The location was once a heavily fortified pā of Ngāti Māmoe. About 300 years ago, it was taken by Te Rakiwhakaputa of Ngāi Tahu. The name, Ohinetahi, means place of one daughter. This is thought to be the legacy of the Maori chief Manuhiri, son of Te Rakiwhakaputa, who had many sons but only one daughter.
A garden was first planted at Ohinetahi in 1865 by T.H.Potts, an early botanist. He planted exotic trees and shrubs, many sourced from Kew Garden in London. He died in 1888 and the garden fell into disrepair. Many of the trees, now at full maturity, still frame the perimeter of the garden.
When architect Sir Miles Warren, his sister artist Pauline Trengrove, and her husband architect John Trengrove, bought the property in 1977 it was little more than a rundown house, ragged lawn and basic orchard. They restored the homestead and began the present garden.
The garden now has a six star rating of significance providing one of New Zealand’s top garden experiences, where the highest level of presentation, design and plant interest is achieved throughout the year. The homestead is registered as a Category I heritage building with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
Since the mid-1990s, Sir Miles has tended the property himself and in early 2013, he gifted Ohinetahi and a trust for its maintenance to New Zealand.