Vil­lage peo­ple

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Nes­tled on a gen­tle north fac­ing slope at Tau­ranga’s Pyes Pa, the houses at Cop­per Crest Vil­lage are united by their clas­sic ar­chi­tec­ture and beau­ti­fully main­tained streetscapes. But their gar­dens are as in­di­vid­ual as their oc­cu­pants.

Ev­ery­one has a nice gar­den at Cop­per Crest, but you can gar­den as lit­tle or as much as you like and there’s no need to own a lawn­mower or trim­mer. On week days, chief gar­dener Kevin and his team are busy through­out the vil­lage keep­ing ev­ery­thing spic and span. “Our gar­dens are a sense of great pride, both to our res­i­dents and our grounds team,” says Vil­lage Man­ager, Astrid Martin. “We know how im­por­tant it is to one’s well­be­ing to do the things we love, so we share the car­ing and feast on the vis­ual de­lights that brings!”

Bill Reeves en­joys his spa­cious back lawn, but th­ese days he is only par­tially sighted so he’s happy to leave the mow­ing up to oth­ers.

A few doors down from Bill, Ali­son Beck gar­dens mainly on her sunny street frontage where her cheer­ful dis­play of flower pots is en­joyed by passersby. For Ali­son gar­den­ing is all about colour. “If it doesn’t have flow­ers I’m not in­ter­ested!” she says. But she doesn’t miss out on fresh lo­cally grown vegeta­bles. Down at the Merid­ian Cen­tre, the so­cial hub of the vil­lage, there is a ta­ble where gar­den­ers can take their sur­plus fruit and veges to share and swap.

Veg­etable gar­den­ing is pop­u­lar at Cop­per Crest. To make it easy, ev­ery home comes with a waist high gar­den bed. And you don’t have to go far to find an ex­pe­ri­enced gar­dener will­ing to give ad­vice.

Keen gar­dener Robin Clegg speaks highly of the friend­ship and com­mu­nity sup­port he en­joys at Cop­per Crest. The Grow­ing Com­pe­ti­tion he started for fun four years ago now has over 50 par­tic­i­pants. Last year they grew fancy car­rots. This year they’re grow­ing peanuts. A reg­u­lar news­let­ter from ‘Mr P’ and the Grow­ing Com­mit­tee

“We’re close to fam­ily, walk­ing dis­tance from friends, and we can lock up and leave when­ever we please.”

keeps con­tes­tants up to date with progress and ad­vice.

Robin is a for­mer school prin­ci­pal. He re­mem­bers the time a lo­cal dad came to talk to the school gar­den­ing club and de­liv­ered a les­son the kids (and Robin) never for­got. Mr Clegg was made to take off his shoes and socks and stand on the soil with his bare feet. If it felt cold, it was still too cold to sow seeds.

Robin’s com­pact gar­den ex­udes va­ri­ety and sur­prise. Beans, salad greens and straw­ber­ries are lush with spring growth in his net-cov­ered veg­etable beds. Around the cor­ner in a space less than two me­tres wide is a mini or­chard - fruit trees trained against a tall re­tain­ing wall. The es­paliered ap­ple tree is triple grafted with Royal Gala, Golden De­li­cious and Splen­dour. Each ripens at a dif­fer­ent time, ex­tend­ing Robin’s har­vest. Stan­ley plum is a va­ri­ety he’s grown for years but this is the first time he’s es­paliered it. Self-fer­tile with beau­ti­ful navy blue skin, Stan­ley is a prune plum, but so de­li­cious fresh Robin’s never had any left to dry. “The grand­chil­dren know it’s time to visit from the 12th to 15th of Feb­ru­ary when the sweet juicy plums are ready to eat,” he laughs. There are two dif­fer­ent kinds of fei­joa; Wiki Tu with huge fruit and Opal Star for late sea­son ripen­ing. There is also a dwarf le­mon tree which Robin be­lieves ev­ery gar­dener should plant.

Above his fruit trees Robin has planted blue flow­ers for the bees. They are also flow­ers his wife Val would have en­joyed. Sadly Robin lost Val to cancer two years ago. He points to her favourite flow­ers in the gar­den, like the sweet peas he grows from seed, and plants they en­joyed in all of their gar­dens over the years, in­clud­ing a dwarf Ja­panese Maple. The hol­ly­hocks are on their way up and the Vireya rhodo­den­drons are cov­ered in bloom. He feeds them and many other plants in his gar­den with worm juice from his own worm farm. Robin also rec­om­mends seaweed and fish food.

Robin cred­its his friend Pamela Robert­son for her won­der­ful plant­ing ideas and says she’s great for ad­vice when de­cid­ing what to plant. Com­ing from a neigh­bour­hood of peo­ple with young fam­i­lies and busy jobs - peo­ple they rarely saw - Pamela and her hus­band David say they’re lov­ing the greater sense of com­mu­nity they have found at Cop­per Crest. If they feel like an ad­ven­ture their mo­bile home is set to go. But they don’t have to leave the vil­lage to get up close with na­ture; the birds are daily vis­i­tors to the feed­ing ta­ble David has set up un­der a Kowhai tree in their pri­vate north-fac­ing gar­den.

