Nestled beneath the Remutaka ranges is the enchanting and historic homestead of Mary and Peter Biggs, Te Puhi. The house was built in 1868 and its garden and tells the story of another time and place, when native bush covered the foothills and rolling paddocks dipped down towards the Tauherenikau River.
The front garden boasts several 100-year-old trees, including a red-barked miro. Wrapped around its trunk is a bouganvillea of a similar vintage. They’re so entwined, one could not stand without the other.
For the past 21 years, Mary, a self-taught gardener, with help from her farm manager, has tended the gardens.
Mary is a cordon-bleu qualified cook and hosts a cooking school at Te Puhi. The raised garden beds offer fresh, seasonal, organic produce to forage from. There’s a mediterranean feel to the garden, with long avenues of lemon groves, pinus pineas pine nut trees and lavender aplenty.
The magnificent grandiflora magnolia tree, dubbed ‘‘old mighty’ is a central feature near the outside living area, a restored vintage farm dray from 1896, and a holly hedge planted in 1920 that Mary calls the Holly Walk, connect today’s garden to times gone by. It’s something Mary loves about Te Puhi; the sense of connection she shares across time and generations with other women who once tilled the soil here.
There’s plenty to explore at Te Puhi; meandering paths lead into shaded woodland spaces and you can stroll through the lemon groves and admire the edibles offering healthy and interesting greens waiting to be whipped into something delicious in the Country Cooking School’s kitchen.
For colour and scent, there are pretty borders of bog sage, and a rambling rose, Mary’s favourite, ‘The French Tart’ (Souvenir de Madame Leonie Viennot), with pinky relaxed blousy blooms that flower in November. Whatever your gardening fancy, there’s plenty of seasonal inspiration to delight all your senses.