What’s On: 6 unmissable events at the Taranaki Garden Festival

This year 40 private and public gardens including, for the first time, a cemetery, will wow people during the Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival which runs from October 26 to November 4. While the gardens are the main attraction, festival manager Tetsu Garnett says the events programme offers visitors the chance to learn about gardening and history, hear inspiring stories, be uplifted, to sip and sample, dance and be entertained. 

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Here are six unmissable events from this year’s Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival.

One of the world’s top chefs is heading home to New Zealand for a sizzling event on November 2.
Growing up in Taranaki, Ben Shewry dreamed of becoming a chef – now he owns Melbourne eatery Attica, this year named 20th best restaurant in the world and top in Australasia.
During the Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival he will present an evening of storytelling, food and beer in the relaxed surrounds of Mitre 10 Mega in New Plymouth.
Born in New Zealand in 1977, Shewry is the son of festival gardeners Rob and Kaye Shewry (Where the Wild Things Are). He moved across the Tasman to Melbourne in 2002, taking on his first head chef role at Attica in 2005.

In 2015, he became sole owner of Attica, the same year he starred in an episode of Netflix series, Chef’s Table.
Festival manager Tetsu Garnett says his appearance will be a highlight of the garden events programme. “To get a chef of his calibre is just fantastic.”

At this event, Shewry will be cooking gourmet sausages made to his recipe and pairing them with Bliss Lager, a collaboration between Attica and the Garage Project.

Shewry says he doesn’t believe he would be the cook he has become without growing up in the region. “I’ll be telling my story – the influences of Taranaki, the land, the bush and my mother’s garden.”

Bookings are a must, order online here


This year’s landscape design project is a wow-inspiring effort starring two extremely different gardens created by landscape designer Tristan Cave.

The Taranaki man has been commissioned to form an “active garden” for the busy city family and a “resting garden” for plant lovers in a space beside Pukekura Park in New Plymouth.

During the Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival, visitors can visit the installations for free and be inspired by the outdoor living possibilities presented in these Living Rooms.

The active garden has minimal planting, but has a sandpit, lawn with a mini-putt, graffiti mural, colourful Perspex screens, turf cubes to sit on, raised beds and a shade sail.

In contrast, the resting garden is a tranquil place teeming with plants. Around a circular seating area, people will find trees green with spring growth, hostas, ferns, flowering perennials, deciduous azaleas, Japanese maples, miniature red-hot pokers and a tulip centre piece. “I envisage this as a plant collectors’ paradise,” Cave says.

Supported by the TSB Community Trust, Living Rooms is an uplifting garden installation to be explored and enjoyed by everyone. “I just wanted it to have the wow factor.”

People are invited to attend the free launch of Living Rooms at 5.30pm on October 25 to hear Cave talk about his landscape inspiration.


It’s tipple time with Taranaki-made Juno Gin.
During the Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival there are two events starring the gin, which won a silver medal at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
On the first day of the garden festival, Juno Gin makers Dave and Jo James are offering a behind-the-scenes tour of their New Plymouth distillery. At the October 26 event, visitors will see how gin is made, learn about the key botanicals, enjoy a tasting of their range and leave with a complimentary 200ml bottle of the award-winning gin.
The following week, people can enjoy Juno Gin cocktails in a glorious New Plymouth garden and meet the festival organisers.
This sip-and-sample event is being held in the Holyoake Garden at 5.30pm on November 1.
Along with two cocktails, guests will be offered delicious canapes, be able to mingle with other garden-minded people and meet those behind the annual event.
As well as sampling delicious cocktails and nibbles, guests can wander through Roslyn and Murray Holyoake’s many-layered artistic garden filled with edibles and elegance.
Bookings are a must, order online here 


Not only can people visit 40 glorious gardens during the Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival, they can also listen, learn, and be inspired.

From October 26 to November 4, the Gardena Speaker Series will run in gardens around the region.

Jodi Roebuck will be giving 2pm daily talks around his Omata market garden and restoration grazing property starring sheep and, in suburban New Plymouth, people will get a huge surprise when they discover Dee Turner’s Korito garden and enjoy her October 30 talk on turning lawns into food forests.

At Puketarata in Hawera, Ken Horner will give three 11am talks about the historical garden. These will be held on October 27 and 31, and November 3.
Festival stalwart Jenny Oakley will be giving two of her famous hanging basket demonstrations in her Manaia garden of national significance on October 27 and November 1.
Native plant expert Mark Dean will be at Te Kainga Marire, a garden of international significance, talking on his speciality on October 28. The garden is owned by Valda Poletti and Dave Clarkson, who are sponsoring this event.
To finish off the festival with floral flair, Pip Jones from Petal Pushers will be ensconced in the elegant Te Kukumara garden north of New Plymouth, where she will be holding a spring bouquet workshop. Bookings necessary for this event book online here


New Plymouth’s oldest cemetery is now listed as one of the public gardens people can visit for free during the Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival.
Set in a park-like setting, Te Henui Cemetery is lovingly cared for by dedicated volunteers and New Plymouth District Council horticultural staff.
For a respectful stroll among the headstones, visitors can even join some of the cemetery’s garden volunteers for free tours from 2pm to 3pm on October 29, 31 and November 2.
A mixture of gardening and history, these tours will take you into the heart of this heritage cemetery set in a tranquil garden.
Te Henui Cemetery had its first burial in 1861 and has slowly filled up, gathering a rich store of local tales over nearly 160 years. These stories and an appreciation of the gardens will be shared by the passionate caretakers of this final resting place.


Vanita Patel is calling on her colourful Indian culture to stage a theatrical floral art show during the Powerco Taranaki Garden Festival.
The multi-award-winning floral artist will be showcasing her passion for creating with flowers and foliage in an evening of music and fun at the Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace in New Plymouth on November 2.
The audience will watch Patel turn props and flora into dramatic arrangements. “They will see big bold designs; absolutely colourful,” she says.
Patel plans to incorporate ideas and landmarks from the different states of India, like the Taj Mahal and the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal) to create several artworks, which will also star bright tropical flowers and palms.
“By the end the stage will be full,” says Patel, who has been Auckland designer of the year three times and was awarded silver at the Ellerslie International Flower Show in 2005.
She has also exhibited in Australia and the United States, is a qualified national teacher, judge and demonstrator of the Floral Art Society of New Zealand.
In New Plymouth, not only will the stage be brimming with floral art, it will also be humming with Indian music, starting with classical sounds and ending with pure Bollywood.
This event is presented by Patel, along with the New Plymouth Floral Art Club.
For tickets, book online here 

NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.

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