words: Leanne Gichard images: supplied

Nature is a stirrer of the soul; a garden can be a refuge and safe haven or a stimulator of the senses and Trott’s Garden in Ashburton is no exception.  I recently had the privilege to sit down and chat with garden administrator, Nicola Walker, and volunteer Cathy Sweetman, amidst the sublime beauty that is Trott’s Garden.  

Not only is Nicola passionate about Trott’s Garden, she is even more passionate to showcase what this magnificent garden has to offer locals. “Trott’s Garden is world-renowned, and we have found that visitors from overseas know more about it than local residents.  Because the garden is ever-changing and evolving, there is so much to see and we would love locals to utilise this beautiful garden, not just visiting once, but often.”

“We once had two artists come and set up their easels in the garden.  I asked them if they were happy for me to take a photo of them painting, as this is exactly how we would love to see this garden used,” says Nicola.  Cathy nods her head in agreement, “One lady returned several times to find a quiet spot in the garden to read her book.  It is also an excellent garden for kids, as there is plenty of space to enjoy.”  As Nicola put it, “The whole purpose of the Trott’s Garden Charitable Trust taking over the garden was to provide a place for the community to enjoy.”  

From the iconic tree-lined driveway, to the red border, knot garden, ponds, and beyond, Trott’s Garden seems to encompass you in a warm embrace.  Rhododendrons and azaleas of every hue dazzle with colour and form, established trees provide shade on a hot, sunny day and shelter from the wind, a proliferation of dahlias and other perennials add vibrant colour and birds float and flit from tree to shrub, the cheeky fantails being a favourite of many visitors. “We love the fantails.  They tend to follow us around the garden,” laughs Nicola. “They are very entertaining.”

Of course, this is no ordinary garden.  The New Zealand Gardens Trust awarded Trott’s Garden six stars (its highest category) and designated it as a New Zealand Garden of International Significance.  When you consider that this stunning garden was once four hectares of bare paddock with an old house and stable,  it is clear that its development by Alan and Catherine Trott required vision, passion and determination, not to mention a great deal of hard work.  

In 2017, after almost 40 years, Alan and Catherine decided a change of pace was needed.  After talking with a group of local people, the idea of retaining Trott’s Garden for the local community was born.  The Trott’s Garden Charitable Trust was created and took over the garden in September 2017.  A large group of volunteers assist with gardening, mowing, hosting visitors and catering. “We have many fabulous volunteers, but we are always happy to welcome more,” says Nicola.

So, why not pop out in a lunch-break, take a picnic or simply enjoy a walk with the family and utilise this amazing community asset?

Trott’s Garden is located at 371 Racecourse Road, Ashburton and is open to the public 7 days per week (10am – 4pm), September through to May, exceptions being Public Holidays.  (Check their website/Facebook for details.)   Entry is free, but donations are welcomed.  Venue Hire for Functions and Weddings is available all year round.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.