Ten Days in a Tropical Paradise

Words by  Virginia Winder
Te Kukumara by Jane Dove Juneau Te Kukumara by Jane Dove Juneau

There’s more than just a hint of the tropics in the 2023 Centuria Taranaki Garden Festival.

Two new entries evoke exotic adventures, and many of the forty-two gardens on display have sub-tropical elements. 

Two gardens have gained a rare sixth star from the New Zealand Gardens Trust, while the events calendar this year is more bountiful than ever, as the annual event continues to grow.

This year’s Centuria Taranaki Garden Festival is a celebration of the best the region has to offer – glorious gardens, hospitable hosts and enticing events, including a party.  

“We’re excited for visitors and locals to enjoy these treasures as they travel around the majestic Taranaki Maunga, sure to be visible during the 10 days,” says Festival Manager Jessica Parker.  

The 36th festival, on from October 27 to November 5, is also up for an award. 

The TAFT-run event has been announced as one of four finalists in the running to be named the nation’s Best Lifestyle Event. The awards ceremony is in Christchurch on November 9. 

“It’s an acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication from our wonderful gardeners and those who have been involved in running the festival for that time,” says Jessica.

This year, the two new entries will transport visitors to exotic places and warmer climes.

Tropics on Mangati is a dream come to life for Amelia de Ridder at Bell Block and, at Waiwhakaiho, while Michael Mansvelt’s nursery, aptly named Jungle, stars a huge glasshouse packed with exotic heat-loving plants. 

“We have a definite tropical feeling with a number of the gardens showcasing a different side to Taranaki, proving, once again, that we can grow anything here,” says Jessica.

Tropical Treasures, and many of the 42 gardens have subtropical elements, including Three Elms, Te Kukumara, Black Gates, The Nice, The Galleys, Korito and Magnolia Grove. 

On top of that, many of the entries are highly rated by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.

“We are so proud that in 2023 two of our regular gardens have been awarded a sixth NZGT star,” says Jessica. “We have 15 starred gardens in our festival family, which makes our annual event the garden festival with the highest number of NZGT stars nationally.

“All of our gardens are amazing. As I have been going around visiting the gardens, I’ve seen so many different styles, landscapes and plantings, which really make the diversity in our garden festival like nowhere else,” says Jessica.

“One of the strengths of the festival is how it continues to be refreshed with new and returning gardens, and a changing line-up of events, tours and speakers.”

Gardens back for this year’s festival are Leonie’s Garden, Ngā Manu Garden, Stanleigh Garden, Te Popo and Te Kukumara.

The latter is the venue for the Centuria Garden Party hosted by Bryce and Delwyn Barnett on Saturday October 28. 

In the programme or online, people will discover about 30 events, covering everything from botanical drawing to the art of wreath making, high teas to Japanese tea ceremonies, propagating plants to plant-based platters. 

As part of the Mitre 10 Speaker Series, Vance Hooper will be holding a Let’s Grow Bananas workshop and at Tropical Treasures people can attend Yahoo! Bamboo sessions to learn about using this plant for urban screens – and more.

Also on the calendar are a jazz soiree in Hawera’s King Edward Park, a craft market and other offerings at Marcella Point, Lepperton, a chance to meet Horses Helping Humans at Warea and an audio-described garden tour for people with low vision. 

Modern Preserver, Kylee Newton, a cook, writer and educator, will be speaking at Mitre 10 Mega in New Plymouth on November 2. A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to Sustainable Taranaki, organiser of the ninth Taranaki Sustainable Backyards Trail.

The garden festival continues its partnership with the backyards trail, which is included on the flipside of the programme.

From October 27 to November 4, people seeking tickets for gardens and events can pop into the garden festival hub hosted by gold sponsor W.R. Phillips Volkswagen Taranaki at 156-158 Devon St West in New Plymouth. To book online, go to www.gardenfestnz.co.nz.

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