Gardening guru Eion Scarrow passes away

Gardening personality Eion Scarrow with his wife Ann.
Fairfax NZ
Gardening personality Eion Scarrow with his wife Ann.

Gardening guru Eion Scarrow spent his final weeks advising the residents and staff of Apirangi Village in Te Kauwhata on how to deal with the drought conditions that threatened to scuttle the village's gardens.

It was a fitting role for the man who dug a career from the earth, providing viewers of popular garden show Dig This with all they needed to know about producing the best vegetables and most beautiful flowers.

So when Scarrow died on Anzac Day the gardening world lost one of it's most hardy soldiers - a man whose weapons of choice were a spade and pitch fork.

Scarrow, 81, presented Dig This  from 1972-1986, he also presented gardening programmes on radio for 30 years, wrote columns for several publications and took garden tours to 90 countries as well as writing a total of 24 books.

He spent his last four months working on book number 25 at the Apirangi Village rest home where manager Margaret

Donald said he was well known amongst staff and residents for his love of the facility's gardens.

''He had his computer and desk here and he was really wanting to finish his book,'' she said.

From his bedroom window Scarrow watched with interest as the local Lions Club assembled a planned aviary on the grounds - a project he was hoping to see come to fruition.

Scarrow's love of gardening began as a youngster thanks to parents who were keen gardeners.

Fellow gardener, former Hamilton City Councillor and horticulturist, Bill Ward, knew Scarrow for more than 45 years.

''His death is certainly sad for the industry - he truly opened up a new world for today's horticulturists,'' he said.

Ward described Scarrow as a ''grass-roots man'' who was self-taught and passionate about horticulture where he belonged to the Chrysanthemum, African Violet and Fuchsia societies.

Scarrow established Hamilton's most popular private garden, Willow Glen at Gordonton. It was there that he married his second wife, Ann, in 1990.

Five year's later the couple moved to a property on the hills above Hampton Downs where visitors could drop in and purchase plants from the nursery.

Scarrow was also a regular at markets around the region selling his plants.

Good friend, Te Kauwhata resident, Paul McKenzie described Scarrow as ''a good man''.

''I met him down at the [Te Kauwhata] markets but prior to that I knew him from talkback radio,'' he said. ''I went up to his property a few times, it was beautiful with amazing views.''

Scarrow was also known for his good humour - he once declared that by placing plastic bottles filled with water on the lawn, dogs would be deterred from going about their business.

His loyal followers were soon following his advice - completely unaware of his April Fool's joke.

Over the years Scarrow has battled illness including prostate cancer - using his celebrity status to raise awareness of the disease.

But it was a variety of health issues that prompted his move into care at Apirangi Village in January. He remained there until his death last Thursday, surrounded by family.

Scarrow leaves behind Ann, four adult children and three adult step-children, 13 grandchildren and one great grandson - a second great grandchild was born in the early hours of last Friday morning.

Scarrow's funeral will take place today at the Te Kauwhata rugby ground at 1pm.