The name Hollard is synonymous with gardening. Garden enthusiasts in New Zealand and overseas alike have for many years added Hollard Gardens to their 'must-visit' lists.
Bernie Hollard’s interest in things horticultural began early. As a young boy he would help his grandparents in their garden.
He bought the Upper Manaia Rd dairy farm In 1926 but as soon as he could, he brought in sharemilkers and turned from farming to gardening. He worked from dawn to dusk, frequently having to be searched for in the large garden and needing to be reminded by Rose to have a meal. He was a hard-working and patient plantsman. He believed that the best plants were the ones worth waiting for. The plant he bred and for which he is best known – Rhododendron Kaponga – took 12 years to flower.
As a regular contributor to a national gardening magazine, Bernie was recognised by his peers for both his horticultural knowledge and his generosity in sharing it, and for the valuable plant collection housed in his garden.
Hollard Gardens is of particular interest because it is the achievement of a private individual after almost a lifetime’s work. Hollard Gardens is a plantsman’s garden and a monument to patience and horticultural skill.
He selected plants for his garden according to whether they had personal appeal, whether they would fill gaps in existing collections of species or varieties and whether they were choice among their kind. The design of the garden took into account not only aesthetics but also how well a plant would do in its environment according to climate or topography. Bernie's wife, Rose Hollard, worked alongside him in early years and gained her own impressive knowledge of plants also.
From the early 1970s, Hollard Gardens were regularly opened to the public on Labour weekends as a fundraising project for the Kaponga Lions Club. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. The garden was always a private garden but visitors were welcome. Enthusiastic gardeners, professional horticulturalists and ornithologists visited by appointment, and in the peak season, chartered busloads of visitors arrived.
Bernard and Rose Hollard recognised the importance of their garden and were keen to see it preserved for others to enjoy, handing their property first into the care of the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust. In 2002, ownership was transferred to the Taranaki Regional Council.