Three Dunedin gardens will be open this month to raise
funds for a cancer charity. Gillian Vine visits one of
The sweet-scented rhododendron Countess of Sefton by the
front door hints at what is to come - lots of absolutely
Sue Carey-Smith and her husband, Tim, began creating the
0.4ha garden more than three decades ago.
"It was just going to be just to the edge of the lawn," Sue
They started with a bare paddock and planted shelter. Then,
because they loved rhododendrons, they joined the Dunedin
"Of course, then we needed more space to plant them, so we
rolled down the hill," she says with a smile.
While her husband built brick and stone walls and rustic
fences, Sue concentrated on planting.
Asked if it turned out as they wanted, she says: "It exceeded
our expectations because we didn't know much about gardening.
We learned over the years."
Going to look at established gardens was "very helpful" and
so were people in the rhododendron group.
Sue has "totally lost count" of how many rhododendrons there
are but points to a couple of favourites, the "blowsy" pink
Loderi Venus, lower-growing white Helene Schiffner and
the rare double form of Rhododendron griffithianum.
Finding plants that do well under trees is always
challenging. Sue has found some small irises do well,
including Iris cristata ("It's a sweetie"), although
it really does better in the sun.
Very successful has been a tough daisy, which Sue thinks is
the Catlins coastal daisy, Celmisia lindsayii.
"It's not invasive," she says.
Like many things at ground level, the celmisia and irises are
divided to fill gaps, necessary in a garden of this size if
the costs are not to become so high they ruin the pleasure.
Through the years, some of the trees planted early on grew
too big and had to be removed.
"It's made a huge difference to the garden. It's brought so
much more sunshine into the garden." Some larger trees
remain, including a lovely pin oak, which has lovely soft
green foliage in spring and rich orange-red leaves in autumn.
It was a good choice as, being deciduous, in winter it lets
light through towards the house.
Against the house are the climbing roses City of London and
"Wedding Day should be just smothered by the opening days,"
A pretty little garden alongside the drive has been dedicated
to Sue's uncle, sculptor John Middleditch, and his wife Mary.
A Middleditch work, Flight of Fishes, has pride of
place in this area.
Vegetables and fruit are not forgotten. There is a
polycarbonate glasshouse, mainly for tomatoes, and two
soft-fruit cages for black and red currants, raspberries and
strawberries, as well as areas for vegetables.
It all adds up to a lovely garden that is bound to find
favour with those who visit it.
The Carey-Smith garden, Honeystone St, Helensburgh, Dunedin,
is one of three properties open on November 10 and 11 from
10am to 4pm as a fundraiser for Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa.
The others are Wylde Willow, in Abbotsford, and the Day
garden, Spiers Rd, Wakari. There will be refreshments and
plant sales at the Day garden.
Admission to each garden is payable at the gate and all money
raised will go to Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa. For more about
the charity or for directions to the gardens, see the website