The Story of a New Zealand Garden

This is my summer garden imagining itself to be Mrs Brayton’s garden in ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’ by Jane Mander. My garden has a vivid imagination. In reality, it is nothing like Mrs Brayton’s, except in that there is “always something more to know”.

Star Jasmine
My trees and street trees make for a mini forest
Under the Michaelia
Back Path
Under the cherry tree
View from the bedroom window
Star Jasmine Pergola

“Some gardens, like great masses of complex machinery, arrest and fascinate the intellect, and satisfy one’s sense of arrangement, of clockwork management. They have no mysteries, however, no nesting places, no dream-compelling nooks. But inside that phalanx of pines above the river there grew a wonderful garden with all these things; a garden of dreams, a garden riotous with life; a garden of brilliant sunlights and deep shades; a garden of trees that hid the stars and of shy flowers peeping from the ground; a whispering garden full of secrets and suggestion; a garden where there was always something more to know.” Chapter 3, ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’ by Jane Mander. Published 1920.  New York : John Lane company; London, John Lane.

‘The Story of a New Zealand River’ is regarded as a New Zealand classic~ “… this is the first New Zealand novel to confront convincingly many of the twentieth century’s major political, religious, moral and social issues – most significantly women’s rights. Daring for its time in its exploration of sexual, emotional and intellectual freedom, the New Zealand Herald found the ending ‘too early for good public morality’. It is believed by many to be the inspiration of Jane Campion’s film The Piano.” (

My garden and I wish you dreams, mysteries, life and shade, and always more things to know, in 2022.

ps This post comes with special thanks to Liz Gaffreau who encouraged me to start reading ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’.

pps For those interested in literary connections, in Chapter 2 of ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’, Mrs Brayton mentions ‘The Story of an African Farm’ by Olive Schreiner. The Story of an African Farm was an immediate success when it was first published in 1883 and is considered one of the earliest feminist novels. It dealt, amongst other issues, with individualism, the professional aspirations of women, and the elemental nature of life on the colonial frontier.

61 thoughts on “The Story of a New Zealand Garden

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    All of those flowers are gorgeous, but that jasmine – stunning. Visiting your blog is like taking a timeout with an old friend, complete with flowers and discussions about literature.

    Whenever I check the earthquake site, I always peer across to see what’s happening in your area.
    Happy new year – may things sort themselves out and we move forward!


  2. Steve Gingold

    Happy New Year, Anne! Well, it may not be Mrs. Brayton’s Garden but appears lovely in your images just the same. And for us here in the U.S. northeast a welcome sight as we have pretty much sticks and mud so far.

  3. realruth

    Your garden is beautiful. I was introduced to Jane Mander’s books 40 years ago and loved them – still have a copy of “The Story of a New Zealand River” ,but it’s a long time since I’ve read it.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      That’s good to know. I only came to know about Jane Mander about 8 years ago. It has taken me since then to actually start reading her. I drove past your lovely cottage and garden a few days ago. I had just been to 16 Hurley Street to see if my old home was still there. Alas it has been removed or demolished; development awaits, no doubt. That house was supposed to be demolished in 1975 the year I lived there. So it did have an extended reprieve! Still, it makes me sad that it is no longer there.

        1. Gallivanta Post author

          We didn’t have a phone or TV at 16 Hurley Street. The laundry was a shed out the back. When we wanted to make a phone call we had to go to the phone box near the pub opposite Piko. I probably passed your cottage very many times in 1975.

        2. realruth

          Gallivanta, would you be willing to write a few sentences about your experiences in Hurley Street, for our Avon Loop News? I’m sure people would be interested to read them. Send me an email at if you’re willing.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I think the star jasmine this year is the most prolific it has ever been! I am glad you have discovered heucheras. I love their different colours and bless them for being so hardy.

  4. YellowCable

    Lovely purple hydrangeas! I felt a little surprised to see them this time of the year at first but then realized that you are in the other half of the hemisphere. That makes a lot of sense 🙂 Happy New Year!

