By Rachel Ang
By Rachel Ang
A long-time lover of the arboreal, and deeply religious since childhood (as a boy Barry Cox aspired to become the Pope), having spent most of his life tending trees and travelling the world to observe the architecture of religious buildings, in 2011 Cox decided to combine his two interests, creating what he aptly called the Tree Church. It was a true labour of love which took four years and hundreds of trees to bring into existence.
The idea of the Tree Church was born when Cox was clearing his three-acre Ohauna property, near Cambridge. As he explained to New Zealand Gardener: “I walked out my back door one day and thought, ‘That space needs a church’ – and so it began. I cleared the area in April 2011 and made the iron frame, drawing on all the research I had done over the years of studying churches. I wanted the roof and the walls to be distinctly different, to highlight the proportions, just like masonry churches.”
The Church is a 100-seat chapel which is both forest and cathedral; a welded iron frame supports a mix of grey Australian tea trees which form the walls, cut-leaf alder forms the roof, and rambling roses weave their way around the top. The tea tree is a variety called Copper Sheen, chosen for its foliage which is thick, textured and the colour of stone. The deciduous cut-leaf alder was chosen for its sparsely leafed nature, which allows dappled sunlight to create a romantic atmosphere, but on a practical level keeps the grass lovely and green. The ‘Dublin Bay’ roses are a deep, distinctive shade of crimson, and flower from October to June.
The church sits within a green field of grass, bounded by a low border hedge. At the entrance is an iron gate, which has its origins at Cox’s family farm in Shannon. Opposite the church is a path, lined with Himalayan Birch trees, which leads to a labyrinth, the design of which is inspired by the walls of the Biblical city of Jericho.
The Tree Church and surrounds require a religious devotion to maintain their lush beauty. Cox trims the Church every six weeks. The Church and grounds were officially opened to the public in January 2015, and unsurprisingly, have become a very popular wedding venue. Before each event, Cox spends five hours mowing the expansive lawns and three further hours coaxing the gardens into the full gorgeous bloom.
119 West Road
Ohaupo, New Zealand
PH 0276 903 105
Open Sundays and Tuesdays 10am – 4pm. No booking required. (Now closed for winter)
Admission $10 per person