Like many expatriate New Zealanders, Jack Richards enjoys visiting his home country whenever he has the opportunity. This usually means during the New Zealand summer (December through March). Jack grew up in Gisborne, a small town on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand. Gisborne has a history spanning many generations, from the time of the first Maori migration to the arrival on New Zealand shores of Captain James Cook and his ship Endeavour, in 1769.
Today Gisborne remains a small rural community with beautiful beaches, striking scenery, and in summer a warm Mediterranean climate which favors intensive farming of grapes, corn, fruit and other agricultural products, as well as supporting farms that raise cattle, sheep and deer. The district generally has a sunny climate, most-often enjoying clear blue skies and warm sunshine. It is renowned for excellent surf, sandy unspoiled swimming beaches, good fishing and miles of spectacular coastline. Gisborne is also a center of Maori culture. A large percentage of the population is Maori, and the district is rich with both historical and contemporary Maori cultural sites. Its rich bicultural heritage makes it a unique place to live and a stimulating destination for visitors.
In 1995 Jack and his Korean partner Won Gyu, decided to establish a summer base in New Zealand, and purchased a 4.5 acre lot with uninterrupted coastal views above one of New Zealand’s finest beaches, Wainui beach, a short drive from the town of Gisborne. They built an award-winning house consisting of two linked Asian style pavilions, and a third that serves as a guest house. They then began the task of turning the former farm property into a coastal garden.
Under the direction of Jack’s sister, Gillian, the property (named in the Maori language Tiromoana – the house over the water) has evolved into one of the most stunning coastal gardens in New Zealand, and has been featured in numerous magazine and newspaper articles. The steeply sloping property is swathed in a mass of native trees and plants, interspersed with exotic pockets and beautiful water features. Delightfully bizarre clay sculptures rise from the earth throughout the garden, the creations of Auckland ceramist Phillip Luxton. In addition totem-like Maori carvings stand guard over different areas of the garden, the striking products of students in the Maori Arts program at the local Polytechnic.
The whole garden is laced together with 600 meters of boardwalk, designed to grant both gardeners and visitors access to the more difficult-to-reach corners. More than 6000 trees and assorted plants, including at least 70 native species, have been established on the property.
Jack and Won Gyu welcome visitors who wish to explore the garden, and during regional garden festivals it is open to the public, in support of local charities.