions to a noble cause.
Twenty four fine gardens in the Auckland region featured in this year’s Heroic Garden Festival. This included a wide assortment of beautiful and highly unique inner city urban garden creations, remarkable suburban properties with high quality botanical displays and a number of grand country estates. Amongst the most notable features within this garden spectacular Festival were the Gardeners themselves. All of them shared a dedication, devotion and passionate love for gardening and Nature which brightly shone through the beautiful botanical masterpieces they created. Yet amongst all of them no one was willing to call themselves a garden ‘expert’ let alone the Master Gardeners they truly are.
Yet the Heroic Garden Festival was blessed with many true Master Gardeners. Amongst the most distinguish would have to be Sense’ Bonsai Master Robert Langholm who with the assistance of Partner Simon Misdale have created Bonsaiville, with its remarkable collection of world-class Bonsai. Robert is a very talented and well-respected teacher of Bonsai arts. The beautiful bonsai creations he has produced over decades of dedicated work would rival those produced by the best Japanese Bonsai Masters. To learn and see more plus enrol in one of Robert Langholms’ brilliant Bonsai classes or workshops please visit: www.bonsaiville.co.nz
Another remarkable Master Gardener is garden veteran Mr. Noel Pasco. Noels’ Sandringham private suburban garden is awash with colour that reflects a classic and most endeared Kiwi style of gardening seldom seen today. Noel’s brilliant garden displays have been amongst the top favourites from the very start of the Heroic Garden Festival well over a decade ago! Noel Pascoe is amongst New Zealand’s most accomplished Master Growers of Tuberous Begonias and Dahlias which shine and sparkle throughout his gardens and cascade in profusion from his specially designed Begonia shelter.
Peter Brady is a master of many creative arts. His Marsden Avenue garden is among the most artistic and creative blends of garden styles embracing an Asian, Mediterranean, New Zealand, and Polynesian South Seas blend that makes a profoundly unique artistic and botanical statement. Peter was the owner/operator of a highly successful Auckland City Florist studio for many years. His eye for creative design, clever display, stunning colour and foliage combinations combined with wonderful art, ceramics and sculpture is unrivalled. Little wonder that his garden is an international tourist attraction all year-round. Individuals and groups of any size are warmly welcomed. A small entry fee is charged.
Kevin Kilsby and Partner Brent Scott have created an entirely different style which is also highly unique. Kevin is a highly skilful Ceramic Artist. His studio is set amongst their lush subtropical urban gardens. The gardens these two talented men have created are as beautiful and vibrant as the ceramic art which features there. Hundreds of ceramic tiles with a predominant vivid turquoise hue contrast with others in terra cotta and bejewelled with flashes of many bright shades. These make a breathtaking compliment and contrast to their surrounding garden displays.
Amongst New Zealand Garden Masters there are few that could ever rival the botanical perfection, elegant charm and sheer sophistication of the Grand Dame of New Zealand Gardening, Beverly McConnell. Her Whitford garden, Ayrlies
, designated by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a ‘Garden of International Significance’, is an understatement for the creative genius that drifts around every well-considered botanical corner. Needless to say, someone of this integrity would produce a Family of like-minded individuals. And this year son John and lovely wife Karen McConnell opened their beautiful Remuera private home garden to throngs of curious Gardeners who left most impressed at what this next generation of McConnell’s have already been able to achieve. This well designed garden opens with stately formal elements in keeping with the character of their fine surroundings. Complimenting the sweeping back lawns partially framed with checkerboard groundcovers is a long and lovely, most beautifully engineered water feature which cleverly fills the entire garden space with the soft musical harmonics of splashing fountain waters. Then as a surprise on a series of descending terraces are bright, informal subtropical displays and intimate garden rooms. The entire effect is delightful and a real credit to their blossoming botanical expertise.
