90-yr-old garden guru in awards
By Pippa Brown
A life of colour, love and dedication has made a green-thumbed 90-year-old Otamauri woman a regional finalist in New Zealand Gardener’s Gardener of the Year Awards.
Lenora [Linora] Buchanan and her husband, Ruthven, moved to a farm in Otamauri from Palmerston North in 1972.
With her husband focused on farm life and a long drive into town, building up and taking care of the garden became a big part of her life.
It is difficult to believe the area, now covered in beautiful garden, was once a bare paddock. Mrs Buchanan said it was hard to start from scratch in this “very windy place”.
“At first I had to put rocks around everything, before any shelter grew,” she said. It’s been a labour of love since.
The two acres of hillside faces north and, because the area doesn’t get frost, she is able to turn her fingers to grow plants other people in the area can’t. A fickle climate of occasional torrential rain and months of aridity means Australian and South African trees and shrubs thrive. Others don’t.
“I keep on planting and keep hoping I’ll get success,” she said.
Bulbs seem to favour the climate, but they have finished now, although there are a still a few irises out and the magnolias have finished.
The cherry tree is in flower and the roses have started to bloom. They are early this year Mrs Buchanan adds, painting a picture of a colourful and continually changing landscape.
“There’s always something in the garden – I plant annuals on top.”
She used to do the work on her own but “has help now”.
This enterprising woman ran her local garden club almost single-handedly for the past four decades.
The effort and enthusiasm she put into the Otamauri Garden Circle would put most of us to shame. Since she moved to Hawke’s Bay 40 years ago, she’s generously given of her time, expertise and energy to inspire other club members. They are used to her turning up to meetings with plants grown from cuttings or with seeds to share.
Each year, she hunts out new and interesting gardens for the club to visit, before individually ringing each member to invite them along. Until recently, she’d organise a bus trip every November to a North Island garden, carefully planning it to ensure each trip went smoothly.
Mrs Buchanan resigned from this task a couple of years ago and is now an adviser, although her two replacements are tired already and want to pass it on, she says with a laugh.
Her failing eyesight means she’s unable to drive the 25km to the meetings, but her fellow members happily take turns to drive her.
NZ Gardener‘s editor Jo McCarroll said Mrs Buchanan’s garden club wanted to nominate, her in recognition of the “enormous contribution” she’d made over the years.
“When she turned 90 last year, the club spread the word and more than 50 past and present members turned up to celebrate. Her husband said until then he hadn’t realised how much Lenora meant to them all,” Ms McCarroll said.
“The NZ Gardener 2011 Gardener of the Year Awards are about recognising people who have given something back to the community they live, so Mrs Buchanan is a fantastic finalist for the Hawke’s Bay region.”
The winner of the 2011 Gardener of the Year, in association with Kiwicare Garden Products, will be decided by public vote. Details on how to vote, along with Mrs Buchanan’s story and other finalists will be in the magazine’s November issue, or on the magazine’s website, [www].nzgardener.co.nz.
As a regional finalist, Mrs Buchanan receives gardening goodies worth $750.
The overall winner will be named the 2011 Gardener of the Year and receive $3000 of Mitre 10 vouchers, a year’s supply of Kiwicare Garden Products and a luxury trip for two to the 2012 Ellerslie Flower Show in Christchurch.
Voting closes November 30 and the winners will be announced December 19.
Photo caption – LOCAL TREASURE: Lenora Buchanan turned a bare paddock into a garden. “I keep on planting and hoping I’ll get success,” she says. PHOTO/SUPPLIED