Garden tour chance to help with church

Waihola gardens are in the spotlight tomorrow, reports Gillian Vine.

In recent years, garden tours have become a popular fundraiser and are usually well-supported, as most properties on tour lists are not usually open to paying visitors.

Tomorrow, six gardens in the Waihola area will be open to help raise funds to restore Milton's historic Tokomairiro Presbyterian Church, designed by eminent architect R.A. Lawson.

Almost 120 years after the church was opened in 1889, Anne and Ian Reid declared their new home open. Situated south of Waihola with stunning views across the lake to Maungatua, where Ian had been brought up, it is one of the properties on tomorrow's tour.

By the time they moved into the house in early in 2006, the Reids had been living in a caravan on site for almost three years, surrounded by hundreds of plants.

Anne explains that, when they sold their Island Block, Millers Flat, farm in 2000 and bought the Black Swan tearooms and motels in Waihola, the cream of a 30-year-old garden was moved with them. They brought a truck and trailer-load of plants - ''hundreds of bags, buckets and root-balled rhododendrons'' - and stored them on a section behind the tearooms, where keeping them moist and in good condition was a major concern, given how busy Anne and Ian were with the business.

After three and a-half years, the Reids sold the Black Swan and moved into the caravan on the bare 10.5ha block they had bought a couple of years earlier.

''The shift also entailed the huge job of reshifting all our plants, the rhodos requiring a front-end loader for each shift,'' Anne explains.

Once the house site was cleared, a retaining wall was built to the rear and the area above this was earmarked for the main part of the decorative garden, while Ian's vegetable garden was sited on one side of the house, sheltered by a selection of attractively shaped native pittosporums.

Ian explains that the topsoil from the house site was saved for the garden and he brought in tonnes of calf litter to enrich the ground.

''It grows pretty well,'' he says modestly of his very productive patch.

In two glasshouses Anne grows tomatoes, including Bloody Butcher and Early Money. Whitefly is a problem, so she is thinking of growing French marigolds (Tagetes) to try to defeat these pests. The Reids grew tomatoes at Millers Flat and some of the Early Money seed came with them. It was easy to transport, unlike the rhododendrons, which five years after they left the farm, were finally put into their permanent positions, as were the trees Anne and Ian brought with them.

''We lost very few rhodos,'' Anne says.

Roses also survived the move, as did the grapevine planted along the edge of the retaining wall.

Fruit is important to Anne, who estimates that she has three dozen trees planted in the decorative garden. There are plums, greengages, nectarines, apples (including the heritage varieties Hetlina and Monty's Surprise), pears (Taylor's Gold and Bon Chrétien are favourites), quinces and peaches.

Anne recommends Black Boy peaches - ''It's always a good producer and everyone should have one'' - and has been fortunate to be given a Roxburgh Red apricot, as they are virtually unobtainable.

The small Roxburgh Red tree produced 70 fruit, probably just as well for Anne is intolerant of poor performers, saying: ''It's got to produce or it's out''.

The fruit trees are decorative in spring, then the flowers take over - bearded irises, roses, phlox, dahlias, an enviable line-up of lilies as well as lots of treasures, including a small-leafed native tree, Hoheria angustifolia, which Anne recommends as an alternative to its cousin, the lacebark (H. populnea).

Climbing a pillar behind the house she has Chile's national flower, Lapageria rosea, which is covered with deep pink flowers, complemented by a late-flowering pale blue clematis. Alongside them, a large yucca adds a rather exotic touch.

Anne says she has several projects to complete but things look great as they are. To illustrate its history, she has prepared a selection of photographs of the garden's development from bare clay, a reminder that this mature-looking garden is just six years old.

''It shows what you can do in a fairly short time,'' Anne says.

See it
Anne and Ian Reid's garden is one of six in the Waihola area that will be open tomorrow afternoon to raise funds for the restoration of the Tokomairiro Presbyterian Church. Tickets ($10, including afternoon tea) are available at the Waihola community church, Nore St, Waihola, from 1.30pm. There is also a competition - take along one rose bloom, in your own container. For further information, phone (03) 417-8291.