After arriving in New Zealand from the UK, 14 years ago, gardener Steve Marcham and his partner were looking for a place to settle down. Little did they know a job advertisement would lead them to staying at one of New Zealand’s finest historic homes; Otahuna Lodge.
“We were actually in Akaroa for the night and saw an ad for a gardener and I thought I’ll apply and see what happens,” Steve explains.
“We got as far as Kaikoura and got a call to come back to the lodge. We walked in and thought wow, this place is amazing. I didn’t know places like this existed in New Zealand. I managed to get the job and have been here ever since!”
Steve refurbished the gardens at Otahuna, following a passion he had since studying horticulture and growing up in England’s Cotswolds', a rural area full of historic gardens and towns. They stayed in the lodge’s old horse stables for two years before moving to a more permanent residence.
Built in 1895 by former Cabinet minister Heaton Rhodes, Otahuna Lodge is located at the base of the Otahuna Valley in Tai Tapu, featuring 30 acres of land, a mix of woodland, daffodil fields, exotic tree and flower gardens, orchards, potagers and livestock paddocks – all of which head gardener Steve keeps an eye on.
From spring through to summer, Steve spends his day cutting flowers for displays inside the house, sowing and weeding the vegetable garden and harvesting about two large crates of fresh produce ready for the chefs to prepare lavish meals for guests.
Currently over 93 different fruits and vegetables are grown and harvested in the gardens, everything from tomatoes to cauliflower, oyster mushrooms to apples, pears and melons and the latest gourmet addition, the Australian finger lime.
“We grow everything we can, the goal is to produce and use everything from the garden.”
Otahuna gardens are listed as a Garden of National Significance by NZ Garden Trust and are known for their garden tours, one of Steve’s highlights.
“Showing people around - that’s a great part of the job, because we spend a lot of time making it look nice and we always get lots of positive feedback.”
“People say on garden tours, you’re the luckiest gardener we’ve ever met, yeah definitely, but in the middle of winter when it’s freezing cold and you’re covered in mud, not so much” Steve laughs but admits, “it is a great job.”