A visit to Barewood is fantastical.
To pull up in the driveway, step through the gate and see an old homestead, appearing to nest on a bed of flowers, dripping in translucent white wisteria feels entirely secret and totally unreal!
The drive up the Awatere Valley from Seddon with its bare hills, flats full of grape vines and the looming rocky skyline of Tapuae-o-Uenuku gives no hint at the eden you will arrive at.
Barewood, like many large New Zealand gardens of its kind, is the home base of a wider farming property. Struggles with water supply, dense clay soil, shelter and the given isolation were tackled with enthusiasm and kiwi ingenuity by Joe and Carolyn Ferraby. They talk about the expansion of the garden, multiple moves of the washing line and the claiming of the calf paddock with jibes and chuckles, entirely reflecting their warm personalities and positive attitudes. They present casual, humble faces to what is anything but a casual achievement.
On their move to the family farm, young florist; Carolyn was recommended to take up gardening by her mother-in-law as a way to combat the loneliness she felt sure she’d suffer. As I wandered around the landmark, mature garden in 2019, I wondered if, 40 years on, Mrs Ferraby senior would have ever believed that her words would be taken so literally!
“A garden should curtsy to the house” – Gertrude Jekyll
The visit film at Barewood was my third, following two previous with Garden Marlborough. As an eager beginner gardener in 2018, trying to pull my eyebrows out of my hairline, I’ll admit meeting the woman responsible had me feeling nervous and practically starstruck. The saturated romance and rambling beauty of Barewood feels like Carolyn probably waves her magic wand and scatters fairy dust at every full moon.
It just doesn’t feel like a piece of rural New Zealand!
And I’m not alone in my fluttering admiration. Carolyn shared that overseas visitors are sometimes moved to tears and most are disbelieving that they get to walk the garden with its designer/maker/owner! Gardens of this size and stature in the Northern Hemisphere would commonly be overseen by a Head Gardener and team of workers. Not in Marlborough !!!
Carolyn’s words, “a garden is like a painting but never finished” seeped through me as I wandered.
While Barewood serves as a library of all types of wonderful plants, I was reminded to step back out from my rose sniffing and take in its corners and views as a whole. I realised that Barewood was most definitely a painting, one that changes with each day, all year round.
As a beginner, regularly stumped and forced back to Google and books, a garden like Barewood didn’t intimidate, instead it inspired on all levels. I don’t have a calf paddock to expand into but I do have fence shaded beds that I want to grow more than one boring species in. Carolyn’s creation provided endless examples of what I too might be able to combine and have a go at. The relevance of visiting iconic gardens like this, as a keen newbie, was far more beneficial than I had previously thought.
I also marveled at the way the garden curled around the house and the effect this had on connecting the insides with the out. Even in a small garden, pulling plants in containers to doors and allowing green tendrils up verandahs will inject magic.
Barewood, for me, is about atmosphere.
The strange realisation that green, forever changing, but intentional spaces can directly affect a persons emotions.
I am certain that Carolyn’s vision was very much tied into how she wanted her garden to make “her” feel, that her aesthetics and eye as a florist are behind the detailed layers of colour and texture fueling the need to expand.
But I think the endless satisfaction of knowing the connection others experience when they visit will be the cherry on top.