Weekend Gardener Magazine article - Nov/Dec 2008
“I was not going to do much gardening up here,” Jenny Napier says viewing her plant-packed garden on what was a grassy slope with a single flax bush.
In island terms, she and husband Bob Napier are newcomers and so this garden is new too. They bought their property, complete with a small 1970s bach six years ago as a holiday home (Jenny’s sister already lived on the island) but just a year later opted for full-time island life.
“We set about completely renovating the house – so our three cats were more comfortable – and before we knew it, a garden was evolving,” says Jenny with a smile.
The garden was probably inevitable, despite Jenny's avowal. She had been the gardener at Clifton Station in the Hawkes Bay for 18 years and once a gardener, always a gardener. Now there’s not blade left of that once grassy slope.
At the front of the house, it’s been transformed into a tapestry of flower and foliage colours and textures, backed by roses climbing on a rustic fence built with weathered battens the couple brought with them to the island.
Access is via narrow paths and a set of steps
that take visitors up from the road to the house and beyond. These feature
pottery insets of fish created by an island artisan. Jenny bought
them a few at time to spread the cost.
Behind the house, there is, in true island style, a flourishing vegetable plot. This is never watered. The Napier’s tank water is too precious. It would also use power, which is always carefully rationed, to pump it up to the higher level. The secret to its summer lushness lies in the way Jenny boosts and mulches the soil.
“I put down a bottom layer of kelp and then usually something softer on top to keep as much moisture in as possible.”
The same technique of using seaweed to both feed the soil and help plants through dry times is common to island gardeners – and fits their philosophy of using what nature provides.