Alfred and Charlotte’s Garden
View from the cliff top 1838
When the mission station first opened, the peninsula was covered with manuka and fern, without trees for beauty, shade or firewood. However, Alfred and Charlotte must have been delighted with the results of their gardening in the favourable Tauranga conditions. Brown's journal is full of references to gardening: "planting out lettuces, pruning 32 fruit trees, planting out cuttings, sowing peas and beans, preparing and planting raspberry bed, transplanting trees."
We can imagine the garden on a fine spring day, with green leaves beginning to dress the deciduous English trees, oak and elm, chestnut, ash and willow. Eleven year old Celia, writing in the early summer of 1848 describes the mission house garden, "The bulbs in the oval (bed) that Mrs Spencer sent us are out; the two aloes next the chapel are coming into flower and look like two heads of asparagus and are very beautiful; the first cabbage roses were picked 7 November; and the first damask rose came out two days after; the sweet peas were never so beautiful as they are now. Everything in the garden looks nice, but the weeds!"
Rev John Kinder, artist and photographer, who married Celia, first visited Te Papa in 1857. "...yellow cape jasmine reaching the height of a tree. The aloe was just coming into flower. Rose hedges covered with clusters of small flowers were some twelve feet high. Apple trees, peaches and other English fruit trees loaded with fruit...stood in the orchard, while gay butterflies and innumerable dragon flies disported themselves in the warm sunshine of this sheltered nook, produced by so many thick trees and shrubs, and a peacock was strutting about and sunning himself before the drawing room windows."
The mission house was built to take advantage of the spectacular view out towards Maunganui (Mauao) and the harbour entrance. The original layout included a circular walk around the lawn on the northern side of the house, bordered by beds of perennials. Unfortunately the outlook now includes an industrial area and road approaches to the harbour bridge. The port of Tauranga, established in the early 1950s has spread to the western side of the harbour. Now the largest port in the country, the container storage is visible from the garden.
The oak tree at the corner of the north lawn grew from an acorn brought from England by Rev. Brown in 1829. It was originally planted in Paihia and transplanted here as a sapling in 1838. It is the oldest living tree on the property.
The chestnut tree was planted by Brown in 1838. Although the nuts are edible it is likely that this would have been planted to help create the effect of an English landscape.
Brown also planted two of the Norfolk island pines so beloved of the missionaries. These trees, with their new growth forming a Christian cross, marked the site of the mission stations. Unfortunately one of the original pines had to be felled because of rot. There are also, however, several self seeded Norfolk pines.