Flaxmere Garden

Flaxmere garden is a peaceful, colourful, pristine oasis set on the terraces of Waitohi River in North Canterbury. It offers strong structure, a huge diversity of plants and trees, sympathetic use of the natural environment, and inspiration in terms of construction and combination. Flaxmere garden fully deserves its five star rating as garden of National Significance and is the proud host of Art in a Garden event every spring, where we get a sneak peak on our Canterbury Spring Gardens tour.

Flaxmere garden is lovingly tended by its creator, Penny Zino.

History and climate

Flaxmere garden was developed on a North Canterbury sheep farm from 1966 and is situated on the ancient terraced river beds of Amuri plain 300 meters above sea level. Beautifully framed outlooks give a real sense of the garden’s place in the environment. Outlooks include a series of five ponds in the foreground, long views through the garden to the mountain backdrop, and snapshots out to the farm surroundings. Today Flaxmere is an impressive 3.2 hectare mature country garden, set in cattle country.

The Hurunui climate is strongly influenced by the Southern Alps to the west. Long dry spells and droughts, hot dry north-west winds, and cool north-easterly sea breezes are typical. Summer temperatures can range from 21 to 40°Celsius.  During winter the mountain ranges are snow covered. Temperatures between 7 and 14°Celcius are typical but harsh frosts and night time temperatures down to minus 15 degrees are not unusual in the Hurunui. Although all this poses significant gardening challenges, the presence of mature trees and fresh water has created a stabilising microclimate at Flaxmere garden.

Meet the gardener

Penny Zino has been working Flaxmere garden from virtually the first spade thrust, and she has designed and constructed much of it herself.  Regardless of the work that she has put in to get her garden to this stage, she remains passionate and loves to try new ideas, plants and combinations. Someone that has put a garden together in such a pleasing fashion has to be admired.  Penny has amassed a wealth of knowledge and is only too willing to share her love of gardening with you.

Garden features

You will experience a beautiful flow at Flaxmere. You will find your eye just leads your feet from one area to the next and the changes in your surroundings appear seamless. Strong structural features define the areas and lend a solid back bone to the garden.  A restored 1890 barn, rustic gates, wood and stone bridges, brick pathways, and stone walls are so well incorporated they might be part of the historic environment.

The immediate setting of the homestead has mature and luxurious plantings, colourful borders, sweeping manicured lawns, a swimming pool, and long views to the mountains. Other features include clipped boxwood hedges leading to a formal rose garden full of old fashioned varieties, a New Zealand native and woodland garden.

The simple spring-fed creek running through the property is tastefully incorporated. It have been developed in to  five ponds covered in lily pads which, of course feature lily flowers and iris in summer, a water meadow planted with beech trees and natives, and a beautiful arched bridge. The waterways plus the lush plantings, native and exotic trees means that wide variety of bird life is supported at Flaxmere.

There is such a variety of plants at Flaxmere that it’s hard to highlight one or two features. It is clear that trees have been chosen for their ability to withstand extremes of climate and create shelter from the renowned North Canterbury winds, as well as for their form, texture and colour as the season progresses. Each season is unique at Flaxmere. It is a garden that you can visit in any season and appreciate new aspects.

You will be interested to know that there is a small nursery where you can make plant purchases. Also, Flaxmere is a secluded and romantic wedding venue.  In addition, at the end of October each year, Flaxmere hosts Art in a Garden, an event that promote New Zealand art.

Flaxmere is a five star garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.  Five star gardens are highly recommended for their presentation, design and plant interest throughout the year. They have a distinctive identity of their own and a character that gives them an edge, and special features.

Seasonal highlights at Flaxmere

Flaxmere garden changes significantly as the season’s progress making it a feast to the senses at any time of the year. In part this is due to the climatic conditions and location, but also plant choices that were made when the garden was first conceived.

SpringOodles of daffodils, and fruit and ornamental trees. Primula candelabra, rhododendrons, azaleas, tulips, blue bells, peony and clematis in October and November.
SummerRose gardens, mixed borders and waterways feature strongly in summer. Water lilies and irises flower in early December.
AutumnA riot of autumn colour of deciduous trees preparing to lose their leaves. There is such a variety of trees that the property puts on a magnificent display of red, orange, yellow and green.
WinterStark beauty of leafless trees exposing the snow-covered mountain backdrop. Crisp frosty mornings and sunny afternoons.

Overall Flaxmere is a great place to visit and admire. It is a peaceful, colourful, pristine oasis set in farming country.

Art in a Garden at Flaxmere

Each spring, Penny and Flaxmere are the proud hosts of the annual Art in a Garden event, an annual four day exhibition of contemporary New Zealand art in the beautiful setting of the Canterbury Spring. The garden comes to live with the work of up to 100 artists, including paintings, jewellery, prints, photography, ceramics, glass and large scale installations.

The setting is complete with live music, cafe style food and local wines.

For more information and dates visit their website.

Visiting the garden

Penny’s garden can be visited by appointment between October and April.

Address: 128 Westenras Road, Hawarden
Phone: 03 314 4504

If you are travelling from Auckland or Wellington, then the best destination airport is Christchurch. The flight times are 1 hour 20 minutes and 50 minutes respectively.

The trip from Christchurch Airport to Flaxmere garden is a comfortable 1 hour drive.

  • Travel north on SH1 for about 50kms to Wairapa junction.
  • Turn left onto SH7 Hanmer Springs Highway until Waikari village.
  • At Waikari turn left and travel about 7kms to Hawarden
  • At Hawarden travel straight through the crossroads  and go straight ahead for 10kms to the lakes
  • Turn right on to Westenras Road. Flaxmere is about 2kms down Westenras Road.

Tours You'll Love

Canterbury Springtime Gardens & Hanmer Springs Fete 7 Day Tour

Canterbury’s best springtime gardens and Southern hospitality, the lively Hanmer Springs Fete and French ambience in Akaroa.

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