Modest Muriel ‘just a gardener’
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.’’
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.