A New Zealand rose by any other name would be Ellie. My late mother was an expert rosarian, a passionate and gregarious New Zealand gardener, much loved by family and friends. Ellie’s travels mostly had a garden theme, whether it was to London, Scotland, Europe or to other parts of New Zealand. Pictured above is Ellie’s favourite old-fashioned rose, the vivid magenta Charles de Milles, which grows in my sister’s garden. Our mother joyfully and generously gave advice and cuttings away to people throughout her lifetime. The image below is of a bright pink/red fuchsia that Ellie grew in her own garden. She was also very good at growing these. She could grow anything.
A full-blown red rose in her garden that she loved, pictured below. Her sister, Diana (known to all as Dine) is also a rose expert and some years back she propagated a pink rose called Ellie T for my mother, and a coral one called Hey Jude for their eldest sister, Judy. My cousin Angela has them growing in her South Island garden, near Christchurch.
Season of the New Zealand rose
Ellie recently passed away, when we were in Greece for my eldest daughter’s dream wedding, and her death left a huge void in our lives that will never be filled. It was tough on all of us abroad and for those who remained at home, to deal with her passing while united in grief and divided by distance. An occupational hazard of travel. It was fitting that I and my youngest daughter flew back to central New Zealand to help organise a garden party to celebrate her life in late spring – probably the most beautiful season of all in the shaky isles. Everywhere we looked roses and flowers flourished and bloomed with heady, all-enveloping fragrances. I took the following pictures in my sister’s elegant, sculptured yet free-flowing garden.
Let’s set one thing straight – I’m not much of a green thumb (I feed and water plants and cross my fingers) but my sister, Jill, has wholly inherited our mother’s talent, as you can see. Ellie had a hand in creating this piece of gorgeousness. Her own gardens created throughout her life were also the envy of many, and visited by many.
The garden party was held on a dazzling late November day with family and almost 100 of our mother’s friends and garden buddies, on the grounds of Jill and her husband Shane’s historic homestead. It encompassed many of Ellie’s favourite things: people, a party, flowers in abundance, champagne, sunshine, and a sales table of plants (below) with proceeds going to the local S.P.C.A. I felt Ellie’s spirit was with us.
A garden was my mother’s spiritual centre, her safe haven in a crazy world. The panacea for many ailments. She didn’t like winter and always eagerly awaited spring. Although autumn has its own flush and a splendid palette. Some tour options of serene New Zealand gardens in spring and autumn which include historic homesteads, are listed below. No doubt Ellie had been on a few (or many) of these. The country has moderately high rainfall, a relatively temperate climate, high sunshine hours and blessedly fertile soil – the perfect conditions for growing anything. Mountainous geography and proximity to the ocean means that microclimates exist from north to south, creating exceptionally fertile pockets. Perfect places for safe havens.
- Renaissance Tours explores a carefully chosen selection of private gardens of the Wairarapa region of the North Island and the Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago regions on the South Island
- New Zealand Tourism has a complete guide to garden tours throughout the country
- Homestead Tours run by Belinda McKenzie in the South Island town of Geraldine focuses on the gardens in historic homesteads, in autumn and spring
- New Zealand Garden Tours is run by Jo Connor who also takes groups on garden tours to Australia and the US
- Zonta Manawatu offer an enjoyable experience of a Country Garden Ramble with gardens around Feilding and the Palmerston North/Aokautere area.