Keith and Pat Stuart, who celebrate their 60th wedding
anniversary today, found each other through their shared
love of horticulture, in which they are still involved
today. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Wanaka couple Keith and Pat Stuart, who celebrate their
60th wedding anniversary today, are still as hooked on
horticulture - and each other - as they were when romance first
bloomed at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the late 1940s.
Mr Stuart (84), originally from the Catlins, was working at
the Dunedin Botanic Garden with his twin brother when their
boss was promoted to the gardens in Christchurch, taking his
two young apprentices with him.
There, Christchurch-born Mrs Stuart (85, nee Barton) was a
florist and head of the propagating department.
"She was my boss ... the only girl amongst 18 boys," Mr
Romance quickly bloomed between the two, helped by Mrs
Stuart's daily delivery of flowers to Mr Stuart while he was
in hospital with rheumatic fever.
They married at St Peter's Anglican Church in Christchurch in
1952, and lived in Clinton for a while where Mr Stuart had
set up a nursery. They then moved to manage the family farm
at Waipahi, where Mrs Stuart wrote her thesis and became the
second woman in New Zealand to gain her national diploma in
They had three children, son Lynn, and daughters Jane and
In 1984 they bought half a hectare of bog land in Wanaka,
where Mr Stuart had spent many fishing holidays.
"It was just a wilderness," he said of the property.
"All the locals thought we were mad," Mrs Stuart added.
With the help of some friends they transformed the property,
and after deciding they were "too young to retire", they
opened a floral studio and a garden centre there.
Business boomed, but after about 10 years, they sold the
lease. A beauty therapist business now operates from the
studio on their property.
Still not ready to retire, the couple established a wholesale
nursery business on the outskirts of Wanaka which supplies
plants throughout New Zealand.
"Keith was bored and started growing plants as a hobby, which
turned into a business," Mrs Stuart said.
Despite recently going through cancer treatment, Mr Stuart is
back working at the nursery, while Mrs Stuart - a keen
waterskier - takes care of the book work and plant orders.
The active pair, who have nine grandchildren, have been busy
this week sprucing up their garden for today's celebrations
with nearly 80 guests.