I am currently on a belated summer holiday at our bach (beach house) in Tauranga Bay, in the beautiful Bay of Islands. Despite its name, Tauranga Bay is not located in Tauranga but rather in the far north of New Zealand’s North Island. Over the summer we were both very busy as the New Zealand Gardener Magazine were writing an article about our garden and the plants were photographed regularly by a professional photographer from Fairfax Media. This explains why we are both taking a rather late vacation in the month of May, which normally signals the end of New Zealand’s autumn season. That said it has actually been rather pleasant up north and we have been lucky to have some lovely weather without the hordes of tourists that are drawn to the region during the summer.
The physical distance from Anita’s Garden during our holiday has given me some time to reflect on some well-known gardens that I would like to visit (or indeed revisit) during my lifetime. I am so busy in our garden that I barely have a chance to visit some of our lovely local gardens which are maintained by the council, never mind travel overseas to visit famous gardens there. I suppose one is allowed to day dream and so far there are three gardens in Europe that are on my wish list.
1. David Austin’s gardens in England http://www.davidaustinroses.com/
David Austin is perhaps one of the world’s best known rose breeders who hails from England. I adore roses. I have quite a collection of roses in Anita’s Garden. I am a huge fan of Austin roses and, more generally, old English roses. Their beauty is simply stunning and they are usually very fragrant. I really regret not visiting David Austin’s gardens in England while I was working as a lawyer in London. At the time, I was an urbanite living in an apartment in Central London. Although I have always admired and appreciated flowers, I had no interest in gardening, nor did I intend to have a garden myself. I would love nothing more than to wander around Austin’s gardens and quite literally smell the roses.
Of course, the selection of Austin roses available in New Zealand is very limited, so I wouldn’t be able to plant replicas exactly according to my heart’s desire. At the moment, I don't actually have any Austin roses in Anita's Garden. They can be difficult to find in garden centres, at least in the Auckland region. The only way to secure them is to place an order with a specialist rose nursery, such as Tasman Bay Roses (http://www.tbr.co.nz/). To avoid disappointment, this must be done as far in advance as possible because they are very popular and sell out quickly. I do however have three varieties of roses which are recommended on David Austin's website ( http://www.davidaustinroses.com/). I have Just Joey (a frilly apricot coloured Hybrid Tea rose), Margaret Merril (a pearly white Floribunda rose with a tinge of satin pink) and Champagne Moment (another Floribunda rose which is deep apricot in colour and pales to a pearly white).
I am adding quite a few Austin roses to my existing rose garden this winter, which I am very excited about. I will be keeping an eye on specialist rose nurseries in New Zealand for new Austin releases to add to my collection in future.
2. Keukenhof gardens in the Netherlands https://keukenhof.nl/en/
Despite visiting the Netherlands in winter while I lived and worked in Europe, I somehow also didn’t manage to visit the gardens at Keukenhof. This is one of my deepest disappointments. The magnificent display of spring bulbs such as tulips, dutch iris and daffodils attracts millions of tourists every year. Due to my existing commitments with Anita’s Garden, I can’t see myself being able to visit Holland in the near future. I’ve therefore had to settle for creating my own mini-Keukenhof at home. Over the past month, I’ve been busy planting lots of daffodils, dutch iris and freesia which I hope will give us a splendid show. My tulips, hyacinths and anemones are still in the fridge, chilling out. In Auckland, our winters can be quite mild so it becomes necessary to pre-chill certain bulbs such as these in order for them to flower well (or even at all). I’ll plant these out when I return home next week.
3. Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny, in Normandy, France http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm
This is actually one garden that I did manage to visit while I lived in Europe and one which I would love to see again. Monet is my all-time favourite artist. For me, wandering around his gardens at Giverny and seeing the water lily pond which featured in some of his most famous works was an incredible experience. The little village that the gardens are situated in is rather charming, too.
Are there any other gardens which I have left out and that you would recommend? They need not be in Europe – they might be on other continents or perhaps even right here in New Zealand. I am open to any suggestions!