Fisherman’s Bay Garden, Akaroa, New Zealand..

I first read about Fisherman’s Bay garden in a book called Dreamscape. This incredibly diverse garden is set along the rugged Banks Peninsula in the South Island of New Zealand.

Needless to say, it was number one on my wish list, when we visited New Zealand in December 2019.

Fisherman’s Bay farm is just 20 minutes away from the pretty village of Akaroa, and includes 100 hectares (250 acres) of regenerating protected native bush in the two coastal valleys.

Jill Simpson, and her husband Richard have a farm and a garden in this beautiful but challenging landscape. Richard says it is just as well the native bush land is protected or they might find themselves making that into a garden too!

When  Jill and Richard moved to Fisherman’s Bay in the late nineties the house and the farm were their top priorities. However, over time, Jill went from drawing landscape designs to planting the garden intensely.

The day we arrived, both Jill and her husband Richard were very busy getting ready for Christmas, just 10 days away. Despite this, they were very welcoming, especially considering they were expecting their family….. including 10 grandchildren…to arrive soon!

They invited us to walk through the garden and take as long as we liked..and this is where we began..

In 2007, Jill and Richard cleared some areas near the farmhouse, and were originally thinking of planting a vegetable garden. However, Jill had always wanted a double flower border.

The plantings in these gardens are a fairly traditional mixture of roses, shrubs and perennials. Jill says ”as time has gone by, parts of the garden represent different parts of my life. This long border is a memory of cottage gardens popular everywhere when my children were young.’

The garden slopes down towards the coast, winding paths leading the way through a shady fern gully, to perennial gardens, to an exposed rock garden..all of it a feast for the eyes!

Jill has designed her garden with the structure and texture of New Zealand native plants combined with a diverse array of non-native plants.

Red Daylilies growing in and around the Smoke bush.

She has made sure that plantings become more naturalistic and less structured as you move away from the house.

The white flowering bush (Cornus) was creamy white when we were there in December, and now (looking at the garden on Instagram) it is pink. …which is just as striking.

The huge skies, the cliffs and the views of the sea, are all part of the garden, thanks to Jill’s skilful design.

In recent times, Jill has been influenced by European and American gardens seen on overseas holidays. ”As time has gone by, parts of the garden represent different parts of my life.”

How true this is of many gardeners….


She has taken the ideas from the new perennial movement in the UK…

and the Prairie style in the US and interpreted these ideas and plants into her New Zealand landscape.


Toitoi and a New Zealand grass Anementhele lessoniana on the right.

Despite the pleasant summer weather during our visit,  Richard said winters can be a challenge.

Akaroa and the Fisherman’s Bay are at the Southern tip of the Banks Peninsula, and are exposed to winds from the Antarctic ..

Looking across the sea from here, the next land mass is the Antarctic.  Well, at least that is one  weather problem Aussies do not have! (except in Tasmania)

Jill is a keen collector of native hebes, and the garden has more than 150 species (at last count) and cultivars.


Arthropodium cirratum in flower

We saw many of these pretty white flowers in parks and gardens in New Zealand. They are very hardy plants and flower for an extended time in summer.

Jill is also featured in a book called Flourish…which profiles some New Zealand gardens and their creators..

what I’ve learnt is that you can’t go against such an amazing landscape. The garden has to work with it..”

At the end of our stroll through this beautiful garden Richard invited us to sit and have some coffee in their barn, now used as a tea/coffee room, filled with gardening books and interesting magazines which Fisherman’s Bay garden has been featured in… A lovely end to the day..

Many thanks to Jill and Richard, for allowing us to visit their garden at this time. It lived up to all my expectations, and more.

It was a joy to look back at this garden during a summer of bushfires in Australia. It is a reminder of the pleasure and sense of place gardens bring to us all.


Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Australian Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Jill Simpson Instagram:

Claire Takacs: Instagram: clairetakacs

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved


21 Replies to “Fisherman’s Bay Garden, Akaroa, New Zealand..”

  1. It was a delight for me, with 12 years in New Zealand under my belt, to have such a splendid guided tour through a wonderful garden. I have been to the Banks Peninsula twice but foolishly not been here before. Thank you so much for the post.

    1. Thanks Susan. I’m glad you had a chance to go down memory lane….. New Zealand is full of glorious views and gardens it seems.

  2. What a magnificent garden and set in a real paradise. How wonderful it must have been to wander through, admiring all the lovely flowers. Ten grandchildren is a goodly number. They must really enjoy visiting their grandparents.

  3. I’m conflicted, but in a good way. Beautiful gardens expertly arranged, lovely manicured green walkways, an absolutely amazing view, AND a coffee barn. This is a stop I could really get excited about. It must have truly been a wonderful visit, and I sincerely appreciate your sharing it with us.

  4. Oh wow. That really does blow me away. Especially given the difficulties of gardening on such an exposed site. But they’ve proved it can be done and the setting surely could not be bettered. Just incredible.

  5. Oh my goodness, how beautiful!!! All of it, especially those parts with the stunning views. Loved that sculpture too. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed

    1. Yes, I remember Cape Town was not too far from the Antarctic…and your Cape Town winters are cold!

      The fires are unfortunately very close to Canberra, burning in the mountains. However, the Emergency Services, firefighters, and the Defence force have been able to build some containment lines which is slowing the process down, and at the moment Canberra is ”watch and wait”.
      I have been having trouble again getting my comments through on your blog, but will comment on FB instead.

  6. What a fantastic garden. Wonderful mix of strange and familiar plants. And the setting! Is this where you got into a discussion of the Lurie Garden?

    1. Yes, Jill did ask me if we had been to the Lurie garden. She and Richard have been on many UK and USA garden tours…and Jill is such a talented plantswoman she is able to take a bit of everything and put it in her lovely NZ garden. The golden grasses waving in the breeze were really eye-catching….along with everything else!

  7. This is indeed a beautiful garden; it must have been such a pleasure to have wandered through it. Thank you so much for your wonderful photos, Gerrie!

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