Vandals wreck cactus centrepiece

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2012
New Plymouth landscape designer Michael Mansvelt with the chopped-down cactus
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ
IN THE CACTUS: New Plymouth landscape designer Michael Mansvelt with the chopped-down cactus outside his client’s house.

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Vandals have ruined a project by high-profile Taranaki landscape designer Michael Mansvelt hours before the release of a magazine cover story about it.

Mr Mansvelt, who a few years ago starred in television's Back To Basics home improvement show, had designed a beachfront house for a New Plymouth client and landscaped the property as well.

Centrepiece of the landscaping was a 4-metre-high cactus, a native of California know as the organ pipe cactus, which Mr Mansvelt grew from a cutting bought off a Waitara gardener more than 20 years ago.

The result was stunning.

So much so a photograph of the new house, with the cactus in the foreground, has been published on the cover of the latest edition of the highly-regarded Trends magazine that goes on bookshop shelves this week.

But someone sneaked on to the new property and chopped the cactus down.

"I'm gutted, mate," Mr Mansvelt said yesterday.

"I don't understand why anyone would want to do this.

"It's not as if the cactus was blocking anyone's view.

"It was simply a beautiful plant that I had decided to use in my client's garden as a non-obtrusive accent to their new house.

"Whoever did it had to go to quite a bit of effort, too.

"It looks like a saw and an axe had to be used to cut the cactus down."

Trends managing editor John Williams said the photographer who took the cover shot was livid the cactus had gone.

"Actually we're all quite gutted. The plant made the photograph - that's why we chose it for the cover. It helped make the new house look like an iconic Palm Springs property of the 1950s."

Mr Williams added that in Arizona a person could be sentenced up to 25 years in jail for chopping down a cactus. "Not a lot of people know that," he said.

The property's owner, who did not wish to be named, said she was disappointed with the vandalism and felt really sorry for Mr Mansvelt.

"But a lot worse has happened.

"Look at Christchurch - this is nothing compared with what people are having to put up with down there," she said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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