Our bubble has burst. There we were, when I wrote my last column, terribly excited at the prospect of a huge leap in the garden visitor market. But we hadn’t read the fine print of the Concept Development Plan recently tabled with Regional Council.
The new carpark is fine as long as it is in the neighbour’s. And we can take on the new gardener. But everything else is governed by the Florence Charter. This is like the Kyoto Protocol of the gardening world. Nobody seems to know if our government is actually a signatory to the Florence Charter but no matter. The report uses the Florence Charter as its guiding principle and this important document, which nobody in this country had apparently heard of until a national landscape consultant raised it, is to govern all management of historic gardens. Well, almost all aspects as regards Hollards and Tupare. Some aspects, perhaps.
Certainly the Florence Charter is to be applied to all plant material in the garden so no plants which are recent introductions or developments are to be in these gardens. They must be replanted and maintained with material which was available when the Matthews and the Hollards were gardening. This will see the burgundy loropetalums and the precious Michelia alba ripped out of Tupare along with most of the more recent plantings.
And the Florence Charter is to be slavishly applied to the house at Tupare. Gone is the ensuite bathroom which was installed upstairs, probably at great expense. And the new kitchen is to go, along with any other modifications to the house. Attention to detail is such that even the doorbell is mentioned at least twice in the report. And there is to be a 1951 Bentley parked in the garage along with a 1940s Vauxhall. These were apparently driven by Sir Russell and Lady Matthews at some point in their lives (presumably in the days when they were just Russell and Mary).
The house at Hollards, although older than the house at Tupare, is for some curious reason exempt from the Florence Charter, so it is to be removed. Of course the house is not as cute as Tupare so perhaps that is why it is expendable despite the Florence Charter. And indeed the garden itself is exempt. Only the plants must be frozen in times past. The Project Advisory Group will have the skills, apparently, to improve on Bernie and Rose Hollard’s landscaping abilities and there will be three new buildings dropped into the garden too. History does not apparently record what vehicle Bernie Hollard drove, so we don’t need to emulate that in 2005.
Mark and I are the current owners of a large garden and home which is contemporary to Hollards and Tupare. Possibly it is the last surviving garden of that vintage in private ownership. At the time there were others. Les Jury had a fine garden called Sunnybank which he used to open to the public in the 1950s and which was acclaimed in its day. Fred Parker had a notable garden. Grant Maxwell and Griff Williams are other Taranaki gardening names from the past.
But now we are concerned lest we be contravening the Florence Charter with our extensions to the garden and our alterations to the house. I am really too scared to ring our brickie and tell him that our fine brick wall, of which we are terribly proud of and on which we spent many dollars, will, alas, have to be demolished. It is not original. We had our official opening a few weeks ago. The demolition party may not be so happy.
We are going to have to get the diggers in to reinstate the park how it was. Gone will be our ponds, our meandering stream, bridges and growing herbaceous borders. In its heyday, under the stewardship of Felix and Mimosa, the park was inclined to flood every time it rained and always boggy. And it followed the style of gardening espoused by the New Zealand Rhododendron Association of the time which saw trees and shrubs in splendid isolation surrounded by long grass. Somewhat like parts of Tupare were at the time too. It will save lawn mowing. We can just put sheep back in and shut the gate. As long as they are the right type of sheep.
Our home is a little more modern than that at Tupare and although architecturally designed, it was not by Chapman Taylor. But it is quite a fine example of a solid five bed roomed home built in 1949 but designed to look timeless so rather redolent of the 1920s art deco English style. And there is a lot of history in it.
To my shame, I had not realised that the concrete laundry tubs and the farmer’s shower in the laundry were important historical features. I have been enjoying a modernised laundry which doesn’t get mouldy. And a modern shower located in the bathroom with underfloor heating and an extractor fan had been bringing me pleasure too, until I realised the crime we had committed in altering the original design. Mark is just relieved that we have discovered the folly of our ways before we started to renovate the original kitchen. We will both miss the efficient woodburner which stopped the house being an icebox in winter, but of course we must go back to the open fires.
But the problem that is really taxing us is what vehicle we must buy and restore to park in the garage. Tupare is to have a Bentley and a Vauxhall. I think the Humber Super Snipe which Felix and Mimosa drove in the fifties would look better than the more modest Singer Vogue which they changed to in the mid sixties. Or can we find an old Packard which predated the Humber Super Snipe? Our Toyotas just don’t cut the mustard in this new era of historical accuracy. We may have to park them in the visitors’ carpark.
But we mustn’t be grumpy. Thank goodness we have saved the 100 year old totara hedge, and the rimus, pines and gums which were now over 125 years old, planted by the original Jury here. These are older than any of the plants at Hollards and Tupare. And if those gardens are to be frozen in time, then the same fate must be waiting for our garden.
Is it any wonder that I made my pronouncement to our three children over Christmas dinner: “When Dad and I die, under no circumstances whatsoever are you to allow the garden to pass into public ownership.” And that was before the ramifications of the Florence Charter had sunk in on us.