By Kate Gordon-Smith
1: Tell us why you created the Beautiful Gardens of Wānaka tours.
Florence: I established Beautiful Garden of Wānaka tours last year just after lockdown. We had had such a peaceful, nourishing time here in our garden during that period and I could see the devastation around us in the world. So much sadness so I wanted to share the amazing gardens in Wānaka to offer people peace, calm, beauty and a connection to nature.
I had been a librarian at Mt Aspiring College for 15 years and lockdown prompted me to think about what next. Back in France, I was the information manager for a leading organic gardening company which produced a substantial magazine, published books and operated a visitor centre called Terre Vivante. I led many guided tours around the centre which featured gardens, eco-building, renewable energy and sustainable opportunities.
Gardens inspire people in different ways. Our property in Studholme Road, where my partner Terry has planted all but a dozen of the largest trees, forms part of our vision of being able to share green spaces with others. Our intention is to open part of the property, called Namaste Park, to the public as a way of sharing a rural area very close to town. We have support from and are working with Lake Wānaka Tourism and Wai Wānaka. Kaitiaki is the concept we follow here, the sense of being a guardian of the land for future generations. Terry gardens nature and works with nature, for example, allowing pasture to grow deep and hold more carbon.
We are also starting the conversation to encourage other landowners and council to consider creating publicly accessible spaces, restoring wetlands, maybe offering a pasture where cows could be kept for local milk. Connect these spaces and urban subdivisions with wide green corridors that give people the opportunity to access and enjoy nature. You can’t expect small residential sections to have really large trees, but these bigger properties near town are important for biodiversity of habitat for birds and lizards.
These nature corridors could have a bike lane, a footpath and a horse track, with public access via bus stop. Think about driving on the main roads in and out of Wānaka with big trees on both sides much of the way. Public-private partnerships could be negotiated to enable preservation and regeneration of land for now and future generations. Every time I see old trees, I think we need to keep them, there’s huge environmental value. How do you keep these trees for future generations? It’s not always about money.
This regenerative and climate responsible model of public/private partnership uses zoning and tax rebates to create an attractive network of parks and wide nature corridors where biodiversity and ecosystems, resilience and wellbeing are enhanced, hosting local food, and safe bike/walk/horse/ public transport. It supports QLDC principles of community resilience, connection and wellbeing, bird chorus, zero carbon, pride in sharing. It fits 17 UN goals for people’s wellbeing and health. It meets the duty of the local government to care for the people and the planet, and for the future too. And locals and visitors will love more tracks and more beautiful places to explore.
2. You met Naomi from Forage and Feast on a course about regenerative tourism. Tell us how this concept applies to Beautiful Gardens of Wānaka.
Florence: Tour participants are offered the opportunity to buy a tree at the same time they book their tour. The tree money goes straight the Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust, a Wānaka community-based native plant nursery which has planted tens of thousands of trees around the region through their community planting days.
By talking about gardens and different kinds of gardening on the tour, I’m able to help encourage a passion and knowledge for gardening. There is so much going on around here like Grow Wanaka and Naomi’s tours which connect people with the producers. By talking with people about Namaste Park and our intentions, they may be able to contribute in some way.
I love sharing gardens and we are lucky to visit some amazing private gardens you couldn’t see any other way, so in a sense, we help protect and recognise some of the older gardens. The older owners are worried what will happen to their gardens which have had so much love and attention over the years. How do we protect these gardens and green spaces for future generations? Just think what a bold idea Central Park in New York must have been when it was formed.
So we’re sowing this idea of the corridors and shared natural spaces with people. Wānaka has its beautiful landscape, lake and mountains but also nature itself and connection to our rural roots. Having attracted people to walk and bike along the tracks by the lake, the companies who rent bikes could offer a contribution to create more bike lanes which are included in this vision for natural corridors. That’s a way of giving back more than we take through tourism.
I feel very strongly about Papatuanuku and kaitiakitanga and have always lived as sustainably as I can. When I created Beautiful Gardens of Wānaka, I naturally applied a sustainable business model by principle, with a hybrid people mover (van), no packaging morning teas, manaakitanga, flexibility to adapt to our changing world and, in essence, educating and inspiring.
3. Tell us about your food philosophies.
Florence: We are vegetarian, we eat as locally and seasonally as we can, but do like mangoes and pineapples are not too strict. I don’t miss meat at all. It’s a good choice for me.
4. What is some of your favourite seasonal produce?
Florence: In early summer we have lots of good silverbeet and broad beans. I’ve created meals with silverbeet that even my son enjoyed! I also harvest dandelion root to make my coffee, wash, dry, roast and cut up very fine, so much goodness. Here are some tasty ways to enjoy silverbeet.
5. If you’re eating out in Wanaka, where do you like to go and why?
Florence: Locally we eat at Ashraf’s, the Indian restaurant on Brownston Street. He’s an old friend of Terry’s who makes his own spice mix and we don’t eat garlic and onion, so he makes a spice mix for us. He’s a really good cook and his handmade spice mixes are wonderful, different from day to day.