Where were you born and where did you spend most of your childhood?
Born and raised in Christchurch we had a large garden in South Brighton and then again in Hawkesbury Avenue, St Albans ( now called Merivale) which backed onto a nursery which was owned by Case Jorna. At age 11 our family shifted to Oamaru where, after a few years grew commercial hothouse tomatoes, strawberries and hardy cut flowers.
On leaving school I joined the Oamaru Public Gardens and after two years transferred to the Christchurch City Council Parks and Recreation Department. Our crew became the first to specialise in public landscaping. Before working for some time in the Botanic Gardens I also worked as team leader in Sumner before being appointed Technical Assistant in the Botanic Gardens. A few years later I was appointed Curator of the Botanic Gardens, Hagley Park and Mona Vale.
I was Superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the Nelson City Council and later Director of Parks and Recreation for Hutt City.
In 2003 I had a change of career when I joined the Central Institute of Technology and later moved to CPIT in Christchurch teaching and managing in the business schools. For three years I travelled the South Island as the Heritage Destinations Manager for the NZ Historic Places Trust. For the last eight years I managed the non-academic side of the Dept of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering.
Where do you live now?
After moving from Christchurch to Nelson and later Lower Hutt, Robyn and I and our family returned to Christchurch in 1997. Robyn and I enjoy a large garden that I hope to work more on now that I have stopped full time work.
What aroused your interest in gardening or horticulture?
My father was a very keen gardener and also a commercial grower of tomatoes, strawberries and cut flowers so I was brought up around plants. My mother and I exhibited flowers and floral art in various shows in Oamaru and my interest grew in amenity horticulture rather than commercial horticulture.
What gardening or horticultural interests do you have now?
My current horticultural interests are in writing about plants as there is a big gap in plant knowledge in NZ and around the world. The range of plants that are offered by our nurseries is woefully narrow and we need to create a demand for different plants to be on sale. That is both native and exotic plants.
I am also very keen on developing new and interesting ways which CHS members and members of our community, both young and old, can connect and share their knowledge of gardening and gardens. Of particular relevance now is the wide range of edible plants. I am also interested in plant photography, but only with a ‘point & shoot’ camera as I don’t like a heavy weight around my neck.
What’s your favourite plant and why?
I have many favourite plants but one which I like for its flowers is the genus Cantua from South America. I named one of these after my daughter! In Scotland recently I found an excellent specimen of Crinodendron hookeriana again a plant that has nice foliage, can look untidy but has the most fascinating flowers.
What’s been your most challenging and/or rewarding gardening project?
Interestingly it is not my projects that are the most rewarding for me, but seeing members and others in our community develop gardens in the style they want producing the vegetables, fruit flowers or living landscapes that makes them happy.
When did you join the CHS and why?
I was a member of the CHS in the 1970’s before moving to Nelson and I joined to learn from others and to pass onto others some of my knowledge. In those days the city was very proud of its Garden City image and the Council and others put on some really great displays and shows. I rejoined the CHS in 1998 for exactly the same reasons, I was proud to be living and working in the Garden City.
What is your passion for the future of the CHS?
The CHS has a fantastic future. Our new Mission of “connecting people to the art, science and practice of horticulture and gardening” is the essence of the CHS.
How we connect with people is through our programme of events, – All about Gardening, social events, outreach programmes like Orchards in Schools, seminars, workshops and the Winter Speaker Series.
Emails, Newsletter, Facebook Page, Twitter and Website are all part of sharing our events and knowledge in a world connected by the internet.
Carefully looking after our assets and creating a sustainable cash flow will enable us to do more interesting things for our members and the current and future citizens of Christchurch.