Eastern Courier : January 5th 2011
12 EASTERN COURIER, JANUARY 5, 2011 NEWS Fiery flower: One of the garden's many flowering plants. Passionate gardener, left: Ayrlies founder Beverley McConnell was awarded the Queen's Service Medal for services to horticulture this year. Photos: FIONA GOODALL Garden an 'oasis' for the soul Daily wonder: Head gardener and custodian Morag Hubbard with her dog Shadow at her front gate that opens into Ayrlies. Cypress pond: Beverley McConnell and Morag Hubbard are visible to the left of the Summerhouse. Cascades: A lush stream drains into Ollies Pond. By MATT BOWEN Leaving Ayrlies isn't easy. Head gardener Morag Hubbard and I parted ways by Ollies Pond after wander- ing through the inter- nationally renowned country garden for an hour. My host for the morning went her way and, reluc- tantly, I went mine -- up the empty timber steps around a quiet pool to the lychgate. The shady wooden entrance is the first impression for hundreds of people who visit the Whitford garden each year. Most arrive from England, the United States and Aust- ralia. Overseas enthusiasts are often excited and com- pletely in awe when they walk in, Morag says. Earlier, near blooming pink and white roses, I asked how she rated it. Definitely,'' she said, it's the best garden in New Zea- land.'' Morag also called it absol- ute artistry''. It's about working all the plants in together with their textures and their forms, the colours and the shapes. I think that's what gives Ayrlies that extra element,'' she says. The scope of plants and combinations of how they've been put together, technically, it's just an art. It's like a painting.'' In 1964 the painting'' was a tree-less farm house. Beverley McConnell and her late husband Malcolm were the artists who gradu- ally transformed the pasture into 6.5 hectares of exotic and native trees, shrubs, ferns and flowers. The latest addition is 12 hectares of valley wetlands. Mrs McConnell believes such places are important. She says they offer reflec- tive oasis'' from the modern technology of our lives. They are restoration for the soul, she says. Perhaps that's why I struggled to leave. To steal a phrase from BBC presenter Monty Don, who visited in 2008, I also left elated by the scale and vision and dreamlike intensity of colour and size''. Ayrlies is open year round by appointment only. Entry is $15 per person. See www.ayrlies.co.nz for details.
December 29th 2010
January 12th 2011