Coldstream, Loch Leven, Monte Alto & Saddlewood
Our first “Spring” day tour is to the Hurunui district on Friday 27th October 2017
One of the four gardens which we will visit is “Monte Alto”. The property was originally a dead-end, undeveloped and surveyed off part of the “Caithness” farm which was retained by Margot and Mac Rutherford.
Apart from a few old willows and kowhai it was a treeless area full of gorse, native grasses, broom and weeds. Development of the property started in 1976 with the planting of shelter belts and fencing, but the projects were severely disrupted while the Hurunui irrigation canals were constructed. The irrigation scheme was opened four years later in 1980.
The house was built on a pile of shingle and boulders, the gardens and lakes were started in 1983 and were slowly developed from then. It took a great deal of physical effort in bringing in mulch and silt to overlay the stony ground to allow the plants to survive on the windswept land.
Landscape Architect Norman Avis developed much of the area using local stone while most of the wood carvings were designed and created by Mac, including a rustic table and chairs which he made from a tree felled on the family farm of Leslie Hills.
The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake did some damage to the house, however despite this Mac and Margo (both 90+ year olds) still maintain the sloped gardens and walkways – truly a gardeners’ garden.
We will enjoy a picnic lunch in a picturesque setting beside the lake in the lower garden among the many trees and shrubs.
The participants of our 2016 tour to Culverden Fete & Amuri Gardens voted “Monte Alto” as the people’s choice garden.