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"I belong to a very small club that considers our cabbage tree one of our our most iconic plants; it’s almost like Dr Seuss created it and spread its myriad forms throughout our beautiful country for us to enjoy" Fiona Eadie 
Photo by Larnach Castle

Plants Rule

Suzanne Middleton, Wild Dunedin —

Native plant expert and compulsive weeder Fiona Eadie is Head Gardener at Larnach Castle. Fiona’s love of plants goes way back, creating gardens in all the flats she’s lived in, and before that helping her mother with a large garden in Andersons Bay as a child.

As well as managing the Castle’s extensive garden which includes plants from all over the world, Fiona specialises in natives. Before she came to the Castle 19 years ago she ran a native plant nursery in Auckland, and she also wrote the classic book on New Zealand natives '100 best native plants for New Zealand gardens', which has run to three editions.

Since first published in 2001, over 25% of the plants have been changed, bringing it in line with Fiona Eadie's evolving views of the growing habits and climate tolerance of our native species.   — Image by: Godwit Publishing

The Castle’s popular Native Plant Trail encompasses the whole Garden and highlights seventeen species of native plants including three planted during William Larnach’s time - a Northern rata, a rimu and a native red beech. At a time when most settlers were planting North American and European trees, Larnach, an Australian, clearly found native trees attractive. The Castle’s original shelter belt of macrocarpa and pine is currently being replaced with totara where possible.

Northern rata planted at the time when Larnach was at the castle. — Image by: Larnach Castle

Fiona has seen a big change in Dunedin people’s attitude to native plants.

"When I came here 19 years ago I was astounded at the sheer lack of native plants in Dunedin." Fiona Eadie

Now Ribbonwood Nurseries, a specialist native plant nursery, can hardly keep up with demand as natives have become very popular for home gardens, public planting and rewilding projects. Most of our native plants are unique due to New Zealand’s isolation for millions of years. It comes as no surprise that overseas visitors to the Castle Garden are fascinated by our natives.

"Most people who come here want to see our unique plants that they don’t see at home." Fiona Eadie

Fiona also loves architectural plants that provide structure in a garden all year round, and likes to intermingle natives amongst other plants. A passionate advocate for plants of all kinds, Fiona’s fascination comes from both academic and practical knowledge.

"Plants produce oxygen and provide food. We’re finding out so much now about plants and how they interact with their environment, the scientific proof is starting to come out. Plants are better than animals because without plants we wouldn’t exist. Unfortunately at the moment animals get more funding than plants." Fiona Eadie

Larnach Plant Detective Max Barker. — Image by: Max Cao

The Plant Detectives activity in the Castle Garden for the 2022 Wild Dunedin Festival, has been designed by Fiona to encourage local children to visit the Garden and learn about native plants. The garden is loved by children, with all its secret places, sculptures, trails, views and incredible variety of plants.

You’ll be lucky to find any weeds though!