In a country where everything grows, a garden showcases native NZ plants.
I’ve just returned from visiting gardens in New Zealand. There are so many shades of green, so many plants it seems everything grows in this country of passionate gardeners. It is a country with a long history of influence by English gardeners, a land of rich soil and favorable climate. There are many wonderful gardens to visit in NZ. The Kiwis (NZ residents) have long embraced importing plants from all over the world though more recent environmental practices have both restricted imports and placed a greater emphasis on native plants in gardens country wide. Broadfields Garden is a garden of NZ plants and a garden of international significance. Some twenty years ago one man, David Hobbs, decided he wanted to make a garden. He acquired flat land used as paddocks (pasture) drew up plans and set to work. Today his ideas and plants have grown into an 8.5 acre garden of NZ plants. His goal is the use of native plants supplemented with only nonnatives hybridized and grown in NZ.
Soon after we arrived we were greeted by David Falls, a gardener, builder, designer who has worked here since 2003. He shared more of the story of the garden and how it has developed over the years. The garden design began with the English influence of formal hedges to create frames and enclosures within a garden. Such high hedges would typically be planted out in a Gertrude Jekyll, English-style perennial border of colorful blooms. But then the plans changed and the NZ natives influence began. Totara, a native evergreen was used for the hedging creating a nearly 400’ long promenade with symmetrical 12’ borders on either side the hedges highlighting a border of native plants.
Flaxes take center stage in green, gold, red, and striped leaves backed with the dark green of the hedging. Their blooms attract the native nectar-feeding birds. Mixed in are other native plants such as hebes with their spiky blooms in purple, white and pink,
a variety of NZ iris with gold and orange leaves blooms with tiny white flowers, tussocks, (a clumping grass) fescues, and wire vine all are intermixed creating color, height, and texture. This native perennial collection requires minimum maintenance and water.
Reaching the end of the promenade you come into a circular lawn, enclosed with hedging. A circular pond begins the long canal leading to a new axis into a different part of the garden. The end of the canal opens onto the cricket lawn or what could be a home site should David Hobbs someday decide to build.
Trees form a wind break around the garden, with an emphasis on the native species. Native trees are evergreen and do not provide autumn colors, so other trees are mixed in to provide this seasonal element. Many native trees and shrubs are divaricating, growing in a wildly spread stem system with tiny leaves as a juvenile and changing form as the plant matures into a more recognizable tree form.
There are flowers, for as David Falls said, “even a bloke’s garden needs flowers,” A circular flowering garden anchored by a small garden shed was colorfully blooming with foxglove, delphinium, peonies, and more all bred, hybridized or grown from seed in NZ. The walled rose garden was in perfect flower on the day of our visit.
A camellia grove features a bench made from NZ Omaru white stone.
We had several conversations with David Falls, who as “the builder,” was instrumental in creating many of the garden elements. He works two days a week at the garden, his wife will work steadily during the summer, deadheading the roses, another man comes in once a week to mow the lawns. The workers all are grandparents, giving you a clue to the life experience they bring to their work. The garden currently functions on nine worker days per week and this includes the owner. All work is supervised by two very happy dogs.
Visitors from all over the world come to New Zealand eager to hike about in the bush, (their word for woods, swamps, and thicket all wrapped into one.) Early in our travels we spent some time walking in the native bush. Plants so thick with growth we couldn’t see the sky, so dense with plants we couldn’t define where one shrub began and another ended. Amazing varieties of plants grow there. A gardener had the vision to make a garden incorporating the very plants that grow in the bush. It is his hobby and a real opportunity for visitors to see the individual and fascinating plants of New Zealand. Broadfield Gardens made for a very fine hike.