New Zealand’s Taranaki region – on the western edge of the central North Island – is a unique horticultural area that is world renowned for its gardens.
The volcanic soil and rainforest climate that feed the region’s lush dairy pastures also provide ideal growing conditions for native rainforests and many exotic species that have found a new home on the plains and rolling hills dominated by Mt Taranaki.
Since New Zealand’s early days, gardening has been a traditional aspect of domestic Kiwi life, whether for survival or pleasure.
Māori cultivated kumara and other crops on the edge of their kainga (traditional villages) long before Europeans arrived with exotic vegetables, and flowering plants and trees to beautify their new homes.
Some of New Zealand’s most famous gardens were established in the 19th century, but many are also modern creations.
Taranaki Garden Spectacular
The 10-day Taranaki Garden Spectacular, held annually from late October to early November, is a major event on the New Zealand gardening calendar and an opportunity to showcase the region’s mostly private gardens. The festival began in 1987 as a community event and has grown to be a solid fixture featuring old and new gardens, a speaker series, art in gardens, house and garden tours and an exciting event programme.
The festival features nearly 50 gardens, including several that have been classified as nationally or internationally ‘significant’ by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.
Taranaki has an increasing number of significant gardens – more than any other part of New Zealand.
There are seven gardens of ‘national significance’, 10 gardens of ‘significance’, and one garden of ‘international significance’ – Te Kainga Marire garden.
Garden of International Significance
Te Kainga Marire (private)
One of New Zealand’s great gardens, Te Kainga Marire – meaning peaceful encampment – is described as the epitome of the Kiwi garden. It showcases native flora that has been arranged to imitate the ‘real’ New Zealand.
A pool and rock garden display plants requiring specific conditions, while the roof of a sunken fern house shows off the distinctive foliage of the begonia Elatostema rugosa. Exotic plants include old specimen roses and rhododendrons, and an organic vegetable garden.
Te Kainga Marire
15 Spencer Place, New Plymouth
Gardens of National Significance
Hollard Gardens (public)
Hollard Gardens were established in 1927 by dairy farmer Bernard Hollard whose life-long passion for collecting and growing plants has created an important heritage collection. The gardens, which are now in public ownership, are divided into three main areas:
Old Garden (1927) - a living reference to New Zealand’s plant nurseries and breeders - is a woodland garden with narrow winding paths through a closely planted and diverse range of native and exotic plants.
New Garden (1982) is open and expansive with wide grassed paths and a large lawn bounded by mainly herbaceous plantings.
Native New Zealand Garden (1992) contains rare and endangered plants.
Upper Manaia Road, Kaponga
Oakley Garden (private)
Oakley Garden - a large family garden - reflects the owner’s formal training in horticulture and landscape design. The garden is near the coast and has been designed to withstand the local prevailing wind. Major features include shelters that create havens, hedge-lined paths linking garden rooms, cottage borders, and many hanging baskets.
79 Lower Normanby Rd, Manaia
Pukeiti Garden (public)
Pukeiti Garden - close to Mt Taranaki’s volcanic slopes and encircled by rainforest - is an internationally renowned rhododendron garden that was originally planted in 1951. Kilometres of tracks wander the forest and gardens which include displays of vireyas and other plant collections. Abundant native birdlife inhabits the forest canopy, and the mountain streams are a haven for rare native fish.
Pukeiti's flowering season starts in July when the first majestic large-leaf rhododendrons flower. Camellias, large magnolias and michelias follow, and by October the garden is alive with colour.
2290 Carrington Road, 23km southwest of New Plymouth
Pukekura Park & Brooklands (public)
Pukekura Park is the centre-piece of New Plymouth’s extensive parks and reserves network. The 49ha / 120-acre public park includes Brooklands garden estate, zoo and historic Gables colonial hospital.
This garden, which has been in development since 1876, has a diverse landscape ranging from luxuriant native bush to broad lawns with annual bedding displays, themed garden plantings and a large exotic specimen tree collection. There are several natural waterways and artificial lakes.
The native orchid, begonia and fern collections, housed in a tunnelled conservatory, are of outstanding interest. An impressive outdoor sound stage and grassed amphitheatre provide a summer venue for concerts.
Brooklands has sweeping lawns, magnificent old trees and flower-filled borders. Boating on the fern fringed lake or quiet bush walks in the valleys are other attractions.
Fillis Street, New Plymouth
Puketarata Garden (private)
Puketarata - begun in the 1980s - is a large country garden with a diverse collection of natives, rhododendrons, roses, unusual shrubs and perennials. It features a small orchard under-planted with daffodils, abundant birdlife, vegetable and herb gardens, and pretty views from the haha across a specially planted gully. The garden and house are adjacent to 400-year-old Puketarata Pa.
14 Ngawhini Rd, Hawera
Tupare Garden (public)
Tupare is a beautifully restored garden that surrounds a classic arts and crafts era Chapman-Taylor home, near New Plymouth. Sculpted from a hillside overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River, it is one of the Taranaki region's premier landscaped gardens and features many large mature trees. The property was originally developed by prominent Taranaki businessman Sir Russell Matthews.
