Clachanburn Station

For more than 40 years, Jane Falconer has been gardening at Clachanburn, creating a unique green oasis in the Maniototo, one of Central Otago’s most arid regions. With mature trees, ponds, sweeping lawns and plantings that reflect what does well in this harsh environment, it is a superb realisation of one woman’s vision.

History of Clachanburn

The farm was created in the 1920s when a large run was subdivided, so it is a relatively young property. It was named Clachanburn (“stony creek”) after the stream that at first was the sole source of water for the farm’s sheep and cattle, and the homestead. Then, in 1983, as the arrival of the Maniototo irrigation scheme opened up opportunities, Jane’s late husband, Charles, moved into deer farming and its promotion. He became a leading light in the development of farmed venison and the couple’s son, John, has continued to follow that path. Like his father, he has promoted the industry, including serving as president of the Elk & Wapiti Society of New Zealand.

In the garden, originally a square patch around the homestead, irrigation enabled Jane to develop it into a much larger, award-winning establishment.

About Clachanburn garden

Jane’s childhood home, Gladbrook Station, 25km away over the Rock and Pillar Range, had a garden designed by eminent early 20th century landscaper Alfred Buxton, whose love of trees has obviously influenced her. Trees are vital not only for their beauty, she says, but also for shelter – “We spent the first 20 to 25 years getting shelter.”

Despite growing up such a short distance away, Jane had to cope with hotter (as high as 40degC), drier summers, higher altitude (1500m above sea level) and significantly lower rainfall. It didn’t deter the indefatigable Jane. Charles was to move the fences six times as the garden grew and claimed his fences were to keep Jane in, not his deer out. She retained old poplars in former paddocks for their height and autumn gold, adding other deciduous trees that colour well before their leaves fall. Charles created the ha-ha and bulldozed out the two ponds that are features of Clachanburn. “He did really good stuff,” Jane says.

The varied pond-side plantings demand a closer look, while the boatshed is filled with little treasures, including the 1933 fishing licence that belonged to Jane’s grandfather.

Newer projects include a rock-walled nuttery with olives and hazelnuts, the produce destined for her ever-busy kitchen.

Every imaginable Cistus (rock rose) performs well at Clachanburn but true roses need to be ultra-tough to survive the Maniototo’s harsh winters. Jane has had success with the Scots or burnet roses (Rosa pimpinellifolia) as well as Dublin Bay (“the best red rose for Central Otago”), Golden Wings and tough cherry-red single climber Nancy Hayward.

However, her favourite is undoubtedly Lucy’s Rose, named for her granddaughter, a young cancer survivor. In a project initiated by Jane, money raised from sales of the rose supporting Ranui House, which provides accommodation in Christchurch for the families of those undergoing cancer treatment.

And it wouldn’t be a Central Otago garden without hollyhocks, planted outside Clachanburn’s historic cottage, where visitors can stay.

Significant Award

The New Zealand Gardens Trust has awarded Clachanburn a five-star rating, meaning assessors consider it a garden of national significance. The property has been featured on television and in many newspapers and magazines, while Jane is a regular contributor to New Zealand Gardener.

Meet the gardener

Jane has always loved her garden, in which, she says, “I have worked my butt off.”

Before her marriage, she was a home economics teacher and she has put this background to good use at Clachanburn, creating a range of jams, pickles and chutneys for her gift shop, as well as tea-towels and other printed items. The edibles are made from her own garden and orchard produce, with peach chutney among visitors’ favourites from the 15 varieties offered. “But I’m not competing with Sir James Wattie,” she says with a chuckle.

She is impressed at the trend back to growing food, especially by those in the 30-40 age group. They show that gardening is far from dead, she says. She always urges these younger gardeners to join their local garden club, as the experience of older gardeners is an invaluable resource. “I learned so, so so much from the old brigade here,” she said.

Jane loves entertaining visitors and notes the ten-fold rise in numbers since Clachanburn first opened in 1994; despite the distance many people travel to see the garden.

“As Charles said, ‘If a garden is good enough, people will travel to see it,’ “ Jane notes.

What you’ll see at Clachanburn

SpringFlowering cherries (look for Kanzan with its double pink blooms), the froth of flowers in the orchard and young leaves of birches and poplars.
SummerHollyhocks, lupins and hardy roses take centre stage in one of the driest times of the year.
AutumnGolden and scarlet leaves, with sumach (Rhus typhena) a standout, complemented by crab apple Golden Hornet and bountiful orchard produce.
WinterBare trees etch patterns against the sky and low-growing Juniperus sabina Tamariscifolia, rare dwarf whipcord hebe (Leonohebe cupressoides) and red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus alba Sibirica) look superb when frost-rimed or dusted with snow.

Location and directions

Clachanburn is at 316 Puketoi Runs Rd, R.D.4, Ranfurly 9398. It is 35km from Ranfurly and is signposted from Patearoa.

From Queenstown airport, it is a drive of approximately 2½ hours, via Alexandra and Ranfurly, and a two-hour drive from Dunedin airport via state highway 87. There are direct flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to both airports.

Visiting Clachanburn

Garden visits are by appointment only and cost $10 per person with discounts for larger groups. Devonshire teas ($10) and finger-food lunches ($25) are available by arrangement.

There is ample car parking close to the house and toilets are available.

For details or bookings, phone (03) 444-7501.

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