We are rapidly heading towards Spring 2018 and with the sunshine and warmer days, the spring flowers are popping up all over the place. That means it is nearly time to start planning some tours of local gardens - if that is something that you enjoy.
The region is blessed by a number of stunning gardens, many of which are at their very best in Spring, including what is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in New Zealand - Flaxmere, owned by Penny Zino.
We've included a great list of gardens to visit - some of them on your way up to Hanmer perhaps, some that make lovely day trips if you are basing yourself in Hanmer for a few days. You might also want to book in your calendar some of the best events of the year coming up for gardening, art, wine and food enthusiasts.
Sculpture North Canterbury, Pegasus Bay Winery, Waipara, Sept - November 2018
Further cementing the region’s cultural offerings with its debut exhibition: Sculpture, North Canterbury provides another extraordinary opportunity for art lovers and collectors to view a diverse group of sculpture outside the walls of a typical gallery space. The benefit of locating this exhibition in the beautiful grounds of Pegasus Bay Winery is that you can wander the gardens viewing the art while also sipping on a glass of the winery's best offerings. Nothing like wine, roses and sculpture to provide a perfect Spring combination.
The exhibition has been curated by Laura Forbes, curator of this year's Art in a Garden, and features sculptures by Rebecca Rose, Allan O'Loughlin, Dion Hitchens, Doug Neil, Llew Summers and Matthew Williams.
This exhibition opens with a preview event on the 6th of September and will be available to be wandered and viewed during Pegasus Bay open hours for the entirety of Spring 2018. (Sept - end of Nov.)
Art in a Garden, October 25- 28 2018, Flaxmere Garden, Hawarden
Art in a Garden is the largest annual art exhibition held in the South Island, taking art work out of the usual indoor gallery setting and placing it amongst the stunning environment of one of New Zealand's most highly regarded gardens.
Art in a Garden fosters creativity for artists producing large-scale installations, paintings, photography, prints, ceramics, glass and jewellery. Music filters through the garden and the streamside café serves picnic box lunches, local wine, tea/coffee and sweet treats.
Art in a Garden is held every spring at Flaxmere near Hawarden, an hour’s drive north from Christchurch.
The road north passes through the grape growing district of Waipara before turning inland towards the limestone escarpments of the Weka Pass and the farmlands of the Waikari basin.
From Waikari the road heads west to Hawarden and Flaxmere via the Lake Sumner road.
Christmas Country Fete, Glenmark Domain Waipara, October 25
The annual Christmas Country Fete is a huge event on the North Canterbury calendar and draws people from around the South Island to relax, get in some advance Christmas shopping with friends and enjoy music and great food.
This year for the second year running it will be held in the spacious grounds of the Glenmark Domain in Waipara.
Tickets are still available online, ranging in price from $41 - $71 per person (depending if you want to include your catered lunchbox from White Tie Catering). They do usually sell out though, so get in quick!
Hurunui Garden Festival, November 2-4 2018, Hurunui
Self-drive around the collection of gardens on this Festival calendar, or create a tour with a club that you belong to. Bus groups are welcome and the festival organisers will be happy to help your group to coordinate your visit. Email them for help to coordinate at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay in the alpine village of Hanmer Springs or book a cottage/B&B around the district. Book now to avoid disappointment at this busy time of year. Be sure to tell your accommodation provider that you are coming for the Garden Festival.
Special Events will be organised in many of the gardens, so we suggest you follow the Facebook page to find out more about what is happening in each garden.
Saddlewood, 342 Allandale Road, Hawarden 7385, North Canterbury
Saddlewood homestead and surrounding garden is the fulfilment of a dream by the late Alistair Neill. Inspired by many trips to England he decided to create his own patch of the ‘Old Country’.
The homestead was built in 1963 and its design was influenced by the Cape Cod style, of which Alistair was a keen admirer.
Saddlewoods has been owned by the Todd family since 1987. Richard and Anita Todd have been living in the homestead since 2012. Both house and garden have been under development since then.
