Botanica New Zealand garden Tour

By Jill Woodlands

Aylies Garden

What a wonderful experience to lead the recent Botanica New Zealand Garden tour with such a lovely group of passionate gardeners. I am also lucky to be working as one of the managers of the diggers garden shop in the Adelaide botanic Gardens for the last five years.

The itinerary was beautifully crafted by Botanica to ensure we saw the best of private country and botanical gardens in both the North and South Island as well as a memorable cruise in Milford Sound.  This was not our only water experience as as we also took a ferry across to Waiheke Island near Auckland for a fabulous winery tour and lunch overlooking their very tuscan garden.  Another aspect to this trip was the chance to visit a delightful community managed garden in an old quarry on Mount Eden in Auckland as well as a plant nursery in the South Island specialising in NZ natives.  Oh and we even had lunch in a glorious castle near Dunedin.

One of the outstanding features of this trip was having very passionate owners lead the group round their gardens for a very special and tailored experience. And of course part of the enjoyment of the trip was discussing the days highlights over evening drinks.  The small group really enables this bonhomie and fast frendships to form.

Another feature was seeing gardens crafted with some of New Zealands finest flora. Broadfields garden, near Christchurch was a great example of a garden designed predominately with NZ natives.  Amazingly there were 20 different garden areas with natives used to provide form, texture and colour.  The feature was the green totara (Podocarpus) hedges which extended 1.5km throughout the property.  David had also used Totara pillars in the perennial borders to create a flow through the long borders.

We also enjoyed seeing some of our favourite plants from around the world. Given some of the gardens we visited were lucky enough to have a special microclimate we saw some rockstar plants thriving …such as Petrea, the Queens Wreath from central America and the ‘local’ Chatham Island forget-me-not which comes from an island 500km from NZ!

Our first garden visit was to Aylies near Auckland- a magnificant country garden which was a cracker to begin our 11 day trip.  Delightful bog garden and pond at Aylies.

After a lovely few days in the North Island we flew to Christchurch for our first garden visit in the south.  Flaxmere Garden which is in Canterbury was a superb garden crafted on an old sheep station with amazing mountain visita’s and a very gracious owner Penny Zino.  We were lucky enough to visit on the last day of the annual art and sculpture festival, which added to our experience.  The latest experiment was a grass and succulent area inspired by Piet Oudoulf (a dutch garden designer).

The scenery in NZ is quite breathtaking and many of the gardens we visited had used this to great effect with magnificent vistas and framed views. Particularly beautifully situated was Sir Miles Warrens garden at Governors Bay near Christchurch.  A delight was seeing the legacy of substantial tree plantings from 1865-1886.

We had a terrific visit at Allan Trotts garden in Canterbury which features an actual knot garden! Some of the outstanding plants we saw were the NZ bred Dahlia mystic illusion, Dahlia ‘knockout’ & Dahlia ‘Keith Hammett’; the Handkerchief Tree – Davidia involucrata; the white maple - Acer rufinerve alba Libatum ; Purple leaf hazelnut; Cornus ‘Daybreak white’ – he loved the dogwoods as they have a 5 week flowering period, autumn leaf colour and the birds love them; Purple leaf elder; Mountain Fleece Flower or Persicaria amplexicaullis and a wonderful grid of silver birch - Betula utilis ‘Silver Shadow’.

And another amazing garden with views was Glenfalloch garden near Dunedin.  As well as the views a feature in the garden was a 1000 year old Matai Tree (black pine) which was a real highlight.  Also the Dunedin Botanic Garden was a real highlight – one of the very best I have seen round the world.

Another highlight was the chance to visit Pukerau Nursery and garden (on the way to Te Anau) owned by a lovely couple Jenny & Arne.  We saw the very clever placement of plants with the focus on form, texture and leaf colour.  

Following our nursery visit we enjoyed the hospitality of Sharon and Peter at Castlemaine Garden – another country garden on a much smaller scale that had been created over 24 years.   We saw beautiful examples of the Variegated Cornus (Dogwood); Prunus shimidsu sakura – the gorgeous Japanese double flowering cherry; wonderful Clematis montana tetrarose on the pergola; the low hedge surrounding the perennial border – Corokia bronze king and the delicate foliage of the deciduous  tree…Katsura or Cercidiphyllum japonicum a species of flowering tree native to China and Japan.

Down in the deep south island and the only day without a garden visit was our memorable cruise in majestic Milford Sound.  This fijord is the eight wonder of the world! The day was everything you would hope for in this ancient  southern land;  mist, foreboding sky,  gigantic waterfalls, basking sea lions frollicking in front of the boat and an amazing stillness.

Our final garden visit was indeed spectacular – Chanticler garden near Queenstown and then a wonderful celebration dinner for our last night.  It was a terrific trip and I can’t wait to go back and see more gardens!

Jill Woodlands (22 December 2016)

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