Cairnhill Garden

A Taranaki Garden of Significance and only twenty minutes from stunning Mt Taranaki, Cairnhill Garden is colourful and vibrant, an absolute must for garden lovers on any visit to Taranaki. Our travellers on our Taranaki Rhododendrons and Christmas in Taranaki tours always tell us they love their visit.

History of Cairnhill Garden

Arriving at June and Colin Lees property, the 150 metre drive is an enticing entrance to one of Taranaki’s most beautiful gardens.

Lined with an eclectic array of trees it is very different from 50 years ago when June, as a young bride arrived at Colin’s family home. Back then there was one lone tree on the farm, but this has morphed into a beautiful garden with many mature trees. The inviting drive way has liquid amber, crab apple, golden elm, copper beech, silver dollar, pin oaks and a large magnolia creating a colourful and impressive entrance to the garden.

Managing the garden is a full time job for June who spends about 30 hours a week in the garden, weeding or up a ladder pruning. Colin gives her a hand cleaning up and mowing the lawns when he’s not on the farm. He’s a busy man too and is still managing the farm which has been in the family for 110 years. While the days of dairy farming are over he grazes up to 400 heifers, owned by other farmers. They typically arrive at the farm as one year olds and leave as two year olds, pregnant. Colin moves the stock daily, feeds out when necessary and liaises with the stock owners.

About Cairnhill Garden

June and Colin’s garden is on one level and rooms have evolved with plantings of rhododendrons, camellias, other shrubs and a lots of hostas.

June is a lover of hostas. She says, ‘Nobody uses hostas like I do.’ With their big leaves she loves the variety; green with white borders, yellow and white and white and green and even blue hostas.  Large areas of hostas under the shade of the mature trees can provide a great depth of colour and interest in a garden.

Another favourite are the rhododendrons, some as old as 50 years. There are over 100 named plants, some as tall as three metres and others that are only about a metre. Many of them were planted to celebrate their wedding anniversaries over the years. They create a magnificent display as they bloom from early spring into summer

When it comes to low lying plants to compliment the rhododendrons June has five varieties of buxus, edging some of the garden and five varieties of mondo grass. She also grows and clips the little bo-peep rose which also makes a stunning hedge. There is also the edible garden A feijoa orchard was planted in 1980 as well as white, black and red currents, strawberries and vegetables.

Peonies put on a wonderful show from October through December with an explosion of soft colours including pinks, reds, white, yellow and salmon. June also has peony trees in her garden that are six feet tall. Quite a spectacular on multiple stems.

Propagating plants from seeds is another of June’s specialities. Her hostas are so popular she often sells more than she can take out of her garden or grow.

Meet the Gardeners

June and Colin Lees are in their seventies and have been on the land for over 50 years. When I asked June what inspired her to create such beautiful garden she says, ‘First and foremost, it was their family garden’. With three small boys it was not the size it is today and the focus was all about the 97 hectares’ farm Colin managed. “If I got a bit of land to garden and had a little time I was happy,” she says. Over the years, June has slowly chiselled away getting a bit more land and now has 0.6 hectares in garden. “When you’re a dairy farmer’s wife you’re not allowed much land,” she says laughing.

June says she has dreamed up the garden over a number of years, describing it as topsy turvy, meaning “a little bit if this and a little bit of that”. But it is anything but that. The garden has evolved with some strong themes.

What June loves most about her garden is that every day is different. “Something is always coming out, she says, whether it be the clematis or a rhody.”

Climate and soil conditions

In the Taranaki region the summers are warm with temperatures in the 19 -24 degrees celcius range and mild winters with average temperatures around 13 – 14 degrees celcius.

An average annual rainfall of about of about 1500mm per year provides the right level of moisture to maintain healthy plants. They flourish in a volcanic soil for nearby volcano Mount Taranaki.

Location and Directions

If you are travelling from Auckland, expect the drive time to be approximately five hours and four hours from Wellington.

The alternative is to fly from either of these cities to New Plymouth, taking about an hour. From the airport to the garden expect the drive time to be 30-minutes. Once in Statford follow the Forgotten World Highway 10k from Stratford. The garden is sign posted and directly opposite the Toko Primary School which is two kilometres east of the Toko Village.

Cairnhill Garden
1054 Forgotten World Highway SH 43
East of Stratford

Phone: 06 762 2847

Opening hours and admission

Cairnhill Garden is open October through to April October 9am – 5pm. Please call beforehand if you are a group.

Adults $5

Recommended duration of visit: 45-60 min

Facilities and Amenities

Food and refreshments are available by prior arrangement.

The garden is wheelchair friendly, has parking and a toilet.

Tours You'll Love

Christmas in Taranaki 6 Day Tour

See Pukekura Park’s Festival of Lights, drive the Forgotten World Highway to Whangamomona and stay on the lakeside in Taupo.

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