Someone else's dream

Ava and Carly Thomas walk through their Kiwitea garden.
DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

Ava and Carly Thomas walk through their Kiwitea garden.

Carly Thomas continues her chaotic journey since buying a grand-old country house and garden in rural Manawatu.

COUNTRY HOUSE: I have something to admit. A confession of sorts. It's something I didn't realise until I was having a mad and ferocious natter with someone I had just met.

Talk, as it very often does these days, had turned to my house. It started with the usual banter about how it was Nancy's for decades and how I had taken on her significant garden.

The Thomas' first house purchase was a cottage in nearby Kimbolton, formerly owned by Ruby McGhee.
CARLY THOMAS/STUFF

The Thomas' first house purchase was a cottage in nearby Kimbolton, formerly owned by Ruby McGhee.

We talked about daffodils and the persistence of weeds and then I realised something out loud.

"I've done this before."

It wasn't until after I uttered those words I realised; I had. The first house we ever bought was a little old gem. A cottage just up the road in Kimbolton. And that house, like this one, was always someone else's.

Ruby McGhee's Kimbolton garden is full of colourful perennials.
CARLY THOMAS/STUFF

Ruby McGhee's Kimbolton garden is full of colourful perennials.

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It was Ruby McGhee's. She had lived her whole life in the dot of a cottage that looks like a child's drawing of a house and it was, and in my mind still is, Ruby's house. 

That house was Ruby's and this house is Nancy's. I have done it again.

The flowers are starting to bloom in Carly Thomas' Kiwitea garden
CARLY THOMAS/STUFF

The flowers are starting to bloom in Carly Thomas' Kiwitea garden

The gardens are both epic and all I want is for them to be as they were when those two women stood back, hands on hips, and thought "yes, this is a thing of beauty". It's an intangible "maybe next season" kind of dream, but it's a dream at least. And to be a gardener, you have to be a head-in-the-clouds dweller. 

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They might  have known each other, those two hard-working women. Ruby's garden has a different personality to this one. She liked cottage perennials, pastels, love-in-a-mist, pansies and a delicate palette.

Ruby was soft edges and curves. An old photo of her vegetable garden showed self-containment, hard work and dirt-under-the-fingernails practicality.

The hard graft over the winter is starting to pay off  as plants begin to flower.
CARLY THOMAS/STUFF

The hard graft over the winter is starting to pay off as plants begin to flower.

Nancy's garden is bolder, bigger in the impression it leaves, more sweeping in the motion it creates. But they may have compared dahlias, swapped bulbs and drunk tea. They just might have been friends.

Ava was a baby when I took on Ruby's dirt. And it's what I did all day, pretty much every day.

Ruby's garden was long neglected, the meandering beds had to be found underneath well-heeled undergrowth. It was more archaeological digging than gardening for the first year, but it was the first house we loved and the first garden I lost sleep over. 

And I didn't think about it until today and even then, it was an accidental, snuck-up-from-behind sort of a thought. I look after other people's gardens and I try to keep them just as they were.

And maybe someday someone will do the same for me. See what I saw, dream what I dreamt. 

 

 

 - Stuff

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