Friendships grown in the garden

KIM MACDONALD
Last updated 13:48 23/05/2014
peaches
JUST PEACHY: At 7, eating fresh peaches directly from the tree seemed like heaven.

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Most changes that we make start in our own homes and then as we get more passionate about something it starts to affect other circles of influence in our lives.

As the co-ordinator for Neighbourhood Support Nelson I have met many people who are influencing what their neighbours do with recycling and sharing produce, growing organic food and gardening.

My own life was influenced by my neighbours from a very young age. When I was about 12 I got stopped in my street by a very old German professor, Mr Bernardelli, who was a neighbour at number 13 - an address that we neighbourhood kids were wary of as the only plants in the front yard were a male and female artichoke.

He asked me whether I could climb up on his carport and cut his bougainvillea vines. He wrote a letter to my "Mamma" and there started one of the best relationships I had as a teenager.

For the next five years I would go over to his place and learn all about gardening through the seasons, composting and then sit in a couple of big wing chairs and eat a tray of something yummy, like grapes, and talk about classics, books, politics, music and many other interesting topics.

Behind his house was an amazing garden, like a child's wonderland - slightly wild with lots of little paths and different "garden rooms". Here was a neighbour who was a bit of a recluse, very eccentric, opening his home and garden to me.

It was so good that I didn't want to tell any of the other kids in the neighbourhood. The result was a friendship and mentoring relationship that really helped me survive the turbulent teenage years. He always believed in me and was a huge support as someone to talk to about anything.

Our other neighbour allowed me into his huge garden from the age of 5 and I liked nothing better than to sit between the row of sweet peas and peas in his garden, nibbling away on the peas and enjoying the decadent smell of sweet peas.

Many times I would climb up on his shed roof and eat the mandarins from the top of his tree. I decided by age 7 that eating fresh peaches directly from the tree would be what a heaven would be like.

I used to be able to look down on his garden from my bedroom and could hear his old wheelbarrow creek up and down the drive. I would lean out and call out "Hi, Mr Waygood!" and quickly pop over and see what new thing he was planning for his garden.

By 8, I was asking my parents for my own fruit trees for birthday presents, of course the first one I got was a mandarin tree. I have also named my cottage in Golden Bay "Sweet Pea Cottage" in memory of those childhood memories.

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Both these neighbours have had a lifelong influence on how I have enjoyed gardening, growing produce, composting and recycling. They were people who took the time to let someone very young into their lives and teach them lots by just letting them have a go.

Nelson is full of people like this who have amazing gardens and share their produce and gardens with those neighbours around them. Even with our busy lifestyles it is important to think of the next generation and help to influence their approach to their future gardens in a positive way. Sometimes all it takes is a friendship and some time, fostered over years.

  • Kim MacDonald is Nelson co-ordinator of Neighbourhood Support Nelson Inc. 50 Shades of Green is contributed fortnightly by the Nelson Environment Centre.

- The Nelson Mail

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