A Waikouaiti small garden is big on trees. Gillian Vine
Who planted them no-one knows, but Kay and Bill Lang's
Waikouaiti garden has some extraordinary trees, from a giant
horse chestnut that could be 130 years old to a South
American beech, eastern dogwood and Concordia oak.
Mrs Lang admits she took one look at the horse chestnut and
decided she and her husband had to buy the place.
"It's mid to late 1880s," Mr Lang says of the massive
chestnut, which is a bit of a mystery as the house was not
built until the 1920s.
However, at the lower corner of the property, the Mounted
Constabulary once had its headquarters and perhaps a
constable planted a conker. There was also a sequoia, taken
out years ago, that appears a giant in old photographs. But
the beech (probably Nothofagus antarctica), the
splendid Concordia oak, eastern tulip tree and tall
pink-flowered dogwood (Cornus florida) raise questions
as to who planted them and when, and where they obtained
exotic trees rare in Otago.
Mr Lang has a theory that the garden was planted in two
stages, the first before the house was built, the second in
the 1920s when an English joiner-cabinetmaker had the house
It would seem that the man, a Mr Preston, loved the trees
from eastern North America, including the tulip tree
(Liriodendron tulipa), oak and dogwood. He may even
have dreamed of using them in his work.
Other old trees include a Japanese maple, crab apple and
"A 1947 aerial photo by V.C. Brown shows the chestnut,
sequoia and other trees since missing," Mrs Lang said.
What the couple suspect from the stumps they have found is
that, in a common practice decades ago, trees were initially
planted quite close together with fast-growing types always
earmarked for removal when the more desirable specimens had
grown to a reasonable size.
Old photographs show their property and others nearby
surrounded by hawthorn hedges.
"There were hawthorn hedges everywhere," Mr Lang said, adding
that a local nursery specialised in them and at one time
offered 36 different varieties.
"You'll still find most of them growing wild around
Although most of the flowers are found on shrubs and trees,
spring brings a drift of colour under the chestnut, initially
with daffodils, then tulips and bluebells. Many of the bulbs
may be very old.
Mr Lang said there was a third stage, about 40 or 50 years
ago, when a selection of rhododendrons was added.
Whoever planted them had an eye to their colour spectrum and
also chose a selection to bloom in succession.
Mr Lang is reducing the number of pittosporums planted in
recent years but complains it is difficult: "When I use a
chainsaw, it's hard to do it with one hand because Kay's
swinging on the other."
• Kay and Bill Lang's garden is one of six that will be open
tomorrow from 11am-4.30pm as a fundraiser for the Waikouaiti
• Tickets are available on the day at the church hall,
Kildare St, Waikouaiti.
• Tickets are $10, which includes Devonshire tea in the
church hall, where there will be plant, produce and cake