Weekend Gardener Magazine article - Nov/Dec 2008
Nikau Vale is a garden with features that set it apart. The lushness and abundance of the native palms that give this property its name is one you might expect. Not so another feature that must linger long in the minds of most mainland visitors. This garden has no road access (nor, being inland, any sea access either). Instead you travel by foot for about five minutes along a bush track and over a ford. This is dry when we visit but rushing water covers it when the stream is in flood.
This doesn’t worry Nikau Vale’s owners, Gendie and Steve Jury.
“It would be hard to find a more beautiful and peaceful garden from which to enjoy our retirement,” says Gendie, who is in her mid-70s – and very fit, as you need to be to tackle the demands of island life.
In their three years of residence, there has been one time when the stream was too high for even the intrepid to safely cross but she is unconcerned. There are always fruit and veggies in the garden and a small orchard on their 4.5ha, mostly bush property to see them through.
Gendie likes to take visitors on a walk through dense nikau palms and the odd puriri heavily stacked with epiphytes to another feature that sets this garden apart – a natural waterfall gently splashing down a long, narrow, rock face bordered by bush.
“After heavy rain this waterfall becomes a torrent that rushes down the stream and eventually flows out to sea at Pah Beach,” Gendie says. Presumably, that’s also when the ford becomes close to impassable so few visitors must see that spectacle.
The sun-soaked part of the Jury property set in flower and veggie gardens comes as almost a shock after the shady return trip. This, like other typical island gardens, focuses on plants that thrive in the Barrier’s usually frost-free environment. There’s no place here, so close to nature, for those that need special cosseting or proprietary chemicals to survive.
Like other island gardeners we met, Gendie doesn’t mention the term ‘organic gardening’. It’s the way they do things and thus unremarkable. But the Juries draw the line at letting greedy kaka feed willy-nilly: “All the fruit trees have to be covered in net because of their voracious appetites,” Gendie says. However, they let the wood pigeons sometimes completely strip kowhai of flowers and foliage. Nature copes, soon luxuriant leaves regrow and there is a spinoff.
“The wood pigeons often perch close to our deck and we enjoy their beauty at close quarters.”
With all nature’s bounty around them, you begin to understand why this couple make little of a five-minute walk when they have to leave their very private paradise.