The Gardens and Grounds at Larnach Castle
Bear suggested that as it is such a lovely, sunny day, we should do the garden first. No argument from me. Off we bimbled. Behind the raised lawn we had a lovely view of Larnach Castle. When the current owner Margaret Barker first fell in love with the derelict castle in 1967, the surrounding thirty five acres was an overgrown wilderness that stretched right up to the castle walls. Clearing the growth from the ruined garden revealed lost features and amazing vistas and is testament to the love of a lady over the past forty seven years. New Zealand’s Garden Trust has rated the garden as a Garden of International Significance.
We walked via the rock garden from Mable and very much enjoyed the snowdrops and its story. A visitor the the castle said that in the 1930’s he had laid out a rock garden at the castle. He was upset that his work had been obliterated by self sewn trees. Armed with a chain saw and slashers the current owner and her team set out to discover the lost rock garden. Patiently, over several years, it was cleared, rebuilt and planted, it is the natural world in miniature.
During the 1870’s the builders and stonemasons brought materials up from Broad Bay, three hundred metres below, by ox-drawn sleds as the castle building progressed. In 1998, to mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Dunedin, descendants of the builders living in Broad Bay and their neighbours, walked up the same hill accompanying a horse-drawn sled which bore cut stone and they laid it at the back of the garden.
The raised lawn is encircled by the original carriageway, whose edges were planted with trees in the 19th century. The raised lawn was established in the 1930’s when the marble fountain from Pisa, Italy was installed. The figures from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ in the adjacent triangular beds also date from that era. In the 1990’s the formal garden was extended to the west and central trees were felled to reveal the vista.
The pergola frames this view in one direction and the castle in the other. It becomes a tunnel of gold in November when the laburnum flowers. The pergola leads to the Green Room and Reflection Pool – a quiet place in the garden.
We would later see the raised garden from the tower. Through the arch in the hedge is a small arboretum of European beech trees and southern hemispheres beeches from New Zealand, Australia and Chile. These southern beeches are closely related to each other and also to fossil northofagus pollen found in Antarctica from trees that grew there when the climate was warmer. Many millions of years ago, New Zealand and other southern countries were joined to Antarctica in one single land mass called Gondwana.
The patterned garden in front of the ballroom.
The elegant Cupola was taken from the sailing ship ‘Zealandia’, it was installed at the castle in 1927 and the pattern is dedicated to the opium poppy.
The South Seas Garden. New Zealand’s place in the southern ocean, the surrounding landforms and patterns in the sea inspired this garden.
The views from here were lovely.
The large staircase leads to ‘Out of Africa’ with a microclimate where African aloes can grow with agaves from North America.
The carriage house has been renovated to provide rustic B&B, smart carriages once graced the building.
Opposite is the stable, currently used as the tea room due to renovation and decorating currently being carried out in the ballroom.
Inside there were pictures showing how the buildings looked before Margaret Barker bought the castle in 1967. Comical to read that the cart was used to build the bed in room 27 of the Lodge.
The late Sam Morris and Clive Oatley inspect the iron worked in about 1969.
We finished our cup of tea and left the stable by the other end, admired the plants and headed over to the methane plant which had a privy at each end complete with brass ashtrays. Each room had a long seat for grown ups and two small holes for children. Horse manure that drained from the nearby stable was also collected. The resulting methane gas from this brew was mixed with acetylene gas in a big glass bubble in the central room, a foot pump was then used to push the gas through the underground lead pipes to light the crystal chandeliers in the castle.
We were now at the back of the castle where we passed the dungeon.
We walked over the cobbles and headed for the dairy, through the door we could see the equipment inside.
We had a quick look in the greenhouse and ducked through the passageway. It was very clear to see that most people led with their right foot, judging by the grooves worn by the passing of many.
Through the passage and in the front garden once more.
Enjoying the winter colour, time to explore the castle.
ALL IN ALL A REAL TREAT IN THE SUNSHINE