When Adela left her gardens 1906 and several families have owned the homestead since then but none have kept the gardens up to their former glory When the Trust took effect in 1995 all that remained were some of the old trees and undergrowth. Arums and other invasive hard to get rid of flora covered most of the grounds. The areas were developed by dedicated volunteer gardeners on a shoestring, relying on donated plants and features.
It still is today. The Long Term Plans 2015-2020 describe the next stages to further develop the gardens, grounds and orchards into authentic period gardens which fit the house and which can be a representative of gardens in Adelas era.
Key focuses 2016 – 2017
- The newly established heritage rose garden by Adelas summer house
- The hydrangea and griselinia hedging
- Promoting the 100 year old trees in the grounds
- Bulking up the gardens with heritage plants Adela originally planted
- Providing seating and benches throughout the grounds ( build by volunteers and donated)
- Establishing a children’s play area
- Propagating for sale plants from the grounds
- Building a gazebo at the bottom of Rapley Walk
We encourage garden groups and gardeners to visit our gardens, and to perhaps donate plants or cuttings from their own gardens.
We also welcome helping hands to assist our passionate team. A Historical Account gives a good list of plants we are seeking.
A historical account Athenree Homestead Garden and Grounds 1878 – 1906
Over the period of time from the Stewarts arrival to Athenree to when they left Adela Stewart transformed the grounds from a bare area to an estate which had extensive and exotic orchards, vegetable gardens which supplied food for the community, and gardens which were considered exemplary. Her gardens were thought to be one of the first large scale developed in New Zealand at the time, and attracted much interest by gardeners and horticultural specialists of the era..
All plants were sourced from within New Zealand and as such give a good index of plants being developed within New Zealand garden circles of the period.
Most of the plants and trees have since died out but there are signs of some, and some of the trees still remain. They are cared for and maintained by professional arborists.
1995 the Homestead Gardens Restoration Plan was developed and this provided the framework for where our gardens are today.
It was impracticable to replicate the garden especially as the hundred year old trees have changed the available light some flowers prefer, and there are very few photos to refer to.
Plants were donated and volunteers worked the gardens. Over the years the beds have matured but not all plants are the original species. The role of the existing garden volunteer group is to layer the gardens over the next 5 years with plants of the period. It is anticipated that by 2018 the gardens will be totally representative of the era.
A plan 2015-2020 has since been developed to further develop the grounds and gardens into a historical memorial to the Homestead which visitors, garden circles and horticultural historians can refer to as authentic . This year is focusing on plantings, the heritage rose garden, signage and seating. The orchard restoration will be looked at 2016.
The period of 1878 to 1899 was one of intensive tree planting and establishment of crop gardens.
Information of plantings have been extracted from Adela Stewarts book “My Simple life in New New Zealand. The plantings were on a large scale.
From Booths Hairini Nursery Tauranga were planted: pines, Wellingtonia, cypress, birch, beech, oak, chestnut, elm, lemons and oranges, currents, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, walnuts ( which were eaten by the animals) Winds damaged the young trees and they had to be staked and cloth wrapped around them. Of these some oak, beech, redwood, are in the gardens today.
Cuttings from Auckland from the Stewarts clergy man were planted” escallonias, weigelias, ageratums, lasiandras, oleanders, roses, honeysuckle
An orchard of 104 trees planted in June : apple, pear, nectarine, cherry, plum, damson, apricot, loquat, and a kitchen garden – artichokes, asparagus, seakale etc. and in flower garden roses, passion flowers, verbenas etc.
Duke of Edinburgh strawberries plots were stablished which supplied Katikati with strawberries for 4 years
The trees were fertilised with the 22 ewes and 8 lambs drowned in the mangroves one wet night and which were buried at the roots. Adele decided not to waste their deaths.
Other plants proved to be invasive and were later regretted : sweet briar, gorse, kangaroo acacia, blackberry.
In September 1879 germinated vegetable seeds were transplanted-: tomatoes, cauliflower, cucumbers, marrows, melons etc. and large potato crops.
By 1890 the produce from the gardens and orchards was drawn into large scale bottling, preserving operations which Adela describes explicitly in her book . More crops , trees and gardens were developed.
There were mass bottling peaches and planting grass seeds. Overcrowded pine trees weeded out and transplanted further back alternatively with blue gums, more oaks and puriris.
Cuttings and plants from an old friend in Auckland were planted around the trees: geraniums, heliotropes, pentemons, hydrangea, escollonias, deutzias, mesembryanthemums, guilder roses, laurels, oxalis, roses, arums, ixias, agapanthus,
“ a splendid contribution, most of which grew well and helped to convert our wilderness into a garden.”
Adela planted 500 strawberry plants with maid Agnes , both with sore backs and throats.
Her book describes the 700 Carters large tomato plants propagated from seeds. They did not need staking – hand dried fern and native heather were laid under them . They were bringing back wheelbarrow loads to make gallons of tomato sauce which she sold for 1s 6p a quart. – as well as chutneys and jams.
In November there were planted Suttons imperial and drumhead cabbages for animals and all the community.
By 1892 “our bare treeless home was now growing quite wooded and picturesque”
There was a record of the 3,500 cabbages, and 100 more young trees” pines, cypruss, macrocarpa, blue gums
1883 onwards was the period Adela propagated plants for pleasure – in her grounds and gardens.
In May 24th Adela got a case from Masons nursery Auckland : Lisbon, variegated lemons, citrons, limes, shaddocks, which were planted around the flower gardens. Near the verandah were put daphnes, diosma, libonia, rhyncoshermum, jasmoides and roses and around the lawn pomegranates, india rubber, fushsias, magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons, axaleas, oleanders. mandevillia and hydrangeas
In s 1895 she planted 84 more trees pears, olives, laurels etc and later gift from Auckland Domain Committee olives, bamboos, lemon grass, planes, ashes, birches, maples.
The volcanic dust 1896 scattered over the lawns and gardens from Rotorua eruption ( May 10th) benefitted the plants well.
The later years – till 1906.
Adela wrote that she was delighted with her gardens and orchards but mentioned that they still suffered the winter storm, rough south east winds “thrashed them about unmercifully killing some and wounding all.” Also attacks from the pigs.
Today the gardens still suffer from the weather and windbreaks have started to be put in. Luckily the pigs are gone.
In 1897 Hugh built Adela’s summerhouse which originally had a lavender garden behind it where now have our heritage rose garden.
In 1898 Adela won her first chrysanthemum prize at Katikati Show, news spread and by 1899 she was being inundated with requests for plants and spent spare time lifting, labelling and packing them for all parts of New Zealand.
By 1900 Adela was becoming quite sick, although planted dahlia and won prizes for them too. She developed the bulb areas. From Hay, Auckland, were planted: alliums, alstroemeria babianas, cyrtanthus, lachenalia, scillias, Sparaxis, freesias, sternberggias, triatonias, tulips and zephyranthus and too an anonymous parcel from Auckland : banana, cannas, cineraria, nasturtium and tasconias.
Adela left her gardens 1906 and several families have owned the homestead since then but none kept the gardens up to their former glory When the Trust took effect in 1995 all that remained were some of the old trees and undergrowth. Arums and other invasive hard to get rid of fauna covered most of the grounds. The areas were developed by dedicated volunteer gardeners on a shoestring, relying on donated plants and features.
It still is today. The Long Term Plans 2015-2020 describe the next stages to further develop the gardens, grounds and orchards into authentic period gardens which fit the house. These plans displayed in the office area.