487 Mangorei Road, New Plymouth
A wide range of rhododendrons, azaleas, roses and perennials provide spectacular colour throughout spring and summer. A small stream features a waterfall and bog garden with mass plantings of hostas, irises and primulas. Large sweeping lawns, brick paths, clipped hedges and shade house featuring fuchsias and begonias add interest to this well landscaped garden.
172 Lepper Rd (Upper), RD 6 Inglewood
Gardens of Significance
Mary’s Place (private)
Mary’s Place is a pretty town garden with a sense of space and tranquillity that clearly illustrates a love of plants. The setting of trickling and misted waters includes rustic collections, archways draped with climbing roses and clematis, and pots of colourful flowers and succulents in sunny areas.
190 Glover Rd, Hawera
Nikau Grove Garden (private)
Nikau Grove is a mature one-acre garden nestled in a gully of native bush with hundreds of nikau palms and sub-tropical plants. Features include many walkways and board walks, weta hotels, a cascading waterfall and natural meandering stream.
65F Govett Ave, New Plymouth
King Edward Park (public)
Edwardian in ancestry, this public park is charmingly formal in design and is home to floral borders and rose gardens, grassy avenues and aged trees. Ducks and occasional model yachts reflect in the century old boating pond and the park’s unique Wendy statue searches endlessly for the lost boys in an avenue of mature rhododendrons. Seek some of the park’s hidden features along pathways offering different perspectives of its ever-changing gardens, or enjoy a picnic in a sylvan setting.
King Edward Park
Cnr Upper High St and Waihi Rd, Hawera
Openlands Garden (private)
Openlands is a 2.5-acre country garden near Manaia, in south Taranaki, that has been developed since 1961 when it was just a bare paddock. The garden of sweeping lawns and mature trees surrounds a farm homestead. Rose beds, a golden gleditsia, and 60 large rhododendrons provide splashes of springtime colour and a home for native birds.
The property also includes a collection of vireya rhododendrons housed in a shade house, a dell of native ferns and colourful clivias where two bridges cross a meandering stream, aviaries of exotic birds and a renovated heritage church that’s a favourite photographic feature.
Openlands Country Garden
1064 Auroa Rd, Auroa
Cairnhill Garden (private)
This vibrant, colourful garden is framed by a canopy of deciduous trees. Rhododendrons and vibernums flower in profusion, collections of hostas and heucheras interplay in the filtered light, giving a sense of peace and timelessness.
Roses and trellised clematis add excitement to this garden of many rooms. A range of different edging plants give definition to borders, many of which are filled with amazing iris varieties, peonies and special plantings.
1054 Forgotten World Highway, Stratford
Stanleigh Garden (private)
Situated with views to both the coast and the mountain on fine days, this peaceful country garden uses its elevated position to grow splendid hybrid rhododendrons, many of which are in flower during the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular.
Hostas are used extensively as under planting. Features include a large pond, rustic fences, garden seating and children’s play area. Picnickers are welcome. There are crafts and art for sale, and complimentary tea and coffee.
752 Upper Dudley Rd, Inglewood
Sanderson Garden (private)
This large coastal, farm garden relies on good shelter, given its windy location, but a warm, homely welcome awaits visitors.
Expansive lawns and well-established beds set amongst the sheltering trees give a flow to the garden which makes the most of its natural features and is maintained to a high standard. Visit Elaine’s on-site Christmas shop to give you inspiration for the festive season. Plenty of off road parking.
1961 Surf Highway 45, Manaia
Boxwood Garden (private)
The base of the garden is largely a formal woodland area, with plantings of deciduous, flowering evergreens and perennials.
There is a subtropical area, formal borders, a prairie-style border featuring texted perennials and grasses, an elegant summerhouse and pathways leading to variable garden rooms.
820 Patiki Rd, RD 32, Opunake
Lockinge holds a hidden valley of mature trees around a lake where swans and doves can be enjoyed. Phyllis's love for floral art and gardening is obvious throughout the garden.
There are rhododendrons, roses, wisteria, clematis and perennials, planted in woodland and bog areas, plus an established fruit orchard and vegetable patch. Picnickers are welcome.
392 Tempsky Rd, Okaiawa
Hofmans Garden (private)
A large country garden, covering 4.5 acres, this expansive garden features numerous interesting elements ranging from contemporary twists to traditional aspects. The garden also includes two wetland areas, many rhododendrons, a formal rose garden, outdoor living area, orchard and vegetable area and more. You will be surprised with what is around the corner!
170 Upper Stuart Road, Hawera
NZ Gardens Trust registered gardens
Kowhai Garden (private)
Just 5 minutes’ drive from central New Plymouth, Kowhai is a private garden with a difference. Inspired by Pukekura Park and Pukeiti, Kowhai features at least an acre planted with more than 250 rhododendrons, vireyas and azaleas spread through a native woodland setting, along with many maples, clivia, ferns, hosta and bromeliad.
This garden provides an enjoyable meandering streamside walk through exotics and native plantings over bridges and boardwalks which then zig-zag up the hill. There are some steps, but also plenty of seating for a rest and providing an ideal opportunity to watch and listen to the abundant bird life. There are also two orchards, a berry house and vegetable garden, which complement the house garden.
92 Ridgewood Dr, Frankleigh Park, New Plymouth 4371