Mod­est Muriel ‘just a gar­dener’

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - EVAN HARD­ING

Muriel Dav­i­son isn’t big on re­ceiv­ing awards – she would rather be work­ing in her gar­den.

Hers is no or­di­nary gar­den: it sprawls over 16 hectares and is grow­ing, has thou­sands of va­ri­eties of trees and plants, ponds and bird­song.

Be­hind it all is a woman who loves gar­den­ing.

De­spite 76-year-old Dav­i­son’s re­luc­tance to be in the lime­light, she has re­ceived the Royal New Zealand In­sti­tute of Hor­ti­cul­ture’s most pres­ti­gious award.

A max­i­mum of 53 people have the as­so­ciate of hon­our award at any one time, and now she is one of them.

Her Maple Glen gar­den at Glen­ham, South­land, for which she won the award, is no hid­den se­cret.

It has been open to the pub­lic for 40 years and in 2014 Mag­gie Barry, who fronted the Mag­gie’s Gar­den­ing Show tele­vi­sion pro­gramme in the 1990s, rated it as one of the top three gardens in New Zealand.

‘‘What did I do to de­serve that [award],’’ Dav­i­son said be­fore re­ceiv­ing it from the hor­ti­cul­ture in­sti­tute last week. ‘‘I am just a gar­dener.’’ Maybe so, but she is a very good gar­dener and yet she cred­its the plants.

‘‘Ev­ery­thing I learn, I learn from the plants, if you take no­tice [of them].’’

What started as a small veg­etable gar­den half a cen­tury ago grew, and grew – and keeps grow­ing.

She jok­ingly says it is a ‘‘nut case’s gar­den’’.

‘‘I just found a love for grow­ing things.’’

She also likes birds, and car­ries bird seed in her pock­ets to feed the likes of wood pi­geons, bell­birds, fan­tails and tui, ev­ery day.

The gar­den is very much a fam- ily af­fair, with hus­band Bob and son Rob in­volved in the day-to-day work on the prop­erty, which in­cludes a nurs­ery busi­ness.

‘‘The nurs­ery is all from the gar­den,’’ Dav­i­son says.

‘‘This is what we have lived on for 40 years, ever since we gave up milk­ing cows.

‘‘It’s not work when you love what you are do­ing,’’ she says.

‘‘I love get­ting my hands dirty and see­ing things grow.

‘‘You put a seed in and watch it grow ev­ery year; it’s sat­is­fac­tion, I sup­pose.’’

She has im­ported seed from around the world to grow plants and trees in the gar­den, which con­sists of ‘‘ev­ery­thing that will grow in South­land’’.

‘‘We have found out in the last 50 years what will grow in our cli­mate and soil.’’

Of them all, daf­fodils are the one thing she would hate to live without. ‘‘[Daf­fodils] make the spring.’’ A big gar­den comes with a big work­load.

There are al­ways weeds to pull and lawns to mow.

Mow­ing the lawns, largely made up of an ex­ten­sive net­work of grass paths which wind through the hilly 16 hectares, takes son Rob 11 hours at a time on his ride-on mower.

‘‘He’s still go­ing at mid­night some­times.’’

PHOTOS: JOHN HAWKINS/STUFF

Muriel Dav­i­son has re­ceived the Royal New Zealand In­sti­tute of Hor­ti­cul­ture’s high­est award.

Muriel and Bob Dav­i­son’s 16-hectare Maple Glen gar­den at Glen­ham, look­ing back to the fam­ily home.

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