Discovering gardening as a former hater..

New Zealand beginner gardening with Studio Home

As an 8-year-old being bribed to do my mother’s weeding, my lack of interest in gardening far outweighed my thirst for pocket money. Not much changed into adulthood and while I definitely appreciated gardens at surface level, I was mostly focused on pillaging neighbourhood blooms that hung over fences.

Fast forward to 36 years of age and I found myself having moved back to Christchurch with a husband-to-be, a terrific villa in Linwood and the very real prospect that I was going to live there for some time.
The transient lifestyle of my 20s had me moving town every three years, so my nesting needs had always focused on the indoors and easily moveable possessions.
This new home had a fantastic private backyard with native-laden beds along each fence and a super impressive stacked vegie garden, something that proved pivotal in sending me on the journey I’m on now.
As someone who made a living from a passion for design and interiors, the empty banked beds of the vegie garden posed a problem. I was going to have to plant green things in it so it “looked good”.
Armed with the Yates Gardening Guide and the surprised ear of my mother, I fell into what I can only describe as an all-consuming but rewarding addiction to gardening.
While I am now testing the waters of my second growing season, I’d love to share what I learned during my first. I just know there are hundreds of you out there putting down roots in new homes and staring, blank-faced at your backyard like you’ve never really seen one before.
Mother Nature is the director of all proceedings out here and an unpredictable one at that. Unlike painting a room or buying a new sofa, instant gratification is something I had to leave by the wayside. I have discovered that gardeners are extremely creative and comfortable with trial and error. Be like them.
Once the prospect of designing my own secret garden opened up before me, I found my eyes opened wide to every other garden I passed. Walk your neighbourhood and take photos, find fabulous gardens to follow on Instagram (there are so many), buy gardening magazines and Google every plant you discover. This leads you to an understanding of when plants flower, if they are annuals, perennials, biennials, shrubs and if they will work in your climate.
I rapidly ripped out boring (sorry) natives to replace with all my favourite fairytale blooms, only to be disappointed when they grew horizontally in search of light away from the shade of the fence.
My fence and mature trees have been the biggest challenge in reaching my flower garden goals and I have learnt my lessons. Read seed packets, seedling tags and research to find shade-loving plants that you will love. Success for me has been with astilbes, astrantias, hostas, heuchera, hellebores and more.
I severely underwater myself so considering the needs of my thirsty, growing green children was a learning curve. Watering systems are worth the money and you can pop them in using kits from hardware stores. Containers and pots are a favourite of mine but in summer they will need watering every day.
This was the biggest revelation of all for me.
Unlike the sometimes cagey world of design, if you ask a gardener a question they will give you an encyclopaedic helpful response. Gardeners entirely relish helping other gardeners, especially new ones, piling you with seedlings, enthusiasm and patting your back when you get it wrong.
If there was a cult to join, this would be it.
This article appeared in Stuff Homed in January 2019.


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