Sue and John Buchanan's Otope Rd garden is a remarkable green oasis surrounded by the summer-dry hills of their sheep and beef property and is the heart of a growing business.

More than just a garden for Sue, it's the place which has nurtured her blossoming career in landscape design.

"I'm lucky to have been able to live here and enjoy this place for the past 40 years," she said. "My mother-in-law planted the trees and I started gardening as a young woman 40 years ago, planting perennials. My passion for gardening grew from then."

Sue Buchanan's perennials, boxed and ready for a 4am departure to the Martinborough Fair.
Sue Buchanan's perennials, boxed and ready for a 4am departure to the Martinborough Fair.

Sue's gardening career developed further while working at Dannevirke's Mitre10.

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"I was lucky to learn a lot there and it gave me credibility," she said. "I've this huge enthusiasm and passion and when I left Mitre 10 I took on gardening and maintenance and was then asked to give landscape advice, design concept gardens and do makeovers."

However, a serious injury curtailed Sue's physical work for some time.

"All I could do was sit in a chair and take perennial cuttings," she said.

Many of the plants Sue cultivates you can't find in garden centres,

"Now, I've my own perennial nursery and along with opening it and the garden to the public, I go to markets selling my perennials, and the steel obelisks, garden stakes and ivy heart pots we make here. But I can't do it on my own. John my husband, my son Hamish and daughter-in-law Leanne, all help as we do 14 big markets a year, as well as supporting hospice fundraisers."

Sue has become known for her perennials, with seeds and cuttings taken from her own garden and potted on in the nursery. But this is a nursery with a difference.

"The kennels for our farm dogs sits in the middle of the plants because it couldn't be moved and John grows his potatoes and pumpkins down one end too," Sue said.

When the Dannevirke News visited last Friday Sue had masses of perennials sorted by colour in wooden crates, ready for the Martinborough Fair the next day.

"I'll leave at 4 tomorrow morning in my little truck, " she said.

And despite the 30C heat on Friday, Sue was confident she would arrive in south Wairarapa with healthy plants. But that hasn't always been the case, On one very hot day travelling to a Hawke's Bay market her plants burned in the heat.

But Sue herself doesn't wilt and thrives on the challenges landscape designing in all climates brings.

"I've been working in Havelock North and find that climate different and a challenge," she said. "But I also travel to the Manawatu and out to the coast as well as taking on commercial jobs."

While Sue describes her own garden as "a bit wild and rambling," she strives to deliver perfection for clients.

"I like a bit of rustic and for me things don't need to be perfect."

However, the acre of garden surrounding the Buchanan's 140-year-old home looks perfect to visitors, with huge topiaries featuring on the terrace and again as big full stops at the end of one section of the garden.

John and Sue Buchanan's 140-year-old farm house with the established trees planted by Mr Buchanan's mother and the perennials, roses and topiary Sue's additions.
John and Sue Buchanan's 140-year-old farm house with the established trees planted by Mr Buchanan's mother and the perennials, roses and topiary Sue's additions.

"When I'm working on client's gardens it's about the structure and knowing what to put where," she said. "Fashion and styles in gardening are always changing and we've gone from the very formal, to white and green and now there's a swing back to perennials and colour and personally I love all the old-fashioned plants."

Although Sue has collected and grown perennials for 40 years she's always keen for a new challenge.

"My mother-in-law used to tell me you need something new every year to keep the enthusiasm going."