After a seven year absence from the Taranaki Garden Festival, one of the founding gardens opened again last year.
The Jury Garden in Tikorangi had been a perennial favourite of visitors but as the popularity of the festival increased each year, Mark and Abbie Jury were finding the 10 days exhausting.
The seven year hiatus did them good, enjoying their 2020 experience so much they’re opening again this year too — unveiling their new Wild North garden and offering a total of three workshops.
When we decided to open our garden last year for the ten days of the Taranaki Garden Festival, it was partly to show off our new summer gardens. We had not been fiddly-faddling around in the seven years that we were closed but were finally able to create the sunny summer colour we had been working towards.
We made the decision to re-open just prior to Covid. When our world changed so rapidly, like everybody else, we had no idea at all how that would affect the festival. Certainly, we were not anticipating the three-fold increase in visitor numbers. Managing the car-parking was decidedly challenging but our garden can absorb large numbers of people without it feeling crowded.
In retrospect, Mark and I were deluded when we anticipated a comparatively relaxed time. Friends had volunteered to come and manage the entrance and the car-parking. Unlike when we used to open, we were not offering refreshments or selling any plants. ‘This will be easy,’ we thought as we imagined ourselves being gracious garden hosts with time to chat to visitors. It wasn’t like that at all. We were busy all the time and there were no quiet days. On the Monday after the festival, we resembled shell-shocked zombies.
However, it was enormously affirming. People came with time to enjoy themselves and they responded with enthusiasm to the summer gardens and with gratifying delight to the meadow we have created in the area we call the park. We gardeners spend most of our time beavering away on our own. To have a seemingly endless stream of garden visitors actively enjoying the results meant that we finished each day tired but buoyed by the appreciation.
This year we are opening again with an entirely new garden extension. At around 1.6 ha (4 acres) it is a big area, separated from the existing garden. We call it the Wild North Garden. Once Mark’s dad’s paddock for his house cow, Mark started planting it and landscaping it 30 years ago. Only now have we done the fine-tuning to prepare it for visitors. From the start, it has been developed in a much softer-edged, relaxed style, working with Nature rather than sitting on the landscape. We hope that visitors seeing it for the first time this year will be as enthusiastic as they were about the summer gardens last festival.
‘A Gentler Way to Garden’ looks at ways to create and manage beautiful gardens that sit more lightly in the environment. “It is not about just letting gardens go,” says Abbie Jury. “Meadows and wild gardens need different management strategies altogether but it is possible to have beauty, be more sustainable in the long-term and to have a lighter impact on the environment. There is a certain romantic, softer-edged feeling to this type of garden but it takes a fresh way of looking and different skills to create and manage them.”
‘New Directions with Sunny Perennials’ was first offered last year and, with strictly limited numbers, many people missed out so Abbie is offering two time slots this year. She and Mark spent a lot of time looking at the modern trends in the UK particularly, but also parts of Europe before working out how it could be applied to the very different gardening conditions in NZ. “We wanted summer colour, summer gardens, but we wanted to be confident that what we created would work in our conditions. We put in five separate perennial gardens, all themed using different plant material. In our climate we can have them looking good from spring to autumn, not just summer.”