Ohinetahi Garden

Ohinetahi Garden in Governors Bay, a three acre country garden at the head of Lyttelton Harbour, is considered to be one of New Zealand’s finest gardens. Ohinetahi is blessed with a unique microclimate, location and loving gardeners.  Here, you will see garden design, planning, techniques, plant selection and care at their very best, and will appreciate how these can work together with the natural landscapes and a built environment. A garden of national and international significance, this is truly a stand out on our Canterbury Springtime Gardens tour.

History of Ohinetahi Garden

The location was once a heavily fortified pā of Ngāti Māmoe. About 300 years ago, it was taken by Te Rakiwhakaputa of Ngāi Tahu. The name, Ohinetahi, means place of one daughter. This is thought to be the legacy of the Maori chief Manuhiri, son of Te Rakiwhakaputa, who had many sons but only one daughter.

A garden was first planted at Ohinetahi in 1865 by T.H.Potts, an early botanist.  He planted exotic trees and shrubs, many sourced from Kew Garden in London. He died in 1888 and the garden fell into disrepair. Many of the trees, now at full maturity, still frame the perimeter of the garden.

When architect Sir Miles Warren, his sister artist Pauline Trengrove, and her husband architect John Trengrove, bought the property in 1977 it was little more than a rundown house, ragged lawn and basic orchard. They restored the homestead and began the present garden.

The garden now has a six star rating of significance providing one of New Zealand’s top garden experiences, where the highest level of presentation, design and plant interest is achieved throughout the year. The homestead is registered as a Category I heritage building with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Since the mid-1990s, Sir Miles has tended the property himself and in early 2013, he gifted Ohinetahi and a trust for its maintenance to New Zealand.

Meet the gardeners

Constant maintenance is necessary on the property and two full-time gardeners take care of its day-to-day upkeep, which includes three months of hedge cutting. Sir Miles a well-known, keen and talented gardener as well as an architect continues to manage the garden.

Designed by two architects and an artist, the garden inevitably has a strong structural framework. The current garden has perspective, dimension, colour, light, shape and symmetry. Inspiration for the garden was sought from the great gardens of England and learning from professional gardeners responsible for the likes of Hidcote Manor and Sissinghurst garden.

Climate and soil conditions

The Governors Bay climate is warm and temperate. The average temperature in Governors Bay is 11.2 °C with an annual precipitation of 706 mm. The Governors Bay climate is modified by the Port Hills, the steep volcanic crater rim on three sides, and Lyttelton Harbour. Thanks to the location, the soils are rich and fertile.

Garden features

Ohinetahi unfolds as a series of spaces linked by pathways and steps arranged around two axis approximately North-South and West-East. Paths draw the visitor from one area to the next as the garden unfolds. Each room has a unique character, and is sheltered by hedges and back dropped by mature trees.

The rectangular reflecting pool with pool house, complemented by three round clipped bay laurels, low hedges and brick pathway is spectacular. The Red Garden is walled, and features bright spring flowering poppies, tulips, red roses and dahlias that contrast with a pyracantha hedge, buxus, brick steps and yew. The rose garden to the northeast of the homestead has no less than 12 box-edged gardens of white cream, yellow and apricot roses.  There is also a room of topiary buxus clipped into cones, spirals and chickens that frame stone steps protected by tall hedges.

A deep valley and stream at the north perimeter of the property is planted in New Zealand natives like ponga (silver fern), mahoe and lancewood, combined with exotic woodland species, like hostas, trilliums and hawthorns. These all thrive in the damp environment, sheltered and shaded by massive Oak trees planted by Potts the original gardener. This garden melds into a magnificent, densely planted Rhododendron and Magnolia area, and then a camellia garden.  Even the steep slopes have been developed into a stone amphitheatre with splendid views overlooking the harbour, for outdoor concerts

You’ll also find an herb potager, vegetable garden and glass house, a pleached hornbeam walk, herbaceous borders, gazebo and swing bridge, as well as statues, stone and metal sculptures featuring New Zealand artists and craft people.

The steam, lush plantings, native and exotic trees means that wide variety of bird life is supported at Ohinetahi. Look out for the wood pigeons in summer and autumn.

Ohinetahi is so carefully crafted that it has year round interest and appeal, but there is some seasonal highlights to look out for:

SpringThe Red Garden is a particular feature in Springtime as well as the grand peony garden in mid October.  There is the spring time flush of deciduous trees and growth of perennials.
SummerThe rhododendron walk, camellia, and rose garden are special features.
AutumnThe colourful display of deciduous trees draws the eye to the longer views in the garden.  The woodland garden is particularly nice at in Autumn.
WinterOhinetahi is closed for viewing in winter

How to visit the garden

Ohinetahi is open for visiting from September to April for $15 per person. Weekday hours are 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. The garden can be viewed at the weekend by arrangement only.

Ohinetahi Garden,
31 Governors Bay
Teddington Rd,
Allandale 8971

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 Akaunui gardens is a comfortable 40 minute trip. From the airport, turn left to head south. Turn left onto Yaldhurst road. Turn left to head south on Curletts Road. This changes into Hoon Hay Road. At a T-junction turn left onto Cashmere Road. At Hackthorne Road turn right. Turn right into Dyers Pass road, and go up and over Dyers pass. Carry on onto Main Road until you reach Ohinetahi Garden on the left.

From Christchurch city travel south on Colombo St and onto Dyers Pass Rd, over Dyers Pass and down to Governors Bay. Ohinetahi Garden is on left 1.5 km past the hotel on the main road.

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