Around 1870, Thomas Jury purchased the 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 and originally settling on the western side in the area known as Omata.
The farm was part of land which had been confiscated by the New Zealand government from local Maori during the Land Wars. Subdivided into 50 acre blocks, the land was apparently settled on soldiers who had fought in the wars. Pioneer Thomas, as he was known in the family, purchased several of the blocks from the original soldier owners. With the passage of time, we are mindful these days that the heritage is of confiscated land. Many of the descendants of the original owners – the tangata whenua of New Zealand – still live in the area. These historical grievances still resonate today.
A legacy from Thomas are the avenues of rimu trees (Dacrydium cupressinum) and Monterey pines (Pinus radiata) which give the garden a majestic backbone today. The remnant of tightly clipped totara hedge (Podocarpus totara) also dates back over 100 years when it formed the boundary of the house gardens at the time. These would all have been planted as shelter against the prevailing winds as the land had already been clear felled of its native tawa forest (Beilschmiedia tawa) by the time Thomas took ownership.
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. He also purchased stone artefacts which were not appreciated by others at the time, including three mill wheels, stone troughs and the shaped corner stone from an early building. These have been incorporated into garden features.
In the manner of the day, the design and landscaping is heavily influenced by English style, which Felix and Mimosa had only seen in black and white photographs in books at the time. The original gardens radiate out from the house with every window framing a different view.
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, there was a lot that 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 area that mattered most to him on his youngest son, Mark.
Around 1982, Mark and Abbie returned to Taranaki where Felix made his plans to transfer the garden known. 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 garden.
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 was a major development. The planting of the former cow paddock has created the North Garden or Wild Garden. Other new areas are being brought into the garden since the plant nursery was closed. Development of the garden continues.
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.
It is not common in New Zealand for gardens to be passed down the generations. Tikorangi has been actively and intensively gardened for over 65 years, with the oldest plantings going back 140 years. Whether it will pass to a fifth generation remains to be seen.