A garden in waiting

May 26, 2022

When some old tree ferns were removed from a Mosgiel backyard in November last year, they left behind a bare fence line and empty spaces. That provided a blank canvas for the creative types among the staff and residents at an IDEA Services home.

A garden was waiting to happen at Hagart-Alexander Drive.

Within a few months, the fence was stained, hanging flower baskets were installed and tyres from Beaurepaires were painted and lined to use as planters. Then the plants joined the party.

The six residents who live at ‘Hagart’ are pretty self-sufficient in vegetables these days and there is plenty left over to share with other IDEA Services homes and neighbours.

Everyone was involved in the project in some way – either planning, painting and planting the new garden – and then cooking.

The chief gardeners are Barry Strawford and Jackie Clarkson. Together they stained the fence and took a lead in developing the garden. IDEA Services Support Worker Justine Tindley got in touch with Mitre 10, which contributed $1000 to the project from its national ‘Helping Hands’ programme.

Barry and Jackie now regularly water and weed the garden and harvest the produce, which came thick and fast through the warm months. “Every day we go out and get some new veges and find new recipes online,” Justine says. “When people visit, they get a tour of the garden.”

Barry says the work on the garden started with the fence. “When the trees got cut down, we stained it all greeny coloured to make it look nicer,” he says. “I do the lawns as well. I do the watering as well. We do the planting as well.”

He says the garden is providing a variety of vegetables. “Courgettes is one of them and lettuces is another one and potatoes – leeks as well, strawberries too,” he says.

“And cabbage,” says Jackie. All the residents have a say on what is planted in the garden.

A bonus for Barry has been making friends with a next-door neighbour. They borrow tools and swap vegetables over the fence. “His name is Alan, and we talk about plants and everything else. I have become friends with him. He gives us tomatoes too. It makes me feel good when I get out there. I am really chuffed with it,” Barry says.

“The neighbour loves it,” Justine says. “Before this happened, there was no connection with our next-door neighbour.”

Barry has now issued a challenge to other IDEA Services houses. “We need a competition to see who the best gardener is going to be.”

The creative energy has now shifted to the kitchen where everyone tries to think of ways to use the oversupply of zucchinis – Carol Myles’ fritters and zucchini loaves are favourites. Justine says residents are now beginning to think about what to plant next. The idea is to keep the garden going throughout the year. “Barry wants to get a glasshouse like Alan’s.”

Caption 1: The tyres are freshly painted and lined and ready for planting.

Caption 2: Jackie Clarkson transforms an old tyre into a blue beauty.


This story was published in Strong Voices. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members. Read the full issue of Strong Voices or view more articles.