Roses, one of the most common symbols of love, were missing from the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding bouquet. However, all the plants she chose for her beautiful, demure bouquet held great meaning: lily-of-the-valley (return of happiness), sweet William (gallantry), hyacinth (constancy of love), ivy (fidelity, friendship, affection), and myrtle (love in absence, marriage). It was full of old-fashioned, understated charm and elegance - just like a garden I visited last spring.

As a regular patron of the Bay of Plenty Garden and Artfest, Ruvé Stephens fell in love with the Katikati area and decided that was her destination on retirement. Having her son and grandchildren nearby helped fuel the move from the Big Smoke. Discovering River Cottage, with its old-world appeal and various out-buildings, also sealed the decision. It was the perfect setting for Ruvé’s extensive collection of quaint bric-a-brac and presented a blank canvas to create a new garden.

When Ruvé arrived, the garden consisted mainly of large shelter trees, which protect the cottage from winds sweeping down the valley. They now provide a frost-free spot for smaller, tender plants during winter, and as Ruvé says, “They’re also a welcome refuge in the summer heat.” Her creative eye and penchant for all things feminine and beautiful brought the addition of loads of flowering plants, packed into garden borders.

oany, including hydrangeas, old roses and daylilies, were started as cuttings given to Ruvé by gardening friends she met in the community. Adding a good-sized vege patch and berry house, along with fruit trees and chooks, have created a highly productive garden.

on entering River Cottage in late spring, it’s the roses that take the eye. But, although they feature strongly, Ruvé hasn’t overused them. Instead, they meld naturally into plantings of other more structural, shrubby plants and small trees, happily co-habiting with a great array of equally colourful perennials. They also adorn fences, verandas and the ornamental chook house – along with her many collectibles of course!

Seven years on, Ruvé has created an idyllic, almost self-sustainable, lifestyle for herself and her partner at River Cottage – full of good old-fashioned understated charm and elegance.

Ruvé’s rose advice

Ruvé doesn’t believe in being a martyr to her garden but does recommend giving roses a little TLC to get the best from them

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