Papamoa Garden Circle has a proud history as the oldest gardening club in the Tauranga district and next month celebrates its 71st birthday.

President Fern Twidle said the club was formed on October 18, 1947 by a group of 14 young pioneering women who, along with their children, used to travel from farm to farm in Pāpāmoa Hills.

Twidle said in the early post-World War II days, the gardening circle was a great opportunity for isolated women to get together to foster friendships and exchange plants.

"Some members used to catch the train from Tauranga down to the Kairua station for meetings, and it was how you were able to get to know your neighbours better," she said.

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Fast forward 71 years, and the gardening circle with its 80-strong membership, which included up to four men, was a flourishing and active group, she said.

Twidle, who has been club president for two years and a member for 11 years, said
fostering friendships was still key to the club's activities.

"Some of those friendships have lasted decades," she said.

Members get together at the Gordon Spratt Reserve off Parton Rd on the second Wednesday of each month, excluding December and January, to exchange cuttings, gardening tips, and enjoy lots of "great chats".

There were also sales tables and monthly competitions for the best vegetables, flowers, and decorative arrangements, and guest speakers - often from garden centres.

"Each January we have a garden ramble visiting each other's gardens and that was something the members always looked forward to," Twidle said.

Members came from diverse backgrounds. Some live in retirement villages, including the oldest member Joan Gorringe, who turned 100 this year.

Each year the club also takes a bus trip to visit gardens out of the district and next month, 45 of the circle's members will head to the Ōhope region.

Twidle said new members from anywhere in the wider Tauranga district were always welcome no matter a person's gardening experience.

"We're only too happy to share our knowledge with newcomers who will find we're a fun, friendly social bunch of people," she said.

"Gardening is a very therapeutic activity, and if you're having a bad day there is nothing better than getting out in the garden and pulling a few weeds."

Papamoa Gardening Circle

Where: Gordon Spratt Reserve.
When: Second Wednesday of the month, except in December and January.
How to join: Call club president Fern Twidle on 07 575 2857.
Cost: $15 a year.