Revived gardens get green thumbs up

By Sophie Ryan

The volunteer-driven Whangarei Quarry Gardens have received validation from the highest authority of gardening in New Zealand.

The Quarry Gardens have been assessed as a "Garden of Significance" by the New Zealand Gardens Trust, an offshoot of the New Zealand Institute of Horticulture.

Project manager David Muir said the title justified all the hard work put into the gardens: "This is reward for all the years of service from volunteers, trustees, and the council."

The public gardens have recovered from arson attacks between November 2005 and February 2006 that caused $339,000 of damage and wiped out hectares of bush. Mr Muir put the recovery down to the volunteers' dedication.

The announcement of the honour came at the start of a busy week for Mr Muir, with a visit from a sponsor all the way from England and the Subtropical Plant Fair on Sunday this weekend.

Lucie Nottingham first visited the Quarry Gardens last year, and, as a keen gardener, was impressed.

"Not many of these plants are familiar to me in Cornwall," she said.

Her trust has provided a donation for 138 botanic garden-grade labels for the camellias.

Mr Muir said of Mrs Nottingham's return to Whangarei: "Gardening is an international fellowship ... when you get together, everything else falls away."

This weekend will be the gardens' first Subtropical Plant Fair, but Mr Muir hopes it will grow into an annual tradition for all gardeners. "I know that there is a contingent coming up from Auckland for it, and I hope in a few years it is a must-do for anyone coming to Whangarei."

Local nurseries will have stalls, and coffee and refreshments will be on offer.

Some of the profits will go to the Quarry Gardens. The fair will begin at 10am.

- Northern Advocate

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