Lynne and Robin Sand­ford also recog­nised the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity when they re­con­sid­ered a long held plan to re­tire to the fam­ily

beach house in favour of Cop­per Crest. Four years af­ter re­lo­cat­ing from their Taranaki home and gar­den, they’re happy they made that de­ci­sion. “We’re close to fam­ily, walk­ing dis­tance from friends, and we can lock up and leave when­ever we please,” says Lynne. Not that their con­ve­nient new life­style has pre­vented them from cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful gar­den. Sur­round­ing vi­brant green lawns (Robin’s spe­cialty) and shel­tered sit­ting ar­eas are colour­ful shrubs, peren­ni­als and flow­er­ing an­nu­als in­clud­ing Kaponga rhodo­den­dron and lit­tle Haw­era daf­fodils to re­mind them of Taranaki.

There are sto­ries to tell in Nancy and John Pav­ior-Smith’s gar­den. A favourite rose called Hugs and Kisses was named by a group of school chil­dren who John in­tro­duced to rose breed­ing. An­other spe­cial rose, named af­ter a daugh­ter, took years to get grow­ing from a cut­ting. Fail­ing eye­sight has not stopped Nancy from ac­tively gar­den­ing. She en­joys bright colours and fra­grance, both in plen­ti­ful sup­ply in this im­mac­u­late rose packed gar­den. As long time mem­bers of the NZ Rose So­ci­ety, Nancy and John’s col­lec­tive knowl­edge on all things rosy is in­spir­ing.

And if you want to talk about or­chids, Dan Jensen is your man. Dan says he’d study botany if he had his univer­sity days over again. Dan and Ju­dith’s com­pact gar­den is de­voted to a stun­ning col­lec­tion of or­chids. Pot­ted cym­bid­i­ums pro­vide a spec­tac­u­lar mass of bloom right out­side the liv­ing room win­dow. Dan has trans­formed an­other nar­row pa­tio next to the re­tain­ing wall along the south side of the house into a mag­i­cal green al­ley where and rare or­chids in mossy ponga logs min­gle with ferns and other shade-lov­ing trea­sures. Dan also has an in­ter­est in na­tive plants and is a mem­ber of a Cop­per Crest group who reg­u­larly visit Sanc­tu­ary Moun­tain Maun­gatau­tari, help­ing with main­te­nance projects while en­joy­ing the beau­ti­ful na­tive bush and bird life.

The phys­i­cal and men­tal health ben­e­fits that come from gar­den­ing are well doc­u­mented. In his book ‘The Cre­ative Age: Awak­en­ing Hu­man Po­ten­tial in the Sec­ond Half of Life’ the Amer­i­can psy­chi­a­trist Dr Gene Co­hen points out the im­por­tance cre­ativ­ity plays in strength­en­ing brain func­tion. The sense of well­be­ing we get from cre­at­ing some­thing like a gar­den pro­motes a pos­i­tive out­look which boosts the im­mune sys­tem and fights dis­ease.

Glo­ria and Chris Elmiger know that feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment. They’ve been busy cre­at­ing a new rock gar­den at the en­trance to their villa, cart­ing their rocks by the boot load from a lo­cal sup­plier. “It’s cost a few dol­lars but we’re re­ally happy with the re­sult,” Glo­ria says. “We hope to be here for an­other 15-20 years, so will en­joy the money we’ve spent!”

The Cop­per Crest gar­den club pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to so­cialise and visit beau­ti­ful gar­dens around the dis­trict. Gar­den club con­vener Dul­cie Fisher also de­votes a lot of time to her golf but she still finds plenty of time to en­joy her gar­den, grow­ing colour­ful shrubs, suc­cu­lents and flow­er­ing peren­ni­als. Dul­cie’s neigh­bour Ann Hardy has trans­formed her small out­door space into an el­e­gant sanc­tu­ary filled with lush green fo­liage and flashes of colour. There is also a thriv­ing vege gar­den. The se­cret to such lush­ness she says is to water and feed lots.

For Betty and John Wake­lin, the move to Cop­per Crest marked huge life changes. Mov­ing to Tau­ranga af­ter 47 years in the Waikato co­in­cided with Betty fi­nally re­tir­ing from a busy travel agent job in her late seven­ties. Now, with more time to play, a new can­vas to plant and new friends with in­spir­ing gar­dens, their in­ter­est in gar­den­ing is reignited.

CLOCK­WISE FROM RIGHT:David’s bird ta­ble, Lynne’s brightly painted chairs, Dul­cie’s African daisies, Glo­ria’s irises and vibur­num, Robin’s dwarf beans, Lynne and Robin’s gar­den.

LEFT: Dan and Ju­dith’s Cym­bid­ium or­chids.

BE­LOW: Glo­ria in her rock gar­den.OP­PO­SITE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Get­ting ready for Cop­per Crest’s Christ­mas Fayre; salad greens and straw­ber­ries; suc­cu­lents in Dul­cie’s gar­den.

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