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Māhina Cottage & Nursery

Michele and Jim O’Carroll have been the proud owner/operators of Māhina Cottage and Nursery since 2016. Beautifully set amongst native plants with stunning mountain views, the two-bedroom, self-contained cottage is loved by visitors near and far.

Great spot in a beautiful location. if you like star gazing and local amazing hikes nearby while staying in a cozy and clean house, this is it.

“Predominantly our guests are free independent travelers,” Jim said. “They arrive from every corner of the globe. We have come to regard it as a substitute for travelling as the world pretty much comes to us.”

The proximity to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park attracts a lot of visitors to Twizel, and Māhina Cottage is perfectly placed to explore this adventure playground. Jim is quick to share his enthusiasm for the area with his guests and offers bikes to hire for further exploration. And he does have a few local tips and tricks up his sleeve, “If they’re keen enough we have been known to go looking for fish in the nearby waters,” he said.

While Michele and Jim enjoy sharing their love of Twizel with their guests, their real passion is the adjoining Māhina Nursery. Jim admits he has no formal knowledge of plants (everything he knows has been learned “the hard way”), but through trial and error, the couple have built up a steady supply of native plants.

Throughout the course of landscaping their own section, as well as propagating new plants to use on their daughter’s section, Jim and Michele found themselves with hundreds of plants that needed a home.

“I made one post on the local Facebook page and the plants were gone within the hour,” Jim explained. “There was a clear demand for locally grown plants, and from this awareness came the Māhina Nursery.”

Wish we could have stayed for more than one night. Definitely would recommend this place for people who have a car and want a gorgeous view of the night sky.

The plant range is small and grown mostly through experimentation with what can survive the harsh Twizel winters.

“The best feature of the plants on sale is their survivability,” Jim said. “They are propagated from either cuttings or seeds from the healthy, hardy plants that have survived at least one Winter before purchase.

"If I believe I can keep a new plant variety alive over a Winter, I will experiment with a small quantity and then increase my range. I have a limit on space so I will continue a focus on bulk sales over a small range of hardy plants.”

Jim also learned that Twizel isn’t necessarily the best place to raise certain plants. “Although I had been able to grow seedlings of flax, South Island toe toe, and Otago red Tussock from seeds, the five snowfalls of last winter certainly didn’t help to raise them further,” he said. “So, from a practical point of view, I will instead stock larger quantities of the go-to plants for low maintenance and hardiness – the silver tussock.

When they’re not growing plants or hosting guests, Michele and Jim are both teachers at Twizel Area School, and it’s through this job “pretending to be a science teacher” that Jim discovered his now best-selling plant.

“I had a group of students roam around the school collecting cuttings for me,” he said. “One particular plant that I believed to be a hebe Albicans actually turned out to be an Albicans red edge. But I didn’t make this discovery until the summertime when what I thought had been white flowered Albicans actually had blue flowers.

“This plant has become my best selling hebe due to its unmissable (in winter) red-tinged leaves and the rather unusual blue flower.”

Along with the popular hebe, Michele and Jim also sell taller growing plants such as ribbonwood and lacebark. Excitingly, Shaw’s Hardware in Twizel’s Marketplace now stock some of the plants grown at Māhina Nursery.

“I am confident the plants I am now selling will survive in our conditions,” Jim said. “If you would like to visit the nursery, message Māhina Nursery on Facebook. Once you’ve visited you can come back any time I’m here.”

Māhina Cottage and Nursery truly is a hybrid project that sees two passions grafted together to form a successful local business. Guests come to stay in the cottage to experience the beauty of the Mackenzie, and often leave with some of Māhina Nursery’s plants – a piece of Twizel they can call their own.

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