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.
She has made sure that plantings become more naturalistic and less structured as you move away from the house.
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.
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.
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: fishermansbay.nz/
Claire Takacs: Instagram: clairetakacs
Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved