- Established Garden
- Flower Garden
- Vegetable Garden
- Spray Free
The 2 hectare garden at Crosshill has undergone many iterations with past owners, the first of whom were passionate tree planters. Today the magnificent mature trees that grace the property are testament to their foresight, and provide a sense of scale and grandeur – a massive native beech, magnificent copper beech, birch, liquidambar, elder as well as ancient plums, apples and cherries.
With different gardeners come different styles - Ali and Nic love history but they are also bringing new ways of thinking … or rather, as Ali describes “going back to the old ways, the right ways of doing things”. Spray has been banned, and the original orchard is being transformed into a five layer permaculture food forest – its clipped lawns and sprayed edges replaced by under-plantings of comfrey, garlic chives, peas , lemon balm and other herbs. Ali also intends growing grape vines through the branches of the existing fruit tress – apple, pears, apricots, peaches, feijoa and a much loved quince.
A large vegetable garden provides food for the household. “ The growing season down here is short and sharp but very productive. We grow silver beet, potatoes, many different brassicas, peas and leeks, beans..” Seedlings are lovingly propagated in the potting shed and nurtured in the covered nursery/shade house adjacent to the vege patch.
Bearded irises grow particularly well here and Ali is dividing and propagating them to sell. Heritage roses are another passion, and in the paddock below the 120 year old wool shed you’ll find the beginnings of a picking garden, for roadside flower sales.
One of Ali’s favourite areas is the evolving woodland garden. A “no-man’s land” when Nic and Ali moved in, it now features a meandering path (the route of which was dictated by their two dogs), and recent mass plantings of bluebells – bringing back to life Ali’s childhood memories of English Bluebell Woods. An unexpected clearing in the newly planted Rhododendron garden provides the ideal spot for functions and social gatherings – its rustic table with log stools set, on the day we visited, in a Persian-style, jewel-inspired theme, reminiscent of Alibaba’s cave.
Ali has an infectious passion for gardening which she can trace back to visits to her grandfather’s glasshouse as a five year old.
“Over the past thirty something years Nic and I have owned several gardens in Southland and Otago. I’ve nurtured vegetable gardens, planted hundreds of trees, worn out dozens of gardening gloves and gumboots, watched hours of gardening programmes, read countless gardening books and magazines. And Nic has spent literally years on a ride-on mower. We’ve been fortunate to have visited many stunning European gardens, and we’ve talked to so very many like-minded garden enthusiasts. We have gifted and received cuttings and produce, given bunches of flowers in sad times and happy times, or just because. We have watched the eyes of our children roll at the dinner table when advised that every vegetable was ‘growing just a few minutes ago in our garden’.”
Ali’s favourite part of gardening is getting her hands in the soil, being outdoors, thinking, planning dreaming…. and then seeing her vision come to fruition through hard work.
Ali was a committee member of the Arrowtown Horticultural Society for 15 years. As well as hosting garden tours there are plans for a range of workshops – which will take place in Crosshill’s 120 year old wool shed (which doubles as a potting shed and flower drying area).
We’re told so often these days that gardening is good for your mental health. But it’s more than that. Gardening is good for your whole being…. it’s constantly rewarding.
We're experiencing typical Spring weather, warm, hot, cold, windy, wet, dry, and this evening we have snow predicted to sea level. How do we garden under these variables? Well, we just keep ahead of the game, watch the forecast, and act swiftly. This is why we always wait an extra couple of weeks after Labour Day to plant out the heat-loving plants such as zucchini, tomatoes, melons, and the like, in our region.
At Crosshill we have moved the vegetable garden into the front paddock for longer sunshine hours, it's a work in progress with today seeing the vertical posts and arches up and ready for the climbing plants - cucumber, watermelon, pumpkins, and zucchini. Vertical growing saves lots of space and keeps the 'fruit' off the ground, it also creates shaded areas for lettuce.
Soil amending has brought plenty of worms into the garden, and the vegetables already in the ground are looking very healthy (hopefully the snow doesn't upset them).
Seed raising is in full swing and we are already onto the second succession sowing.
It's a busy time of the year but also the most rewarding, hard work pays off over time. The wisteria, planted in 2020 is in its second year of flowering, its magical white blossoms are prolific. The master plan to cover as much bare ground as possible is coming to fruition too. The early Spring, 'lift and divide' process is saving lots of money at the garden centre (though there's always plenty to tempt me) and as the plants are already naturalised, the transplant success rate is high.
We're looking forward to meeting, and hosting lots of lovely garden visitors this season.
