After the cold and grey months of winter there is nothing like a little spring sunshine to entice us into the great outdoors. Plants start appearing in my garden that I had forgotten about – it’s like someone cast a wand around the garden conjuring up green foliage and flower buds.

As a garden photographer I study my list of potential gardens for photo shoots, as spring is the optimum time to photograph most gardens.

Jenny Oakley in her garden near Manaia

In Taranaki, the garden province, early spring is a time when gardeners are madly at work preparing for the 10-day Taranaki Garden Festival. Around 45 stunning gardens selected by a panel of garden experts, are open for the Taranaki Garden Festival that starts November 1. A second garden festival runs in conjunction with this, called the Fringe Festival and this features another 50 gardens under the catch phrase Real Gardens for Real People. Sustainable Backyards also runs at the same time; this celebrates gardeners working on edible and environmentally friendly gardens.

“The wonderful variations of the gardens in the festival highlight the region’s mineral-rich soil and plentiful rainfall, meaning things grow without difficulty and flourish,” said Testu Garnett, festival manager.

At Tupare the Chapman-Taylor designed house is set among heritage gardens

Throughout the Taranaki Garden Festival a number of events, including a gardener speaker series, give visitors the opportunity to hear knowledgeable gardeners speak on various subjects such as permaculture and landscape design, and to attend a garden workshop.

Each year I pick out about 10 gardens to visit during the festival and spend an hour or more exploring each garden. The extensive range of gardens to choose from can be tricky. The key is not to visit too many in a day and to spend time enjoying a garden, rather than rushing through it.

Pukeiti has a world-class rhododendron collection

The festival programme has a photograph and description of each garden, that is a good place to start when choosing the type of garden you want to visit. Otherwise go to for information online.

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