Flotsam and jetsam wonderland

20:50, Nov 12 2012
BUOYS AND GIRLS: An anatomically correct family group keep the old coal range company.

As a rule, any directions involving the assertion, "You can't miss it!" deserve the sceptical retort, "Yeah right!" But when tracking down Marilyn and Alan Clark's Beachcombers Cottage at Greenhills, there's little chance of going off course.

The first turn right off Omaui Rd is helpfully labelled Clark's Rd, and soon an uphill glimpse of eye-popping multi-coloured garlands of fishing floats against dense green foliage confirms destination ahead, port side.

Here the Clarks have transformed a long skinny sheep paddock on the exposed ridgeline into what they rightfully claim as a wonderland.

The solid shelter of native plantings is both practical and attractive (try counting how many different shrubs make up the tapestry of the roadside hedge), creating a multi-textured setting for prolific underplantings of exotic perennial colour mixed with more low-growing natives.

There are also highly organised vegetable gardens, a very sheltered chook yard and an enclosed orchard of enviable proportions.

(The need for enclosure is obvious, with birdlife in great volume.) This would all make interest in itself, but it's the profusion of Alan Clark's crazy creations that gives the garden its gloriously offbeat individuality.


Alan is clearly a beachcomber of note, and with friends like Tracker Black who drop found treasures at his door, he has unlimited material to bend to a very fertile imagination.

We've all seen that fishing industry waste on the beaches, the buoys, nets, rope and crates, and here we can see how very useful it can be for gardeners, for the likes of water butts, seating, trellises, pavers and more, especially when combined with driftwood.

Then there's the sculptures.

The first, a relatively simple buzzy bee from polystyrene floats, lurks deep in the bushes, eclipsed by the increasingly wacky complexity of Alan's output.

A Long Harry sign (washed up from Stewart Island), points to another floaty creature, this one long and lanky Tin Man type, skulking in the trees.

Bubble-buoy creatures sport amiable expressions and outlandish appendages - antlers, antennae, goggles - and customised features.

Everywhere there are buoys, all sizes and colours, the largest a monster from a tsunami warning system, now a concrete blobby body.

Surprisingly, Marilyn reports only one fisherman has come calling to uplift his buoys, the request baited with an offering of blue cod.

Any duckshooter who has lost a decoy in the Oreti catchment may find it in the convoy atop the Clark garage.

In its way, Beachcombers is as original and quirky as the late Myrtle and Bert Flutey's paua house; it's been created by owners with the same generous spirit.

It's fun, resourceful and it's emphatically a south coast garden with much to teach everyone about claiming their place with a garden linked to its locality.

Now details are up on the Southland Gardens to Visit webpage - southlandgardens.co.nz - there's every assurance the welcome mat is out, but by arrangement, please.

The Clarks ask only a gold coin donation and have sufficient outdoor table space for people to bring picnics.

Story suggestions or feedback on this page are welcome at timesgardening@gmail.com

The Southland Times