Ron & Margaret Long’s wonderful country garden “Frensham”, (named after the red rose, which was her father’s favourite,) at Tai Tapu, a short drive from Christchurch, is at the end of a lovely tree lined lane. The house and garden are nestled under the lee of the hillside, with well planted wind breaks.
To me the garden has elements of the Arts & Craft style, with structured formal areas nearer the homestead, which give way to glorious borders packed with asters, roses, salvias, dahlias, hydrangeas, and many other wonderful perennials, some rare, and beyond that an informal woodland area containing magnificent trees with glorious autumn colour. Areas near the house include the perfect parterre and, at the front, hedging with a formal pond adjacent to steps leading up to the lawn surrounded by less formal plantings and a naturalized pond.
The garden has year round interest, but is possibly at its best in Spring, particularly in the wonderful woodland area with many varieties of hydrangeas, hellebores, camellias, rhododendrons, hostas, bulbs and other shade loving plants. The spring would also see the flowering of the wisteria trained along the front verandah of the traditional homestead built of beautiful natural coloured bricks.
Margaret has an amazing eye for colour. One fabulous example when we visited in January were the beautiful claret coloured roses, and lilies of the same hue, in a sheltered raised bed within a courtyard, next to a wall covered with plump, lush berries of the same rich tone – a divine and inspirational combination.
I love this garden as it is as a country garden should be, nestled into its surroundings, with few structures or hard surfaces to distract the eye from the symphony of plants and colour co-ordination, each complimenting the adjoining one with wonderful trees.
I most enjoy gardens where plants are expressing themselves naturally, spilling over in abundance, without being too clipped, controlled and contrived – this is a wonderful example of a such a garden.
An interesting recent addition, at the rear, is a live woven willow hedge – I have visited dozens of gardens over recent years, but only ever seen these hedges in photos – it is a fine example and will only improve with time. On the drive side, a spectacular pair of variegated Cornus make a real statement while an adjacent garden has some excellent specimens of the very well behaved Pittosporum “Golfball” which maintains it’s compact round shape with very little pruning or shaping.
I thoroughly enjoyed this garden – for garden lovers, it is well worth the short drive from Christchurch to visit. The day we visited Margaret was absent, but no doubt were she available to describe the evolution of the garden, that would be a wonderful bonus. I understand that Margaret provides garden walks/talks and lunch or morning tea if arranged in advance and is also involved in European garden tours.
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