Fernside’s Gardens were probably set out by Mrs Catherine Barton but the Elgars introduced many of the complex structures such as the rill that flows from the lake and ends with a pond and sound shell. During the thirty or so years after the Americans sold Fernside in 1955 the gardens were neglected, many plants and trees chose their own locations, so by the mid eighties a major cleanup was required.

While the structure of the gardens remains unchanged, the detail now reflects the thirty years of “evolution” with large flower beds that appear to have no planting scheme and numerous plant species in each. Camellias and rhododendrons are predominant with several stretching well over six meters in search of light.

Over an acre of narcissus comprising many species provide a distinctly yellow introduction to spring. About the same time the native kowhai and other plants attract an influx of native birds including kereru (native pigeon), piwakawaka (fantail) and tui. The Karearea (New Zealand Falcon) and Ruru (morepork) also frequent the gardens.


The gardens retain a number of ornamental features including statues, garden seats, iron gates, walls of various descriptions and outbuildings. Curiously, many statues have migrated to new locations and, sadly, a few no longer reside on the property. A notable absentee is a statue of Mercury that was the centre-piece of a large rose garden adjacent to the main lawn.

A magnificent Okiwi Shipgood sandstone sculpture is a recent addition that resides in the lake.

Click here for more information about Okiwi Shipgood.
Water gardens are a significant feature. The Longwood irrigation system, fed by the Tauherenikau River, flows onto Fernside's northern boundary and feeds the large ornamental lake and a number of water races.

Water cascades from the lake’s outlet into a rill that runs down to a much photographed pond, commonly called the sketching garden, and its sound shell that magnifies the gentle chatter of the rill. The grand deciduous oaks and other English trees, which were planted in the 1800s, watch over a broad spectrum of plant species including azaleas, camellias, hellebore, narcissus, rhododendrons and viburnum. The park-like environment has a number of water features, abundant bird life and many ornamental structures. Another ornamental pond, far from the race, near the tennis-court is gravity-fed from the lake.