Standing on the deck of Frank and Vicki Boffa’s Waikanae home you’ve already left dry land behind. In front of you is a dreamy expanse carpeted with lily pads. A boardwalk crosses to an island dense with ground moss, tree ferns and colourful exotics; beyond that rise two large pukatea, their great buttressed roots lapped by water. It’s an extraordinary garden – part Claude Monet, part primeval West Coast.
There is no hint of any of this lying in store as you arrive. The Boffas’ 1.3ha property is really three distinct landscapes and the first of them is a more conventional entrée – a gently curving driveway edged with clematis, camellias and magnolias, beds of spiky daylilies, hostas and ligularias. Behind the house and pond lies the second, a remnant of lowland coastal forest dominated by kohekohe, with tawa, karaka and nikau, through which Frank has created a walking trail.
But it’s the water garden that captures the imagination. When the Boffas bought what was a piece of farmland in 1991 it was a boggy expanse of damp pasture, rife with blackberry, those handsome pukatea half smothered by supplejack and half shredded by possums.