Fea­ture gar­den A Pa­cific par­adise in the heart of Taranaki

This re­mark­able cou­ple have turned a cor­ner of Taranaki wilder­ness into a lush idyll with a uniquely Pa­cific flavour

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by Carol Buck­nell. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Jane Dove Juneau.

It’s been nearly 40 years since Ian and Elsie Lind first moved to their bush-cov­ered sec­tion in the heart of New Ply­mouth. Dur­ing that pe­riod they have raised three daugh­ters, pur­sued busy ca­reers and cre­ated Nikau Grove, a gar­den that earns the ad­mi­ra­tion of hun­dreds of visi­tors ev­ery year. They’ve even man­aged to score the ul­ti­mate ac­co­lade for gar­den afi­ciona­dos in this coun­try, the five-star Gar­den of Na­tional Sig­nif­i­cance rat­ing.


The roughly half-hectare site is in a val­ley with a creek run­ning through it less than three kilo­me­tres from New Ply­mouth’s CBD. “There was an open area in the cen­tre and on the banks but most of it was cov­ered in bracken, gorse, black­berry, trades­cantia and very large ‘trunks’ of old man’s beard, smoth­er­ing much of the bush,” re­mem­bers Elsie. “We weren’t de­terred. It was very shel­tered among the trees and had a lovely, peace­ful feel to it. For­tu­nately, it wasn’t swampy as all the land sloped and drained to­wards the creek. We cleared the bracken and rub­bish to make way for a house, choos­ing the high­est point that faced the sun.”


Apart from a swim­ming pool for the chil­dren, the cou­ple had no clear idea of what they wanted to do with the gar­den. Nev­er­the­less, they started work clear­ing the weeds and mak­ing paths as soon as they moved in. With two pre-school­ers in the fam­ily at that stage, the pace was very slow as time and money were in short sup­ply. A plan by lo­cal land­scape de­signer Bryan Pol­lock helped them with the over­all lay­out. “It was the best thing we ever did as our plant knowl­edge wasn’t very ex­ten­sive in those days,” says Elsie.

“It was very shel­tered among the trees and had a lovely peace­ful feel to it. For­tu­nately, it wasn’t swampy as the land sloped”


As they worked they no­ticed the prop­erty was full of young nikau palms, most of them seedlings from a tall ma­ture spec­i­men, the seed dis­persed nat­u­rally by wood pi­geon. It quickly be­came ob­vi­ous that the gar­den should be in a lush, South Pa­cific style, planted with a mix of na­tives and ex­otics. “I’m al­ways try­ing to per­fect the gar­den, con­stantly chang­ing plant­ing schemes, al­ter­ing colour schemes and us­ing con­trasts in fo­liage, aim­ing for a nat­u­ral New Zealand, South Pa­cific feel,” Elsie ex­plains.


One of the first tasks was build­ing tracks through the bush to al­low bet­ter ac­cess round the site and pre­vent new na­tive seedlings from be­ing tram­pled. Next was re­tain­ing the creek sides, which eroded ev­ery time it flooded.

The swim­ming pool fol­lowed, its cre­ation pure serendip­ity. Af­ter us­ing a dig­ger to re­move a large clump of in­va­sive bam­boo grow­ing at the front of the house, the cou­ple were left with a sub­stan­tial hol­low which, they re­alised, was in the ideal spot for a pool.

“Un­til our fi­nances al­lowed, Ian built a lit­tle frame around it, which we filled with sand, and our chil­dren had a per­fect sand­pit to play in. The swim­ming pool was fi­nally built in the late ’80s/early ’90s,” Elsie says.

Fast-for­ward sev­eral more years and the cou­ple had started build­ing board­walks and bridges through the bush and over the creek. For the handrails Ian, whose en­gi­neer­ing busi­ness is lo­cated in the port area, has re­cy­cled old moor­ing ropes, draw­ing many com­ments from the visi­tors who flock to the gar­den dur­ing the an­nual Pow­erco Taranaki Gar­den Spec­tac­u­lar.


To com­ple­ment the thousands of nikau in the gar­den Elsie planted a va­ri­ety of ex­otic palms in­clud­ing Bu­tia cap­i­tata, Chi­nese wind­mill (Trachy­car­pus for­tunei), Wash­ing­to­nia, queen palm (Sya­grus ro­man­zof­fi­anum), king palm (Ar­chon­tophoenix Alexan­drae) and Ken­tia palm (Howea forste­ri­ana).

Large na­tive pukatea trees form a canopy in the bush area around the creek with ko­hekohe, karaka, titoki trees and king ferns cre­at­ing a moist, lush feel.

“We leave the bush to re­main nat­u­ral; our mixed plant­ings are in the ar­eas we have cre­ated such as around the house and the lawns,” Elsie says.

“We like a strong use of na­tive plants with ex­otics mixed in. I like the gar­den to say, ‘You are in New Zealand’ first, but we can grow these other plants, too. Of course we are con­stantly hav­ing to change things as our en­vi­ron­ment changes. Our ear­lier plant­ings were in a lot of sun. As trees ma­ture and cast more shade I have to re­think the plants I use.”


Although there are many beau­ti­ful ar­eas within Nikau Grove, the Linds’ last big pro­ject is one of the most spec­tac­u­lar. What was once a pad­dock for their chil­dren’s pet lambs was con­verted into a cas­cad­ing wa­ter­fall by Ian over a two-year pe­riod us­ing a dig­ger and lo­cal rock.

“Ian bor­rowed a Hiab from work to help place the rocks, and plas­tered the slopes first to stop too much wa­ter dis­ap­pear­ing,” says Elsie. “A large un­der­wa­ter pump is hid­den in the bot­tom, re­cy­cling the wa­ter. The re­sult is just what we imag­ined now that the na­tive plant­ings around it have ma­tured.”

Not only have this deter­mined cou­ple cre­ated a ver­dant par­adise in their val­ley which they share with many visi­tors, they have also worked hard to ex­pand the na­tive bird pop­u­la­tion by plant­ing trees which pro­vide food for them such as taraire, titoki, miro and tree fuch­sia.

There are even a cou­ple of ‘ho­tels’ for the lo­cal we­tas. “One of them is very well oc­cu­pied most of the time. Some­times they’re fully booked,” says Elsie. “It’s great to be able to show our over­seas visi­tors what we­tas look like, too. They are also an im­por­tant food for the more­porks, which we of­ten hear call­ing at night.”

The old moor­ing ropes (left) used as handrails for the prop­erty’s board­walks and bridges are a hit with visi­tors. Na­tive plants, in­ter­spersed with ex­otics, have been planted through­out the gar­den to make for a strong Pa­cific feel.

A tran­quil pa­tio area pro­vides the per­fect space for the cou­ple to re­lax and en­joy the sound of the na­tive birds they have worked so hard to at­tract to Nikau Grove.

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