Iain and Lizi arrived in New Zealand 11 years ago, having grown up in the UK and then moving to South Africa where they lived for over 20 years. Arriving in the Wairarapa and purchasing a house set on 6 acres of neglected paddock, they wanted to create a garden that would give a reminder of their journey, as well as enhancing the beauty of the Wairarapa in a place where the family could feel truly at home for generations to come.
91b Loopline Road
The name of the property – Nithsdale – comes from Iain’s mum’s family origins in the southwest of Scotland in the valley of the Nith. It was where Iain and Lizi first lived after they got married, and also the name of Iain’s childhood home.
Iain describes himself as a novice gardener. The shape of the property has evolved rather than being carefully planned, though Rachel Callaghan – a landscape designer – was a big help in roughing it out.
An avenue of cherry trees leads up to the house, which is surrounded by a large lawn, with a croquet green and with specimen and fruit trees planted. This sets much of the garden back from the house allowing a glorious view of the whole of the Tararua range (weather permitting). It creates a parkland-like view out into the field – although this gives the wind free access! As a result, not a few of their trees have a bit of a lean, despite double steel waratahs securing them and a surrounding macrocarpa shelter belt.
The trees include Chestnuts (great for playing one of Iain’s favourite childhood games of conkers), Oaks (Iain’s favourite being the cork oak, and Liquid ambers starting now to make their presence felt).
Whilst the lawn is very English, as is the croquet lawn, Proteas, Kniphofias and agapanthus, as well as other smaller flowerers like Gazanias help create a bit of a South African flavour, with other drought-resistant plants like Waratahs, banksias and grevilleas and Ecchiums interspersed. Several roses thrive on the border, with a bit of irrigation to help in the summer.
Mown paths in the paddock lead out to a barn, an arena, and a pond which is covered all summer in a brilliant display of water lilies of many colours. Of late Iain has got more interested in using natives, and next to the pond he has started a native tree planting, the centrepiece of which is a young kauri tree. It’s also a great place for a picnic with a little island and picnic table – with views through a large gap in the shelterbelt over the Matahiwi vineyard, and the mountains beyond.
Other natives are some dwarf bottlebrush doing well around the water tanks, weeping kōwhai, leucadendrons, rewarewa, mānuka, and rātā, though there are many other young natives to be found.
Iain believes that no garden should be just for ornamentation. There are a number of fruit trees planted in the lawn, with a row of citrus leading into three large raised beds with their own irrigation system for veggies. The pumpkin patch is where the sewage completes its journey back to nature, presided over by a row of quaking Aspen (Jen’s favourite) – which for some reason look particularly well fed!