Monday, 14 September 2015


My friends Joanne and Rita came with me to visit Ayrlies today.
It is gorgeous. It is beautiful. It is lovely.

The day dawned foggy on my side of town, but as we  drove on to Whitford and  entered the gates just after midday and it was beautiful sunshine, so that I had to wear a sun hat. I had one in the car, but my friends unfortunately had not prepared sunhats for the brilliant weather.

We were the only visitors. There is a covered bridge entrance into Ayrlies  and a path which winds around Ollies pond. Ollie is Bev McConnell's head gardening man. He made all the ponds on the property. The waterfalls cascade down the slope surrounded by ferns and schleranthus, kowhais and ponga. Spring daffodils are tucked here and there. A fir tree rises up from another pond, and then we cross the gravel drive into a magical woodland area, with points of interest and stunning plants everywhere you look. A gazebo overlooks the paddocks from which Ayrlies was created, and obliged us with a scene of two woolly sheep gambolling in the pasture.

Magnolia is in bloom and there are several in gullies so that you can look down on their floaty petals. They are pink and white or star shaped. We head on toward the house where Bev has a swimming pool and rockery, with succulents behind a tennis court, and then by the house is a 'blue room' with lots of blue flowered plants and a wisteria covered pergola. Joanne was impressed by the butterfly laden Echium.

The property slopes down from the house and there are winding paths and steps following ponds and cascades which flow toward the coast, you can catch a glimpse of the sea and Rangitoto in the distance. Bev has lots of bluebells, daffodils, hellebores, primulas in clumps underneath her flowering shrubs, mostly magnolia. Red hot pokers peek out beneath shady trees as beacons. Tuis flit through the blooming kowhai. The plants are all shown to good advantage thanks to the slope from which you can gaze above and below.

Orchids do well, and there are all sorts of unusual plants I don't know the name of, like a plant that has leaves that look like they are cut with pinking shears, plants that spill out of pots and down walls. Clivia glows in the shade, ferns look spunky amidst all the exotics. Bev has an eye for colour and some borders have themes like a 'lurid' border thats all oranges and reds and yellows. Most plants are clumped together for effect. The swampy area has these formations that look other-worldy. She has a meadow with fruit trees in blossom an daffodils that have already flowered, and borrowed a view from the countryside with a ha-ha. It is all naturalistic and following the lie of the land, there's no clipped hedges or ridged straight edges anywhere.

We see two gardeners, one on the ride on mower..and we greet Bev's two jack russells and she tells us about the 'blue room' and invites us to wander down the meandering paths of which are many...up to her temple covered with climbing rose which commemorates her family - she's a widow, where we sit and take in the birds and butterflies and flowers.

Joanne buys three plants from the nursery at the side of the house, an echium, iresine and campanula and I purchase a 'shuttercock' fern which I plant in Sock's bed. Its also known as an orchid fern. It's a lovely day out and well worth the $15 to visit this amazing, inspiring creation. Thank you Bev!