We’ve been traveling in New Zealand for just a week and already I’ve been asked “Do you ever get tired of visiting gardens?” Exploring the world through gardens brought me here. How can anyone get tired of seeing such incredible beauty, creativity, and passion of gardeners?
This is the view from the house of Puketarata Garden, a garden on the Taranaki tour, and a member of the New Zealand Garden Trust. Jennifer & Ken are the gardeners. As we arrived he was mowing the lawn, she was trimming the purple wisteria. They built this house 35 yrs ago to take advantage of the view, one direction the hills and dales and the other a view of Mt Taranaki. The garden, “just grew up around them.” It was originally a paddock for dairy cattle, my understanding of paddock in New Zealand is a fenced pasture area of grass for grazing.
There is one cow in the garden, a corrugated art piece by NZ artist Jeff Thompson, this is in honor of her father, a dairy farmer, however, this cow “doesn’t lean on her fence and poke its head in to eat the flowers.”
Just to have this view would be enough to make a person’s heart sing but Jennifer added beds of creamy white Iris, purple cerinthe major, with shots of pink both light and dark. Arbors made of the “logs” from black tree ferns add a textured, dark structure for climbing roses and wisteria. There are boxwood fleur-de-lis and nearby artichoke plants growing as high as the house. There is a berry house to protect the juicy fruits from the birds, there are vegetable beds of asparagus, strawberries, and cabbages.
Reluctantly we left this beautiful place and drove to Oakley garden where Jenny has put her professional skill and passion to ground. Walking in the first sight was of nine enormous baskets hanging from a walnut tree. The basket frame must be 24” in circumference and nearly double that size from the alyssum, dusty miller, parsley, and pansies exploding over and around every inch of the container. The curly parsley looked wonderful adding its beautiful dark green but a fellow admirer revealed, “the parsley roots grow so dense it helps hold the plants together as they grow so profusely.” Jenny is known for her remarkable baskets. The walnut tree is slow to leaf out in the spring so the plants get great sun in the early season. Jenny said these beautiful arrangements would be done by December (beginning of summer) and she would replace them with begonias that will do well in the shade.
Further into the garden a plant sale was in full swing on the tennis court. The tennis court walls are covered in flowers, with climbing pink roses and ivy burgundy geraniums growing 10’ tall around the court.
Two glorious flowering pink cherries shaded a picnic area where coffee was being served. Here Jenny was trimming as visitors strolled through enjoying every step in this beautiful space. A pizza oven, a kitchen garden and sunny porch add to the livability of this garden. You could easily spend a day just enjoying the views and exploring the plantings.
Leaving the Taranaki region and driving into the Whanganui area we drive 3.5 kilometers on a very narrow road to arrive at the final garden of the day, Paloma. Here we are greeted with a grazing brown donkey tied to a fence. This garden is the creation of the Higgies. The couple began in 1978 planting trees, among the trees they planted art and among all of this sheep graze. In the passing years they have added a palm & bamboo forest, a desert house, a cycad house, a garden of death, (plants which can kill) a hillside of agaves, aloes, cacti, succulents and near their home a pottery walk. They planted everything!
In the main garden, a long grand staircase leads down to a lake where a round folly provides a seat with a view. Further on is a steep colorful stair leading up to a viewing platform looking over this collection of exotic plants from Pacific, Asian and African gardens. In this garden, I heard my first bell bird, singing a call of three different notes that sound like perfectly tuned chimes.
Traveling is tiring, there is packing, unpacking, navigating, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, you can’t get your favorite coffee and you need a power converter but that is the stuff of adventures, of discovery and change. Visiting gardens introduces you to kindred spirits, leading you to beautiful time in nature and is always a good trip.