A little farther to the east on the rise in St. Heliers, Peter and Olga Moule have created a most striking botanical marine subtropical garden that centres around a beautifully designed pool and boardwalks framed in a lush and very intimate setting around their private home. The pool floor has been created from light-coloured soft pebbles that slide into several small beaches offset by a well-designed cascade splashing through subtropical plantings. The section has been cleverly terraced on several levels that demarcate a number of small garden rooms and enclosed trails. Views from the long second story balcony overlook the entire pool garden and surrounding landscape which is enhanced by a profound view of the Waitemata Harbour and Rangitoto Island Volcano framing the horizon beyond in the South Pacific.
The ‘Country Gardens’ as they have come to be collectively named by the Heroic Garden visitors, add an entirely new and refreshing dimension to this years’ Heroic Garden Festival. These six gardens represent a cluster of gardening neighbours in the North Shore Community of Coatesville. All six gardens are within a few kilometres of one another, yet represent diverse and profound environmental themes.
Jim and Faye Nilsson have created a botanical masterpiece in their Twin Lakes country garden. The drive to their Mediterranean-style home gracefully curves between two lakes. The largest of these is over 5 acres surrounded by a well-engineered walkway framing great sweeps of subtropical and temperate water lilies bejewelled with graceful Swans and other water fowl. The house is literally built out into the waters’ edge and features massive sliding glass panels that create indoor/outdoor transparent walls that brings the lake into the living space in all seasons. A pergola with an Asian/Kiwi theme connects with a water bridge from the house well into the lake where one can be completely immersed in the magical scene that in the warm month includes the sparkling jewels of many thousand Water Lily blossoms. There is an extensive aviary as well. Twin Lakes is also a favourite destination for intimate weddings as well as group tours. An entry fee is charged. To learn more about this inspiring garden property or perhaps organise a special function or wedding please visit: www.twinlakes.co.nz
Pinelee Garden, in sharp contrast is at the top of an imposing ridge sheltered by a canopy of massive mature pines whose trunks create imposing natural columns through which can be glimpsed distant verdant valleys and views of far-off hills beyond. The Pinelee garden created by Judith and Warren Howard is delightfully eclectic. But I had the impress that it was almost unnecessary as the dramatic position of the house and surrounding grounds sweeping so boldly away, down and beyond through the Romanesque columns of the towering Pines sprinkled beneath with fluffy white sheep was so pastorally profound as to make any additional human effort almost disappear in the absolute grandeur of the scene spreading all around this magical hilltop.
Margaretha Graham-Lamers and Terry Graham are the Howards next door neighbours who own the grounds sweeping down the Pine-covered hill top as it flows into the valley below. This couple are every bit as creative and fascinating as their beautiful gardens; which are highly unique because of the unusually steep topography of the section. These gardens take full advantage of the natural contours of the sloping land. There are six acres open at present and more being developed for a later show. The driveway enters at the higher ground and gently curves downward beneath a lovely Pine Tree canopy accented with graceful Tree Ferns in native bush; past a garage and upstairs studio; then a second ‘spare’ house onward down to the primary home residence. This nestles nicely on a Pine-sheltering, verdant terrace that overlooks sweeping views of the valley below onward to the western horizon; plus overlooks a remarkable drop-off that descends steeply to a pond below.
Immaculately clipped hedges, lovely trimmed topiaries and perfectly edged lawn pathways wind past all variety of groundcovers and shrubbery accented with occasional splashes of floral colour and sculpture. Bordering the pathway sweeping downward to the large pond is a profoundly perfect and towering Eugenia (Acmena) hedge flanking a shear cascade of smoothly trimmed Grevillea groundcover in deep evergreen bejewelled with Christmas red waxy blooms that work perfectly with the russet young Eugenia foliage towering beyond and screening the raised bank and house beyond. To learn more and arrange a special visit to A La Fois, please visit the very popular website www.gardenstovisit.co.nz
. An entry fee is charged. A La Fois is well worth a visit.
The Graham’s property must nearly overlook, far off to the distant west, the large formal gardens of Bryan and Helen Airey. They named their country garden, Brookgreen Park after a remarkable garden they once experienced while travelling in the United States, known as Brookgreen Gardens, the ‘floral jewel’ of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina’s coastal community and the largest art/sculptural gardens in the USA. Surely, their USA counterpart would be pleased with the remarkable park-like landscape that the Aireys have created. Plus New Zealand’s Brookgreen Park also reflects the finest English traditions of Capability Brown’s borrowed views and broad, sweeping landscapes and Vita Sackville-West’s passion, also keenly shared by Helen Airey, for White Gardens.
