FORCE OF NA­TURE

IN BE­TWEEN MANY EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR­IAL PUR­SUITS, ONE HARD­WORK­ING, CREATIVE WOMAN HAS LEFT A LIV­ING LEGACY – A FIVE- STAR GAR­DEN AND A CLOSE- KNIT FAM­ILY – AND MADE HER MARK ON HER COM­MU­NITY

NZ Life & Leisure - - Contents - WORDS K ATE COUGHL AN PHOTOGR APHS K ATE M ACPH E R SON

A Kek­erengu fam­ily re­mem­bers a wife and mother who never did any­thing by halves and cre­ated a liv­ing legacy

HERE LIES WIN­TER­HOME spread on grand axes over sev­eral hectares high above the hyp­notic Pa­cific Ocean. That ocean, dra­matic as it is, does not dis­tract visi­tors for long as views through mag­nif­i­cent plant­ings draw the eye on into this enor­mous gar­den so full of in­trigue.

Over nearly four decades, on a site south of Blen­heim on the coast­line near Kek­erengu, the cre­ator of Win­ter­home and her fam­ily have es­tab­lished a gar­den of sig­nif­i­cant grandeur. A cyprus walk here, all stern, or­derly, stand­ing to at­ten­tion; a na­tive walk there with softly rounded ngaio trees lead­ing to a for­mal gar­den with classical stat­u­ary at its cen­tre; a long for­mal walk edged in buxus, framed by massed plant­ings and flanked by tall trees leads the eye a very, very long way to a white Lu­tyens seat.

In an­other di­rec­tion is a parterre, box­ing in oranges and limes by the dozen. The for­mal rose gar­den, of 80 or so bushes of the re­peat-flow­er­ing Rosa ‘Mar­garet Mer­ril’, is a sea of white blooms with peachy-pink cen­tres. Half a dozen armil­lary-style spheres, arms wrapped in hemp rope, stand two me­tres tall and march along­side the en­trance drive which, in it­self, is a work of art: drive up it and the sky is framed by the akimbo arms of trees in a big, blue orb, drive down it and there’s the sea framed again by those hug­ging trees in yet an­other blue burst of light.

A re­flec­tion pond, a rill 80 me­tres long, is en­veloped in a walled ob­long gar­den built us­ing 100,000 bricks sal­vaged from the Ze­landia Soap fac­tory at Ka­iapoi. A cir­cu­lar key­hole in the im­pos­ing wall gives a glimpse of what’s to come. A sus­pen­sion bridge leads to the av­o­cado or­chard – the south­ern­most in the coun­try. And still the tour is far from over… Win­ter­home goes on. It makes the heart sing to visit this gar­den de­signed with a coura­geously big vi­sion.

She is miss­ing, the star of this show. The cen­tre­piece of this clan. The cre­ator of the mag­nif­i­cence that is the Win­ter­home. Very sadly, Sue had not been amid the ac­tion of her great­est legacy – the Macfar­lane fam­ily – for some time. She’d been not far away, in a home in Blen­heim, where she was vis­ited daily by hus­band Richard and of­ten by her four chil­dren. But it had been a long while since she’d known any of them, her dearest...

‘ Win­ter­home is a dra­matic gar­den de­signed with a mas­ter­ful hand, tak­ing the eye from the vast Pa­cific Ocean to vis­tas of equal scale and sim­ple mag­nif­i­cence. What a vi­sion Sue had, boldly cre­at­ing a gar­den bi­sected with sev­eral pow­er­ful axes lead­ing through massed plant­ings to for­mal ar­eas re­sult­ing in a uniquely Euro­pean feel’

Bev McCon­nell, cre­ator of Ayr­lies, in­sti­ga­tor and orig­i­nal as­ses­sor for the NZ Gar­dens Trust

It doesn’t stop the laugh­ter as the fam­ily gath­ers to tell NZ Life & Leisure about Sue, mother and wife, whose gar­den is fea­tur­ing for the 25th year in Ra­paura Springs Gar­den Marl­bor­ough in Novem­ber, but whose gar­den is by no means the end of her achieve­ments.

“She could do every­thing,” says her el­dest son Sank Macfar­lane. Sank now runs The Store at Kek­erengu which Sue and Richard opened on Box­ing Day 1996 and which has (apart from in the post-quake days) been a roar­ing suc­cess, loved by trav­el­ers on the coast road be­tween Blen­heim and Kaik­oura ever since.

“She was the Bond girl but with a creative brain,” Sank says.

Richard says his wife, Marl­bor­ough-born Sue Dillon, grew up among lots of boy cousins, all of whom taught her how to do every­thing. “This slip of a girl – blonde, strong, coura­geous and very ca­pa­ble – ini­tially left school for Aus­tralia to train polo ponies. She was out­doorsy. She rode very well, could shoot rab­bits and drive any sort of ve­hi­cle.”

As a mother, say her chil­dren, she went a mil­lion miles an hour and was al­ways fun. “She was the first one to be pulling mat­tresses off the beds to cre­ate a high-jump pit for us all to prac­tise on,” says Win­ston re­call­ing a pe­riod when his mother hoped her chil­dren’s long-limbed Macfar­lane genes might re­sult in one of them be­ing a high-jump cham­pion. That was not to be but Win­ston in­her­ited Sue’s love of yacht­ing and, when he and his wife Niki are not gar­den­ing at Win­ter­home, he is off­shore sail­ing.

A refl ec­tion rill, in the walled gar­den, is seen through an in­trigu­ing cir­cle in the post- quake re­built brick en­trance to Win­ter­home.

For­mal plant­ings, lead­ing the eye to dis­tant struc­tures, in­ter­sect at sev­eral places through­out the gar­den. Cir­cu­lar and straight buxus hedg­ing, low clipped balls, the bound colum­nar forms of the cyprus walk, and armil­lary spheres in the dis­tance com­bine to cre­ate mys­tery and pur­pose.

ABOVE: Cre­ator of Win­ter­home, the hard­work­ing and end­lessly creative Sue Macfar­lane, who died early in June, is proudly re­mem­bered by her fam­ily who were pleased this ar­ti­cle could pay trib­ute to her. OP­PO­SITE: When Sue and Richard ar­rived at Win­ter­home in the 1970s, the only gar­den was to the east of the house. All the mag­nif­i­cent trees, hedges and beds were sub­se­quently planted by Sue, helped of­ten by Richard and their chil­dren.

RIGHT: Richard, Sue’s hus­band, is one of the three orig­i­nal founders of Gar­den Marl­bor­ough. It was his job, on the farm trac­tor, and of­ten tow­ing a set of har­rows, to im­ple­ment Sue’s lat­est ex­ten­sion – al­ways on a nice, strong, straight line. He can’t re­call the year the cyprus walk was planted. OP­PO­SITE: The main lawn, above the for­mal rose gar­dens, leads to the thrice- moved Lu­tyens seat.

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