Rob and Janene Riedstra, the new owners of Trott’s Garden in Ashburton, initially set out to look for a house in Cromwell before expanding their search to include a larger property with land that they could run functions from.
In April, they embarked on a South Island caravan road trip from their Whitianga home, viewing five properties between Cromwell and Rangiora that would be suitable to run an events and function business from.
The first property they laid their eyes on was Trott’s Garden, on Racecourse Road in Ashburton, which had been the home of keen gardeners Alan and Catherine Trott who had transformed a paddock into a Garden of International Significance over 37 years.
The Trotts initially ran the 4ha property at 371 Racecourse Road as a nursery for a number of years. On entering semi-retirement they stayed living in the 1920s homestead and turned it into a wedding venue, while keeping the gardens open to the public.
The church, which the Trott’s named the Brantwood Chapel, was moved onto the grounds in 1998 to provide a romantic venue for couples to tie the knot and the marquee was erected beside it.
In 2017 the couple downsized and it was taken over by a community trust and volunteers before being put back on the market more than a year ago.
“When we got to Ashburton, we looked at Trott’s Gardens, it was the first one we actually looked at and I thought this is pretty cool because it has a chapel and had the marquee already set up.”
They purchased the property, which had been inviting buyer enquiry over $1.5m, exactly a year after it hit the market with Property Broker's in August 2022 and moved in last month. Their property in Whitianga is still for sale.
Riedstra told OneRoof they had spent the last two months working tirelessly to get the property ready for its first visitors.
A builder by trade, he said it had ended up being a far bigger project than they had initially anticipated.
Extensive repairs had been carried out on the chapel including removing rot from the beams and strengthening the pebbledash, which he carried out himself with the help of some local tradespeople. The entire chapel was then repainted.
“She’s (the chapel) is looking as good as she could look for a building 107 years old.
Larger functions for up to 120 guests would be held in the marquee, which had also undergone renovations.
The gardens will open its doors to the public for the first time in several months on Sunday and they already have more than a dozen bus tours booked to visit the now privately-owned gardens between now and Christmas.
They will be open to the public from Tuesdays to Sundays with an entry fee of $10 and icecreams and refreshments will be available from a 1950s retro caravan called Bertie. The venue is also available for bookings for functions including weddings.
Riedstra said it was a relief to have finished the renovations and be opening the doors to the property once again, albeit under the different name Brantwood Weddings and Events at Trott’s Garden, aptly named after both the chapel and its former owners.
“The whole image has been changed.”
By Nikki Preston