Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tell us about your own garden

My own garden is in a subtropical climate. We are in the hills, about 1500 feet above sea level so humidity levels are a bit lower than it is on the coast but we get an average of eighty inches of rain a year, mostly in summer. It is volcanic soil so it drains quickly and we can grow a reasonably diverse range of sub-tropical and some of the easier cool climate plants. But I have killed silver birches and weeping cherries and conifers. They have all died for me because it is an inappropriate climate for them but it really is a beautiful place to live. Three- quarters of our property slopes down a steep bank and into a creek below and we carved a walk down through it and its rainforest. It's been there for centuries. It's beautiful.
Can you remember where your life's garden journey began?
I grew up in a place called Sedgemere, which is out of Christchurch. My dad was a great gardener and he taught me how to garden. I've been gardening for the whole of my 49 years. I am really more than 49 but the mileage I have done makes me look as old as I am. I can't remember the first thing I planted or grew. I suppose it was a vegetable because that's all we did back then. I do remember I lost interest in gardening when I got to a certain age because I discovered alcohol and women. So I stopped gardening for a while. Then I went back to it, so you know, I've enjoyed gardening and gardening has been good for me.
You trained as a journalist in Christchurch. What made you do that?
How the journalism thing came about is I did a two-year diploma in horticulture in Lincoln as a mature-aged student. I was working for a fertiliser company and they asked me if I would write a newsletter for farmers. I knew nothing about writing so I enrolled in a night course for a certificate in journalism at Christchurch tech. I did that and then I had never spoken in front of an audience in my life and I was petrified so I enrolled in a public speaking course. All of a sudden I find myself myself in Australia working for a fertiliser company. And over 27-and-a-half years ago this radio station asked me if I would do a gardening programme. My wife was horrified and said, "Oh you're not going to do that are you?" and I said that I would like to give it a try. She said "but what if they ask you a question you don't know?" and I said they are sure to and I will say I don't know but I will find out. That is how I have travelled ever since and it's been great.
Do you need a supportive partner to have a good garden.
I don't think it really matters too much. If you are going to have a great garden then most of the good gardens I know have a very enthusiastic gardener wife and a compliant husband who is prepared to dig the holes and shift plants. I'm one of those as well. My wife is a very good gardener and I have a dent in my forehead from saluting her and clicking my heels. If you have two people and one has more knowledge than the other then it is a lot easier than if they both have the equivalent amount of knowledge because then they argue about it.
What would you be doing if you weren't involved in gardening.
Good heavens I have never thought. It has been my life for so long now I just can't imagine doing anything else. Look at me visiting these fabulous gardens. What I do for work some people do for pleasure so how can you replace that?
What does the future hold for you.
I will keep going. I have to slow down soon. I am 77 now, though I don't feel it. I guess sooner or later I am going to have to ease back a bit because I am working seven days a week. I get up at 4.30 in the morning and get to bed at 8.30 at night in front of the TV after a whisky. I might just slow down a bit so I can have the whisky and not fall asleep.

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