The Magic of Gardening : “Winterhome”

As I’ve fallen further down this gardening rabbit hole and the idea to capture and share the intimacy of NZ gardens on film grew closer to reality….I knew that Winterhome would be at the top of my list. 

I first visited Winterhome at Garden Marlborough in 2018.
It was the first day of my first garden tour and I remember well the feeling of dragging my jaw around the endless avenues, paths and moments of glory of this garden. I simply could not believe that I had spent 38 years driving up and down the coastal SH 1 with not a glimmer of an idea of what was on the cliff above. 
My wonder at this place was only reconfirmed on my visit again with Garden Marlborough in 2019 and really underlined when we returned to shoot it and I witnessed the astonishment on the faces of the Flashworks Media crew.
Even as non gardeners, they were utterly taken at the gardens presence.

Garden making, like gardening itself, concerns the relationship
of the human being to their natural surroundings

– Russell Page

It was on visiting Winterhome, (as a total beginner with a small urban garden in Christchurch), that I first truly realised what “vision” in the realm of home gardening really stood for. 

In 1977 Sue Macfarlane and her husband Richard purchased the “Winterhome” property from her grandparents. Here they raised their family on the dry exposed Kaikoura coast, riding the highs and lows of farming in the late 80’s and early 90’s, diversifying in business by establishing an avocado orchard under a government scheme and purchasing the Kekerengu shop. This iconic coastal stop continues to run under their son today. 
All the while, Sue extended her garden, relocating the driveway 3 times, claiming grazing land and slowly executing her formal garden design created using an aerial photo as reference. 

The “vision” in this garden is not only in the commitment to the many extensions, hard landscaping and endless hours of work, but for me as a beginner, its the ability to visualise the end “atmosphere” knowing that trees and plants might take 2-20 years to mature. Turning a bare paddock into a conifer lined avenue or formal, hedged citrus grove is going to take YEARS of growth, and its that patience and “vision” that I am finding exists within great gardeners.

The Macfarlanes were early adopters of garden tourism as a way to supplement their income and are one of the foundation gardens that make up the magnificent annual festival;  Garden Marlborough that has just celebrated its 26th year.  However, Winterhome wasn’t created with these goals in mind, instead, it was an extension of a family home in what is an isolated location. Sue and Richard’s aim initially was focused on making a place their four children could grow and enjoy the things many kids in town simply pop down the road for …swimming, tennis, adventure playgrounds etc. They certainly had the space and progressed the garden over many years when updates could be afforded. 

With the sad passing of Sue just a few years ago, son Winston returned home with his wife Nicky and young family to help prepare for Garden Marlborough. Dipping back into country life and family connection proved too attractive, with the couple relocating permanently to take on the maintenance and continued opportunities that the garden provides.
They are the first to admit the learning curve is steep!
With Richard on hand to guide and help, the couple credit Google and the constant stream of jobs as the stepping stones to learning, proving you are not born with it, you just need to muster a passion!  

As a beginner, I have already learnt a lot from this garden. 
Planting choices are firstly dictated by what will actually grow and cope with the harsh dry summers and sometimes raging coastal climate. I’ve learnt the value in the structure of shrubs, trees and hard landscaping in “holding up” the garden in the dryer or cooler times of year when many plants have given up or gone to bed. 
With my breath catching every time I peeped sideways down a path or turned a corner to walk an avenue, I have learnt the magic in ‘lines of sight’. The balance and the moments of pause created at Winterhome are magnificent and easily comparable to the feelings found in the old grand gardens of Europe.

How lucky we are to have it right here in the South Island of New Zealand. 

This episode and blog post of “The Magic of Gardening” was created in partnership with Garden Marlborough. It will be more than obvious that my thoughts are my own and I am so proud to collaborate with such an amazing, homegrown festival . 

You can visit Winterhome as part of their “East Coast” tour. 

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