June 2023 As I write the rain is pouring. Here, in Central Otago, we are pleased to see the rain refresh our gardens. Our thoughts are with those further north who have seen enough rain this season. We are in full 'bedding down for winter' mode, and leaves are being collected in wool fadges, those who've visited Crosshill will understand how we currently have 7 full fadges and several more to fill before the clean-up is finished. We only collect the leaves that fall on the grass areas, the remainder are left in situ to decompose and nourish the trees. 112-year-old trees certainly provide plenty of autumn exercise for us gardeners but the reward will be wonderful leaf mold in two years' time. The soil amendment in the Tea Garden has given us nourishing soil in which to plant spring seedlings. This year we grew chamomile, pennyroyal, catmint, calendula, and mint. The echinacea is best left to grow for a few years before harvest, however, we've thoroughly enjoyed watching the bees enjoy the blooms. We grew Lemongrass from seed, advice is that it will perish if left outside in our cold winter so my experiment is to leave a couple of plants in the ground and lift a few to nurture inside. We had a small crop this year but as with echinacea, this plant is best left for a year or two before harvesting. The new vegetable garden, situated in the front paddock for maximum sunshine, is undergoing soil amendment, this paddock in front of the old woolshed has been compacted by sheep since 1890! With any luck - correction - with lots of hard work, we will have the soil ready for spring planting. We are super happy with the growth in the Sunset Garden, only a few troublesome areas to correct, namely the control of field sorrel which pops up in several places. Special mention of the dahlias this year, they've been gorgeous, remarkably the Cafe au Laits are still in flower, albeit a little smaller than their summer 'dinner plate' size more 'side plate'. Andy, our arborist, has delivered more woodchips, the piles are now going through the breaking down (almost hot composting) stage. A mad decision to put semi-shade-loving border plants in front of the woolshed has meant even more soil amendment. This area will receive excellent morning sunshine but will be in the shade for the hottest part of the afternoon. I haven't formulated the planting scheme as yet, that will be a winter job. The wisteria, in its third season, produced beautiful white blooms. It has covered three-quarters of the frame in the courtyard already. The large expanse of concrete pavers has been cooled considerably by the shade the wisteria has given. Hopefully next year we will remove more pavers and plant more ground-cooling borders under and around the wisteria. We thank every one of our lovely visitors this year. We have enjoyed your company and the sharing of garden ideas. We do hope you will visit again in the future to see the garden developments. The Secret Gardens concept is growing and fulfilling our wishes of sharing time and skills with like-minded gardeners who are becoming friends. Over winter we will be dreaming up workshops related to all things gardening and garden art/crafts. Stay warm over winter, and see you in Spring. Ali and Nic Autumn 2023 It's early Autumn and the temperatures are dropping, my garden hours are reducing and we are heading into tidy-up mode. What a wonderful summer we enjoyed here in the South. Sincere sympathy to our North Island Secret Garden Hosts who battled unseasonal and severe weather events on a far too regular basis. I'm told we are to expect what you've endured next summer. We've received a bountiful harvest from our Vegetable Garden and Food Forest keeping us self-sufficient. Soil improvements over the past three years have paid off and the produce is delicious. Runner beans are the outstanding winners this season, providing a meal every other day and more to share with family, friends, and garden visitors. Potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, tomatoes, beetroot, salad vegetables, peas, beans, herbs. There is still so much more to come on stream, we enjoyed the first of the corn today and they were juicy and sweet; garden to plate in 15 minutes - it surely doesn't get better than that. Yams and parsnips will wait for the frost to sweeten them up, our first frost is usually at the beginning of May. Pumpkins are HUGE and plentiful. The leafy greens are still being planted (with the moon guide), they should see us well-fed over winter. With the cost of vegetables increasing I am so pleased to be growing our own. Yes, there is a time commitment involved but as we live out of town I equate travel time with gardening time and it works out quite in favour of growing my own. Not to mention the possible supply issues that might occur after Cyclone Gabrielle. Feeling very blessed. The flower garden experiment was very interesting, I watered the flowers when they were young and then a few times during the very long breaks between rain (only 1.5mm of rain in the whole month of January). They showed strength and resilience and flowered very well, not as well as my Flower Farm friend just down the road, but she has a fabulous watering system in place. The grand old trees coped admirably with the drought conditions, I firmly believe living on the side of Mt Maude has great benefits with probable underground streams. The grass on the other hand, well, with short roots and being very compacted from many years of footfall and mowing with no de-thatching, dried out very early in January. I am reluctant to use precious water on grass, therefore, we are planning a reduction in grassed areas in the future. I did indulge the roses, they had regular deep watering and thrived, giving us many hours of pleasure from their color and fragrance. It's been another lovely year at Crosshill, with lots of very lovely visitors and great workshops. Summer 2023 As I write, it's very hot. Quite normal for this time of the year. Fortunately, we had a huge downpour a few weeks ago and the trees are in great shape, however, the grass has dried off (I don't water grass). The