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Pethybridge Rose Garden, Motueka

We pass it by often, as we drive out of town toward Riwaka, but rarely do we stop to enjoy the forgotten gem that is the Pethybridge Rose Garden, a half-acre narrow strip between High Street (just north of the Police Station) and the Masonic Lodge building, and bordered by neighbouring houses.

These gardens is a must-visit place for anyone who wants to enjoy a leisurely stroll around an amazing array of about 300 rose varieties, or to sit quietly to soak in the vivid colours and the birdsong, particularly in the spring and summer months when the roses and rhododendrons are at their peak.

Such was the lack of prominence of this treasure that the Community Board in 2010 had a road sign erected opposite the High Street entranceway behind the white pergola to remind people that it was open for viewing and worth the stop. And the gardens have an interesting place in Motueka's history, with links to the 20th century tobacco industry.

Murray Owen wrote a little of the history of the garden in an article in The Guardian. As the entrance plaque says, it was developed and named for the outstanding service given by Charles E Pethybridge over a period of 50 years (1914 - 1964) to the tobacco company WD & HO Wills. The Masonic Lodge complex at the back of the garden was the tobacco company's premises. The garden opened in 1964.

The layout is ideal for the long dimensions of the land, with stretches of lawn running beside the mirrored single rows of roses interspersed with perennials, leading from each end to the circular centrepiece of standard roses, with its seating and focal stone table with metal top engraved with a map.

Around the outside are climbing and rambling roses along with rhododendrons, magnolias and several other flowering bushes, and several well established large trees, including the feature ginkgo, enclose and quieten the space and host myriads of singing birds. And if you're lucky and bide your time, you may receive a welcome from a friendly neighbouring brown burmese cat.

Earlier in spring the garden borders and in the lawn around the trees, daffodils abound and several cherry trees blossom. And even in winter, after all the rose bushes are pruned, it's still a pleasant, orderly place to sit and ponder.

The gardens are maintained by Sicon, contracted by the Tasman District Council.


If you have a favourite thing you like to do - a walking place, attraction, quiet spot - so the rest of us can check it out and enjoy it too, please tell us about it here.