Brilliant Bell Block blooms

Dawn and Ron Peck are surrounded by the Iceberg roses that edge their front path.
Dawn and Ron Peck are surrounded by the Iceberg roses that edge their front path.

Words starting with B gush forth on a visit to the Bell Block garden of Dawn and Ron Peck. Beautiful is one. Blooming. Bountiful. Bonny. Busy. Bridal, even.

Beautiful tends to be overused; it's hard not to keep repeating it.

Bridal comes up because the entrance to the front door is lined with a row of white Iceberg roses. Walking up here every day, you could fancy yourself breezing down a wedding aisle.

A fair amount of work goes into keeping these roses - and all the hundreds around them - looking fresh.

"It's a shame you weren't here last week because they were so thick," says Dawn, cheerfully.

"Only today I've caught up with the deheading. I've taken buckets and buckets off them," she says referring to the spent roses that have been clipped out of sight. Despite her concern that the garden may not be looking its loveliest, we're dazzled by vigour and colour. More than 180 roses form the bulk of the floral display. Like all dead-keen gardeners, she is probably her own harshest critic.

This weekend Dawn will be one entrant in the New Plymouth Horticultural Society's summer festival. The long-running event is open to everyone and those entering plants or cut blooms don't need to be hort society members.

Dawn joined the horticultural society years ago. She can't remember when. She usually submits an entry in the competition side of the show. Her most notable attempt was a potted orchid - not a rose - covered in blooms that took out top prize in the hanging basket section.

"If you put something in and it wins, it's lovely. If you don't win it doesn't worry me. I go out and pick something the day before, and away I go."

The Pecks moved on to their Parklands Ave property 18 years ago. At the time they were living around the corner on Smeaton Dr. Ron's work with Firestone Tyres had taken them to different parts of the country. They were back in Taranaki and Ron drove past the section on his way to work every day. He liked the look of it but it wasn't for sale and the owners planned to build townhouses on the land.

When the owners did decide to sell - before the townhouses went up - they let the Pecks know.

The timing was all bad.

Ron had bought a new business and a new house was far from the couple's mind. Still, he was driving past it every day, suffering a daily torment.

"In the end I said: you can't put me under that pressure.

"One thing led to another and we bought it," recalls Ron.

It doesn't seem they've had a moment of regret.

There are views of the sea from the first-storey living areas and the 700-square-metre section dips down from the front to a relatively sheltered back.

When they arrived, rubbishy stuff dotted the section.

But Ron has nourished the soil over the years with animal manure, and a range of fertiliser and garden food.

He's also modified the layout.

"We've changed it four or five times from what it was.

"It's a bit like the weather - you never know what it's going to be like, adds Dawn.

"But it's just a lovely section to be on."

A series of arm and shoulder injuries has prevented any modifications for the time being.

A fall late last year caused the damage and an operation is probable.

That's frustrating for Ron, who seems a methodical DIYer used to getting stuck in.

As well as flourishing gardens of flowers and veges, the property contains a glasshouse, a shadehouse, an orchid house, a potting shed, a raised strawberry bed, and a boxed berry cane bed. Ron has built them all, save for the glasshouse.

"As I say, it's just evolved over a period. You have an idea in your head and it goes from there.

"If you did it all at once, it would cost too much money so it's best to do it in stages."

The front garden is flat and curves around a lawn. Two flowering cherries add height above the abundance of roses. Some are standards; some are bush roses.

White Icebergs take a starring role as do pink and burgundy versions of the popular hybrid.

The red rose "Loving Memory" is dotted around the garden along with a range of yellow roses ("Serendipity" and "Freesia" among them). An orange rose, "Sunset Safari", with petals that resemble the colours of a sunset, stands out. There are also pinks, lilac and cream-coloured ones. At ground level, purple petunias blanket the soil.

Down the side of the house, Ron has created Pukekura Park.

That's Dawn's term for the shadehouse cleverly constructed in a gap between a neighbour's fence and the west-facing wall of the house.

This enclosed space is like a mini version of the glasshouses in the park. Ron tucks all sorts in here. Bromeliads by the dozen, a series of hoya plants, orchids, clivia, ferns, fuchsias and climbing plants like clematis and stephanotis.

The latter, with leaves like the popular Chinese star jasmine, winds its way across part of the ceiling. The waxy flowers, notable for their scent, are often used in bridal bouquets.

Half of the back of the property is given over to berries, veges, herbs and other edible goodies.

A passionfruit vine dripping with unripe fruit winds across a fence. It is above pots of colourful begonias and a waist-high strawberry trough constructed by Ron.

A range of herbs - rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, mint, garlic chives, spring onions - sit in neat clumps in another smaller raised bed. Nearby a vigorous raspberry cane sits behind a wooden frame, like a growing picture.

Bird netting looped on to nails keeps birds at bay. When Dawn wants the fruit she just unhooks the netting.

Many of the veges are contained in tidy rows in the main vege garden.

Everything - beetroot, watermelon, rockmelon, carrots, capsicums, tomatoes - is flourishing.

Ron grows two lots of tomatoes - some outside and another batch in the glasshouse. The inside ones soak up water through a hydroponic system.

Lettuce and other leafy greens such as silverbeet are also grown under cover.

The Pecks are almost self- sufficient in veges, only buying potatoes and pumpkins because they lack the room for them.

The tomatoes are harvested through the summer and autumn until winter.

The outdoor tomatoes are trained across a series of horizontal nylon ropes, attached to stakes and waratahs. It means fewer stakes are used and the tomatoes enjoy strong support.

The other half of the back section boasts floral colour such as roses, clematis, lilies, wisteria and vireya rhododendrons.

In the far corner is nestled the green-topped orchid house.

It has a whimsical quality about it. The green roof is really a thick carpet of purple- flowering bougainvillea.

There's a pole down the middle that resembles a tree trunk, and glass in the walls and ceiling means the garden seems to engulf the structure.

It's like the warmth engulfing this garden. The Pecks are open, engaging and sincere, willing to share their patch with whoever gets as much pleasure from it as they do.

Peck garden highlights:

- Dawn and Ron Peck's Bell Block garden is a regular entrant in Taranaki's Fringe Garden Festival.

- They've lived on the property for 18 years and passers-by can't help but be struck by the healthy roses.

- Among the garden's other features are masses of edible plants and a series of structures, most built by Ron. These include a tiered shade house, orchid house, potting shed, glasshouse, strawberry bed and a berry frame.

- In his shade house, dubbed Pukekura Park by Dawn, are interesting bromeliads, orchids, hoya and the climber stephanotis (Madagascar jasmine) with its waxy, scented flowers, often used in bridal bouquets.

- This weekend the Pecks will take part in the New Plymouth Horticultural Society summer show at Pukekura Raceway Function Centre, Tuson Lounge.

Taranaki Daily News