It has the reputation for being the warmest garden in Taranaki. Certainly the roses in Margaret's Garden come out earlier than they do in other gardens around the mountain.
This is both good and bad. It's good because it means a number of roses will be showing off when her garden is open during the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular. It's bad because her blooms are usually past their best for the Taranaki Rose Society's annual show.
Margaret Goble, 81, has been a member of the Rose Society since 1961.
There were a lot more members then, she says, and a lot more of them were men.
"I used to travel in from the other side of Inglewood. I was so keen to go to the meetings and hear all these speakers. I was a dairy farmer's wife with a young family, but I'd go to those meetings. I didn't stay for the supper, because I had to get up at 5 the next morning."
She liked the people, she says. Now she is the society's patron - what that entails she isn't sure, having only recently got the job.
Roses are her favourite flowers, she says.
"Look at the colour you get for nine months of the year."
There are always new roses coming out, but she clings to her favourites. Margaret says the secret with roses is to feed them well and spray them.
But only spray with copper in early spring and late autumn.
"Give them plenty of shelter, they don't like being in the wind. This time of the year there is so much growth, it is hard to keep spray on the leaves."
Margaret used to have about 400 roses, but is now down to about 250, give or take a few. She hasn't counted lately.
The roses are one of the many attractions in her garden that keeps bringing people back 17 years after she first entered the festival to raise money for the Cancer Society.
Last year Margaret had 1202 visitors, up on about 1000 in 2010.
"It's good to be busy and have people come to visit. The days are long when you sit here and no-one comes.
"The first weekend is very busy, so are the first few days. Tuesday, for some unknown reason, seems to be a quieter day and then it picks up again."
The festival has changed over the years, she says.
"It's now run by Taft. They are very good at what they do and organising things. I think, if it wasn't for them, it would have gone."
The festival has gone through different stages, she says. But on average she gets more visitors now than she has in the past.
The last two years have been good because the weather has been fine.
"It was wonderful. It makes a difference. I've seen visitors come in their gumboots, raincoats, umbrellas and I put my gumboots on, too."
The weather doesn't affect visitors from out of town, who come anyway, but the local people look out the window at the rain and think 'I'll do it next year', she says. She is seeing a lot more visitors from Australia.
A group of visitors have been coming down from Auckland for years. She doesn't know their names, but every year they stand in her garden and chat away like old friends.
"Some people want to know everything, the names of everything. They are really gardeners. Others just walk around, but don't sort of ask you. They like to look at gardens, but are not what I would call gardeners."
Meeting nice people is what it is all about for Margaret.
"I don't consider it work because I enjoy gardening all the time. I'm in the garden every day for several hours because I like doing it. Beats housework."
Margaret has been interested in gardening since she was a little girl when she used to go over the road to her aunt's house and offer to weed the garden.
"She had two daughters who couldn't understand why I'd offer to weed the garden. I went to a small country school and thought it was a privilege . . . That was during the war."
When she got married Margaret lived on a dairy farm, where she grew a lot more roses than she has now.
"It was a battle between me and the possums. It broke my heart. I used to have busloads coming to look at the garden then, too, but not as many as I get in the festival."
Margaret moved into her house at Brixton 30 years ago.
There were three trees and no garden when she first arrived, she says.
"It sort of just grew."
How long it takes to establish a garden depends on what kind of plants you want to grow.
"You have to get your trees in, which doesn't happen over night. Then get your hedges in if that's what you want. But here the soil is so good everything grows. And get your shelter in.
"That's a main thing, no point in buying roses and plants and you've got [them] open to all wind - your shelter must come in first."
She has half an acre which, apart from the house, is nearly all garden.
"You have your failures. You see something in the shop and think, 'Ooh I'd love that,' but it doesn't quite work out. Some people have a garden and it's formal and looks like that all year round. I like plants and I'll cram everything in."
Margaret was less than impressed when flowers went out of fashion and it was all about grasses and flaxes.
"It was awful. I went up to Ellerslie - I was so disgusted one year. I used to go up every year and I was not impressed. In Taranaki we get lots of green paddocks, so I like to have colour. I try to colour co-ordinate things but it doesn't always work out."
She likes a garden that people have to walk around to see what is there, with different little rooms.
Margaret enjoys gardening because she can forget everything else when she is outside. If she has been having a bad day, she'll go and pick up a spade.
"I can go for several days and not see anybody and it doesn't bother me. I might talk to the plants and wonder who shifted my trowel and my spade and walk right round the garden and there it was, right behind where you were standing."
Even in Brixton the possums are giving Margaret grief. She catches the furry pests in cages - she has caught four in the last two weeks - and her son-in-law comes and deals to them.
"It is the most I've ever caught. I thought we were getting on top of that problem. They wreck the garden."
She gets busier before the festival, she says.
"I have a big cleanup and then do it all again if there is a storm. We need warm weather in the lead-up, this time the nights have been too cold. The roses aren't quite out."
Some plants can be moved around in autumn, otherwise she has to wait until spring. Gaps appear, trees grow over things - there is always something to do.
"I enjoy people who just come in. Some people get all flustered but, if I'm covered in dirt, I don't care. I like people to just turn up. When it's not festival, just come."
- Taranaki Daily News
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