It was the oldest part of the cemetery, where the weeds had grown long and headstones had collapsed.
That was August last year. It's even older now but a year of tender care has seen the Friends of Maunu Cemetery plant flowers where weeds once grew at the Whangārei cemetery.
Pat Gavin was inspired to begin the renovation after reading of a similar project in Taranaki in a gardening magazine. The Maungakahia Gardening Club was supportive, as was the cemetery gardening team.
The original volunteers of Pat Gavin, Raewyn Bell and Kathy Baker grew to encompass others and now there are eight people who contribute time - depending on knee, shoulder and other replacements.
Plants for the project have come from volunteers, the cemetery gardening team and Mitre 10, which had supported the project with the donation of hundreds of plants. There had also been a focus on ground cover plants to remove the need for herbicides.
For Gavin, it's a close connection to her husband Terry, who died in April 2017. He is buried in the new section of Maunu Cemetery. His parents, grandparents, cousins and other family are also buried there.
She said the older part of the cemetery defied modern maintenance with graves laid out in a haphazard fashion, often closely or at angles, so as to make mowing difficult.
As the land was cleared, it exposed areas where there were clearly graves yet no headstones. One family had since organised to replace the missing headstone with another and were planning an unveiling next month.
Meanwhile, Whangārei District Council has highlighted a historic Ngunguru cemetery for rejuvenation and is calling on Northlanders who may have loved ones buried there to come forward.
Ngunguru Cemetery, also known as Cape Horn Cemetery, has been largely forgotten by council services since its gates closed in 1981.
This is soon to change, with the district council's cemeteries team unveiling a plan early November to pull together a list of all the site's memorials and clean up the facilities.
Along with this, they are calling on people who have a connection to the cemetery to get involved, said senior cemetery operator Hayden Parr.
"We are contacting people who we know to be interested and anyone with a connection to the cemetery to come forward, if they would like to have a say on the management plan."
They have already had 14 families get in touch. The plan was to hold a town hall meeting in Ngunguru or Whangārei early next year to get ideas for the historic site. Initial plans will depend on the wishes of the involved families, although Parr said they are likely to include cleaning up vegetation between the grave markers.
"I would describe it as overgrown," he said. "It's actually in a pine forest. The families would like to see some of the weeds cleaned up."
Parr said this piece of Northland's history was overlooked partly because it's hard to get to.
"It's locked-in by other properties, so the only way to get there is by boat or along the foreshore at low tide, and then you only really get one chance a day."
Another priority for the council cemeteries team is to map out the plots, some of which are missing headstones.
"We have the original register with many of the plot numbers, and we can read the information on some of the remaining markers," Parr said.
With this they can potentially deduce the locations of any missing graves. As the cemetery only came into the hands of the council in 1955, much of the details of its early history have been lost.
"It's a bit like doing a crossword puzzle - you have some of the answers, but not all of them."
SWAT Tutukaka, a weeding business whose name stands for Specialist Weed Assistance Team, have volunteered to get involved with the clean-up.
SWAT member Wendy Ambury said the plants that have grown up over the gravesites are part of the story of the cemetery, so they will be mindful of what plants they will remove.
"The flora becomes part of the history and the site's identity - its unkempt nature demonstrates the cycle of life."