Mara Manu

Over forty years, Miles and Maria Fairburn have developed their exposed hillside garden in Featherston to finally realise their goal – a bird haven.  

951 Remutaka Road, SH 2

The journey was arduous at times. Enabling three hectares of gorse to regenerate on exposed bare paddocks required years of patience. But with time, came knowledge and a chance to observe the seasons. With the gift of time, they learned which plants could survive the toughest of conditions and which native and exotic species would bring the birds.

Seedlings of totara, titoki, miro, matai, kāhikatea, pigeonwood and nikau are now establishing themselves and many are left to replace planted cover .

Gardening influences stem from Miles and Maria’s childhood exposure to family rural Waikato gardens and visits to Sissinghurst and other English gardens in the early 1970s. Such ideas had to be adapted considerably to fit their south facing, windy hilly site on the other side of the world.

In the early days, Miles designed the overall garden concept and got stuck into tree planting. Maria maintained and planted perennials and shrubs. Always a joint endeavour, they play to each other’s strengths.

Now, in its mature state Mara Manu has earned its name. With an emphasis on seasonal change and contrast through form, foliage, colour and texture this garden is one to take your time in and appreciate the layers of time and energy that shaped it. Loose and uncontrived is how Maria describes their gardening style.

This garden is a rare beauty to wander in and a chance to enjoy some unusual spectacular trees: Magnolia macrophylla and Crataegus tanacetifolia with its cream flowers, grey foliage and large, red, edible berries.

At the top of the hill remember to pivot and look out towards Lake Wairarapa – taking in the vistas of the garden below.