History of Ostler's Gardens

Arthur and Maureen Ostler were farmers in the Eastern Taranaki area of Kohuratahi. Around 1967 they retired and purchased an 8 Hectare farmlet on the edge of the Stratford Township. While the property was covered with Blackberry and Barberry its gentle rolling contours were attractive to them as they could see an opportunity to spend their retirement developing gardens.

Arthur was a Water Diviner and could sense there was a lot of underground water on the property. They came up with a design for the garden area which included three lakes situated in the swampy areas. After clearing the overgrown parts of the land, they used a Bulldozer to dam it up and gradually the lakes filled with water. Fast growing plants and trees were put in to provide some protection of what was a very exposed area.

Then they began planting the many hundreds of Camellias, Rhododendrons and Begonias grown from their own seedlings developed from plants bought from the old farm. It took many years of hard work completed by the Ostler’s themselves and after over 10 years it reached a standard that people wanted to come and visit. They enjoyed being able to share their achievements. Their membership of various garden societies helped them learn more about what could be done.

"I love it. I love work, full stop. I want people to share our love for gardening and what we have done."

Maureen Ostler

In 1985 the Stratford Lions Club approached the Ostler’s and asked if they would open their gardens to the public over Labour Weekend and charge visitors an entry fee as a club fundraiser. They agreed and thus a lasting relationship was formed. In 1987 Maureen was a founding trustee of the original Rhododendron Festival and the garden featured in festivals for over 30 years.

Arthur died in 1992 and Maureen continued to manage the whole operation on her own with minimal help. A feature of the gardens was the birdlife which was encouraged by the Ostler’s with many native species present. The swans that made their home on the lakes were a treasure to behold and ensured the gardens were a place of tranquillity.