Thursday, 14 November 2013


The first week of my Fellowship has been in Auckland and I have to say that it’s been fantastic and has far exceeded my expectations. I’ve met some wonderful people, seen some really interesting gardens and have already learnt a great deal. Here is what I’ve been up:

I was very kindly met by two incredibly knowledgeable gardeners from Auckland – Mr Martin Keay and Mr Chris Webb. These chaps took me to see a garden called Fernglen which is planted entirely with New Zealand native plants. For me this was very interesting to see as the native flora is so varied, some of the plants I recognised (even if it was only the Genus) and some of it was completely new to me. Something that I found fascinating are the varieties of native Gunnera, I’m used to seeing the ‘Manicata’ and similar with their huge growth habit. The NZ native couldn’t be more different, they are a tiny low growing ground cover (The set of keys give you a scale).

Here are a couple of other photos from the garden.


Today I met with the convenor for heritage roses in Auckland, Delphine. Together we went to Waiheke Island just off the coast of Auckland as they were having a ‘garden safari’; this is where people open up their private domestic gardens to visitors in aid of charity. We visited a total of 6 gardens, each one very different to the one before and all equally beautiful. It was in one of these gardens that I first noticed how big ‘Mutablis’ grows in comparison to ours at Mottisfont, it must have been ten feet tall, nearly the same in width and covered in blooms. I must have been so star stuck that I forgot to photograph it. Stupid boy! Below is a selection of photos from the day.

The start of a new week and I was heading out to the Auckland Botanic Garden with Paula Lollback the Rose Curator. Paula had very kindly agreed for me to spend the day with her and her roses, and what a day it was! I learnt so much from her and this is where the trail of giant China and Tea roses continued. Pictured below is one of the biggest specimens of a shrub Tea rose I’ve ever seen, complete with my boots to give you an idea of scale. Please remember that these boots are size 13.

This rose was labelled as ‘Archiduc Joseph’ syn. ‘Mons. Tillier’, these two roses are often confused with one another as they are very similar and more often than not ‘Archiduc Joseph’ is sold as ‘Mons. Tillier’. However they are different roses. In this case that is beside the point as this rose was massive and in beautiful condition.

Paula operates a no spray system for all her roses modern and heritage, which I found very interesting. Trials are run in-house to see which varieties will grow best in the Auckland climate and which ones prove to be the most pest and disease resistant. This means that the options are limited but the results were remarkable, the plants were very healthy on the whole and where disease or pests were present it wasn’t at an unacceptable level. I’ve seen roses that are regularly sprayed and look a lot worse.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of New Zealand’s greatest names in Horticulture today, firstly I went to Airlies Garden which is the home of Beverly McConnell. What a fascinating lady she is! She gave me a guided tour of her property which extends to many dozen hectares and was nothing but open hillside when she first arrived. The whole area has been landscape into a beautiful garden with lakes, flowing streams, woodland and fine planting schemes. This is rosa Graham Thomas growing quite happily as a climber.

It is easy to see why Mrs McConnell is held in such high regard, her knowledge is second to none and her energy is that of someone many years her junior!

Wednesday and Thursday

I spent Wednesday and Thursday morning with Sarah Yates at Highwic – a lovely heritage property and at the Nancy Steen heritage rose garden. More on these to follow but right now I have to board my plane down to the south Island…..


  1. Great blog Jonny. We're missing you. Matt

  2. Great to see you're having such a good time and learning loads - a tad cold here - double glove system in operation!

  3. HI Jonny. I had the privilege of visiting Airlies Garden earlier this year during NZ's autumn. It is a truly wonderful place. I didn't manage to meet Mrs McConnell but I admire her knowledge and incredible forethought in the vistas and interesting planting out of Airlies. The roses in NZ are fabulous too. I have also been lucky enough to have been squired around Mottisfont by friend Jon Dodson last year and in 2004. It is one of my favourite places in the UK. I live in Australia. I hope you enjoy your sojourn in NZ and get to see both the north & south islands, they are so different to one another and so mind blowing too. Regards Debra Keller

  4. All sounds amazing Jonny, and stunning pics. Looking forward to the next batch. Roll on Summer! Liz

  5. That tea rose is amazing! My little rose is quite jealous...

  6. Looks lovely over there Jonny. We're close to double gloving in the shop! Keep having a great time and look out for hobbits! xxx Nicky and Sorrell (Sorrell would like a kiwi brought back if you can fit one in your luggage!)