NZ Gardener - - 2018 Gardener Of The Year - TEXT: JO MCCAR­ROLL PHOTO: KERRY MARINKOVICH

Al­ways keen on horses, Bev Philpott had vol­un­teered with Whangarei’s Rid­ing for the Dis­abled for years, and seen the dif­fer­ence the char­ity made in the lives of peo­ple with whom it worked.

“When you are work­ing in the arena with the clients you see very quickly how the therapy trans­forms their lives,” she says. “I was lucky enough to ex­pe­ri­ence that.”

So when a knee in­jury meant she could no longer help with the horses, she still wanted to sup­port the work the char­ity did. “Be­cause I knew that it works.” With no govern­ment fund­ing, the Whangarei branch of RDA re­lies on do­na­tions, grants and spon­sor­ship. And with an an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get of $250,000, the staff and vol­un­teers were al­ways keen to think of a new way to raise ex­tra funds. In 2015 the then-man­ager sug­gested there might be a bit of money to be made rais­ing and sell­ing plants, and Bev put her hand up to co­or­di­nate a plant stall.

To be­gin with, Bev worked by her­self, but was soon joined by fel­low vol­un­teer Rose­mary Pe­gler. Rose­mary, who had a back­ground in the nurs­ery trade, sug­gested she re­cruit home prop­a­ga­tors to pro­duce more plants for sale.

Bev now works with around 12 other vol­un­teers who ei­ther prop­a­gate at home, or work to­gether at the on-site Whangarei RDA nurs­ery to grow plants for the stall (which is open Mon­day un­til Thurs­day in term time be­tween 9am and 3pm).

What’s on sale can be eclec­tic, Bev ad­mits, since the stock is cut­tings or di­vi­sions taken from what vol­un­teers have in their own gar­dens (or the gar­dens of amenable friends or fam­ily). But there’s usu­ally peren­ni­als, sub­trop­i­cals, ferns, palms, suc­cu­lents, bromeli­ads and aquatic plants. And since many vol­un­teers are also keen gar­den­ers, there’s of­ten plants that are hard or even im­pos­si­ble to buy from a com­mer­cial nurs­ery.

She doesn’t know ex­actly how many plants the vol­un­teers have grown, Bev says, but 4000 nurs­ery la­bels are do­nated an­nu­ally “and we al­ways run out”. And so far the stall has raised more than $17,000.

“And our plants are sold for be­tween $2 and $10,” Bev says. “The av­er­age price is about $5. So that’s a lot of plants.”

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