Near the top of the terraced slopes is the beautifully designed Dallas-style home framed by densely-planted New Zealand native shrubbery bordered with finely trimmed hedging. Just around the back of the house is a fine potager of Citrus, herbs and vegetables. Below that in a descending terrace is a well-kept Palm Garden under planted with architectural arid-zone and Mediterranean Aloes, Dragon Trees, Yucca and other succulent species.
On the sunny western side is a classic formal white Rose garden bordered with classic hedging. This connects directly into an avenue of beautifully sculptured topiaries bordering a rectangular Water Lily reflecting pool framed within concentric circles of perfectly trimmed hedging with highlighted egg-shaped and spiralling evergreens. The over-all effect is most dramatic. No wonder this garden is rated by the New Zealand Garden Trust as a ‘Garden of National Significance’.
Almost all the gardens of Brookgreen Park are bordered with immaculately clipped hedges that tie the various botanical themes and topiaries in each garden room together like long green ribbons surrounding a beautiful botanical present, which Brookgreen Park most certainly is for the Garden Lover. While the predominant theme is evergreen and white, there are numerous bright colour splashes from foliar ornamental shrubbery plus patches and sweeps of seasonal perennial flowers.
Brookgreen Park is based on an arboretum style plan with large collections of beautiful and unusual shrubs and trees set out in bold and broad formal displays bounded by this immaculately trimmed hedging. The hedging frames the descent into a broad valley below the country home. The valley’s sweeping fields are accented by grand specimen plantings of ornamental trees, bordering a Water Lily-filled lake and a Monet-style arching bridge. Predominant botanical themes include large groupings of unusual Cornus (Dogwood) species; many types of Ilex (Holly), Magnolias and unusual Portuguese Laurels (Prunus lusitanica). There is a very special Acer (Maple) garden plus a wide variety of themed plantings including Azaleas, Camellias, Rhododendrons and many other classic spring-flowering species planted in mass groupings bounded by large shelter belts of Cottonwood Poplar, Taxodium and other stately trees.
Bryon and Helen Airey are a thoroughly delightful, most interesting and very well-travelled Couple that appropriately reflect the high ‘Garden of National Significance’ rating earned by Brookgreen Park. It makes a great destination for group and private tours and is available for weddings. All this is arranged in advance by appointment and on a seasonal basis. An entry fee is charged. For contact details, further information and more pictures of Brookgreen Park please visit the www.gardenstovisit.co.nz
website or www.gardens.org.nz
Not far to the east is another remarkable park-like property known as Mincher. This is the creative vision of Bruce and Angela Spooner. Mincher is also rated by the New Zealand Gardens Trust and the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture as a ‘Garden of National significance’.
This is an immense country estate garden covering 20+acres/8.1+ hectares with almost as many more still under construction. While Mincher appears very well-established, the modern gardens date from 1992! The sweeping entrance driveway is bordered with spreading Horse Chestnut Trees and beautiful lawns plus distant arboretum New Zealand Natives and ornamental shelter belts; then passes grove remnants of an old orchard; over a small bridge that introduces the creek-filling serpentine water fowl pondage feature leading toward the home. This driveway alone resembles a botanical garden and is in better condition and longer than many suburban streets!
The imposing home is based on a modern Georgian style. It was completed in 1993 and is the centrepiece of the estate. The back of the house faces into a formal lawn area flanked with broad herbaceous borders filled with flowering perennials and Roses. Beyond the lawns are mature Golden Weeping Willows that line all the way around to the main creek and pondage areas. Far beyond that rises a deep green and most imposing mountainous backdrop of mature Northland Podocarp Forest.
Many borders, lawns and walkways are backed by hedges of dense Ilex cornuta "Burfordii" absolutely smothered in berries. Walkways lead to a cottage garden, herb garden, vegetable potager and impressive English traditional walled ‘kitchen’ garden. Remarkable espaliered Apple and other fruit trees create living walls to compliment the two Edwardian-style glasshouses and Gardeners Cottage.
