In 1957 my father, a strong influence in my gardening past, gave me R. E. Harrison’s book on bulbs and perennials. Inside the cover he wrote Kipling's famous verse ‘Gardens are not made by saying Oh how beautiful and sitting in the shade’.
Ayrlies, sculptured enthusiastically from bare paddock by my late husband Malcolm and myself in 1964, takes its name from the McConnell family farm in Scotland. The garden evolved out of a desire to create a larger informal country garden, reminiscent of the homestead gardens of my Hawkes Bay childhood; a garden where the contours of the land dictated the shape; a garden where there was space for larger trees grown in family groups; a seasonal garden where the challenge is still to have some plant or vista at its best every week of the year; a garden where still ponds and cascades of water create a sense of tranquillity; a garden filled with moments of drama and lots of heady perfume.
Over thirty years ago Oliver Briers came from England to help us. Oliver enjoys the hard-landscaping. His natural eye for good line and his technical competence, gives Ayrlies permanent form and interest complementing the more transient nature of the plantings. In 1978 with the addition of three large ponds we expanded the garden from three acres to ten. We had then future plans to transform the swamp flats below the homestead into a wetland area, thus linking the garden to the sea. This was achieved in the millennium year. Ollie has now retired at least three times but still appears regularly to encourage us. Our capable gardening team is leading Ayrlies lovingly and busily into the future.
We look forward to seeing you at Ayrlies.
“If you think of gardening as an art form, I think it’s (Ayrlies) the best expression of that art,” says Hobbs. “Unlike a lot of gardens that have minimal components, its very complex, but pulled off magnificently. The whole thing is an experience beyond any other garden in the country.”
Quote from Jack Hobbs in Listener Article “Best Garden” August 4 – 10th 2007