NZ gardens gain international rating
29 Oct 2008
Four New Zealand gardens have earned the title of 'Garden of International Significance' in a new quality ranking aimed at overseas visitors.
The New Zealand Gardens Trust has created the new category - 'Garden of International Significance' - as a complement to its other ratings: 'Garden of National Significance', 'Garden of Significance' and 'Registered Garden'.
New Zealand's most outstanding gardens are Larnach Castle Gardens in Dunedin, South Island, and three privately-owned North Island gardens, 'Richmond' in Carterton, 'Te Kainga Marire', in New Plymouth, and 'Ayrlies Gardens', in Auckland.
Larnach Castle Garden, Dunedin
Larnach Castle is New Zealand's only castle and was built in 1871. When current owners, the Barker family purchased the castle and surrounding 14 hectares of grounds in 1967 the area was a wilderness with overgrown gardens right up to the castle walls.
Since then, owner Margaret Barker has made restoring the gardens a personal commitment and her passion for Gondwana plants has added a unique dimension.
She, who is "thrilled" with the new international gardens ranking, said that this vindicated the efforts of many people over the years, including head gardener Fiona Eadie and groundsman Gary Drake.
"It's been a journey, and a lot of people have been part of that journey," she said.
As part of the garden restoration, an overgrown rock garden created in the 1930s, was rediscovered, and lovingly brought back to life. A South Seas garden with special collections of southern hemisphere plants has also been developed over the past seven years. The castle gardens have seasonal distinction and year round interest.
Te Kainga Marire, New Plymouth, Taranaki
In 1972, Valda Poletti and David Clarkson owned a half-acre section of New Plymouth wasteland covered in gorse, blackberry and fennel - now it is a 'Garden of International Significance'.
The garden is made up of a mixture of wild New Zealand plants - coastal, alpine, wetlands and ferns. The couple's vision was to recreate a piece of wild New Zealand in a city situation, and wanted it to blend with the surroundings thereby providing a source of natural food for native birds in the area.
Ms Poletti said they were overwhelmed their garden had been selected as one of international significance, and that the award reflected the creative skills and hard labour she and her family had put into making their vision come to reality.
"My first thought was 'this is great for tourism for Taranaki'," said Ms Poletti.
"The other three gardens of international significance are in Auckland, Wairarapa and Dunedin and this is fantastic because it gives garden tourists a path they can travel from one end of the country to the other.
"It's doing what Venture Taranaki is trying to do - bring people down the west coast, bring people down the Forgotten World Highway."
She said it would also help move Taranaki's annual Rhododendron and Garden Festival to an international level.
Te Kainga Marire garden has featured on the BBC's Around the World in 80 Gardens.
Richmond Garden, Carterton, Wairarapa
Richmond Garden is a private formal garden, reminiscent of 16th and 17th century Italian gardens. It is unique in New Zealand and is the only garden of its type in the southern hemisphere.
Passionate gardener and buxus specialist, Melanie Greenwood and husband John established Richmond Gardens 15 years ago. The garden is structured along straight lines using mass plantings, symmetry and water to create a place of tranquillity.
Previously listed by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a 'Garden of National Significance', Richmond Garden has attracted the attention of horticulturists and garden enthusiasts in recent years.
Mrs Greenwood says the garden is a work in progress.
"It's been 15 years and we're still working on it, it gives me immense pleasure, it's not work - it's play and it's wonderful fun," she said.
"The garden gives people an insight in to how lovely structure in a garden is."
Mrs Greenwood spends about 20 hours each week working in the garden. Her brother and head gardener, Richard Cooper spends about 40 hours a week maintaining the 1.5ha grounds, including meticulously clutch-mowing the formal lawns.
The homestead at Richmond was built in the late 1880s by Carterton's first town clerk Henry Hilmar Wolters, a wealthy German immigrant.
Ayrlies Gardens, Whitford, Auckland
The fourth 'Garden of International Significance' - Ayrlies at Whitford, near Auckland - is one of New Zealand's best known private gardens.
Owner Beverly McConnell and her late husband Malcolm began sculpting the garden out of a bare paddock in 1964. The garden, which takes its name from the McConnell family farm in Scotland, evolved out of a desire to create a larger informal country garden similar to those in the Hawkes' Bay region of New Zealand where Beverly grew up.
Now after 40 years Ayrlies is reaching maturity and is characterised by sweeping lawns and informal but detailed plantings, ponds and waterways.
Beverly set herself a challenge of having some plant at its best every week of the year keeping the horticultural and botanical interest in balance with the landscape.
She also wanted a garden where the contours of the land dictated the shape and where there was space for larger trees grown in family groups. Beverly also wanted a seasonal garden where still ponds and cascades of water created a sense of tranquillity and a garden "filled with moments of drama and lots of heady perfume".
Ayrlies has an almost subtropical climate which allows exotic plants to flourish. A strong use of colour, seen particularly in the 'Lurid Border' is used to dramatic effect and a wild flower meadow is an early summer attraction.
Trees and shrubs form a changing backdrop for roses, perennials, bulbs and grasses while plants native to New Zealand are a strong component. Below the garden there is a large wetland area linking the garden to the waters of the Hauraki Gulf.
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