Mara Manu (Bird Garden) was named in 2012, 40 years after Maria and Miles Fairburn started their garden. They did so once they thought they had achieved their goal of bringing birds into the garden. When the property was acquired 1972 only four, exotic, bird species were resident.
By 2012, the population had increased to 19 native and exotic species, with another four visiting species. They feel it is pretty special to observe all these varieties of birds feeding and nesting in the trees, and shrubs, purposefully planted for them. The birds give back to this wonderful habitat by leaving new species of plants brought in from the Remutaka and Tararua Forest Parks.
Via Ōtauira Reserve
Note: please park at Ōtauira Reserve and follow the instructions of traffic management to get across the State Highway safely.
The short hill walk up the driveway and up to the view is well worth it!
While the entire garden is a delight, a special treat is the pond at the top of the hill surrounded by native bush, where, if you turn 180 degrees, you will see the breathtaking vista of Lake Wairarapa.
Mara Manu, previously known as The Highlands, was a mixed, dairy/sheep and poultry farm. At the time Miles and Maria purchased the property, several old, rotting buildings remained from as far back as the early 1900s. Some of the farm equipment has been retained as containers for plants to preserve this history. The original small garden around the house was encircled by pasture, and the now bush-clad hillside to the north, was covered in gorse. Two mature totaras, several beeches, a kaikomako, and a matai growing in the paddocks still remain as part of the unwatered, sloping part of the garden. Where there is more moisture from the spring, old specimens of kahikatea, titoki, and tawa are still present.
The first plantings were the pine shelter belt to the west to provide shelter from the prevailing NW wind, and on the relatively sheltered eastern side of the house. The second wave of planting took place at the beginning of the 90s when they expanded the garden to the north up the hillside. Miles and Maria have selected plants that will withstand the harsh conditions and no watering. Mulch is used for weed control and moisture preservation. Less drought tolerant plants such as the hydrangeas, roses and perennials surround the flatter areas around the house amongst the tall, and mainly deciduous trees.
The cultivated part of the garden, including the vegetable garden, is about 1.6ha. The now regenerated former gorse hillside, is about 3ha, and the total 5ha property is a south-facing hillside. Swathes of clivia, hellebore, lilies, irises, hostas and many other plants are interplanted among the trees. The Fairburn’s favourites are magnolias delavayi and macrophylla, crataegus tanacetifolia, and kowhais. A Chinese quince hedge is also a favourite because of its year-round attractions.
Mara Manu has an impressive variety of plants collected over 50 years. Apart from natives, the ones that have responded best to the windy, summer-dry conditions are Mediterranean and South African plants. Maria and Miles’ aim was to create a natural style of garden which merges into the regenerated bush, and, at this, they have been incredibly successful.
The tall trees, both native and exotic, have become a nursery for the self-seeded natives to thrive. Eventually, they will take over and replace those Miles and Maria have planted. Take the opportunity to explore this hillside, and take in the stunning views.