Whenever Marianne McRae steps out of her home, she enters a tropical paradise.
The garden of her Titirangi home has water features, hundreds of plants and seating areas to relax and sit among the colourful blooms.
For the second year, Mrs McRae will welcome visitors into her paradise for the Heroic Gardens Festival.
"Somebody had visited the garden and asked me if I'd be interested but I never thought it was good enough," she says.
"I was very anxious about it but people don't come to criticise, they come to appreciate."
The garden, which is a third of an acre, has been a work in progress since she moved into the South Lynn Rd home in 2000.
Mrs McRae has transformed the garden from a lack-lustre wilderness into what she now refers to as "peaceful and tranquil".
Last year, 1200 people visited the sprawling garden.
"I have landscaped it all bit by bit. I love quirky things that put a smile on your face," the retired teacher says. "I love the detail.
"The beauty is the tranquility."
Now in its 18th year, the Heroic Gardens Festival gives visitors exclusive access to some of the city's most prestigious private gardens.
Proceeds from the event will support Mercy Hospice Auckland's on-going work providing essential services free of charge to patients facing life-limiting illness and their loved ones.
Originally showcasing gay and lesbian-owned gardens, the festival has grown to include the gardens of many supporters of the city's hospices.
Mrs McRae, who retired from Glen Eden Intermediate three years ago after 28 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and again in 2007.
"I think it's a wonderful cause and it's something I can do," she says.
"It's close to my heart to be able to give something back.
"Everything that grows in my garden I take cuttings of and grow them into little plants to sell," Mrs McRae says.
"People can see them in my garden and see how it grows. It makes it a bit interesting."
Mrs McRae's garden features several fish ponds, waterfalls and rock steps with colourful vireyas, freesias and hostas planted throughout.
She draws inspiration from seeing other people's gardens and is looking forward to showing her garden for the second time.
Heroic Gardens Festival, February 22 and 23, 10am till 6pm. Garden creators will be on site for visitors to talk to and answer questions.
See heroicgardens.org.nz for ticket details and more information about the gardens.
- Western Leader
Have you already planned for your Christmas and New Year break?