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Craig Inch is slightly disconcerted to see groups wandering around his garden. True, Hawthorn Cottage, on the outskirts of Mosgiel, has been open before to the occasional garden club but this is the first time he and his wife, Jo, have taken part in the Dunedin Open Gardens scheme.
Eleven years ago, when the Inches bought a former railway cottage, it came with 2.4ha of flat land backing on to the railway line. Apart from the surrounding hedges that give Hawthorn Cottage its name, there was very little except a large oak — since removed — behind the house.
Craig and Jo cleared the garden site and brought in trailer-loads of horse manure — "It would have been in the hundreds of loads," he says — to build up the soil, which was quite heavy.
"Luckily, we’re near stables," he says.
Alongside a bent for design, those skills have been invaluable in the development of Hawthorn Cottage’s extensive gardens.
He has propagated lots of plants, "something I very much enjoy", including most of the hornbeams used for hedging. Always looking around the garden for seed to save, he is waiting for a pondside Podophyllum to set seed. Unlike the more common Spotty Dotty, the Inches’ specimen has shiny lettuce-green leaves.
Hedges of hornbeam, Corokia, Escallonia and Muehlenbeckia divide the garden into "rooms", with immaculate lawns around beds full of roses mixed with other shrubs and unusual perennials.
A large vegetable garden and orchard help feed the family and are a reminder of Craig’s background as the son of Outram market gardeners.
"I say not but ..."
Hawthorn Cottage is part of the Dunedin Open Gardens scheme. Visits are by appointment and groups can be accommodated. For details or to book, email email@example.com.