Gardeners gather together in aid of elderly tenant

Jacky Braid of Havelock North decided she had to collect plants for Wang because it felt personal...
Jacky Braid of Havelock North decided she had to collect plants for Wang because it felt personal. Photo: Tom Kitchin 
Many gardeners were horrified last week when an 80-year-old tenant at a Christchurch social housing property had her garden ripped up by authorities without warning.

Since then, offers of help to replenish the garden have come from far and wide, including some from as far away as Hawke's Bay.

When Jacky Braid from Havelock North heard Zhang Wang's garden in Christchurch had been destroyed, she knew she had to act.

"My mother's an elderly Asian woman too and I just saw this 80-year-old Asian woman who is obviously of Chinese descent have her garden completely ripped out and destroyed," she said.

"If that had happened to my mother, I'd be furious and I'd be really upset and I know that those plants would've been really important to that woman."

So she posted on Twitter, trying to find people that could help.

She said the response was incredible and she was able to make contact with the family.

"We got a great list of all of the plants that were meaningful to this person."

Jo Duff of Kahikatea Farm near Hastings donated some of her plants. Photo: Tom Kitchin
Jo Duff of Kahikatea Farm near Hastings donated some of her plants. Photo: Tom Kitchin
Some of the plants were exotic such as Jerusalem artichokes and a toon tree.

A few Tweets later, she found some people willing to help.

Kaye Keats from Cornucopia, an organic shop in Hastings, was one of them.

She was also shocked by what happened.

"I was horrified, 'cause I'm a gardener and I couldn't believe that they would do that and even not to give her a chance to actually come and retrieve the plants so that she could actually remake the garden somewhere, it's just horrifying really, "she said.

"She's an elderly lady, it must've been horrendous for her."

A selection of plants collected from around Hawke’s Bay for Zhang Wang’s new garden in...
A selection of plants collected from around Hawke’s Bay for Zhang Wang’s new garden in Christchurch. Photo: Tom Kitchin
Keats looked at the list and was able to find some plants without hassle.

"There were a few in my garden - wormwood and just a few ordinary ones, but some of the Chinese ones, I rang Jo from Kahikatea Farm and we have her plants out the front, which we sell. And so she immediately said she'd heard about it and she was horrified and she wanted to donate some."

Kahikatea Farm is an organic nursery in Poukawa, south of Hastings. Its manager Jo Duff said her heart went out to Wang when she heard the news.

"I just know how much a part of my life the garden is and I just would be devastated to lose plants like that, and I know that for some of those cultures, gardening is such an important thing and the herbs are such an important part of the food and the medicine and they're really hard to get."

So she found a few plants for Wang's new garden.

"We just wrapped up quite a few in the box for her - peppermint and just the common garden mint, spearmint, some kale, same thing, we do lots of different varieties so we chucked a couple in the box for her."

The Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust owns the property where Wang lives in Addington, Christchurch.

In a statement, its chief executive Cate Kearney said a "breakdown in communication" led to the removal of the garden without the tenant being told.

The trust had "unreservedly apologised" to Wang.

She said raised beds were being installed and the soil would arrive today.

The trust would pay for all remediating expenses.

"We have been able to connect gardening groups, with Mrs Wang, to help locate as many replacement plants and herbs as possible - and as mature as possible," Kearney said.

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