Hororata's horticultural history at heritage home
Hororata heritage property Terrace Station will soon open to the public to showcase the drifts of flowering snowdrop among the bare trees of its magnificent winter gardens.
Former Christchurch mayor, member of parliament and women's suffrage supporter Sir John Hall was the second owner of the homestead, purchasing the land in 1861. He was the visionary behind much of the garden of today.
Hall's great-granddaughter Kate Foster now lives at the property, along with her husband Richard Foster. They maintain the gardens and prepare them for the open days.
"I think the strength of this garden is its trees. When you think they were planted 150 years ago and they've never been able to be enjoyed as they are until now. It says something of someone with great foresight," Kate said.
The first trees would have been planted in the mid-1850s, Kate said. Hall continued planting and planning the garden as he developed the property.
Deeply involved in the politics of the time, the property allowed Hall an escape from the "bustle of Wellington".
"He referred to the property as 'it sustains my soul and governs my politics'. He was very involved in the property, despite being away a lot," Kate said.
When Hall left, he would leave detailed instructions to his manager, the records of which were still at the property.
"He would write something like: 'garden work, dig up and plant out violets which are now too thick. Put a good few under the trees and if there are any to spare, along the walks in the plantation."
That 37 acre plantation of oaks, sycamores and elms was now also the home to acres of violets, Kate said.
She said she believed gardening was something Hall had always enjoyed. In an early letter from Hall's homeland of England, a friend mentioned sending dahlia seeds for Hall to plant.
"So even as a young man, he must have had an interest in that side of life," Kate said.
She was now researching Hall's gardening history to provide extracts of letters and documents for show on the opening days.
The upcoming open day, 11am-3pm August 13, would be a chance to see some of the Fosters' additions to Hall's garden, including a winding pathway through some of the oldest trees and drifts of flowering snowdrops.
"There wasn't a snowdrop here when we came. I planted the first ones that we got from Homebush in about 1975. I'd seen them and thought 'I must have them'. They multiply wonderfully," Kate said.
"There aren't many places in New Zealand you can see drifts of snowdrops under trees."
Snowdrops only flowered for about a month, the look of the garden constantly changed Kate said. Another open day in September would coincide with the flowering of primroses and violets and then, in October, the bluebells would be ready for visitors.
The entry fee went to the Terrace Station Charitable Trust and the property's maintenance. Guests were welcome to bring picnics.