Well-tended gar­den a plea­sure to more than just its mas­ter

Ev­ery­one has a story to tell and re­porter Caitlin Wal­lace man­ages to dig up Gra­ham Dun­stall’s.

South Waikato News - - BUSINESS HOTLINE -

Most men feel at ease grasp­ing a span­ner or a drill – not Gra­ham Dun­stall.

His tool of choice is def­i­nitely the prun­ing scis­sors.

Any­one would think the 76-year-old spent his work­ing life in hor­ti­cul­ture, but the roy­al­look­ing gar­den he grooms is merely a colourful hobby.

The re­mark­able col­lage of alyssums, marigolds and petu­nias which stands at the front of his house is noth­ing short of art­work on the quiet Toko­roa street.

When the re­tired teacher is not vis­it­ing fam­ily, he spends his days out in the sun – a pas­time that has tinged his age­ing skin brown.

Dun­stall said hor­ti­cul­ture has al­ways been a part of his life and he in­her­ited the not so ‘‘manly’’ hobby from his grand­par­ents.

De­spite an ad­mirable 33 years in the pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, Dun­stall has al­ways had an eye for a good-look­ing gar­den.

So it was only nat­u­ral that he grew one from scratch.

The blank can­vas he ar­rived to al­most half a century ago took years of hard work to trans­form.

The fa­ther of two and grand­fa­ther of six chuck­led when he re­mem­bered what his dou­ble sec­tion property used to look like.

‘‘There was a house, the garage, a drive­way and there was a let­ter­box and the grass was up to here,’’ he said as he raised his hand up past the ta­ble.

His wife of 50 years shared his pas­sion of hor­ti­cul­ture un­til she died in 2011 from leukaemia.

‘‘It prob­a­bly took us about 15 years. I had to re­move all the grass and grow crops. Mar­garet was the land­scaper and to­gether we did a lot of work,’’ he said.

Ev­ery morn­ing he wakes up to his mas­ter­piece of a back­yard and is re­minded of what they shared.

And it seems as if oth­ers de­light in the sight as much as Dun­stall.

‘‘Some­one took pho­tos of my gar­dens when they walked past my house and put them on Face­book,’’ he said.

He ad­mit­ted to not know­ing his way around the com­puter but said a friend alerted him to his ‘‘five min­utes of fame’’.

For those who live on the street, the bub­bly, grey-haired res­i­dent has be­came an iconic fig­ure.

Neigh­bours of­ten stop by for a chat as he prunes his flow­ers or mows the lawn, al­most al­ways wear­ing the same thing – cargo shorts, a check­ered shirt and wellloved, dirt-cov­ered gum­boots.

In true def­i­ni­tion of a hobby, Dun­stall said he en­joys spend­ing up to six-hours a day, el­bow deep in dirt.

And the hard work has paid off in more ways than one.

Be­fore his wife died Dun­stall be­came in­volved with the for­eign world of com­pet­ing in flower shows.

In seven years of en­ter­ing chrysan­the­mums he had col­lected more than a few tro­phies.

Out of about 80 flow­ers he keeps in his green­house, only a few make it to com­pe­ti­tion.

It is a lengthy seven to eight months to pro­duce a per­fect flower, he said, and there is a lot love and nur­tur­ing that goes into the fi­nal re­sult.

And while some might call it a repet­i­tive hobby, Dun­stall said it is the on­go­ing change that keeps things fresh.

The sea­son continues to bring new colours and dur­ing win­ter – what he calls the ‘rest time’, he knows he can look for­ward to a new, ex­cit­ing sum­mer.

Like most of his era, the green­fin­gered Dun­stall in­vested hours in the South Waikato com­mu­nity.

Some may know him as a teacher, oth­ers a parks and spa­ces man­ager or even a rugby ref­eree once upon a time.

But to many, he is sim­ply the lively gar­dener prun­ing his lit­tle cor­ner of Toko­roa.

Photo: CAITLIN WAL­LACE

GREEN FIN­GERED: Avid gar­dener Gra­ham Dun­stall is mak­ing the most of his re­tire­ment.

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