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Around 1870, Thomas Jury purchased the family farm at Tikorangi in North Taranaki. His family had emigrated from Cornwall in 1841, sailing into New Plymouth on the first settler ship, the William Bryan.
The farm was part of land which had been confiscated by the New Zealand government from local Maori after the Land Wars. Subdivided into 50 acre blocks, the land was settled on soldiers who had fought in the wars. Pioneer Thomas, as he was known in the family, purchased several of the blocks from soldiers who presumably preferred fighting to farming.
A legacy from Thomas are the avenues of rimu trees and Monterey pines (pinus radiata) which give the garden a majestic backbone today. The remnant of tightly clipped totara hedge also dates back over 100 years when it formed the boundary of the house gardens at the time.
The garden itself was largely developed by Thomas’s grandson, Felix Jury and his wife Mimosa. Once they had constructed the current homestead around 1950, they set about laying the foundations of the formal areas of the garden. This involved a relatively large quantity of stonework, still a feature today. Felix collected stone from where ever he could, including monumental masons. At the same time he purchased stone artefacts which were not appreciated by others at the time, including three unique mill wheels and the shaped corner stone from an early building. These have been incorporated into garden features.
Starting with an almost bare paddock, the near flat house gardens were constructed before Felix moved onto the sloping hillside behind, referred to as “the park”. Felix imported plants from all over the world, seeking to extend the boundaries of plant material which was being grown in New Zealand at the time. While some of the imported material thrived, others simply did not like the high humidity and lack of a winter chill. In part, it was disappointment at the amount of new material which failed to thrive which provided the impetus for Felix’s plant breeding – seeking new plants which would perform well in the conditions.
Finding he enjoyed gardening a great deal more than farming, Felix handed over the farm to his middle son as early as he could. In due course he subdivided the farm from the homestead and garden, settling the farm on his middle son and the house and garden on his youngest son, Mark.
Around 1982, Mark and Abbie returned to Taranaki and on discovering that the garden was to be theirs, settled nearby. Without a farm to provide an income to maintain the garden, it was necessary to find another means of earning a living. Mark started the nursery on the property, building it up from one wheelbarrow. He and Abbie worked alongside Felix in the garden until his death in 1996, when they moved into the family homestead.
Mark’s first major project was to redirect the stream through the park. Some eighty years earlier, his grandfather had straightened the stream, as tidy New Zealand farmers did at the time, to run along the boundary. The legacy of this was frequent flooding and boggy areas. Now the water is controlled by a weir with a flood channel to take excess water, and water once again wends its way through the park.
Other areas of the garden have been redeveloped and extended, while continuing to maintain the character of the early landscaping. The construction of some eighty metres of imposing brick entranceway is the latest major development. While the landscaping is firmly anchored in the English tradition, the huge variety of plant material lifts this garden into the pacifica style which characterises New Zealand’s temperate to sub tropical gardens.