Jane Mahoney | Producer
Brookside, Christchurch, New Zealand | March 2012
‘I’m a great believer in ‘start with the soil’ … you’ve got to give back to the soil.’ ... more words under images
The Millhouse is on an acre of garden on the Canterbury plains.Established exotic trees provide welcome protection from the region’s infamous nor west and easterly winds. The area was swamp land when the European settlers arrived, though originally it harboured ancient Totora forests, so the soil is good, rich alluvial topsoil.
The house was built in 1872 and the garden has been created and tended by generations of previous owners – my family have looked after the garden since 1974. It has been the setting for many happy times, long lunches under the trees with the whole family getting together, celebrations of significant birthdays – from twenty firsts to 80ths – and two weddings.
The old fruit trees bear good crops each year – quinces, walnuts, peaches, plums and several varieties of apples. Anything we can’t eat goes into making compost! Compost is the key, I am a great believer in ‘start with the soil’ … you’ve got to give back to the soil.
I love Autumn, gardening is so rewarding at this time of year because the growth is slower and the weather is calmer. And it’s the best time to make compost with the bounty of garden litter and windfalls.
Gardens have always fired my imagination. I have strong childhood memories of being entranced by 'magical' gardens. Some of them in hindsight were quite small and quite modest but I vividly recall how each was their own unique and intriguing world .. the smells and sounds, the birds and insect life, the impossible designs and colors of flowers, edible treats if you were lucky. When we were visiting parents' friends, the children were always told to 'go and play in the garden'. I loved exploring all the nooks and crannies, pathways and secret 'rooms', the intensity of the smells, watching life at grass level - busy as any city street. I still love it.
Hares, rabbits, pheasants and quails have made this garden home They help themselves to the vege patch and scratch around in the herb garden– but we love having them here, they’re beautiful.
This garden is my ‘happy place’. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.