The day that Dael Wright lowered two water lily plants into her bath changed her life forever. She'd never seen a tropical water lily in flower but she felt sure that the natural dampness of the land surrounding the two-bedroom Patumahoe cottage that she and Malcolm lived in would produce the perfect sculptural blooms.
Dael was right. Before long, her water lilies adorned her roadside stall beside an honesty box for payment. They also appeared on the steps of the local hospital where she'd leave a bunch or two anonymously to brighten up the geriatric wards.
Word got around and people started wanting to visit her garden.
That was 30 years ago and although the Wrights have long since moved from the cottage that they extended to suit life with their five children, they have retained ownership of the land on which they grow water lilies and lotus flowers for local and overseas markets, mainly in the United States.
As opportunities came their way, they purchased surrounding land, including the gorse- and weed-filled former basalt quarry that had become a dumping ground for local kiwifruit growers.
Dael and Malcolm, a builder, got the rewards for their back-breaking work. When they cleared it the form of the quarry emerged from beneath the vegetation as the ideal spot for a water garden venture.
"I believe in fate," says Dael. "Fate handles things quite strangely. There has never been a plan at all. It has really just evolved."
They sealed their commitment to redevelopment by planting seven rimu trees - one for each of the family - and they have never stopped. They have created walkways around and across the lily ponds and the lotus ponds which are part of the annual Lotus Festival that runs until tomorrow.
En route there is the Oriental garden, the waterfall and the water wheel, the Balinese temple, the summer house in the centre of the quarry and lawn wedding venue. Scenes for the Hercules TV series were filmed near the Mauku stream that runs through here.
Two years ago, Dael and Malcolm turned their attention to building their dream home. They chose their spot high above the water gardens and set about creating their own garden with water lily and lotus ponds and heirloom ornamentals and edibles, including cranberries, passionfruit, artichokes and feijoa trees.
This home's single-storey footprint offers multiple choices of everything, from the two wall-mounted ovens to the three decks off the living areas. They enjoy al fresco breakfasts looking out beyond their garden and the water gardens to Waitakere Ranges in the distance.
There's another deck off the formal dining area and beyond French doors off the formal lounge. There's plenty of colour inside, too. One of Malcolm's touches is the programmable digital bulkhead lighting display with 300 colour options.
Among the equally important, but less obvious, features is the steel framing, roof-top solar panels, the wetback behind the kitchen log burner and the audio speakers in the eaves above the deck.
The galley-laundry opens off the garage and the hall and out to what Dael describes as "the best clothesline in Auckland, because I get the wind and the sun".
Of her love of all things green, Dael says: "I'm not really a gardener. I just love growing things."
Now they're scaling down their working lives to spend more time with their grandchildren.By Robyn Welsh