The Jury Garden is well known in Taranaki as one of the best private gardens in the province but it is certainly not the only garden of interest in Tikorangi.
Tikorangi is a place of rich soils and ready growth for a variety of plants. The first settlers recognised this very quickly. Some of them grew large quantities of apples and pears and some of the pear trees planted in the 1870s are still growing. As well as private gardens in all shapes and sizes there have been many plant nurseries over the years. For many years the Jury Garden had a commercial nursery breeding, growing and selling plants particularly magnolias that were developed and bred into specialised varieties that gained fame and are still sold around the world. Although they no longer operate as a retail nursery they brought recognition to the district’s horticultural diversity.
In the Tikorangi History a range of plant growing activity has been discovered. It includes a wide variety of fruit trees some of which are now very old, a specialised crop for the manufacture of a contraceptive drug (no longer grown) as well as nurseries that propagate plants for home and commercial gardens. Export of avocados, kiwifruit, chestnuts and passion fruit to other regions of New Zealand as well as around the world has taken place.
Hick’s Nursery was advertised as being “eminently situated to supply trees by rail, coach or steamer to any part of the province”. They expanded their nursery business by collecting and drying seed from Pinus insignis trees and selling more than ‘a ton and a half’ to the growing timber industry in New Zealand as well as exporting the seed to South Africa and Australia during the First World War era.
Another garden of both national and international significance In Tikorangi is that of the ‘Clematis Connoisseur”. Begun by a Danish immigrant it grew to become a specialist supplier of the clematis plant. The endemic variety ( Puawhananga) is well known in New Zealand for the brilliant flash of white in the tops of patches of native bush but Peer made the most of the 250 varieties from around the world to become a specialist grower and breeder of some 300 different cultivars. This garden is just a few hundred meters from the Jury Garden but Peer and his wife have now downsized their nursery and are only doing smaller mail orders for specialised varieties.
Lowlands Nurseries is another plant growing business that enjoys the rich volcanic soils of the Tikorangi district. Growing mostly ornamental plants for the home garden the once small business is now growing approximately half a million plants annually which are sent to wholesalers in many parts of New Zealand.
The remains of New Zealand’s biggest chestnut orchard are also to be found in Tikorangi. Developed with a lot of sweat and tears (and loss of money) this orchard exported chestnuts, unsuccessfully, and even processed them into a sweet chestnut liqueur which was highly placed in a worldwide competition. Over a period of nearly twenty years the owner/developer worked to establish a commercial entity only to have to accept that his dream of a profitable business based on chestnuts was doomed to failure. This orchard of some 1200 chestnut trees is now a series of smaller blocks and the home of Tikorangi’s “ghost trees” as one resident has called the dying trees left standing as some new owners seek to kill the unprofitable chestnuts.
Stories of the Tikorangi Jury Garden and the many other nurseries that have helped make Tikorangi the place it is today can be read in the soon to be published book on Tikorangi.