Orchard Garden owners to offer new opportunity


Avid gardeners and room operators Dale Butcher and Wendy Robertson know everything has its season.

The husband and wife team that owns Orchard Garden in Alexandra decided it was time to call the final season on their hospitality operation and put the business up for sale, including the attached house with extensive gardens, a labyrinth and a secluded swimming pool.

They will own the site for 34 years in May 2022, having purchased an existing home on what was a war relocation block and its adjoining orchard.

The property was originally just over 10ha and is now around 4ha.

“We started to grow fruit,” Mr. Butcher said.

“It is really the disappearance of small fruit growers in the region that pushed us to diversify.

They started gardening “from day one” and decided to organize events because Ms Robertson’s sister wanted to celebrate her wedding there.

“And then a close friend asked to be married in the garden, and it snowballed from there,” she said.

That was 28 years ago, during which time the property hosted 550 weddings, in addition to many other events, and they added a cafe 22 years ago.

It’s been absolutely fantastic, but it’s about time, ”Ms. Robertson said.

“We just did six 100-hour weeks,” she said, “and it’s incredibly difficult to live with.”

Gardening was no longer a joy as they ran out of time so they planned to move to another property they have in Alexandra overlooking the river – “the worst house in the best block,” Mr. Butcher – which they were renovating and where they would take care of the garden.

They will leave the hotel industry behind in the smallest property.

“We are looking for a radical change, not a fresh start,” said Mr. Butcher.

Leaving won’t be easy, they said, as there are so many memories in the property, both personal and professional, though the two are often linked.

They raised their two children there – Finn Butcher (26) is a world championship silver medalist kayaker, and his sister Meg Butcher (28) now lives and studies in Christchurch.

They have also built long-term relationships with many of their clients and staff.

Mr Butcher said they also have a good relationship with Dunstan High School, sponsoring year 9 nights and hosting graduation dinners.

“These kids go on and they come back and get married here,” Ms. Robertson said.

On the staff side, they employ a number of high school students who can start at age 13, mow the lawn or prepare the kitchen, and tend to return every summer until the end of the school year. university, thereby gaining training and experience.

“The joy will leave the pressures behind,” Mr. Butcher said, but by staying in Alexandra they would be part of the community and would now be able to accept invitations to dinners and special events.

As to who they might see buying the property, they had given it a lot of thought because it’s such a personal space, Mr Butcher said.

Orchard Garden would be an ideal lifestyle block but ideally they envisioned a couple in their 30s or 40s in Auckland with a passion for hospitality and perhaps a young family, looking for a better style. of life.

“I imagine someone looking online and saying, ‘We could do this, we have the skills, we have the passion, and we can drastically change our lives.’

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Rebecca W. King