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Moira Tolan walked out into the terraced hillside garden in Lyttelton with fabulous views of the Banks Peninsula, sat in her new garden and raised a glass of wine to her newly renovated home.

Toast for all the work in the home and garden. “It was worth it,” she thought, sighing.

The next day, an earthquake shattered the area.

A few years later, the ex-refugee in Christchurch begins every day with a spring in her stride, with a cup of coffee in hand, as she strolls through the half-acre Blenheim, 249 kilometers to the north. “Then I come up with the job list and it starts there.”

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Tied a belt with compartments in the bag (and a coil to keep the blades keen), and a handcart for handing out scraps, Moira is armed and ready to be entertained in her hidden urban intrigue. “It’s the garden that keeps you sane,” she explains.

It is this park in particular that fascinates people at first sight. Well, she felt the same, even though she wanted to watch her next home after the earthquake.

Juliet Nicholas / NZ GARDENER / Stuff

This subtle hedge box has an intense mix of flowers and foliage. Pale aromatic pink roses is “Ali Mau”, with “Dioressence” to the right. Straight ahead, the red and green leaves of the elegant Fotinia hedge conceal its edible garden.

When Tolan first looked at her, she was instantly smitten. “I thought I would be very happy here.” I don’t need a view. The view is the garden, “she remembers.

I have come across the mature and exotic native trees that protect the grass, shrubs, and grassy borders rich in roses from the worst northwest winds and lend a calm, resting atmosphere. Everything is angled for maximum sunlight, as the garden wraps around the house like a welcoming embrace.

After spending ages agonizing over her future, Tolan bought the place within days of seeing it, and succumbed to the magic of suburban Springlands.

Juliet Nicholas / NZ GARDENER / Stuff

Herbal borders.

This wasn’t the first time Tolan had a crush in a garden. Her passion for gardening dates back to when she was a busy young mother in her twenties, on a tour of North Canterbury Park. “We visited a property tucked away on a long driveway and came to a wonderful park. I had an epiphany and I thought, “Wow, that’s what you can do.”

From that day she was addicted. “I never lost that urge to go home and farm.”

To the extent that she contracted rose fever in the 1980s, heritage was from her own bugs. There is no vaccine for this pest and it is still happy in its range.

Juliet Nicholas / NZ GARDENER / Stuff

If only she had time to sit on her Lutyens seat.

Given that time, she has some tips for beginners. “Even if you’ve never planted gardening, just start and plant what you want, not what’s in fashion. You will learn quickly and the reward is huge. I find it is better nowadays to do something most days, and keep clearing weeds and not having barren soil.” … it’s much easier with more intensive cultivation. “

Tolan believes her place was the first to settle in the rural area, before other homes began to appear. There were many trees in it. Among the venerable survivors in its semi-formal garden are two huge silk trees (Albizia), a tall carving tocuka (the Cordeline Australia cabbage tree), pitosporums to the extreme, a huge cherry and beech tree, maple and uniform camellia on steroids to name a few.

At the entrance to the vege garden, Moira doubled the record number of Liquidambars from three to six, for drama.

Juliet Nicholas / NZ GARDENER / Stuff

As you enter the garden from the driveway, four blossoming cherries line the brick path.

The culture consists of rhododendron, azaleas, “quantities of hydrangea” and viburnum. Cleverly cut hedges from individual trees square into crisp green grass, or curl like ribbons along the borders, to firmly soften the rectangular design.

She has taken the reins, not deterred by her size and the generous evidence that she will do a lot of work on her own. “The previous owners were clearly a garden enthusiast who did a great job.”

However, she saw room for change, and interesting ways to make her own mark. “It’s totally traditional but I’m changing that.”

Juliet Nicholas / NZ GARDENER / Stuff

Glimpse of her edible garden in Moira, under huge maple trees, olives and t «kÅ ?? uka »the old one. Standing apples and lavender pots are the entrance to where everything you could wish to cook thrives. Chives edge of the bed.

During her first year, she took some time to learn about her new patch. “It was great to be in an unbroken house. I thoroughly enjoyed it.” Ideas take shape gradually, reinforced by the reassurance of clearly fertile soil.

An enthusiastic chef who loves to grow her own ingredients, Tolan has stumbled upon creating a large edible garden. “The only thing I don’t grow is potatoes … my son gives me these potatoes,” she says. “I enjoy cooking. I try to grow everything I need to eat.”

The surplus is given to friends, as soon as Tolan packs her preserved cans: fig and raspberry jam, exotic sauces (pear and walnut a successful trial), pickled olives, limoncello, marmalade, plum paste and quince … you get the picture.

Mulch, mulch, mulch with pea straw are her motto when it comes to garden management. “And I really try not to use chemical sprays, I’m definitely organic.”

You can grow fruits, vegetables and herbs to feed your bees and your family.

In the vegetable garden, baking soda spray is used for mildew, companion plants grow to deter pesky insects, and “I often feed the plants with liquid seaweed food.”

Roses receive a winter copper mist, then milk and water for black spots, and “get good nourishment from the seaweed tonic throughout the flowering season.”

She modified the fences for privacy and improved the outbuildings to match the style of the home. Climbers planted to cover the old garage and shed “and now that area near the house has been completely transformed.”

She has what she calls a constant dialogue with grassy borders. “Sometimes I feel it’s a little bit old and I think I’ll improve it.”

Tolan plans to build more raised beds to make growing vegetables easier on the back. And the water feature could be the only thing that enhances the view from the hall. “I look forward to doing this,” she says. “Things are getting old and need to be replaced.”

Juliet Nicholas / NZ GARDENER / Stuff

Big rhubarb devours a rich diet of manure, sheep pellets and plenty of water, with icing mulch on the cake.

Gardens are never static and you’ll never have a thing to do and something to admire or create.

To the current grove of colossal biscuits and lemons, all tough to grow on a hillside slope with sea breezes, she added three mandarins. “I planted passion fruit and it grew like a trifid,” she says happily. She has high hopes for a newborn pomegranate, which has carried some fruit even though it is not ripe enough to eat it. But it is the early days.

Juliet Nicholas / NZ GARDENER / Stuff

Globe artichoke, which is a dwarf nectar, red onion and calendula are curbed by parsley fencing.

Now that she has worked all her life with intellectually disabled people, she has retired and has more time and energy for her garden. People lined up at the gate during Marlboro Park to see the fruits of her work (her garden did not open this year, but the festival will take place from November 4-7).

“I love him in Marlboro,” she says. “He has a wonderful climate. By 9 am the sun will rise, and I know I can stay in the park all day, even in winter.”

After four years here, Moira is in heaven.

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