Angela established the perennial borders and Roses plus the formal parterre and much of the ornamental shrubbery and beautiful topiaries. She takes a passionate interest in the upkeep of the gardens as does her Husband Bruce. Needless to say, such a massive and visionary botanical achievement must have supportive manpower. This has been provided for well more than a decade by head Gardener David Schellingerhout. Even now they are developing another massive track of land in the far paddocks.
Mincher features acres of winding native walkways, grand expanses of lawns framed by dramatic views and often bordered by well-trimmed hedges or arching avenues of Spring-flowering Cherry that compliment the extensive plantings of Camellias, Rhododendrons, Maples and grand sweeps of Spring-flowering bulbs. There are stands of towering Kauri near the great stone bridge crossing the serpentine pondage that mix beautifully with other native plantings, groves of Birch and the golden great sweeps of Willow brushing the water. There are some surprising garden rooms, even a natural espaliered Hornbeam bird blind observation room just off the creek bank. Amongst the beautiful native plantings are some very cleverly planned hedging that transcend from native plantings to lead the Garden Lover into an entirely different botanical room or view of the water from platforms and clearings open along the stream bank.
Morning/afternoon teas plus lunches are available by prior arrangement for groups of ten or more people. Mincher is open throughout the year by appointment. An entry fee is charged. There is ample off-street parking. To learn more please see http://www.gardens.org.nz/advancedsearch
The final garden of this years’ Heroic Garden Festival journey is the remarkable garden of Christine and Tony Peek who created ‘Woodbridge’ Garden. This is another garden rated by the New Zealand Garden Trust as a ‘Garden of National Significance’.
Woodbridge is another large country garden (10acres/4.04 hectares) that could easily take 1-2 hours to cover and even then there would be so much more to appreciate. The Peeks started this remarkable creation from a bare farm paddock in 1991. But today the glorious results appear to be timeless. The gently rolling contours of the Woodbridge site are well designed with a wide variety of NZ native species but this garden is famous for its most original and unusually great variety of botanical species that would rival New Zealand’s finest Botanical Gardens and Parks.
There is a large pond with Rose-clad pergola perfectly placed to capture the gardens’ many reflections. This connects to a thoughtfully planned bog garden with pathways winding upward to a Mediterranean hill-top rock garden and bountiful Olive grove under-planted in a vast wildflower meadow. Spring sees breathtaking sweeps of Spring-flowering bulbs, especially Bluebells; followed by grand displays of blue/purple (Siberian) Iris then blue spiking Campanulas.
Walkways feature several beautiful arbours smothered in Roses, Sweet Peas and other floriferous and fragrant climbers. While at one’s feet are unusual groundcovers and masses of beautifully grown perennial and annual flowering species. The lawns of Woodbridge are immaculate and so beautifully compliment their surrounding floral borders.
A most dramatic and unexpected feature near the centre of the gardens is a massive Blue Cypress hedge created from Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’. Towering many meters high, the perfectly clipped nearly turquoise blue-grey hedge winds through a seemingly endless curving pathway that eventually breaks to reveal startling garden views no matter which way the Garden Lover travels through this coniferous maze. The artistic and creative inspiration and detail to maintenance of this feature alone deserves considerable praise. But then so does the entire garden!
There is also a beautifully designed and maintained vegetable potager that looks like it has been transported directly from its Gold Medal Award-Winning position in a Flower Show and that is complimented by a fine herbery and restful pergola cradled by fragrant Roses and great splashes of towering perennials and wildflowers. There are even chickens with attitude, who know who’s ‘boss’ in their patch of paradise.
The Peeks are obviously passionate Gardeners and also are dedicated to uplifting their community. The two of them were overheard being called a “community powerhouse”. It was largely the dedication, initiative and long-term vision of Christine Peek that convinced and inspired the other fine and talented Coatesville Gardeners to open their gardens for this year’s Heroic Garden Festival. Congratulations and well done to both of you!