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Ideas from Marlborough

Marlborough's hills, valleys and coastlines have seen much change over the past two hundred years.

Maori hunted flightless birds; squatters grew flax and farmed sheep for wool; a tinned rabbit industry briefly bloomed to deal with the rabbits introduced for ‘sport’ - until a shipload of tinned rabbit exploded in the Thames on its way to the London docks and now it’s wine that makes the region’s fortunes as the world continues to fall in love with the flavours of Marlborough savvy.


Words and Images by Robin Powell


It turns out that what is good for vines, is also good for gardeners and Marlborough has an astonishing density of world-class gardens to visit. Premier viewing time is Garden Marlborough in spring, when six different full and half-day tours of gardens in the region are offered to garden lovers.


Dream it, do it

A romantic dream of French country gardens is the inspiration behind Huguette Michel-Fleurie’s Hortensia House. In spring the garden is warmed by tones of yellow and apricot, giving way to a blue dominance in summer as her 150 different varieties ofbeloved hydrangeas (hortensias in France) take the spotlight. The garden frames a pretty, blue-trimmed, lemon-yellow house that looks over a willow-edged creek so clear you can see the brown trout in it. The exuberant growth and crammed beds push to the very edge of chaos, pulled back from the brink by Huguette’s strong, underlying sense of colour - as unerring as a French impressionist -and the power of the dream she is creating.


Frame the view

The irresistible views of the sea at Winterhome, on Marlborough’s East Coast, are framed by garden beds of salt- and wind-hardy plants - daisies, agapanthus, coprosma - and by the amazing sculptural forms of the local ngaio, Myoporum laetum, a fast-growing shrub that clings to the coasts of New Zealand. Many people with big views can't bear to have trees or plants intrude on them in anyway, but Winterhome shows how the suggestions offered by careful framing make a view so much more alluring - you want to see it from all angles, not just here on the comfy terrace.




Rethink the eyesore

The old boiler shed was re-imagined as the focal point of a rustic meadow scene in Viv and Ian Bond’s garden in the Wairau Valley. A grove of scarlet oaks is carpeted in spring by wildflowers, with a succession of bulbs and plenty of cheery poppies. Berry canes scramble up supports around the shed and behind it is a grove of olives. The olives are picked over the Queens Birthday weekend then family and friends sit down to a long Italian dinner under the oaks in the meadow,backed by what was once the eyesore and is now the charmingly rusticold shed.


Bond garden


Be bold

Rosa Davidson’s grand plan for the garden at Paripuma was to marry the geometric formality of classic European gardens with the wildness of New Zealand natives. The result is an iconic garden that underlines the value of a great idea, followed to the letter. Rosa practises her deviations - intimate garden spaces, a potager, a new double perennial border - away from the inspiring dominance of this grand vista. The vision to imagine this scale and perspective from the rock-strewn, wind-battered beach that faced her as the house took shape never fails to have visitors marvelling.




Repeat repeat

Ross Palmer is one of New Zealand's leading garden designers and at Welton House his client is his sister Wendy. Together they have made a striking garden, full of rich colours and unusual plants.In the front, a curving border sweeps down to a mature claret ash, whose colours inspired the choice of the fabulous Rosa mutabilis, which is repeated throughout the border. Its flowers complement the claret ash and the emerging foliage of cannas. This is a tough old rose that flowers for months as its partners in the garden change in thrilling succession that echo the colour changes of the rose itself.


Welton house


Come with us

Robin Powell is leading our New Zealand tour in November, which takes in Garden Marlborough. Check the itinerary at or call 1300 233 200.


About this article

Author: Robin Powell