Gillian Vine gets excited about Southland.
After years in the doldrums, the Southland Open Gardens
scheme has been revitalised.
The driving force behind it is Lynne Huggins, of
Invercargill. She found visitors often asked what gardens
were open and decided something needed to be done, so - with
support from Venture Southland - the new-look scheme was
launched late last year.
Lynne explained that the decision of the organising group was
that there would be no formal assessment process, although a
number of gardeners asked that their properties be visited
''to see if they were good enough''. In addition, in an
effort to give a good geographic spread, the owners of
several gardens known to be of high standard, were approached
to take part.
What has delighted the group is the consistently high
standard of the properties put forward, although Lynne admits
she would like the owners of more small gardens to become
involved, as the majority on the list are large.
Most gardens have been designed by their owners, as is the
Cleland garden, at Pukerau. What is somewhat different here,
though, is that Arne Cleland - as well as owning Pukerau
Nursery with his wife, Jenny - is a professional landscaper
with a staggering number of awards to his credit.
The nursery is familiar to those looking for natives to grow
singly or in bulk and Arne offers one of the most
comprehensive selections anywhere of native broom
(Carmichaelia) and daisy (Olearia) species.
His professional passion for natives is reflected in the
garden at home but there is lots more, so much that the
garden seems much bigger than its .4ha. Yet, despite being
larger than average, the garden has been developed to be an
easy-care one, with careful choice of plants and close
planting helping achieve this aim.
Started 20 years ago, when the house was built, the site was
''a bare paddock; not a tree'', Jenny says. First up was the
shelter belt behind the house, ''an absolute must'' to get a
good garden in the area.
Other trees have been added, including a little grove of
birches, originally nursery stock that didn't sell.
Attractive year round, this area really shines in winter and
spring when the hellebores, narcissus, bluebells and
trilliums planted under the trees are flowering.
''Bluebells look so good under birches,'' Jenny says.
Trilliums, which she describes as being ''as tough as old
boots'', flourish, as does the Himalayan blue poppy
(Meconopsis betonicifolia), often a difficult plant to
Groundcover is important and she recommends Epimedium
as a good choice for dry shade, as is Pachysandra
terminalis. Symphytum grandiflorum, a
yellow-flowered form of comfrey, is another but tends to be
rampant, ''so I wouldn't put it just anywhere'', Jenny
Like the nursery, the garden features natives, including some
of New Zealand's 23 native brooms and 34 tree daisies, and
has a neat little low hedge of Lophomyrtus around the
vegetable garden. One of Jenny's favourites of the daisies is
Olearia hectorii, whose flowers smell like ''peaches
''And it's a really good doer,'' she adds.
''Seed [of these tree daisies] came from the Hokonuis, where
there are some very old specimens.''
Other less-usual natives include Chatham Island flax and bog
pine (Halocarpus bidwillii), while the local red
tussock is also used effectively. Clearly, foliage texture
and colour have been important in choosing plants, as well as
using Hokonui natives. Sculptural elements include a
weathered hyper tufa sculpture, appropriately named Teardop.
Around the large pond, natives and exotics live in harmony,
giving interest throughout the year. In spring, a
white-flowered dogwood (Cornus) contrasts with a
maroon-foliaged Japanese maple (Acer) and pink
The final seal of approval comes from the bellbirds, which
nest in this elegant and peaceful garden.
The Cleland garden, Pukerau St, Pukerau, is one of almost 20
properties in the Southland Open Gardens scheme. Admission is
$5 which is donated to Breast Cancer and the Arthritis
Foundation. The garden is open only by appointment; phone
(03) 205-3801 to book a visit. For the full list of open
gardens, see www.southlandgardens.co.nz.