Puketarata Gardens

Hawera couple, Jenny and Ken Horner have created a stunning, tranquil garden on their eight- hectare property. Like many things in life it has evolved without a grand plan, but the outcome is spectacular. The New Zealand Gardens Trust has listed Puketarata as a garden of national significance. This is one of our favourite gardens on our Taranaki Rhododendron Gardens Tour.

History of Puketarata

Jenny and Ken’s garden is named after the Puketarata pa, a 16th century Maori village on the property. Excavations have shown the pa was built over 400 years ago and the Horner’s building site was possibly the pa’s garden.

With deep roots in the community Jenny and Ken’s families have been in the area for a long time, but not quite as long as the pa. Jenny is a fifth generation dairy farmer’s daughter and Ken a third generation lawyer, still working in the family business.

Thirty-five years ago they bought the eight-hectare hillside property and set about developing their family home for their three children. They loved the wonderful rural environment for their children, started gardening and the rest is history.

About Puketarata Garden

When Jenny and Ken bought the land their foremost thought was ‘family.’ Their kids were young so they fenced off the two-hectare gully because it was very steep. The area is now a magnificent stand of bush with a QE II covenant protecting it. There are walking tracks through the mature trees including cherry trees, rhododendrons, magnolias and many varieties of deciduous trees.

‘From the house we can look down on the bush, says Jenny. In autumn it provides a wonderful display of colours and great contrast of green hues with the native trees,’ she says.

After they had fenced off the gully they set about planting the south-west aspects of their building platform to provide shelter from the wind. They also excavated the land to create a site so the house would be nestled into the hillside.

When the Horner’s engaged architect Paul Seton to design their home they wanted to preserve the magnificent views of Mount Taranaki and the inland Taranaki view up the Mangemange river valley. ‘We did not want to compromise our outlook,’ says Jenny.

With the shelter around the house creating a little micro- climate it was perfect timing for establishing and nurturing a garden.

Jenny and Ken wanted a lawn in front of the house. This was laid before the planting began. ‘We started planting the garden around the sides of the house, say Jenny and it really evolved from here’.

The garden planting is a mix of natives, rhododendrons, roses, shrubs and perennials. While Jenny says she like flowers, it’s the texture and shapes that are more interesting. ‘The flowers come and go, but the shapes and colours stay’, she says.

Within the garden are a number of smaller gardens, which blend together with the wide lawns and grass tennis court creating a seamless flow. In the edible part of the garden and herb area, box hedging is clipped into crisscross borders, while elsewhere hedging is less conspicuous.

Jenny is also a native plant lover and says she uses them whenever she can. With ponga fences, lancewood, rimu, kauri, cabbage trees, totara they are plentiful in her garden.

What you’ll see at Puketarata Garden

Spring Beautiful fresh new growth on the deciduous trees. Magnolias, rhododendrons and hydrangeas all coming into bloom.
Summer A colourful show to David Austin, old fashion roses and rhododendrons
Autumn Autumn colours are in full display with copper beaches, maples and persimmons trees
Winter The beautiful starkness of leafless trees as the rest,  storing their energy for spring.

Meet the Gardeners

With busy careers, Ken who still works as lawyer and Jenny who used to be a science teacher have still found time to create one of New Zealand’s most impressive gardens.

With the family grown up Jenny now works in the garden full time and says if you are going to invite the public to your garden it needs to be in top-notch condition. She is a perfectionist and while it takes an enormous amount of work to maintain a large garden to such a high standard, it all worth it for the pleasure you get from it, Jenny say.

‘I love to go and see other people’s gardens, she says, so I thought I should share mine.’

Climate and soil condition

The volcanic soil from Mount Taranaki is fertile and free-draining, providing a great foundation from which to nurture a thriving garden. The rainfall is regular and the sunshine hours are high which all adds to a healthy garden.

Location and Directions

Puketarata Garden in Hawera, about 70 kilometres or one hour from New Plymouth.

Directions from Hawera are as follows:

Head east on High Street.

At the roundabout, take the first exit on to Victoria Street.

Turn left on to Glover Road.

Turn right on to Turuturu Road for five kilometres.

Turn right in to Ngawhini Road and Puketarata is on your right.

Puketarata Garden contact details and address

Address: 14 Ngawhini Rd, Hawera

Phone: 06 278 3081

Jenny and Ken’s garden can be visited by appointment only.

Adults $10

Parking and toilets are available..

Children welcome.

Tours You'll Love

Taranaki Rhododendron Gardens 6 Day Tour

See Taranaki’s best rhododendron gardens in bloom, visit Cross Hills Garden in Kimbolton and stay in Whanganui and Taupo.

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