Remuera garden a heroic effort

16:00, Jan 24 2013
John Fox and Michael Harrison
RELAXING SPACE: John Fox and Michael Harrison in their Remuera garden.

Visitors have the chance to see the results of a 10-year labour of love that has transformed a simple pole house on a sloping site into a lush piece of paradise.

Michael Harrison and John Fox are opening their Remuera garden to the public for the Heroic Gardens Festival next month.

On February 23 and 24 ticketholders can see how the site has been made over with subtropical plants, clever use of mirrors and a new roof over the deck, making the outdoor space usable all-year round.

John Fox and Michael Harrison
GARDEN PATH: A view of the side garden, which was mostly created with plants donated by friends.

The festival is now in its 17th year. It began as a fundraiser for Herne Bay House, which provided care and respite for people with HIV and Aids. The event showcased gay and lesbian-owned gardens for 15 years.

It's now a fundraiser for Mercy Hospice Auckland. Owners of the gardens are available on the day to answer questions from visitors.

In 2012 more than $80,000 was raised for Mercy Hospice Auckland, which provides care for people in the Auckland District Health Board area living with terminal illnesses and their families.


Mr Harrison and Mr Fox entered their garden in the festival in 2005 and 2006. They've made plenty of changes and repeat visitors will appreciate the developments.

"We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. People are genuinely interested."

Relaxing on the outdoor sofa with green palm fronds all around you, it's easy to forget you are just steps away from busy Remuera Rd. The roof over the deck went up last summer and Mr Harrison says it has made all the difference.

"Even though it's north facing there are a lot of trees, which meant the deck was wet and unusable a lot of the time."

Within the relatively small space there is room for a pond, a water feature, an outdoor dining table, a sofa and coffee table.

The whole area stays dry, so on a changeable Auckland day there's no need to run inside every time a shower passes over.

"Winter was bliss," Mr Fox says.

There was no connection around the back of the house when the couple bought the property.

The men have dug paths and built retaining walls, creating a walkway from one side to the other.

"We've done all of it ourselves. We're both quite handy and we enjoy doing it."

Even the strip of garden at the side of the house is a pleasure to walk through.

It shows that even the smallest piece of land can be turned into a thing of beauty - if you have the determination and manpower.

There's no access for a wheelbarrow to the side of the house, so the soil and plants were carried in, one bucket at a time.

Many of the plants were given to them by friends and many of the mirrors were found in the inorganic rubbish collection.

Tickets are $35 and are valid for both the Saturday and Sunday. See for more information. Tickets are also available at many garden centres.

East And Bays Courier