'Restaurant for the butterflies': Volunteers recognised for reserve work

Graham Freear says Vanderbilt Reserve looks especially good this year due to high rainfall. Photo...
Graham Freear says Vanderbilt Reserve looks especially good this year due to high rainfall. Photo: Geoff Sloan
For Christchurch's Graham Freear gardening is about making the world a brighter place for others.

The Halswell resident is the leader of the Vigorous Vanderbilt Volunteers, recognised at the recent Keep Christchurch Beautiful awards, for their efforts tending to Vanderbilt Reserve.

A colourful park gave people a space to relax and appreciate the small things, Freear said.

“It’s good for mental health because if you stop and think and pause, you can take your mind away from other things that might be troubling you.”

For example, the reserve had a buddleia tree, and the flurry of butterflies it attracted was enjoyable to watch.

“It’s a restaurant for the butterflies . . . you might get 20 or 30 monarch butterflies. They might get disturbed and you see them all fly off.”

The Vigorous Vanderbilt Volunteers. Photo: Supplied
The Vigorous Vanderbilt Volunteers. Photo: Supplied
He had been gardening in the reserve for 10 years with the other volunteers and enjoyed the community connection it provided.

“It’s not just digging a bit of dirt.”

Often people in the area also contributed to the reserve, he said.

“If there’s a tree they want out they ask: ‘Would you like it in the reserve?’ I don’t turn down anybody if I possibly can, we’ll find the space.”

The volunteers had no set schedule but contributed when they could, sometimes spending several mornings each week pruning or planting.

Artistic touches such as painting and sculpture were also part of their work.

Vanderbilt Reserve. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Vanderbilt Reserve. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Newcomers were welcome to join them, Freear said.

A perfectionist attitude was not required as the volunteers contended against mother nature.

“We’ve had lots of failures. Daffodils can dry out and we can get seasons where we can’t get water to them regularly.”

However, this season the reserve was looking especially good, he said.

“This has been the best spring that I’ve seen since being here 10 years, and that’s because of the amount of rain that’s come in the last few months.”

He was pleased the volunteers had been recognised with an award.

“It’s a beautiful group to work with,” he said.

Halswell-Hornby-Riccarton Community Board member Debbie Mora nominated the group after attending a neighbourhood picnic at the reserve.

“I enquired about some artworks on the fence, and I was soon put into the picture about all the local initiatives from them all,” Mora said.

“I found them to be extremely proactive and energetic in looking after their local Vanderbilt Reserve for themselves and others to enjoy.” 

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