The Garden

“The garden evolved out of a desire to create a larger informal country garden, reminiscent of the homestead gardens of my Hawkes Bay childhood; a garden where the contours of the land dictated the shape; a garden where there was space for larger trees grown in family groups; a seasonal garden where the challenge is still to have some plant or vista at its best every week of the year; a garden where still ponds and cascades of water create a sense of tranquility; a garden filled with moments of drama and lots of heady perfume.”

Beverley McConnell,

An Introduction

Situated in the gently rolling country of east Auckland, this is one of New Zealand's best known gardens, characterised by sweeping lawns and informal but detailed paintings by ponds and waterways. A strong but sensitive use of colour is a hallmark of Ayrlies seen best in the lurid border where 'hot' colours are used to great effect and in other areas where old roses, clematis and perennials are combined in romantic profusion.


The Garden now covers some 4 hectares of rolling terrain, with large lawns, ponds and waterfalls. A seamless flow of informal borders incorporate a detailed use of plant textures and colour. Some areas feature roses, clematis and perennials; others contain lush, sub-tropical plants, such as Petrea, Alocasia, bromeliads, vireya rhododendrons and Ficus dammaropsis. It also includes many large trees – mostly liquidambar, swamp cypress and pin oak – which have grown rapidly in the warm wet climate. Each area has its own emphasis but merges easily into the next, always preserving the harmony of the whole.

Now over 50 years the garden is nearing maturity. Trees and shrubs form a changing backdrop for the garden. View lines to the Hauraki Gulf and within the garden are preserved with careful arboriculture. A large Ayrlies Wetland area links the garden to the sea.


Ayrlies was created by Beverley McConnell and her late husband Malcolm, co-founder of New Zealand engineering and construction company McConnell Dowell. It is named after the family farm in Scotland. The Garden began in 1964 with a 1.2 hectare bare paddock of heavy coastal clay, expanding to 4.8 hectares in 1980 with the addition of three large ponds. In the millennium year 14 hectares of swamp flats below the homestead were transformed into a wetland area with a 3.3 hectare lake, providing a habitat for many wading birds.


A Garden of International Significance

The New Zealand Gardens Trust has ranked Ayrlies as a Garden of International Significance. This is the top ranking a garden can be awarded and is defined as providing New Zealand's top garden experience, achieving and maintaining the highest level of presentation, design and plant interest throughout the year.

Gardens with this ranking are considered the complete quintessential package, inspiring garden lovers and delivering an experience above all other gardens.

The New Zealand Gardens Trust was established as Trust of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture in March 2004 to promote the best in New Zealand gardens and horticulture.

Supporting Partners