Water Cooler: Garden Marlborough marvels, Murder on the Orient Express and Growing More than Grass reviews

This week in the water cooler, Kate explores Garden Marlborough, Emma steps aboard the Orient Express and Nadene finds inspiration in a new book Growing More than Grass.


This weekend I’m at Garden Marlborough and I’m in heaven visiting the magnificent Winterhome Garden at Kekerengu of Sue and Richard Macfarlane.
I visited this place 15 years ago and it’s even better than I recall. Such beautiful spaces and formal axes and the distant roar of the ocean makes it special. It’s a tribute to Sue’s vision and stamina and is now looking superb.
I’ve got a busy dance card this weekend: more beautiful gardens to visit, then I’m one of the lucky few to get into Kath Irvine’s permaculture edible garden design courses, and I can’t wait to see Great Dixter Gardener Fergus Garrett.

Kate Coughlan
Editor NZ Life & Leisure


Hercule Poirot is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous characters and Murder on the Orient Express is arguably the crime writer’s most famous story.
The book was first published in 1934 and has been serialised for radio, appeared in several TV adaptations, a film in 1974 starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman.
This weekend another version hits cinemas. Sir Kenneth Branagh dons the most epic moustache to play the eccentric Belgian detective in the new iteration alongside a Hollywood’s who’s who cast including Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, and a CGI steam train.
Branagh plays Poirot as a perfectionist (perhaps suffering a form of OCD). His obsessive eye for detail make his crime-solving abilities unrivaled but his personal life almost unbearable and unsatisfying. A relaxing trip on the luxury train is interrupted by the death of antiques trader Edward Ratchett, and Poirot must figure out which of the train passengers is the murderer. Kenneth Branagh and Michelle Pfeiffer are standouts. There is so much star-power aboard this film it ought to be a runaway success, but instead the film chugs along and some of the acting talent barely makes the screen.
If you are familiar with the storyline and know who killed Ratchett, the big reveal loses its steam. For those who don’t know the plot it’s worth familiarising yourself with this murder mystery classic if there’s rain on the weather forecast.

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Emma Rawson
thisNZlife Editor


peony growers New Zealand

Dove Valley Peony farm is is nestled at the base of the Kajurangi Ranges west of Nelson. 

A question I’m often asked is whether I worry we’ll will ever run out of stories for NZ Lifestyle Block. There’s only 4 million-odd people in NZ and statistically, perhaps a few hundred thousand living on blocks, and lots of people writing about them.
I’ve never worried about running out.

Lavender field, Waitaki Valley New Zealand

Sam Laugesen in her lavender field is made up of grosso and super varieties.

You’d think with a book like Growing More Than Grass Clever, creative rural Kiwi women, there would be some cross-over with a magazine like ours, but like us, author Heather Kidd has found a wealth of women doing marvellous things.
The one we do share are two women from my favourite-ever story from NZ Lifestyle Block, Dot and Georgia and their peony business. They featured in the magazine a couple of years ago This book starts with sheep farmer Monique Neeson and woolen blanket business, born from a bad year of wool sales; moves to Piopio and farmer-turned-tourism operator Suzie Denize who takes people on tours of her family’s property to show them where The Hobbit was filmed; to the south and Kurow lavender grower-turned-children’s book author Sam Laugesen who has also featured in NZ Life & Leisure.

Growing More Than Grass
By Heather Kidd
Bateman Publishing, soft cover, 255 pages, $40

Nadene Hall
NZ Lifestyle Block


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