Gardens are at their glorious best in spring. Everything is lush, fresh, and full of promise, and even the sky seems washed clean of last winter’s frown. As our personal patch of paradise drags itself out of winter hibernation it is well worth getting some stimulation and motivation from others. The essence of a spring garden is a profusion of blossom, flowers, and greenery so fresh you can smell it. Our spring garden tours feature a selection of New Zealand’s best spring gardens to visit, where the owners take enormous pride in their gardens and are keen to share their knowledge.
Spring is the perfect time to indulge in a garden tour or two. Take time to interact with like-minded garden lovers and get inspired by some truly passionate growers. Growers that are willing to share their experiences and their gardens. This will enable you to really get to grips with the way that decisions about design, composition, plant selection, placement and nurturing work together to enhance nature’s elements and landscapes.
Canterbury Spring Gardens
Akaunui Homestead, Ashburton
Laid out over 100 years ago, Akaunui Homestead garden has been lovingly developed by Di and Ian Mackenzie. Akaunui Homestead is complimented by over 10 hectares of wonderfully mature gardens. Impressive on a really large scale, the garden offers such diversity that you will return home inspired. Magnificent woodlands, rhododendrons, lawns, and vegetable, formal rose, and more rambling gardens work together in total harmony with the natural landscape. The seemingly effortless use of water in the landscape creates a microclimate that enables a wide plant range to be displayed. There is a lot going on here. We stop for lunch here, so you just know that you will be eating Di’s fresh vegetables.
Flaxmere Garden, near Harwaden
Flaxmere Garden, created by Penny Zino for over fifty years, is nearly three hectares and is based on ancient terraced river beds. Designed to frame and enhance Southern Alp vistas, there is a strong sense of drama here. Designed to be secluded and romantic, the garden really pays tribute to the natural environment. Spring is a very special season in Penny’s garden. There are loads of daffodils and flowering cherry trees of course, and primula candelabra, rhododendrons, azaleas, tulips, bluebells, and clematis. Flaxmere’s status as a Garden of National Significance with five stars is highly deserved.
Flaxmere makes a perfect setting for Art in a Garden, an event displaying New Zealand artworks at the end of October. Sculptures, paintings, ceramics, glass & jewelry inside and out are available to inspire (and purchase for your own enjoyment of course).
Fisherman’s Bay, Akaroa.
Richard and Jill Simpson’s garden, Fisherman’s Bay, is another five star Garden of National Significance and it is a beauty. Here the Pacific Ocean provides the backdrop for this magnificent garden. At times Banks Peninsular gets hammered by wind and weather so you know gardening is a challenge. Richard and Jill have developed this two hectare garden into a safe, peaceful haven using native and exotic plant varieties. You can expect flower borders, herbs, ferns, sheltered valleys and exposed rock gardens as well as two valleys of regenerating protected native bush. In addition, Richard and Jill have collected 150 hebe species and cultivars, so there is a surprise down every garden path.
Otago Spring Gardens
Clachanburn Gardens, Puketoi
Jane Falconer has developed this lush, abundant 1 ½ hectare garden over a 35 year period into a jigsaw of colour and texture. It’s a rambling country garden with a wide range of shrubs and perennials amongst a variety of mature trees. The Otago climate can be harsh and the garden is at a higher altitude than most, but Jane has planted plants that grow well here. Spring at Clachanburn features bulbs and blossoms, as well as leaf colours and textures. Pipfruit, stonefruit and a nut orchard add more diversity to the spring attractions. Clachanburn is five star garden of national significance.
Chantecler Gardens, Queenstown
Mike Henry has developed this 4.8 hectare Queenstown garden of national significance over ten years. The garden is blessed with a rich base of wind-blown silt and great drainage. Here 60 years old trees frame views of Remarkable Mountains, and the garden is enriched with wetlands and structures. The landscape has been influenced by a range of European and local styles, so the diversity is impressive. Spring is an impressive time to visit Chantecler. There is a lot of colour and diverse plantings with huge drifts of bulbs and flowering rhododendrons and azaleas.
If a trip to the deep south sounds like you, take a look at our Otago Farmhouse Gardens tour, departing November each year. As well as the best of Otago's gardens, you'll love all the highlights of Queenstown and Central Otago. Find out all about the tour here.
Taranaki Spring Gardens
Cairnhill, near Stratford
Colin and June Lees’ Cairnhill is a colourful garden is framed by mature rhododendrons, vibernum, camellias, under a canopy of deciduous trees. An impressive range of over forty varieties of hosta thrive in their shade. Mixed borders of heuchera, iris and peonies make for make a stunning display. Additional structure is provided by hedging and trellises of rose and clematis varieties. The thoughtful plantings capture views of the surrounding mountains beautifully. Cairnhill is a four star garden of national significance.
Cross Hills, Kimbolton
Cross Hills has been in the Wilson family for about 80 years. It started as a sheep and cattle farm, and the part around the homestead has been gradually developed into a seven hectare garden. Cross Hills is set at an altitude of 540 metres. It has a free-draining soil and a reliable rainfall. Retaining walls, made with stones from the Ruahine Ranges, and a camellia maze add structure around which the hillside garden is based. The garden has a fine range of rhododendrons and azaleas, mature deciduous trees and conifers. Early rhododendrons and azaleas are a feature in springtime; not to mention camellias, cherries, magnolias, trilliums, tree paeonies, kalmias, pieris and candelabra primulas.
Puketarata Garden, Hawera
Ken and Jennifer Horner have developed this stunning one hectare hillside garden over 35 years. It frames views of Mount Egmont and the surrounding area so carefully that they appear to be part of the garden. Laid out in a series of garden rooms, the plantings focus on textures and colours of green, bronze and silver provided by native and exotic specimen trees. The garden is blessed with friable, free-draining volcanic loam, a temperate climate, and regular rainfall. There is an orchard, berry house, vegetable and herb gardens area and a haha to enhance the views. Puketarata Garden is a five star garden of national significance.
Our Taranaki Rhododendron Gardens tour is always a favourite, visiting the best Rhodo gardens in the central North Island, with stays in New Plymouth, Whanganui and Tongariro National Park. Find out more about the tour here.