I am now living most of the year in New Zealand, and I must be honest immigrating to a new country on the opposite side of the globe is not as easy as one would think. Everyday things are done in quite a different manner, and adapting to the new culture and learning about the do’s and don’ts takes a lot out of a person.
My mind set has to change and adapt to a new environment with very different external factors at play. Easily explained, it feels like I arrived at a party where I don’t know anybody, and it will take a few G&T’s for me to get the courage to also dance on the tables. I’m at the stage where I’m taking my first sip.
Between my work and travelling, as I still have an office in South Africa, I’m exploring the back roads of New Zealand, popping into every open garden I can find and also looking for small growers of interesting plants. Those are the guys you won’t find on Google so you need to go looking for them; they can be very shy.
On one of these excursions the other day I drove through a beautifully picturesque French influenced town call Akaroa, close to Christchurch on the South Island. While organising my boat trip to see the world’s smallest dolphins in Akaroa Bay I saw a flyer that had the word ‘garden’ on it. That’s all it took to convince me to abandon my dolphin tour and instead walk up to the ”Giant’s House” on a hill overlooking the spectacular bay.
On entering the garden all huffing and puffing, my eyes could not believe what they were seeing. For those who know my work, know I’m a bit of a dreamer and my designs are not your run-of-the-mill straightforward gardens, absolutely not. They always have an aspect of fantasy, an almost Dr Zuess kind of feel. That’s probably why I love animated films so much, not because of the storyline but to see the creative landscapes that are produced by the animators. This is exactly what I found with the garden I walked into.
The Giant’s House, built in 1880, is a french inspired and elegant house that belonged to the first Bank Manager of Akaroa. Now it’s the pride and joy of Josie Martin, a well-known New Zealand artist with bright blue hair and a red pointy hat. She converted this old house of a banker (which we could assume could only have been dull) into a colourful space that fills you with joy and happiness.
Entering the gates of the garden you are not quite sure what awaits beyond the corner. I have never been the biggest lover of mosaic work but presented like this, and done in an over-the-top style as only Josie can do, it is absolutely fabulous. The first feature to greet you is a mosaic grand piano on the lawn in front of the massively oversized house, and you just can’t help but to pose and play on it.
Colourful mosaic pathways flow from the front lawn, taking you up the hill to the rest of the garden that awaits, each turn of a corner providing a new scene. It’s almost like a play, but you can create your own storyline.
There are scenes with the King and Queen being entertained by a guy in a blue top-hat, and a round fountain with characters of all different cultures chatting away; it’s as if you can almost follow their conversations.
You take a rest under a pergola that has countless hands on the roof posing like sea anemone, trying to catch its prey; and so the bizarre storyline continues throughout the enormous garden.
Artist Josie also has a Diploma in Horticulture, with her training apparent in the prevalent and interesting plantings between the cacophony of walkways.
From mirrored arches to abstract art to mosaic sculptures of what I can only describe as “happiness”, this garden warmed my heart and gave me that fuzzy feeling. That’s a feeling not always the easiest to find.
Enjoy this gallery of photos that show off more of this most amazing garden.