The garden surrounds the house and some of its features include plantings of exotic trees, development of sections of garden, swimming pool, lake, several ponds and an impressive ha-ha at the end of the lawn.
A curved driveway connects the house to the main drive and on either side some lovely established deciduous trees provide a peaceful woodland setting. In spring time the ground is a mass of daffodils and other select spring bulbs.
During the past four years the main project has been to clear and rejuvenate areas overgrown with trees and shrubs, many which would have originally been planted in the 1960’s and 70’s. The White Garden is currently being reinstated back to its original theme and a vegetable area is in its early stages of development.
Flaxmere, 128 Westenras Rd Hawarden, North Canterbury
Over 50 years ago on a North Canterbury sheep farm, the garden at Flaxmere was established, boldly designed to frame breathtaking mountain vistas, and create sense of tranquility with a series of ponds.
Situated near the South Island's Southern Alps, Flaxmere has developed into a stunning example of a garden that evolves with the seasons, offering splendid displays throughout the year.
This is a large country garden based on the principles of strong design, and is completely in tune with the terraced riverbed country the garden is part of. Flaxmere's vistas have been described as 'art forms'.
Immense use of water creating a series of five ponds, gives a sense of enormous peace, and ensures wonderful bird life.
Heavy old bridge timbers have been used throughout the landscape and stone walls have been built over the years which add to the country style.
This is a garden that has most things, formal, informal, extensive area of New Zealand native plants, woodlands, roses, rhododendrons and water, and home to the annual Art in a Garden exhibition.
Flaxmere was made a Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust, which is affiliated to the Royal Institute of Horticulture.
Loch Leven, 714 Rotherham Road South, Culverden, North Canterbury
Doreen and Michael purchased their small farm in 1989. The garden has evolved and changed over the last 28 years from a very small lawn with a silver birch and gum tree surrounding a small house.
The fences have been moved numerous times, the house has been extended, a bulldozer used to create contour to the flat paddock. Leyland cypress and poplars were planted straight away to create some shelter from the Norwest winds. The 2-acre garden is a delight to visit from mid-October through to Autumn but at its best over late spring and early summer.
Hedges and topiaries feature throughout the garden that gives formality and all year round structure. The numerous hedges are also used to propagate the 1000s of cuttings that are grown and sold in the nursery and online. This garden offers a range of different borders planted with combinations of deciduous and evergreen shrubs, rhododendrons, roses, peonies, hostas and an abundance of perennials.
A native area blends with the landscape with mass plantings of poa citaTrees have been planted throughout the large lawn to give a park-like effect. Large rocks have been incorporated to add interest.The small nursery beside the garden specialises in hedging plants, Buxus, lonicera, teucrium and escallonia being the most popular.
Many other plants seen growing in the garden are propagated and sold in the nursery including shrubs, perennials, natives, grasses, roses, and topiaries.
Rhodo Direct, 232 Rotherham Road, North Canterbury
Craig and Marina Shearer’s beautiful Rhododendron garden is an extension to their cattle farm that boasts natural spring waterways with free draining soils. The property is aptly named Spring Farm which is nestled between the Waiau River and steep, eye-catching clay cliffs that set the colours of the Rhododendrons off when in full bloom.
They liked the idea of the cottage garden and filled it with gypsophila, delphiniums, roses and other gorgeous cottage garden plants. Soon after the Shearer's began living at the farm, they visited a nearby Rhododendron garden and fell in love with these gorgeous plants, many of which were as large as trees.
After this visit, they felt inspired to plant trees and rhododendrons on the property and when the time came to build a larger home on Spring Farm, a new garden was also required.This time the garden followed a more formal theme and plantings were kept to a limited palette of red, apricot and creams.
The property now has 5 acres of garden featuring two distinctly different gardens – a formal garden and a cottage garden with Rhododendrons being the prominent plant in both.
The Shearers now open their gates to visitors from all over the country (and sometimes the world) to share the gardens and their established Rhododendron nursery with over 500 different species for sale.