Taranaki's premier garden festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a Frida Kahlo-inspired Mexican Fiesta, among a host other events.
Formed in 1987 as a community-run rhododendron event, the Taranaki Garden Spectacular now attracts thousands of visitors from New Zealand and around the world.
Festival manager Leigh Gatwood-Cook said the 10-day event, which started on Friday, was one of the country's longest running garden festivals and it was time to celebrate.
The Frida Kahlo Floral Fiesta was inspired by the artist's Mexico City home, Las Casa Azul, which had a dramatic central courtyard.
See photos of some of the gardens involved here:
Ms Gatwood-Cook said the Fiesta would be held in the courtyard of the recently refurbished White Hart Hotel in New Plymouth.
"There's going to be a mariachi band. We've got lots of floral things going on and people are going to be dressing up. They can do floral or Mexican Day of the Dead, so it's going to be really exciting.
"It's all based around Frida Kahlo's love of gardens and Mexico."
Ms Gatwood-Cook put the Taranaki Garden Spectacular's longevity down to the amazing gardeners who got the best out of the province's volcanic soils and the army of volunteers who made the festival possible.
"We have visitors coming from all around New Zealand and also international visitors. We have some coming from Canada for instance and a lot coming from Australia, and we had something like 52,500 garden visits last year which is an amazing amount of visitors."
The economic impact of the festival has become increasingly important.
According to a Berl report, the Garden Spectacular was responsible for $3.8 million in new spending in Taranaki in 2016, attracted about 4300 visitors from outside the region and provided 50 full time jobs.
This year 42 private and five public gardens will be on display, and a new home and gardens tour has already sold out, as have tours of three properties designed by renowned architect James Walter Chapman-Taylor.
Manaia gardener Jenny Oakley is a festival veteran. She said she had her arm twisted as a 21-year-old to take part in the very first garden festival and had exhibited ever since.
"The reason I've kept going is probably because I can't help myself. I love gardening and I think if you've got gardening in your veins it's just something you do naturally and you do it for enjoyment, you do it for stress release and relaxation."
Ms Oakley, who was now part of the garden assessing team, was expecting about 1300 visitors to her Manaia property which was an oasis of colour and birdsong only a hop skip and a jump from the sea.
"The perimeter is shelter based and we have beautiful soil in Taranaki so while we have challenging wind and weather once you plant anywhere in Taranaki you can grow just about anything."
The Pukeiti Rhododendron Garden - now rebranded as the Pukeiti Rainforest Centre - is one of the festival's public venues and effectively its spiritual home.
Nestled in the Kaitake ranges on the boundary of the Egmont National Park, it is now managed by the Taranaki Regional Council and has just undergone a $5 million facelift which includes the construction of an elevated tree-top walkway.
Regional gardens manager Greg Ryan said Pukeiti always had a close link to the garden festival.
"The festival was started as a fundraiser for Pukeiti (when it was managed by the Rhododendron Trust) but after a few years it was really the public and private gardens of Taranaki that were the focus of the festival but Pukeiti has always been the jewel in the crown.
Mr Ryan said the steady stream of visitors expected during the festival would not be disappointed.
"Pukeiti is a world class rhododendron collection. It's one of the largest in the southern hemisphere and it's also quite diverse. There's a huge variety of rhododendrons right from the delightful vireya rhododendron right through to the large leaf rhododendrons that you'll find in the Valley of the Giants area."
The Taranaki Garden Spectacular runs until 5 November and running parallel is the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival which features another 63 private and public gardens.
Facts and figures
- $3.8m new spend in the Taranaki Region in 2016, up on 2015 by $2.1m
- $2.8m GDP generated in the Taranaki Region in 2016
- 4296 visitors attracted from outside the Taranaki Region
- 52,491 visits to Festival Gardens
- 16,130 visitor nights in Taranaki
- 50 fulltime jobs
- 48 percent of visitors attending for the first time