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Mona Vale
Dorothy - 23/5/98

One of the places that gives Christchurch the name, 'The Garden City'.
Go to Mona Vale on any fine day and you will find people of many nationalities enjoying the beauty and serenity of this place.

Why is Mona Vale so popular?

The Mona Vale homestead
The Mona Vale homestead
Photo source - Nina Proctor

(Click here for a larger version)
Christchurch is described as the Garden City, the City that Shines, the city on the Avon River. Along the banks of the Avon from Avonhead to its mouth on the Estuary are many beautiful spots to pause and muse a while, to picnic, to punt, to row a small boat - but none surpasses Mona Vale. It has wonderful gardens, it has shining beauty and it is beside the Avon so it typifies some of the finest features of Christchurch all on one site.

What is the history of this beautiful place?
It began as part of the land belonging to the Deans family - Scottish settlers who came to Canterbury before the main body of settlers arrived from Britain in 1850.

In 1897 it was bought by Alice Waymouth and added to by her husband Frank Waymouth. They called it Karewa. In 1905 Annie Townend bought the property and gave it a new name, Mona Vale, after the place in Tasmania where her mother was born. She had money from Canterbury sheep stations to spend on developing the property. She had the mansion house built and furnished it lavishly. She bought extra land and developed the grounds with additional planting of trees and shrubs. When the 1906-7 Exhibition in Christchurch closed she bought the fernery and had it erected on the Mona Vale site. She also built a Gatehouse at the Fendalton Road entrance and a bath house/conservatory. The property was sold on her death in 1914.

The property passed to a series of owners and then in 1939 it was bought by Tracy Gough, and in 1941 by the firm, Gough, Gough and Hamer. Tracy Gough added to the beauty of the gardens by having a lily pond built and having rhododendrons and azaleas and many more exotic trees planted in the gardens.

In 1961-2 the Church of the Latter Day Saints bought Mona Vale.

In the mid sixties the public of Christchurch heard that the homestead was going to be demolished and the property subdivided into residential sections which would have sold for a high price in this desirable area of the city. The people of the city set about fund raising and contributed $55,000 towards the purchase of the homestead. The Christchurch City Council and the Riccarton Borough Council added the rest of the purchase price, $134.600, and the property now belongs to the people of Christchurch.

What does Mona Vale offer the visitor today?
The homestead can now be hired for special functions, and caterers serve the public morning and afternoon tea from 10.00 am to 3.30 pm, and smorgasbord and blackboard lunches from 12 to 2 pm. On fine days you can be served at the tables set out on the grass in front of the house.

If you prefer to have your own picnic you can use the picnic ground conveniently close to the parking area.

During the summer months (between October and April) punts offer trips on the river seven days a week. You can buy tickets at the souvenir shop which is in the Bath House, close to the homestead.

Special garden displays
The gardens offer a changing display through the seasons. In the spring the rhododendrons and azaleas offer a blaze of colour.

Roses in bloom at Mona Vale
Roses in bloom at Mona Vale
Photo source - Nina Proctor

(Click here for a larger version)
The Canterbury Horticultural Society and several affiliated groups have special areas. In early summer there is their iris garden - a mass of fine blooms and varied colours. From the beginning of summer and on through the autumn their rose garden is a mass of blooms.

The low allergen garden 1997
For many people who suffer allergies a visit to a garden results in problems and discomfort. If they suffer from asthma, eczema or hay fever they may be sensitive to pollen and to a number of highly scented plants. With these people in mind a low allergen garden was developed at Mona Vale in 1997 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Canterbury Asthma Society. This was a joint effort by the Asthma Society, the Christchurch City Council Parks Unit and the Canterbury Horticultural Society.

What is special about a low allergen garden?
It is important in such a garden to choose plants which are pollinated by bees and other insects, not by wind. The insects carry pollen which is larger and heavier than the pollen carried by the wind. People who breathe in the fine pollen may have an asthma or hay fever attack as a result.

Some suggestions on planting
Plants suitable for a low allergen garden include cistus 'Sunset', some types of hebe, the 'Ena Harkness' rose, aquilegias, light blue delphiniums, some geraniums and hostas, paeonia, purple violas, Black and red currant bushes, strawberries, bush apple trees, most herbs, peas and runner beans.

What to avoid
Don't plant daisies, pinks, dianthus and carnations. Weeds often cause problems so use an ornamental ground cover or spread pebbles or stone chips.

More information
For more information on how to develop a successful low allergen garden write to the Canterbury Asthma Society, Cranmer Centre, 40 Armagh Street, Christchurch.

The fernery - a piece of history rescued
The fernery near the rose garden had fallen into disrepair, and in 1988 the Christchurch City Council set aside a sum of $6000.00 for its demolition. After a joint submission from groups interested in preserving this piece of the 1906-7 exhibition in February 1989 they were given six months to set up a fundraising campaign. This was done through the sale of bookmarks in envelopes for gifts for several months including Christmas that year and a sum of $16,000 was raised.

The new fernery was designed by Dennis Preston, the landscape architect for the Christchurch City Council. It is a lovely place offering the visitor beautiful ferns, and the sound of gently running water and welcome shade on a hot day.

Another recent addition to Mona Vale

The gazebo donated by Sheilah Winn
The gazebo donated by Sheilah Winn
Photo source - Nina Proctor

(Click here for a larger version)
Walk to the lawn near the iris garden parking area and you will find a surprise - a gazebo donated to Mona Vale by Christchurch patron to the arts, Sheilah Winn C.B.E.

Barry Gadsby, her personal assistant for twenty five years, had this story to tell of the gazebo.

In 1977 Sheilah Winn had commissioned Graham Stewart (of Stewart Stained Glass) to create the stained glass windows for her home. Graham was at that time working amongst other local artists in the old "Artists Quarter" in Oxford Terrace. The design for the windows was inspired by the story, "Flora's Feast", by Walter Crane (1845-1915). When Sheilah moved house in 1979 she decided to take the windows with her, as they were works of art. The question arose as to where the windows could best be displayed. Barry finally came up with the idea of the gazebo, including the unusual onion dome, and asked David Butcher, (an Englishman who used to design sets for the BBC in London) to put this dream on to paper.

The stained glass panels in the gazebo
The stained glass panels in the gazebo
Photo source - Nina Proctor

(Click here for a larger version)
The onion dome is sheathed in copper and has a rimu interior, and along with the wrought iron walls was built by the Christchurch firm, Veronese Brothers. The interior tiles were individually hand crafted in Oxford, but unfortunately the artist in unknown.

In 1997 when Mrs Winn moved again she decided to gift the gazebo to the people of Christchurch. As the access was too narrow for it to be taken out beside the house it was lifted by helicopter from her garden to waiting transport, taken for renovation to the Veronese Brothers where it had been built, and then sited at Mona Vale.

Put Mona Vale on your list of Christchurch places not to be missed.
When next you want to walk or rest in a lovely garden, explore some of Christchurch's history, or eat at a restaurant in a garden setting, visit one of the Garden City's special places - Mona Vale.

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