The furthest corners of Marlborough will lay out the welcome mats as the region gets ready for another Hunter's Garden Marlborough.
The four-day festival, starting on Thursday, is a highlight on the calendar.
Garden tours take people to locations up the Awatere Valley, into the Marlborough Sounds and behind the private fences of both urban and rural properties.
Workshops will impart information on food, country gardening and floral craft and the Stihl Shop Croads Sunday Fete on Sunday brings the community together with a bonanza of plant, craft, art, and food stalls.
Retailers identify the festival as one of the most profitable times of the year, says Garden Marlborough patron Jane Hunter.
"[Visitors] wander around town, buy food to take back to their motel or sit down at a cafe and chat over what they have done during the day."
Jane is the managing director at Hunter's Wines in Rapaura Rd.
The native garden beside its winery is part of the Garden Marlborough native garden tour this year and will be visited by people attending a native plant workshop taken by nursery owner Mark Dean.
"He is going through many gardens, explaining plants and how things work," Jane says.
Display boards at Hunter's Wines give its visitors a brief summary of the plants growing in the half-hectare (1.2-acre) block on one side of the winery and restaurant.
The range of species were selected in 2000 by Christchurch landscape designer Di Lucas to represent plants originally grown in the coastal lands, dunes, spring country and dry plains of South Marlborough.
Jane helped plant them and lists a few of the varieties: five finger, Muehlenbeckia, totara and kowhai.
There are tall stands of flax, too, helping to filter the vineyard's wastewater as it drains into the garden.
No other irrigation is needed, although watering appliances are positioned around the block for easy application in times of extreme drought.
Lancewood, or horoeka, is one of Jane's favourite plants.
It has two distinct growth forms.
As a juvenile it is a three-metre high single-stemmed plant with metre-long, stiff, drooping leaves; eventually maturing into a branched, 15m tall tree with 20-centimetre long upright leaves.
Lancewoods in the main native garden at Hunter's have reached the second stage of growth but examples of its juvenile form are growing on the other side of the winery in a garden space dedicated to endangered native plant life.
A second display board identifies them and puts fierce lancewood (Pseudopanax ferox) in the "serious decline" category.
Growing below it is a spreading ground-cover slender button daisy (Leptinella filiformis) described as "nationally critical".
Other plants include the nationally-endangered pingao (Desmoschoenus spiralis) and shore spurge (Euphorbia glauca).
Hunter's Wines has sponsored Garden Marlborough for the past 16 years, although the event has an independent organising committee.
There are positive promotional spin-offs for Jane's wine company, though, and wide rewards for businesses across the region.
"It's the demography of the people that come . . . [largely] women who probably enjoy gardening and shopping and dining out," she says.
And although the festival is more fun for everyone when the weather is nice, gardening-minded folk typically slip some wet weather gear and a wind jacket into their suitcase.
- The Marlborough Express
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