To create the archway in the escallonia hedge, Meg let side pieces grow up then tied them together over the gap with baling twine. “After that it was a combination of weaving in new growth and trimming it to shape.” Meg finds escallonia more compliant than buxus as it doesn’t bruise.
Autumn brings some respite before winter’s southerlies kick in and temperatures can drop as low as -15°C. “We also get easterlies that bring a hint of the sea over the mountain range that borders the farm,” says Meg.
And then there are the exotic invaders. “We have trouble with hares, gorse and old man’s beard, but blackberry is probably my biggest nightmare,” says Meg, who regularly sends Tom into the macrocarpa hedge with an axe to attack the barbed menace. To cap it off, the clay soils have to be constantly conditioned. “Every year for the past 27 years I’ve bought $2000 worth of peastraw and spread it over the garden.”
That’s more productive than a gym membership and dragging irrigators around supplements the workout. “We’re lucky to be able to hook into the farm irrigation system,” says Meg, a rural business manager who works from home and finds moving hoses a good excuse to escape from the office. “Our sprinklers have a throw of about 50 metres and I have one going somewhere every day from late spring through to autumn. We used to have underground piped irrigation but I was always digging it up.”
Meg can still recall the day when the first seed was sown for her love of gardening. “My parents weren’t gardeners, but I can remember my father digging up a piece of concrete to plant a tree and being fascinated that there was dirt under there and a plant could grow in it.” >
Hours per week in the garden: A day a week in July and August but two to four from September through to April. (Meg)
As few as possible. (Tom)
Most significant plant: My ‘Sanders White’ rose cascades like a waterfall and has quite taken over in the past 25 years. (Meg)
Biggest gardening mistake: Putting in so many hedges. (Tom)
Do you open your garden to the public? This year we are one of 21 gardens open for the Hurunui Garden Festival on the first weekend of November. We also open for private tours by appointment. (Meg) Meg and Tom Macfarlane
Her subsequent enlightenment has largely been through trial and error. “Originally we were too poor to buy plants so I begged bits from friends and put in huge perennial borders.” Their death knell was sounded when she was heavily pregnant and had to rope in Tom to help with the deadheading. “Whatever people say about roses, I think they are a lot less work than perennials,” says Meg, who has arranged mass plantings of her beloved roses in a loose colour wheel of autumnal hues. Beyond them, a pair of contrasting gardens feature cool and hot colours, with lime-green undertones linking the beds.
“I’m more a visual person than a plantswoman,” says Meg, who takes inspiration from Australian landscape designer Paul Bangay, especially in her use of hedging and topiaries. “Nothing is measured or dead level though Tom is a lot neater than me. I often leave them when they’re covered in fresh growth because they look so lush and green.”
The garden is designed as a series of convivial living rooms and the Macfarlanes host several events a year from fashion parades to end-of-year parties. “In summer, we always have tea or lunch in the garden,” says Meg. “The boys still know the drill. When they come home, they make tea and carry it out under the trees.”
Like the garden’s forebears, Meg has planted with future generations in mind and resisted the temptation to extend further into the paddocks. “I haven’t made the garden bigger than a hectare because I don’t want to put a noose around my children’s necks.”
THIS PAGE (from top) Meg and Tom Macfarlane and black labrador Texas.Rhododendron ‘Whitney’s Double Orange’ adds coral flashes to a textured garden with Poa cita grasses among mounded hebes including ‘Odora’, ‘Cockayniana’ and ‘Emerald Gem’, topiarised balls of Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’, large red phormium and smaller striped dwarf New Zealand flaxes; the sculpture is an early work by Collinswood Designs: “Tom and I are now the short ones in the middle,” says Meg.OPPOSITE Cherry-red pots flank the archway in the escallonia hedge: “I’ve planted them with an assortment of trailing geraniums in the past but this year they’re going to be potted up with ‘Little Rascal’ miniature apples,” says Meg.
THIS PAGE Retired polo ponies Flo and Lotus relax among young pin oaks in the new park area; pillbox topiarised pittosporum lines the path and an old variegated elm is underplanted with a low griselinia hedge.OPPOSITE (from top) Flaxes and cabbage trees add structure to the native garden around the car park area, with a backdrop of exotic pin oaks and rowan trees. A carved wooden sculpture from Collinswood Designs sits between a cabbage tree and golden totara.