vegetable and Sunset gardens are on a creek-fed watering system, which normally works very well but today, after 34deg yesterday, decided to stop working. We've spent the whole morning fixing the problem in very high temperatures! Such is life off the town water supply. Issues aside, the garden is looking lovely, and the Food Forest/Orchard is full of promise with plenty of apples, pears, peaches, quince, and feijoa growing well. I am feeling very satisfied with the development of the food forest, the guild system combined with lots of soil amendment is reaping the rewards. We are looking forward to a wonderful harvest. We did lose the apricots this year due to a late frost just as the trees were in bloom. The wisteria in the cottage garden flowered for the first time this year and at only three years old it was a lovely surprise. I've planted a red table grape over the outside dining area to give us natural shade in a few years' time. A single bunch of grapes is being lovingly cared for. Out Tea garden is still in the very early stages, we have a few plants in situ but the soil amendment is in full operation. I have harvested and dried mint, calendula, and lemon balm already. We are on a wonderful gardening journey and we love to share the garden with visitors. we look forward to hosting you. Fruit Tree guild system - October 2022 Take a fruit tree, underplant it with highly useful plants that grow well together, and reap the rewards of a beneficial guild system that provides a diverse yield throughout the year. Guild systems are still being explored as a concept and you will find many suggestions as you google this method. When we bought Crosshill we were told by the previous owners that the orchard was not really productive and we might consider pulling out the fruit trees. My feeling was to give them a chance, the trees were only 6-7 years old and they could yet show promise. However, I did notice the trees have been ‘Round Up’d’ around the trunk and up to the drip line. Knowing that fruit trees are more shallow feeders I felt they were being starved of nutrients. So we covered the area with layers of brown cardboard, topped with 30cm ‘biscuits’ of pea straw and grass cuttings/leaf collection, watered, and waited. Over the year the pea straw and card broke down leaving lovely soil full of worms. Next step, researching complementary plants. I wanted to ensure a good selection of plants that would repel pests Attract beneficial insects fertilize naturally create mulch suppress weeds and grass provide a diverse range of edibles We are a long way from a complex food forest, which is our goal. However, slowly but surely we are taking cuttings and propagating them from around the garden. Comfrey, Mint, Rhubarb, Chives, Garlic, Cardoon, Dandelion. A variety of seedlings are nearly ready to be transplanted. Peas are just shooting. There’s also a grape, winding its way up a stone fruit tree that gets frosted every year and only produces a handful of fruit. This year I will be filling the area with Yarrow, Bee balm, Fennel, Calendula, and Borage that I’m growing from seed to keep costs down. When the time is right I will plant daffodils, the rabbits hate them! and they’ll look lovely in spring before comfrey, the first to grow, pokes its head out of the soil. So there you have it, a mini permaculture ecosystem. Let me know what is working in your garden. Ali Autumn 2022 Vegetable Garden Planning is well underway. We have added "My Vegetable Garden Plan" to our Instagram page (@crosshill_garden) for those who wish to follow along, you'll have to scroll back to 22 April for the first edition. Bok Choi, Mesclun, Lettuce, Leeks, and Kale are first out of the seed packets, they are sprouting nicely on the heat pad. They will be kept inside for some time yet but no harm in an early attempt. Planting by the moon guide we sowed Beetroot, Turnip, and Parsnip on the 17th of August, they are covered with frost cloth, and nature has provided ample rain to get them started! A general late winter clean-up is underway with the wisteria receiving its winter prune and the cottage garden perennials getting a haircut. It's a bit late in the season but the apples, pears, and feijoa will be lightly pruned before spring.
Potted cuttings and seedlings are available in our nursery, we welcome your used plant pots - reduce, reuse, recycle, it keeps costs down too, thank you.
Gorgeous, I have seen first hand the hard work you have put into creating your secret paradise (Instagram).- Marie
Magical, magical spot (Instagram)- Lizzie
This garden is full of hidden gems (Instagram)- Fiona
Fabulous garden. So many interesting garden rooms. Myself and two friends thoroughly enjoyed our tour. Ali was a brilliant host, very knowledgeable and great sense of humour.- Katherine
We had a beautiful morning with Ali. Taking a “pause” from our everyday lives here in the majestic region of Otago. A wonderful welcome from her and her two gorgeous dogs, Rusty and Winnie! As we meandered through the garden Ali explained the history of the old station and we looked up in awe at the tall trees around us. Ali and her husband Nic have brought the property alive with their pathways, areas of planting with whimsical and playful colours, and you’ll find a surprise or two hidden amongst the shrubs! We came away refreshed and with a new appreciation of the food forest and other delights such as freshly harvested walnuts, courgettes, kale, tomatoes and Ali’s homemade Quince paste (which I must say tasted yummy with Whitestone Lindis farm Camembert). So much to see and learn here. A magical place filled with love and wonder. Thank you so very much Ali ♥️ I’m already planning our next visit!- Josie
Crosshill Garden is a must visit- for so many reasons. First of all the garden itself is beyond fabulous in terms of its history and Ali's sensitive approach to any changes simply serve to enhance the plantings that were already in place when she and her family took over the property. Ali is a wonderful host and willingly shares so much of her gardening knowledge which is extensive. A top notch and inspiring visit.- Nicola