Situated in the gently rolling country of east Auckland, this is one of New Zealand's best-known older gardens, which is characterised by sweeping lawns, large trees, ponds and waterfalls and informal but detailed textured plantings. Strong but sensitive use of colour is a hallmark of Ayrlies seen best in the lurid border where 'hot' colours are used to great effect and in other areas where old roses, clematis and perennials are combined in romantic profusion.
The Garden now covers some 6 hectares. A seamless flow of informal borders incorporates a detailed use of plant textures and colour. Some areas feature roses, clematis and perennials; others contain lush, sub-tropical plants, such as Petrea, Alocasia, aloes, bromeliads, vireya rhododendrons and Ficus dammaropsis. It also includes many large trees – liquidambar, swamp cypress, pin oak and sequoia – which have grown rapidly in the warm wet climate. Each area has its own emphasis but merges easily into the next, always preserving the harmony of the whole.
Near 60 years, the garden is approaching maturity. Trees and shrubs form a changing backdrop for the garden. View lines to the Hauraki Gulf within the garden are preserved with careful arboriculture. Valleys planted in liquidambar, pin oaks and ginkgos alight with autumn colour linking the garden to the Wetlands out to the sea.
Ayrlies was created by Beverley McConnell and her late husband Malcolm, co-founder of New Zealand engineering and construction company McConnell Dowell. It is named after the family farm in Scotland. The Garden began in 1964 with a 1.2-hectare bare paddock of heavy coastal clay, expanding to 4.8 hectares in 1980 with the addition of three large ponds. In the millennium year, 16 hectares of swamp flats below the homestead, once a salt marsh, were transformed into a wetland area with a 3.3-hectare lake providing refuge for abundant native and visiting wildlife.
The garden is 6 hectares of rolling terrain, some steep with steps. Alow 2-3 hours for your visit.
The Wetlands walk includes a leisurely one hour loop walk around the boardwalk and offers the chance to see some of New Zealand's native wetland birds and aquatic life including the little Scaup, Grey Teal and Dabchick. Recently a family of Spoonbills (non-native) have set up residence on the lake jetty. With over 20,000 native seedlings planted since 2002, the large area richly textured in native plantings linked by pathways and boardwalks is conducive to significant environmental outcomes - stormwater filtration and purification, carbon sequestration and ecosystem support.
The Wetlands is on average about 300mm deep and 14 hectares in area. The Lake slopes down to 2 metres deep and is about 3.3 hectares in area. The difference in depth creates habitat for different types of birds (wading, dabbling and diving).
125 Potts Road, Whitford, Auckland, New Zealand.
From the Southern Motorway (SH1), take East Tamaki/Otara, Exit 444: If driving south - turn left and drive until you reach the 7th set of lights (East Tamaki shops). If driving north - turn to keep left, loop around on bridge over motorway on to East Tamaki Road. Drive until you reach the 7th set of lights (East Tamaki shops) Turn right at arrow light into Preston Road, then left into Ormiston Road. Drive approximately 8 km to the top of the hill where Ormiston Road becomes Sandstone Road. Continue downhill to T junction - Whitford Park Road. Turn left - 200 yards to Whitford township. Turn right at roundabout - Maraetai Beach Road. Approximately 2km turn left into Clifton Road (opposite Whitford Landfill) Approximately 1.5km down Clifton Road - take the left fork to Potts Road. 'Ayrlies' is on the right - 1.5km down. Please park in the Garden car park.