NZ Gardener Magazine article - March 2009

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STORY: Jane Wrigglesworth  PHOTOS: Sally Tagg

Reproduced with permission - Subject to copyright in its entirety.


With the nearest city 90km away, the intrepid gardeners of Great Barrier Island tackle isolation with imagination and innovation.

It's gorgeous, it's tropical and it's just a short flight north-east of Auckland, but until this year I'd never journeyed to Great Barrier Island. I'd lugged my laptop to the furthest point north and south on our country's map, but I'd never been across the sea to the Barrier. I can't understand why.

With breathtaking, vast ocean views and glorious little holiday spots that hug the coast, the Barrier has all the hallmarks of a sun-drenched oasis in the Hauraki Gulf. Even the ocean presents itself as a simmering hotpot of fine seafood (our hosts at Le Soleil chalets and lodge dished up fresh crayfish and scallops, cooked on the barbie, for dinner!).

Photographer Sally Tagg and I were invited to visit the intrepid gardeners of Great Barrier in January. Getting there was easy. We simply hopped on a plane and were there in 35 minutes (although you can also take a ferry for a more leisurely cruise). It wasn't until we arrived that the going got tough. Not in the sense of navigating the island - all 285 square kilometres - but in trying to fit everything in. There were so many gorgeous gardens, a cornucopia of home grown food to eat and myriad activities to do, that our unreasonably short visit didn't do them all justice (who would have thought that sightseeing could be such hard work?)

Bananas, cherimoyas, avocados, sugar cane and all manner of citrus, pip and stone-fruit trees, as well as an endless array of veges, graced so many of the gardens we visited that the underlying theme of island gardening is evident: self-sufficiency.

The Barrier has no reticulated mains power, water supply or sewage system, and electricity is supplied by private generator or alternative power systems.

You have to be both enterprising and adventurous to create a garden in this unique corner of New Zealand - and that's exactly what they are.

FLAX HOUSE

One man's trash is another man's treasure - or in Wayne McVicar's case, art. This talented artist has a knack for turning discarded objects into works of art. "I like function, but I like compiling function with beauty." He and partner Linda Power have turned their gorgeous cliff-top home at Tryphena into a welcoming retreat filled with sculptures and artwork.

Wayne carves from stone, wood and other natural materials and is always experimenting with nature. "I love piling up found objects into beautiful forms - which they were originally, anyway."

When she's not teaching yoga, Linda tends their organic garden, and the couple is also developing gardens and an orchard on their nearby 22-hectare bush block.

Fifteen years of collecting discarded fishing nets off local beaches has resulted in a colourful walkway.

Caity and Gerald Endt  I'm not sure I'd know a 'Delicata' squash from a 'Musquee de Provence' pumpkin, but the Endts do. Caity and Gerald Endt moved to the Barrier a couple of years ago to set up an organic market garden

Sue and Bruno Reusser Meet Sue and Bruno Reusser whose hand-crafting of home and garden has culminated in a picturesque haven. Sue and Bruno have lived on the Barrier for 35 years.

Sven Stellin  Sven, who has lived on the Barrier since he was one, took over the running of his family's farm at 19.  But farming wasn't to be his destiny. He had romantic plans: to extract the aroma from New Zealand's tea tree oil.

Les and Beverley Blackwell  Les and Bev's family tree makes up part of the history of Great Barrier Island.  Wander around the Blackwells' property today and you're treated to delightful anecdotes of family history. Their plants, too, aren't merely productive; each tells a story of the couple's incredibly rich and adventurous life.

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