Gardener Interview #3
I first met Ali through Instagram which she invited me to come to Crosshill Gardens to do a workshop via the Secret Gardens network. Running a workship about how I take my photos was something that had never entered my mind and with Ali’s kind support we had a wonderful time in her garden, taking photos, even in the rain. Ali has a passion for gardening which she loves to share through her tours and through her newly created website where she shares her knowledge. She also shares beautiful photos of her garden via Instagram. Forever generous, she is one the best gardening cheerleaders you can have and yes we are looking at doing another work shop together later this year.
Tell us about your garden?
Crosshill garden was established way back in 1910 when, to my current understanding, it had previously been an outreach wool shed site on the Morven Hills Station, (some say the original station was up to 500,000 acres in size). The wool shed having been built in the 1890’s. In 1910 Crosshill Farm followed the river from the now Hawea Dam, through to Albert Town, Dublin Bay and Maungawera Valley. A sizeable piece of low and high country. After many subdivisions the homestead site now sits on 10 acres.
Do you have a garden style?
Taking on the custodianship of an old garden dictates the garden style to a large extent. There are many magnificent exotic trees on the property, Copper beech, Alder, Elm, Oak, Liquid Amber, and the fruit trees, essential to a property back when there were no supermarkets; Walnut, cherry and apple trees still produce plenty of fruit. We are utilising current methods such as No-Dig gardening, caring for the soil which intern cares for the plants - very limited chemical sprays around here.
Did you start your garden with a set vision as to what it would look like?
When we viewed the property 2 years ago, it was in fine hands, the previous owners had lovingly reshaped garden beds and were in the process of filling the beds when an accident halted the work. We were very fortunate to be able to continue the renovation and add our own touches.
Tell us a bit about Secret Gardens and the work you do with them?
Secret Gardens is a national group of keen gardeners who love to share their garden and knowledge. It’s only 1 and ½ years old. With Jane Mahoney at the helm we are in good hands, Janes’ vision has opened up otherwise ‘secret’ gardens to the public. Tours and workshops encourage and support interested and enthusiastic gardeners to pick up their garden tools and get growing.
How do you manage to keep your business out of your time in the garden or is it a happy blend of your business inspiring your garden and vice versa.
It’s a very happy blend, one would not exist without the other. I enjoy both working in my garden and sharing it with others.
What is your favourite time of the gardening year?
The change of seasons I think, as each new season arrives it’s a time to look forward knowing that the season passed was successful. Good things happened and new lessons were learned and noted for the following year.
What is your favourite gardening read?
I am currently obsessed with the book Soil by Matthew Evans published by Murdoch Books, can I give a shout out to our fabulous local bookshop The Next Chapter in Wanaka, they know their audience and have a large gardening section full of ‘books I must read’
What is the best gardening tool that you have?
My favourite and most loved is my grandfathers Wiger, it sees plenty of use throughout the seed raising seasons and brings back lovely memories of a very capable gardener. Closely followed by my Hori Hori knife.
What is your favourite go to plant which you would love to see more people growing?
Green leafy vegetables, without a doubt the most important part of my diet.
What is the best gardening advice that someone has given you?
“Just give it a try” and I did, time and time again, learning as I experimented.
Name a garden that you would like to visit and why?
Violet Faigan’s garden in Dunedin It’s street appeal is enchanting and every time I’m in Dunedin I visit her ‘honesty shop’ cuttings stall. I’d love to go on a tour one day.
Name a gardener that inspires you?
I’m inspired by the many gardeners who have visited my garden. I follow their journeys on Instagram, they are real and honest gardeners who talk about their successes and just as importantly their failures from which we can all learn.
What are your garden goals for the coming garden year?
I’ve just opened up a new vegetable garden space in the front paddock, it receives full sun unlike the old veg garden. Lot’s of work ahead to upgrade the soil but it has been a sheep paddock for ever so I’m hoping it will be fabulous.
Name a dream plant that you love that you would love to have in your garden?
I have always wanted a lilac tree, there was one in the very first garden my parents owned when I was born. Maybe this year I’ll plant one, after all I’ve only waited almost 6 decades!