Great Barrier Island Garden Tour

November is Garden Festival time in New Zealand, and I recently flew out to Great Barrier Island to photograph their festival. It’s a unique Garden Tour, consisting of four distinct tours located on different areas of the island.  I photographed the Totara Tour – great being a garden photographer again!

On this tour we visited a range of gardens from designer to the more eccentric. The first one, Puketaha featured a back bone of mature trees, shrubs and a stunning range of sub-tropicals.

Sculpture Gardens

Many of the gardens featured sculptures set amongst sub-tropical planting. They captured the Island feel and sense of place.  I especially loved the lush purple Bromeliads, Taro and Ligularia under-planting.

Permaculture Garden

One of the quirkier gardens was Julie’s Whare. It’s an organic garden run on permaculture principles and is an ongoing process: like many gardens it’s constantly evolving. The sculpture is “framed” by gathered driftwood.

Green Bush Gardens

In contrast to the residential gardens was our visit to Taumata, most of which is in a QE2 convenant – protected bush forever. It’s a beautiful area of Bush featuring some magnificent mature specimens and the remains of an old logging track in the foreground (see image one in gallery).  I’ve always loved the colour green and the sense of sanctuary and quiet it brings. This stems from a childhood in New Zealand and regular trips to the NZ Bush.


The Garden Tour is a major fundraiser for the Great Barrier Island Community Health Trust to purchase medical equipment for use on the Island.  The event happens thanks to the island’s gardeners and a huge community effort, led by Leonie Howie (pictured below). It was a pleasure photographing the Totara Tour…such a joy photographing so many wonderful gardens and meeting the interesting owners. Thank you for inviting me.