Creative gardening wins school a prestigious spot

WORTH THE WORK: Raumati South School has created a garden which will be shown at the Ellerslie Flower Show.
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
WORTH THE WORK: Raumati South School has created a garden which will be shown at the Ellerslie Flower Show.

A bicycle-powered water pump, butterfly house and driftwood sculpture of Kapiti Island will make history at the Ellerslie Garden Show in March.

They will be part of the first exhibit to have been created by schoolchildren since the show's exhibition category began in 1994.

Children from Raumati South School will travel to Christchurch to take part.

"The exhibition gardens are the creme de la creme," exhibition manager Kate Hillier said. "They're the top quality."

The efforts of the children came to the attention of Ellerslie staff after award-winning gardener Ben Hoyle and guest judge Te Radar gave glowing reviews of their entry in the Kapiti Sustainable Home and Garden Show.

Te Radar, whose endeavours to live off the land were beamed across New Zealand living rooms, was particularly jealous of the bicycle-powered water pump - a scheme dreamt up by a 10-year-old and constructed from old farming equipment.

Raumati South School has won the overall category of the local gardening show for two years in a row, as well as taking out a regional prize for its environmental work at this year's Encore Awards.

Ms Hillier travelled from Auckland to the Kapiti Coast to view the school and was particularly impressed with the quirky gardening methods on display.

She said a highlight of the trip was being treated to a lesson in making seed bombs from fertiliser, clay and flower seed, which were then launched from catapults the pupils had made.

"It was this whole guerrilla gardening idea that I thought was fantastic."

She is now planning to add seed bombs to the kids' activity section at Ellerslie.

The Raumati South entry for the Ellerslie show will include a pizza oven, African keyhole vegetable garden and butterfly house with a cacti roof. The garden's fence will be made from pallets donated by local businesses, and bricks from a demolished chimney will form the pizza oven.

Raumati South School teacher Michael Stewart said the African keyhole garden was well-suited to the sandy soil and sparse rainfall of the Kapiti Coast.

The Ellerslie display is part of a broader Go Green project that has been running at the school for five years. During that time, it has planted thousands of native trees in the school grounds, as well as a small fruit orchard.

Teacher aide Diane Turner said the planting project kicked off in the wake of concerns about the environmental impact of the proposed four-lane Kapiti expressway. "One of the children had asked where the birds were going to live when they brought the expressway in."

Children were well aware of environmental problems, even though they were complex. "They know there's a problem, and we've been able to empower them to be able to do something about it."

Eve Abernethy, 11, is one of 14 pupils who will be travelling to Christchurch for the Ellerslie show. She said she enjoyed learning about plants and sampling home-grown produce as a member of the Go Green team. "It's important because we're taking care of the environment - we're doing our bit."

All the plants and sculptures that will fill the school's Hagley Park patch have to be shipped down from Kapiti. In the event that some do not survive the journey, the school has kicked off a team effort to ensure that plenty of backup plants are on hand, with 38 seedlings being nurtured by Kapiti families over the summer holidays.

The children plan to donate their garden to Wharenui School in Christchurch after the show, and have named their creation A Garden Gifted.

Wharenui School principal Gretchen Smith said it would be a welcome addition to the school's small vegetable patch. "I was absolutely amazed. It seemed to be too good to be true, like a prank call or something."

The finishing touch will be a sculpture filled with hundreds of heart-shaped pumice stones, each etched with the initials of a Raumati South School pupil.

The Dominion Post