A historic Canterbury hideaway | Waianiwa

A historic Canterbury hideaway | Waianiwa


Ian Jefferis and Mark Brown, owners of Waianiwa Park, pay close attention to the land while they acknowledge the history of their property and simultaneously make their own mark.

Gardens are alive. No matter what, they constantly push to adapt to the environment around them. Plants regenerate and grow each season. The trick is learning how to work alongside that and pay attention to the wider context that the garden sits in.

Look closely in the patchwork quilt of farmland in south-west Canterbury and you will find Waianiwa Homestead. This gem goes all the way back to 1868, when it was established by the Warren family – a well known Canterbury farming family. The Warrens built the homestead to accompany the farming property that it sits on. The classic old English design was complimented by the original garden design by N. Blaikie completed in around 1900.

Waianiwa Homestead - Sage Journal


This original design has adapted and evolved over time. However what hasn’t changed are the fantastic established trees all over the property. “The established trees provide an amazing backbone to the whole garden. We are told the Wellingtonians were planted in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign”, say current owners Ian Jefferis and Mark Brown.

In 1997, the Waianiwa Homestead was purchased by renowned opera singer Dame Malvina Major and her partner, conductor Brian Law. The site became a hideaway and a source of musical inspiration for the pair who stamped their own mark on the property. With input from architect John Trengrove they carried out extensive renovations on the homestead.  The garden became a labour of love for Dame Malvina, who moulded and sculpted them into a more modern form.

Waianiwa Homestead - entrance - Sage Journal

The environment took a violent turn in the Canterbury earthquakes. This was a turning point. Dame Malvina and Brian Law were already considering moving on and the earthquakes were a catalyst to accelerate their plans. The property was on the market in 2012 and Ian and Mark jumped at the opportunity to buy it. They have since worked to stamp their own mark on the place, but at the same time acknowledging history. “The garden is constantly evolving as plants grow and adapt to their environment. A wind storm or snow storm can have a significant impact, causing damage to trees and shrubs. With a little help, nature heals and renews remarkably well.”

Waianiwa Homestead pond - Sage Journal

The current garden features some amazing spots: an ivy covered wall with a mysterious wooden and wrought-iron door; a quirky vegetable garden encircled by all encompassing shrubs and hedging; an orderly English-style rose garden (featuring roses propagated by Ian and Mark) with pittosporum topiaries and a manicured buxus hedge which opens out to a large lawn area; a clumsy wisteria ambling its way up the veranda; a sleepy willow tree draped over the pond.

It’s nice to look at, but Ian and Mark get more pleasure from spending the happy time of their lives in the garden. “A summer lunch around the trestle table with friends and family is always a wonderful occasion. Watching the bees from our hives busy collecting pollen is a simple but special and satisfying experience.”

Waianiwa Homestead - secret garden - Sage Journal


They have put significant effort into making the garden self-sufficient. “The fruit trees dotted around the garden provide a variety of fruits for making preserves. There are crab apples, quinces, pears, plums, peaches, apples and walnuts. The vegetable garden provides vegetables that we know haven’t been sprayed with chemicals.”

This compliments the philosophy they are applying to the adjoining farm on the property. Where cattle and sheep are farmed using traditional farming practices. This means no working dogs or heavy machinery. Livestock are moved on foot and fed traditional lucerne grass rather than introduced winter crops like fodder beet or kale.  Ian and Mark are paying attention to the land.

Stepping into the world of Waianawa is like breathing out. It gives you the chance to stop and appreciate the environment around you. Ian and Mark, as the current custodians, are paying attention to this and are allowing the property to continue to develop its own identity over time. ⟡

Ian Jefferis and Mark Brown - Sage Journal