When is the right time for an avid garden tourer to leap the fence and open their own garden to the public? For some seasoned garden tourers, I expect “Never!” might be the honest response, but thankfully an increasing number of brave new gardeners are saying “Yes!” to flinging open their gates to the public for one weekend. It’s all for a good cause (which helps) as the Wairarapa Garden Tour is the annual fundraiser for Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre – a captive breeding sanctuary for native wildlife, and visitor centre, near Masterton. This year (Covid-willing), the Wairarapa Garden Tour will feature more than eight newcomers out of a total lineup of a dozen gardens to open on November 6 and 7. For the past 10 years, one local gardener Ivy Burton, has been a faithful attendee of this tour. This year, she’s decided it’s time to finally open her own patch. “It’s now or never!” she says. Her garden Stoney Hall is on the northwestern outskirts of Carterton. It’s been a 20-year adventure developing it with husband David – and yes, there are a lot of stones as the land was once riverbed. The garden is about half an acre and has evolved over time as Ivy developed it from the picture in her mind. The driveway became the Round Garden and the Secret Garden was added later as a reveal. Ivy prefers whimsy over straight lines. Yet there’s structure in the buxus hedges around the back of the house and framing the charming Bay Tree Garden. Ivy is influenced by English-style cottage gardens. She’s a great propagator, growing many of her own plants from cuttings. She favours layers of perennials – sedums, salvias, solidago along with several varieties of abutilon (Chinese lantern) repeating in different colours. While Ivy has hosted small garden groups before, she’s never opened for a garden tour that will see several hundred visitors through each day. She admits it’s been a big decision (I first approached Ivy in 2019) but she’s been preparing her garden with opening in mind, and says it’s been a great motivator. She’s also been busy in the propagating shed, getting ready to sell her own plants on tour weekend because tourers always love to come away from gardens with a living memento. Further north in Masterton, Nick and Verity Adcock (teachers by day) are first-time openers on this year’s tour too. They’ve experienced the Wairarapa Garden Tour for many years as visitors and feel it’s now the right time to give back to the event they’ve always enjoyed. Nick and Verity are self-taught gardeners and were attracted to their quarter-acre plot 15 years ago by its 1920s bungalow. They’ve restored the house and added to their garden through the years. Today it boasts 40 rose varieties, contrasting foliage layers of hostas and rust-coloured heucheras and a tidy, compact productive area where Nick grows quince, lemons, a dwarf navel orange, and two varieties of apples, espaliered. Both Nick and Verity attribute their love of gardening to the passion inherited from their parents and grandparents. Nick remembers his grandfather tending his garden in a suit and tie. Pushing further north, the tour reaches Rangitumau where Spothill Garden rests at the end of a gently winding single lane country road. The gardeners here are Allison and David James – opening their 40-year-old hillside garden for the first time this year. Allison (who is chief gardener, and works full-time in Masterton for a media company) was motivated to open her garden this year as she’s a big supporter of the national wildlife centre, and thought it would be a way to harness her gardening passion for a good cause. She says she has two modes: work and gardening. I expect motivations to open on tour weekend are different for each gardener. One year, a first-time opener loved that it gave her a deadline to finally get her dream glasshouse built, others enjoy the chance to get stuck into some of the big garden jobs they’ve been meaning to do. But one thing every garden that has ever opened for this tour shares in common is a generosity of spirit – to share with visiting garden lovers just what’s possible to create in our own backyards. Mutual admiration (between tourers and hosts) is palpable on tour weekend and it’s one of the most lovely things about bringing these two groups together. It’s a joy to experience – from either side of the fence.