  5. restlessjo

    I like the book title and the review makes it sound an interesting read. Whether I ever get there is a different matter altogether, but I do think I’d be happy in your garden. As I hope you are! Wishing you a healthy, contented year ahead, Ann!

  6. Liz Gauffreau

    I love your garden!! I can just smell the jasmine, and hydrangeas are a favorite of mine. I’m very excited by your reading of ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’. It is definitely on my list!

  7. Steve Schwartzman

    The flowers in your first pictures strike me rather as propellers than stars. And now I’m propelled to add that propellers got named for their function rather than their shape, unlike the floral stars in your photograph.

  8. shoreacres

    At first glance, I thought your Star Jasmine was our winter clematis. (Actually, that’s not a Texas native, but it likes to set up shop here in places.) The Heuchera is knew to me. I think I’ve seen other gardeners mention it, but I never looked it up. The foliage is gorgeous, and the number of colors is impressive. I see that a common name is Coral Bells. Now I’m wondering if the plant lies behind the old camp song, “White Coral Bells.” I always assumed ‘white coral bells’ were lily of the valley when I was a kid, but perhaps not.

    Is that a bird’s nest in the cherry tree? or just a collection of grasses?

    This reminded me of my inability to appreciate (too)formal gardens: ““Some gardens, like great masses of complex machinery, arrest and fascinate the intellect, and satisfy one’s sense of arrangement, of clockwork management. They have no mysteries, however, no nesting places, no dream-compelling nooks.” Exactly.

  9. ladysighs

    I don’t garden! Backyard is just a jumble of nature. But it is different every spring …. depending where the deer have been and what the deer have dropped on their daily walk.

  10. Herman

    I wish I could hang around in your beautiful garden right now. We’re still facing the winter while I’m counting the days to spring…

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Marlene. I would love to have you out in my garden most any day. The jasmine is absolutely incredible this year; a mass of flowers and the bees are loving it. And the hydrangea is so large it is covering the back path.

  11. Rebecca Budd

    I love your sentence: “always something more to know…”. That is the story of our life, isn’t it? It is what gives meaning to our lives. I found the book “The Story of an New Zealand River” by Jane Mander on the Internet Archives:

    How I wish that I could slip through the screen and join you for a cup of tea. Your garden has a lush and fragrant feeling. Lovely post, Mandy. Many thanks. And many thanks to Liz Gauffreau.

  12. Mél@nie

    1000 MERCI for your lovely post and kind wishes, dear friend! as you know, yesterday we stopped over (again!) @ Yoda Fountain, and recalled his wise words in one of the “Star Wars” episode:“Harmony, we seek. Reality, we accept. The future, we behold. Feel the Force, and go beyond.” Wish you all a better, merrier and safe 2022! Love ya and miss ya… ❤

  13. Juliet

    Your garden looks like a true paradise, full of soothing colours and a delightful combination of wildness and shelter. Thank you for the reminder of Jane Mander’s book, which I am now prompted to re-read.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Juliet. The only thing which is missing to make the garden perfect is native birds. I have only read 3 chapters so far of Jane Mander’s book but I am really taken with it. Do you remember when you first read “The Story of a New Zealand River”?

      1. Juliet

        I have the 1975 edition, so I guess that’s when I would have read it. I believe tree lucerne is a good fast-growing plant to attract the native birds, and then they drop seeds and the native trees come up by themselves.

        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Oh, thank you, for that tip, Juliet. I think it would work well in my garden especially as it is drought tolerant. If you last read Mander’s book in 1975 it might be fun to see how you respond to it, all these years later.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Lavinia. I love this time of year before the garden starts to dry out in the summer’s heat. Happy to share the book references. It fascinates me that Jane Mander studied and worked in the US from 1912 to 1925. It was that time in the US that helped her to write her great NZ novel.


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