In a land of remarkable and spectacular gardens, New Zealand’s Taranaki region cultivates the title of ‘Garden of New Zealand’.
The Taranaki region – on the North Island’s extreme west – is known for its lush landscape, which is dominated by the picture-perfect volcanic dome of Mount Taranaki. The mountain and the surrounding Egmont National Park are a substantial introduction to the region’s flora and fauna via the many well-formed hiking trails through and above the treasured native bush.
Beyond the mountain, Taranaki’s prolific man-made gardens, both exotic and native, are so spectacular that they have their own acclaimed festivals. The Powerco Garden Spectacular, now in its 30th year, and the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival attract thousands of garden lovers to the region every spring (27 October – 5 November 2017). The long-running festivals together showcase around 100 of the region’s top gardens and present vibrant events and education programmes.
The two garden festivals work hand in hand together. The Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival offers open gardens teeming with attainable ideas while the Powerco Garden Spectacular features the more aspirational gardens for those with green fingers and dedication.
The Powerco Garden Spectacular also provides a full programme of events extending to house and garden tours, a speaker series, the Frida Floral Fiesta and more. There is also a featured landscape design project and this year's entitled ‘Radiant Garden’ is by artist Tim Gruchy. This involves the lush landscapes of Taranaki being projected on to the building of festival organiser, TAFT, in central New Plymouth.
A region of gardeners
In Taranaki it’s hard not to be connected to the land. Beneath the mountain, a vibrant green-fingered culture has emerged, resulting in many gorgeous public and private gardens throughout the province. Outside of the two garden fests held each spring, several spectacular gardens are open year-round and worth the visit.
Rated one of only a handful of 6-star gardens by the New Zealand Gardens Trust, Te Kainga Marire is a life-long passion for Valda Poletti and Dave Clarkson. The pair have painstakingly transformed a quarter-acre patch of clay in suburban New Plymouth into an intimate native garden which has garnered international attention.
At the other end of the spectrum is the world-renown Pukeiti Garden, a 360-hectare rain forest garden nestled in the foothills of Mount Taranaki. Pukeiti features more than 10,000 rhododendrons, covering more than 500 of the 800 known varieties, offers a number of marked walks through this wonderland, and a café with a stunning outlook over the summer months.
Coastal New Plymouth’s inner green heart is sprawling 52-hectare Pukekura Park with its extensive network of walks through diverse landscapes, plant collections, formal gardens and native bush. The park comes alive after dark for summer - December and January each year - when the TSB Festival of Lights transforms it into an illuminated wonderland.
Sculpted from a hillside overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River, Tupare is a beautifully landscaped former private home with extensive plantings around the original arts and crafts era Chapman-Taylor homestead.
South Taranaki’s Hollard Gardens had a similar beginning, creating a horticultural oasis in the heart of dairy country. In addition to two walking trails, the garden now features an extensive children’s playground and a comprehensive programme of education events.
In Taranaki, that’s really just the beginning as there are many private gardens around the mountain that are worth a visit – Puketarata near Hawera and the coastal Oakley Garden are both rated 5-star gardens by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.