Weekend Gardener Magazine article - Nov/Dec 2008
The roots in Grace Benson’s garden go deep, as they must in gardens built on shifting sand, but her roots in this small part of Great Barrier Island are deeper. Although Grace lives and works off the island (she is a nursing tutor at Manukau Institute of Technology), she spent her childhood on 'Barrier' and belongs to one the island’s early settler families.
Her garden, which she started 20 years ago, is on a small part of the former family farm – and now home to 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' roses that can trace their roots back to the specimen her grandmother grew on the island. The former family washhouse from those early days when, roughly a century ago, clothes were washed in a small shed behind villas, also now sits in the garden where it’s home to a small museum.
Grace tends her garden during holidays and occasional snatched weekends.
She cheerfully admits importing plants on every trip back. “I come off the boat laden.”
But like other island gardens, her garden is also a celebration of shared cuttings and making do with local resources – such as dried and baled rushes for mulch and local rocks, used here to make a low stone wall.
Though Grace is a part-time islander, there’s still a producing veggie garden – two in fact as is often the case in island gardens. One is close to the kitchen and a larger one is further away. She notes that pepinos do especially well.
There are always family and friends resident on the island to make sure nothing goes to waste and tui, wood pigeon, kaka and banded rail to help out, especially when the mulberries are ripe, and hibiscus buds and flowers on offer.
“You won’t see perfection here,” Grace says at the end of our visit. “But there is perfection in nature – nature is beautiful. I love having people coming here to share in that.”
'Spectacular by Nature'
Reproduced with permission
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