New Zealand’s gardens are spectacular. Nowhere else in the world offers such a unique and diverse range of plants that thrive in environments so accessible to visitors. The beauty, intricacies and magic of New Zealand’s gardens are second-to-none – it’s no wonder that many kiwis rate gardening as one of their favourite hobbies! Read on to find out about the best gardens our country has to offer.
Touring New Zealand’s top gardens is a particularly relaxing and enjoyable way to experience the colour and uniqueness of our flora. Manicured, much-loved landscapes show off spectacular collections of both old and new world plants; expertly maintained by passionate kiwis who love nothing more than to share their special creations. Vibrant collections of rhododendrons boast soft trusses of pinks, whites, yellows and purples and are always a favourite. Vast drifts of colour showcase stunning azaleas, spring blossoms and bright perennials while hidden woodlands feature mature specimen trees and graceful ornamentals. Often, these wonders are tucked away in the privacy of special collector gardens in magical little corners of the country. Careful consideration, passion and expert conception characterize the gardens of Aotearoa; and the pretty melody of native birdsong rings through the landscapes wherever you go.
Gardens of the North Island
Home to diverse gardens that have matured over decades, the North Island’s gardens are best visited in Spring, between the months of September and December. During these months, Rhododendron collections come alive in a riot of colour; perfectly complementing the mix of specimen trees, natives, perennials and hedges - also at their spectacular springtime best.
Lovers of colour can’t go past visiting Cross Hills Garden in Kimbolton. Seven acres of gemstone quality gardens showcase a collection of over 2000 types of Rhododendrons as well as peonies, perennials and azaleas. For an entirely different experience, Pukeiti Gardens are located on the lower slopes of mighty Mount Taranaki and set amongst sprawling rainforest. Here, you’ll find one of the most beautiful rhododendron collections in the world. Finally, for a North Island garden with ultimate maturity and family history, you can’t go past the Jury garden in Tikorangi.
Gardens of Canterbury
Locals from the Canterbury region take enormous pride in their gardens – Canterbury’s main city, Christchurch isn’t called the ‘Garden City’ for nothing! Here, vivid green foliage is punctuated by the beautiful bloom of camellias and rhododendrons and water features add an element of tranquillity. Tasteful artworks and sculptures complete this uniquely New Zealand garden experience.
Touring the gardens of Canterbury, don’t miss the Ashburton home of renowned nurseryman and cultivator Alan Trott. Magnolias, maples and dogwoods are complimented by vibrant azaleas, and curving pathways reveal masses of blossoms and formal English landscapes. For heritage and history, the 100-year old homestead found on the Akanui Farm Gardens adds an element of timelessness. Mature ornamental gardens grace the landscape, and the bountiful veggie garden on the property is the source of many delicious items on the homestead lunch menu. Lastly, the thriving bird life found in the Tichbourne’s Garden in Akaroa makes for a melodic visit – the colour and diversity of this lovingly crafted natural environment is a sight to behold.
Gardens of Otago
Characterised by hills of golden tussock, gold mining heritage and ribbons of turquoise blue waterways, the Otago region is home to gardens rich in colour and beauty. Many of Otago’s gardens are gardens of national significance and are located amongst beautifully dramatic landscapes. The Central Otago peonie flower thrives here and can be often seen lighting up entire fields in rich, vibrant purples.
Naturally,immaculate care and attention is an integral part of the success of Central Otago’s gardens. One of the most impressive is Mike Henry’s eight-acre garden at Chantecler. Here, themed gardens from France, Italy, England, Japan and New Zealand dot the landscape while mass plantings of lavenders, azaleas camellias and peonies add impressive colour and texture. The beautiful garden of Rayleen MacNally at Poolburn features colourful natural treasures surrounding an old stone homestead. Before you leave, don’t miss the garden at Carew Homestead – home to 3-metre tall Himalayan Lilies that have to be seen to be believed.