When the stern talk came about heading up a ladder with a chainsaw, Brian Boland knew it was time to downsize. In his mid-70s, he had worked for years in his own New Plymouth garden, as well as caring for his daughter's Westown patch.
"I had been given an ultimatum by the family that I was no longer able to take a chainsaw up a ladder to prune the trees," he remembers with a chuckle.
He and wife Monica visited retirement villages, settling on the Masonic Trust village in Clawton St, but the garden in front of their unit was tiny.
"I remember telling the secretary of the trust, 'That little bit of garden - it will send me mad in retirement'."
She simply pointed to another piece of garden and said: "Well, see that area across there? You can garden that to your heart's content."
He was off - clearing, weeding and planting a scrubby patch across the driveway that ran between the village and an adjacent gully. It wasn't overly large, but enough to satisfy his deep green-fingered urges.
He planted shrubs, such as camellias, trained clematis up existing tree ferns, and put in easy-care daisies, as well as a host of other attractive shrubs.
At the back of their retirement unit, he filled a narrow passage between the house and the road with endless pots of cuttings. Now, the garden work has slowed as bone cancer takes hold in his body. Neighbours have taken up the baton, continuing the garden he started, so that it now extends close to the Clawton St entrance.
"This was probably the ideal place for someone like me to retire to. I wanted to find an environment I could enjoy in my later years, never realising I would live well into my 80s."
Snoozing his way through retirement was never an option for this retired postal worker, a man who played a supervisory role during the 1968 sinking of the Wahine in Wellington harbour.
"I went to work that morning and came home 36 hours later. We had the only communication system going."
Getting outdoors, not staying inside, was his philosophy.
"I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn't turn on the telly before tea time. It has to be something fairly important nationwide for me to switch it on [during the day]."
At another retirement village, Betty Clough talks of the therapy her garden provides. Resident at Molly Ryan in Mangorei Rd for 18 years, Clough says, "It's part of my life. It's necessary to keep your mind good, to get you outside."
Wind whistles down the middle of the village, so it's not always easy tilling her attractive, colourful garden. Low- growing plants are better and flowers are favoured over edible plants.
"I haven't room for vegetables, and flowers are far more important anyway. You can buy vegetables."
Energetic birds keep her company. She doesn't mind them scratching in the soil.
Another big factor in her enjoyment is caretaker Bryan Young.
"He keeps you going mentally because he's always cheerful."
A former dairy farmer from Huirangi, Young encourages residents to keep up their gardens. He'll help when needed and is in charge of general garden beds and trees around the village, but independence is nurtured. A sincere man, there's no sense he's enforcing rules about what should be planted.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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