Sensational English garden arrives in the high country
Among Jan Taylor’s favorite gardening tools (after the pruning saw) is his four-wheeled farm bike, a Can-Am Defender in a distinctive pink camouflage livery. “It’s perfect for hauling garden stuff, much safer up these hills than a truck and the bed is big enough for dogs.”
That pretty much sums up where and how she lives too, on an elevated country station in Canterbury 450m above sea level, where mountains, rivers and winds from all sides present many challenges to a gardener.
Little mortals could lock the door against frequent floods, snowstorms and high winds, opting for more comfortable indoor activities after a long day of herding Merino sheep, Aberdeen Angus cattle and deer for their velvet. Not Jan, who did a four-year apprenticeship with Duncan & Davies, once New Zealand’s largest nursery. She is proud of her English country garden. Rather than being intimidated by the towering peaks, his garden rises up to meet them.
* Enter a centuries-old Canterbury garden in full autumn bloom
* Spectacular Canterbury Garden born from a clever approach
* Tiny plot of Blenheim transformed into a lush secret garden
It’s an act of extraordinary creativity, here in this remote part of the world, where the nearest town, Geraldine, is 56 km away, the next mailbox about 3.5 km away. The 1836 ha of Rata Peak station were cut off the coast of Mt Peel station to free up land for soldiers returning from WWI.
Jan and his family, including sons Hamish and Sam, moved here in 1989, not being intimidated by the isolation. Temperatures vary from 32 ° C in summer to -15 ° C in winter. They are sensitive to early and late frosts and strong northwest winds. If it rains hard on the west coast, Jan knows there will be flooding. And if the hills behind the house protect them from the worst snowfall, she can expect “three reasonable snowfalls a year.”
The farm is located on a range of rocks and gravel thanks to the nearby cove. “It’s very draining, so a lot of dirt has been transported over the years to form flower beds. I try not to plant anything that won’t survive -15 ° C, so I put in hardwoods, conifers, rhododendrons, and mid-season to late-flowering perennials.
When Jan started, there was no proper garden. The sheep grazed right up to the fence of the house and only what they didn’t like to eat had survived. In addition, a stand of old pine trees grew next to the house, letting light in the windows for about half an hour a day. During his first winter in residence, seven pine trees emerged. Jan made his peace with a less troublesome pine, suffocating him with a rare climbing hydrangea, the Hydrangea seemanii.
Starting with the garden closest to the house, she gradually worked outward, colonizing the lawn, chopping down unwanted trees, propagating sideburns to strengthen the mix, in her 2.2 acres of English country style. Of Wisteria sinensis ‘Caroline’ lining the veranda, the planting scheme has evolved and expanded over the decades.
And after 31 years, you can now walk among islands of trees, under a long, charming arch leading to a massive pot, and fetch in one of three ponds, ending with the most recent section where reigns supreme. mature rhododendrons.
Inspired by Helen Dillon, the Irish queen of gardening, Jan planted a 40m long ‘garden’, with herbaceous borders on either side and a lawn that narrows as it recedes, to make it appear longer. .
“The view at the end of my garden is over the paddocks and the river, over the hills across the valley,” she says. Each of the borders is surrounded by European beech hedges with three Robinia Mop Top trees, as well as shrubs, peonies, daylilies and lilies fill in the gaps.
Her favorite part of the garden is the larger pond with the pier, “where I like to have a glass of wine in the evening”. Partner Craig Feaver and his sons used an excavator to enlarge a smaller version of the pond, storing trout there. Unfortunately, thanks to hungry local shags, its waters are now fish-free.
As a plant expert, Jan chose trees that you normally don’t see elsewhere: Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) – “a large specimen of a tree with a tall, slender column-shaped habit … I have a pair” – and a Japanese grape tree (Hovenia dulcis), which has a nice vertical shape. “Mine is in bloom, which I had never noticed before, so I just have to wait for the flower stalks to ripen and harvest some. They are apparently edible and a tonic for your liver. Its extract is sold as a hangover remedy – which might be handy to have, ”she says.
Perhaps her favorite (but not so rare) tree is the cutleaf alder (Alnus glutinosa ‘Imperialis’) – “it has such an elegant and airy shape.” She also has a Korean fir (Abies koreana) which has red-purple cones. Acer pseudoplatanus “Esk Sunset” is the one most people notice. Then there is a distinguished member of the olive family, the fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus).
“The best thing for me about this garden is this: no matter what I do on the farm, there is no special recognition. But with the garden, I put my stamp on the place, made a statement.
She loves the prospect of creating a new garden, once she and Craig leave the farm for the next generation to live in a new home nearby. She will always take care of this garden for her son Sam and her partner Jane Medlicott.
In front of the new house, a lawn will end with a haha supported by old electric poles. “I have already planted along 120m of fence on the west side to create a shelter and planted behind the house and part of the driveway … I have used a lot of plagianthus, hoheria, pittosporum, corokia, manuka , hebe and cabbage here. If we have a harsh winter, it could be a huge planting disaster given our climate.
But as Jan says: “Life is not all peaches and cream. You have to take the good with the bad.
Questions and answers
Hours spent each week in the garden: I’d rather have a big bee that works and put everything in one go for a week, than feel the need to be there all the time. I am not a slave to the garden.
Best Advice: Do not plant large specimens within 10 m of each other. Give your garden room to grow. All of my walkways are 3m wide so I can move around easily and it also gives you space to see the garden.
What I learned: That in this climate you cannot fight the weather and you will suffer losses.
We love this part of New Zealand because of: The changes of the four seasons and breathtaking landscapes against the backdrop of the Southern Alps.
My favorite season: Spring, when everything is so fresh, green and vibrant after the gray of winter.
Help in the garden: No – apart from a sometimes reluctant partner with a chainsaw.
Do you propagate your own plants: I used to grow all of my own roses from cuttings. I like to plant things that have seeded or layered now that the garden is established.