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"It started about 2001, when Jenny Elms was minister at Port Chalmers," Shirley said.
The Parsons’ St Leonards garden was in the first tour. Shirley’s husband Don juggled his Port Chalmers Lions Club work at the Lady Thorn Dell with helping maintain the home garden and propagating plants to sell, so it was — and still is — all go in the Parsons household.
A couple of years ago, she co-opted Sandra Dalziel to help and the pair make a great team.
Shirley has never had much trouble getting gardeners to agree to open their gates, "though some people take a little bit of coaching".
Back this year by popular demand is Hau Tai, the Careys Bay garden of Paul and Sheryl Hudson. Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth a return visit, Shirley says, as the couple have done a great deal of additional work.
Newcomers include the Sawyers Bay garden of Janeen Greer-Pringle and her husband Stephen Pringle.
Behind the site for the house, the ground rose steeply, so a retaining wall was essential.
Port Chalmers contractors Robert Laing installed large boulders from the Dunedin quarry to create an enduring, stable wall.
"Wood was more expensive and wouldn’t last," Janeen said.
With its bright orange lichen patches and plants tucked in among the rocks, it has become a notable feature of the garden.
"I love it," Janeen said.
Rhododendrons she planted on the wall because of "lack of experience ... seem to survive. They’ve all done pretty well."
An orchard was planted above the wall five years ago and a separate area is devoted to gooseberries and currants.
"I can’t wait," she said, pointing to rows of Jersey Benne spuds.
Vegetables and fruit are important but there are plenty of flowers, too.
Last year an Australian patch was added. Not only was it a nod towards the decade they lived in Australia, it also added plants to appeal to the birds, including the Australian rosellas that are frequent visitors.
Janeen loves growing from seed and has dozens of seedlings potted up for the garden trail plant stall tomorrow at the Sawyers Bay church hall.
JOIN THE TRAIL
The West Harbour Garden Trail runs from 10.30am to 4.30pm on Saturday.
Tickets ($15) are on sale from 10am at Emmanuel Church Hall, Station Rd, Sawyers Bay.
Devonshire tea is included in the ticket price and there are plant, produce and baking stalls, and a raffle.