Uncovering new gems
They drove through valleys and up mountains to Marlborough's furthest corners, peeking up driveways and exploring far-flung country lanes.
For weeks, Hunter's Garden Marlborough committee members became garden detectives, picking through the region with a fine-tooth comb in search of its most stunning botanical gems.
Finally, their intrepid approach, persistence and a lot of hard work paid off: 12 new Marlborough garden owners will be opening their gates for the 19th annual event in November, resulting in four new garden tours.
These include modern and heritage tours and a half day “country splendour” tour that committee president Frank Metcalfe says is already proving popular, going by the number of tickets sold. In another new element, New Zealand native plants expert Mark Dean will add his commentary to the New Zealand native garden tour, in what will be his second time at Hunter's Garden Marlborough.
Frank hopes the new gardens will “freshen up” Hunter's Garden Marlborough, excite regular visitors and attract new faces.
“You cannot just keep serving up the same dish every year,” says Frank of the garden tours.
Most garden owners were accommodating, though not always confident enough to open their garden to the public, Frank says, so finding 12 willing owners was a great result.
“We're just excited that we're producing something nice for lots and lots of different people and lots of ideas.”
Finding the gardens and convincing owners to open them to the public was no mean feat. Led by Sue Monahan, Frank says committee members “just picked this province and town apart”.
“We're absolutely stoked, they did a huge amount of work. They toured, they drove up driveways, looking for something new. They really went looking.
“It was a great adventure.”
Lorraine Nicholls was one of the gardeners approached by the committee after a neighbour told the garden club about it, who in turn passed it on to the Hunter's Garden Marlborough committee.
Just a day after hosting the club in her garden, Lorraine found two committee members knocking on her door asking if she'd be involved.
“They were pretty keen, so we said yes. I hadn't even planned on it, but it's good to be involved.”
Lorraine began planting the garden about the year after her house was built eight years ago, with the aim to build “a nice living area, something to enjoy”. In that time she has created neat lawns, a flowing concrete path surrounded by now blossoming ornamental cherry trees and a patch of mostly native bush down the back, complete with a small meandering path. With just under an acre to play with, she also has a sweeping deck leading from the house to the garden, complete with outdoor oven, which she admits does not get much use but looks great.
Having been on and enjoyed many Hunter's garden tours herself over the years, Lorraine says she is looking forward to being the one opening the garden gates.
“I just hope they'll get a bit of pleasure out if really. It should be a nice day.”
Frank hopes the new, fresh tours will bring other garden owners out of the woodwork to sign up for next year as the event heads for its 20th anniversary.
Garden Marlborough was started in 1994 by nationally recognised gardeners Carolyn Ferraby, Geraldine Sheild and Richard MacFarlane, with Richard and Carolyn still featuring on the garden tour now. Firmly establishing itself on the calendars of gardeners across the top of the South, organisers expanded by involving artists, holding street awards in Blenheim and attracting Hunter's Wines as their longtime main sponsor. The garden fete in Seymour Square came later, designed to draw the wider community into the event. Nowadays, thousands are drawn to the colourful medley of market stalls crammed with plants, piled high with gardening hats or displaying colourful garden art.
With nearly two decades of gardening behind it, one of the drawcards for some Hunter's Garden Marlborough regulars are visiting the same gardens to see what has changed, says Frank.
A particular favourite - “iconic if I can use that word” - is the East Coast Tour, he says.
“They are some of the greatest gardens that you're going to find anywhere. Absolutely fabulous places where people have taken a large piece of land and you go around and see what they've done next. The garden is never the same, each year something different has happened.”
The Christmas Tour also visits many of the same homes each year and visitors love to see what creative ideas the owners have come up with to create yet another original Christmas wonderland.
This year's workshops will also host a number of return presenters, including New Zealand Gardener magazine editor Lynda Hallinan, who will talk about living off the land. Frank says she has “made a huge impact” in getting people excited about sustainable gardens including vegetable gardens.
“Lynda has been here before but she's out there and full of ideas.”
A new face at this year's workshops is Marlborough woman Jill Newman, who will demonstrate sugar-flower. Her workshop replaces flower arranging.
Wellington chef Ruth Pretty is also making a return this year to talk about summer salads.
With a long list of tour options, workshops, the fete and a cocktail party at Quench at Chateau Marlborough to go to, Frank hopes a wide range of gardeners will drop tools for a weekend and come looking for inspiration and a good time. Ticket sales are on par with last year, he says, but people tend to make up their minds “at the last minute”, so time will tell, Frank says, and he hopes to see a lot of new faces. “We're trying to say to people that gardening is cool.”
WIN A TICKET
Hunter's Garden Marlborough is giving away one ticket to the Modern Garden Tour on Saturday, November 10, to one Marlborough Express reader.
To enter, clip this item from the Marlborough Express, Friday September 21 and send it to:
Hunter's Garden Marlborough competition,
c/o PO Box 242,
by Friday, September 28.
Remember to write your name, address and daytime phone number on the back of the envelope.
Native Tour and workshop : November 9 and 10, 9am to 3.30pm
Wentworth, Robyn and John Cuddon
Putangitangi Vineyard, Liz Young and Neil Charles-Jones
Moritaki, Andrea and Peter Forrest
East Coast Tour: November 8, 9 and 10, 8.30am to 5pm
Oak Tree Cottage, Russell and Nicola Kerslake
Winterhome, Richard and Sue MacFarlane
Ha He Naca, Hans and Helen van der Meulen
Barewood, Joe and Carolyn Ferraby
London Hill, Dennis and Barbara Burkhart
Country Splendour Tour: November 8, 9 and 10, 9.15am to 12.30pm
Bouldevines, Janey Walsh
Harry and Jean Griffiths
Greenacres, Margaret and Tony Morrison
Heritage Tour November 8, 9 and 10, 8.45am to 4pm
Anglesea House, Diana Findlay
Old St Mary's Convent
Upton Oaks, Sue and Dave Monahan
Greg and Jill Tomlinson
Timara Lodge, Bryan and Jan Johnson
Modern Garden Tour: November 8, 9 and 10, 8.30am to 4pm
Geoff Taylor and Lorraine Nicholls
Bhudevi Estate, Jane Casey and Bruce Miller
Jan and Peter McCallum
Putangitangi Vineyard, Liz Young and Neil Charles-Jones
Westgrove, Pat Jones
Urban Garden Tour: November 9 and 11, 9.15am to 12.30pm,
November 10, 1.30pm to 4.45pm
Robin and Geoff Robinson
Redheugh, Alastair and Gaye Elliot
Brian and Kathy Baxter
Hazlewood, Hugh and Belinda Vavasour
The Sounds Experience: November 8 and 9, 8am to 5.30pm
Bay of Many Coves Resort
Lazy Fish Retreat
Christmas Tour : November 8 and 9, 6.30pm to 10pm
Alan and Liz Walker
Tony and Pip Hawke
Brian and Nanette Bunting
Robin and Lynne Hammond
Cocktail Party: Quench at Chateau Marlborough, November 8, 6pm to 8pm
Stihl Shop Garden Fete: Seymour Square, November 11, 9am to 4pm
Workshops: Ruth Pretty, Lynda Hallinan, Mark Dean, Jill Newman
Hunter's Garden Marlborough will run from November 8 to 11 and tickets are available from The Blenheim Club, 92 High St, Blenheim, by phoning 577 5500 or 0800 627 527 or going online to gardenmarlborough.com.
The Marlborough Express