Jewel of a garden unlikely venue for annual ram sale

Jennifer (J.J.) Rendell in the garden of Brookfield Park, near Oamaru. PHOTO: SHANE REES
Jennifer (J.J.) Rendell in the garden of Brookfield Park, near Oamaru. PHOTO: SHANE REES
To be fair, there would not be many ram sales in New Zealand that are held next to a gravestone for Santa Claus.

Forget a flapping marquee in a paddock or a sales pavilion at an A&P showgrounds; when Dave and Abby Robertson hold their annual sale, they do it in style. South American-style barbecue or chocolate-dipped strawberry anyone?

But the piece de resistance is the setting — Brookfield Park at Weston, a jewel in North Otago’s gardening crown and the brainchild of its vivacious owner Jennifer (J.J.) Rendell who is usually more used to hosting fellow gardening enthusiasts than ram buyers.

But the animal lover relishes that day in December when the rams arrive to be penned up on the immaculate lawn, amid the cacophony of colour and quirks and the backdrop of a magnificent circa 1880 Heritage New Zealand category 2 home.

The introduction to Mr Robertson came after he was grazing his sheep at a neighbouring property. Every now and then, she would see a "long legged guy" walking in the paddock, inspecting his sheep.

It progressed to the pair waving from a distance and eventually he jumped the fence and the pair enjoyed a cup of tea. A friendship ensued and she was delighted to provide the venue for his sale.

Ms Rendell bought the property in 2003 with the intention of returning Brookfield to its former glory as a family home and estate.

Her dream was always to create an imaginative garden retreat surrounding the restored Thomas Forrester-designed homestead which was built for Oamaru’s first mayor John Gilchrist.

The garden has been developed by Ms Rendell over the past 15-odd years.

One of its most recent additions is named Delos, inspired by a reimagining of the Greek island which she saw at the world-renowned garden Sissinghurst in Kent.

A corrugated iron Clydesdale stallion is one of the many features in the garden of Brookfield...
A corrugated iron Clydesdale stallion is one of the many features in the garden of Brookfield Park. PHOTO: SALLY RAE
Describing herself as a mariner at heart, Ms Rendell said nothing in the garden was done by plan. "It comes straight out of my head and into the garden," she said.

She might lay out a hose to get an outline but that was about it. Her right-hand-man in the garden, Peter Newberry, had got very good at interpreting what she wanted.

One of the standout sculptures is Siegfried, a near life-size corrugated iron Clydesdale horse by Jeff Thomson, which arrived by truck wrapped in bubble wrap. On unwrapping, it was found that the stallion she ordered was in fact a gelding. Thomson subsequently added the necessary bits.

Brookfield Park is registered with the New Zealand Gardens Trust and money from garden tours went to guide dogs.

Ms Rendell loved sharing the garden with others.

Probably also being a non-conformist, she did not think of it being anything special. Rather, it was "just her home".

sally.rae@odt.co.nz

 

 

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