Postcard from Tupare Garden New Zealand

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Featured Image: Mount Taranaki

Featured Image: Mount Taranaki, New Plymouth

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 March 2019

Postcard from Tupare House & Garden, New Plymouth, New Zealand

New Plymouth has two major public gardens, several good private ones and excellent public parks. Of the two public gardens we only went to Tūpare. We were here in mid-January 2019. Pukeiti larger and renowned for its rhododendrons is best visited in early November.

Tūpare is both a garden and an arts and crafts house on a very steep site. A volunteer guide opened the house for a tour at 11 am. I am not a garden aficionado in particular and was equally attracted by the house and the story of the property. It is somewhat symbolic of New Zealand.

New Plymouth is not well known to overseas visitors and perhaps not even to many New Zealanders. It needs introduction.


Demography, Geography and Economy

New Zealand consists of two main islands. The North Island is more populated and the bulk of the population lives in Auckland.

New Zealand’s population is only 4,885,000 in 2019. The population of the North Island is 3,749,500 and the South Island 1,135,500. Auckland’s population is 1,582,000 by contrast Wellington is 413,000, Hamilton 205,000, Christchurch 408,000, Dunedin 122,000 and New Plymouth 59,000 (accuracy approximate; variable sources)

The CIA Factbook says of the New Zealand economy :

Over the past 40 years, the government has transformed New Zealand from an agrarian economy, dependent on concessionary British market access, to a more industrialized, free market economy that can compete globally.

However, New Zealand is still dependent on agriculture and forestry as its main exports and on tourism. Hence its economy is dependent on overseas demand and is inevitably fragile. I’ve always said that New Zealand is ten years ahead of Australia in creativity and innovation, but then comes the next recession.

Taranaki and New Plymouth

New Plymouth is in the Taranaki Region, north of it is the Waikato. South are Wanganui and Manawatu. Regional identity in New Zealand is vey strong based on history.

Taranaki is centred on a large volcano Mount Taranaki (previously Egmont) and the mountain is the most visible landmark. Mount Taranaki is conical and looks like Mount Fuji in winter. Several films set in Japan have been made here. Taranaki is the large bulge on the West coast of the North Island, New Plymouth is on the seaward edge of that bulge. It is the only large town in Taranaki.

Map of Tupare
Map of Tupare

New Plymouth is a relatively prosperous community. Because of the volcanic nature of the soils, it is a rich agricultural region. And, because of the bulge it isn’t on the direct land route between Auckland and Wellington. The Port of New Plymouth is tricky of access, particularly in sailing times because it is on a lee shore.


European settlement in Taranaki began in the early 1840s when many of the original Maori inhabitants were absent, because of the inter-tribal musket wars. This, the rapid growth of the colonist population, the insatiable demands for land and dubious practices, led to war with the local Maori in the 1860s. Reparations to the Maori are still ongoing.

Following the peace and economic stability, New Plymouth became a major port for dairy produce from the region and later the administrative centre for Taranaki’s petro-chemical industry.

Our personal experience of New Plymouth

We came to New Plymouth for the first time in March 2000 for a few days. We enjoyed the ambience of the town, the art museum and a ride on a Chaddy’s lifeboat out of the harbour to the island and the local seal colonies. We also discovered the artist Len Lye and the excellent gallery of his works. In the interim New Plymouth has grown. It has become more of an art centre, with a greater range of attractions and facilities and has excellent restaurants (a haven for foodie culture).There are lovely places to cycle and bush walking tracks in the centre of town.

We stayed here for three days and four nights in January 2019 and felt very welcome and comfortable. We saw different things than on our first trip. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre had improved incredibly as had the Museum and Library. The former is a world class gallery complex with knowledgeable attendants.

Tupare house and garden

Tūpare was bought by the QEII National Trust in 1985 and ownership was transferred to the Taranaki Regional Council in 2002. The descriptions below are taken from the Tūpare Taranaki Council website and from photographs of the information boards on site.

The landscaped garden

Tūpare is a premier landscaped garden with a unique homestead, originally developed by Sir Russell Matthews and his family from 1932.

Sculpted from a hillside overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River, the plantings and landscapes remain true to its heritage. As you walk the winding paths cut into the hillside, you’ll find stately trees, deciduous maples, copper beeches and dawn redwoods, as well as a stunning collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, and hydrangeas that were all carefully planted by Sir Russell.

The Waiwhakaiho River flat retains an idyllic pastoral feeling with simple plantings of specimen trees, complemented by the movement of the wind and water and a pleasant swimming hole.

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