Spongy  Snowball[1] blooms pop in the early spring morning at Jane Bright’s Wiatoriki sustainable garden.  Jane gracefully opened her garden at 7am on the first Saturday of the Sustainable Backyard Tour, to Greenbridge’s ecological landscape designers; Bena Denton and Kama Burwell.  We will be touring the gardens giving feedback and encouragement to the wonderful gardener’s who open their private out-door living areas, hearts and passions for all things that grow – particularly if can be eaten – to you!  Bena Denton

Jane bought her property on Richmond Road (out the back of Inglewood) from a previous gardener who planted in the larger structural trees that now exist on the property and began to transform it into an exotic and edible paradise, with her gardener husband Steve.  With a view to our gorgeous Moanga Taranaki, one would be forgiven to think that here might be a tricky place to grow lushy subtropicals.  However a loquat that Jane grew from seed indicates that even here, the rip roaring winds across the pastural planes can be arrested and microclimates created to establish avocados, tamarillos and citrus…

This is not a garden spectacular garden!  That would be comparing apples with apples and these gardens are decidedly a fruit bowl of edible and productive activity.  Visitors may expect perfect lawns and neat herbaceous boarders at the Spectacular and Fringe gardens maybe disappointed, but neatness or perfection is not the objective of these sustainable, edible gardens.   Rather growing food, restoring diversity, connection with the environment and sharing ones knowledge are of higher priority for the sustainable backyard gardeners – visit with an open mind and you may well be rewarded with new way of viewing your backyard.

What I love about Jane’s garden is her responsiveness to the landscape…climbing up the North West facing hillside behind the house are vegetable beds of various sizes and shapes, that hug the hill.  The edges are formed with Leperton’s School’s old driveway – recycled into stackable concrete bricks.  This is upcycling at its best and the bricks offer great thermal modification of the garden by absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night to stabilise soil temperature.

Further down the slope is a huge array of established and new deciduous fruit and nut trees – enough to feed two or more families….apples, pears, persimmons and a magnificent chestnut tree and plum, ‘plums grow well here’ enthuses Jane.

Jane spearheads the Taranaki seed savers group, so it is natural for her to save seed from her own vegetable produce and experiment with what does well in her microclimate.  A fascinating find, as we meandered under the orchard trees, is a rare dwarfing and clumping comfrey with small leaves and pretty white flowers.  Comfrey is a wonderful companion under fruit trees for its dynamic accumulating qualities, including potassium (necessary for fruit set). Jane offered rootlets come autumn to other keen gardens who may also want comfrey under their fruit trees.

‘Chicken alley’, is a delightful walk from the house to the periphery of the garden, where the chook coop sits framed by prunus overhead, bearded iris below and a profusion of spring under plantings – lucky chooks and lucky us!

For me touring these gardens, its gratifying to see the range of edible and productive species that can be grown on our varied terrain from mountain to sea.  Each garden is unique and a distinctive response to gardener and site – just as a sustainable garden should be.  Keep up the good work Jane and thank you for opening your garden to us – its worth the  visit on Richmond Road.

The Sustainable Backyard Tour runs from 30th Oct – 8th Nov 2016 and is organised by the Taranaki Environment Centre.

Bena Denton is an Ecological Garden Designer and is part of the GreenBridge team.  She lives with her family in Omata and is enjoying regenerating their 10acre property.

[1] Viburnum opulus also known as the Guelder rose