BEHIND a house in rural Edgecumbe, one woman’s dream is coming to life.

Building on the rambling garden created by her late mother, Joan, at the rear of the family home, Margaret Fenton is transforming the well-known two-acres into a wonderland she hopes will bring joy to young and old alike.

With a concept of transforming the garden into a multi-themed wonderland, Margaret has spent years creating meandering pathways through the garden that will take visitors on a journey through various worlds.

Multi-talented and multi-skilled, Margaret has single-handedly constructed, painted, and created her way through the garden, developing themed areas such as Western Town and The Aztec Gate, and the Time Machine, through which visitors will find themselves transported into a prehistoric era on departure.

Full of surprises, a journey through the garden is indeed transporting, astonishing that such a trip can be taken in the garden of a rural home.

In Western Town, typically representative structures, a saloon, a corral, a lock-up, astound in their skilful creation, all having been built and painted by Margaret. There are the large animals made from fibreglass, some familiar, and dwelling alongside the pathway, and others, pre-historic creatures that appear in unlikely places, and, in the case of a startlingly large Pteranodon, flying overhead on a wire strung high above the garden. All of them, built and painted by Margaret.

There are large artworks, strategically placed throughout, again painted by the woman herself. And deep in the garden is the Time Machine, a walk-in space astonishing in its attention to detail. “I tried to have as many moving parts as I could,” Margaret says. “The children will enjoy that.”

At the heart of everything though, is Joan Fenton’s age-old garden. “My mother loved to garden,” says Margaret. Joan ran a plant nursery in Edgecumbe from 1975 until 1999 and was well-known in the garden fraternity.

“Many of the things growing here were planted by Mum way back in the ’60s when they first moved in,” Margaret says. And even older are the fruit trees, grapefruit, lemon and loquat, planted by the first settlers of the land in 1929. “Lots of very old plants are still growing here.”

Though the garden became better-known in her later years, earlier, her mother had not been keen on having the public come through her garden. “In those days, it was common for people to visit gardens armed with secateurs, snipping off cuttings from anything they liked. And Mum didn’t like that”.

The garden today is a mix of old, and of newer plantings, but it remains home to a variety of camelias, roses, azaleas, old clivia and hollyhocks planted long ago by Joan. “There’s some pretty uncommon plants here,” Margaret says.

“We grew up here with this place being our playground, and actually, it still is,” she says. “Really I’m still a big kid at heart and I want to share the magic of the garden with others.”

While the garden will appeal to different people for different reasons, it is children that Margaret had in the forefront of her mind when designing and installing her themes.

“Young children,” she says. “I’d love to see groups from kindergartens or playgroups or primary schools come to experience the garden,” adding that she is also looking towards building toilet facilities, and perhaps a little stage area in a large open grassed oval leading off the side of the garden.

With all that in mind, Margaret’s advice to visitors to her garden seems fitting; “Put your big kid boots on and enjoy the walk, the art, and most of all, the garden”.

Margaret, and, she would say, Joan’s, garden won the Most Imaginative and Photographic section in the recent Whakatane garden awards. It was the first time the garden had been entered.

Margaret can be contacted by email at, or by phoning 027 2729828.

By Lorraine Wilson