Two Johns from Kerikeri have been named New Zealand's Gardeners of the Year for a five-year effort to turn a dream of a dog-friendly woodland into a reality.

John Horrell and John Graham, two of the key volunteers behind Roland's Wood on Kerikeri Inlet Rd, were nominated in the "make a difference" category of the annual NZ Gardener Magazine competition. The overall winner was decided by public vote, which the two Johns are understood to have won by a landslide.

NZ Gardener editor Jo McCarroll said the men were "very popular" winners.

Their win reflected not just the effort they had put into Roland's Wood but also the special relationship people had with their pets, and the fact dogs previously had few places to go in Kerikeri for off-the-leash exercise.


"I'm pleased as punch, you couldn't meet nicer guys," Ms McCarroll said.

"Roland's Wood has become such a neat part of people's lives. People go and enjoy it without quite realising how much work went into making Roland Sansom's dream a reality." Roland's Wood was created by dog-loving Roland Sansom who planted 4ha of farmland with deciduous trees, daffodils and bluebells in the style of an English woodland but sprinkled with native and subtropical trees.

On his death in 2001 he bequeathed it to the people and dogs of Kerikeri under the care of the Far North District Council.

When the wood was adopted by Kerikeri Rotary Club as a long-term project five years ago it was badly overgrown and barely used. Volunteers led by the two Johns set about clearing weeds, planting, and developing paths and ponds. The park is particularly popular in early spring when the bluebells are in flower.

Mr Horrell believed they had won "because the people of Kerikeri appreciate Roland's gift and that we're trying to carry on his dream".

Full results will be published in NZ Gardener Magazine today.

The two Johns' prizes include $5000 in hardware and gardening supplies vouchers, a year's supply of gardening products and a trip to Ellerslie Flower Show in Christchurch. They have pledged to use the prizes to further improve Roland's Wood.