I left Montauk on a 90 degree day, it was one of many this Summer, good for the hamlet and good for the tomatoes, a day later I arrived in New Zealand to a cooler temperature and much sadness. My Mother-in-Law died suddenly on July 12th, she was a vibrant 77 year old and I don't think she ever had an idle moment in her life. There would be no Stonecrop without her (and her husband Denis), she weeded, moved rocks, planted trees, kept the books, made the lunch, attended every important event at the vineyard, harvest time, meetings about irrigation, the list is endless and she did all of this in addition to taking care of grandchildren, visiting friends and family in need, volunteering for various groups in her community, she never forgot a birthday or anniversary..... and there were many, each year many cards and letters were thoughtfully and beautifully written and posted to various destinations around the world.
Margaret lived on the Parewanui Road just outside of Bulls and it is here she created a magnificent garden which she lovingly tended to for over 37 years, it is lush with native New Zealand trees and shrubs, she loved her rose garden and she had special roses that came from her father's garden.
She had lemon trees, tangerine trees, a feijoa bush that my husband planted in 1981 and a huge fig tree.
Margaret made an assortment of delectable goodies with the bounty from her garden; jams and chutneys, damson gin, stewed Washington apples and she made the most memorable and exquisite cakes.
People in New Zealand are very generous with food and this generous spirit is overflowing after a terrible loss, after the funeral family and friends gathered back at Parewanui Road, there were hearty pumpkin soups, pies and date loaves, meals were put in the freezer in the garage; chicken casseroles, lamb and potatoes, pikelets, egg and bacon pie, this was all done quietly without any fuss or anyone wanted to take credit, just with kindness.
It was Winter but there were flowers blooming in her garden; stunning camellias, large pink ones and dramatic reds, erigeron was sitting pretty at the front of the border, there were lemons and tangerines on the trees. Gardening continues in New Zealand during the Winter unlike here where we shut up shop, it can be a bit chilly but not 'hats and gloves' chilly. Early morning after a frost is particularly beautiful; looking out of the kitchen window - a diamond dusting over the hinoki tree and the lawn leading out to the paddock past the pohutukawa tree.
I have long been excited about gardening in New Zealand and especially with native plants; muehlenbeckia, corokia cotoneaster, (New Zealand has more divaricating plants than any other country) Marlborough daisy, Chatham Island forget-me-nots, puka, rengarenga, hebes, coprosma, and then there are the magnificent trees; totara, rimu, kauri, kowhai, karo, pohutukawa, rata, manuka, lancewood, coprosma, puriri, to name a few. These are the ones I have become familiar with over the years, from visiting gardens like Otari in Wellington, my friend Wendy's stunning garden in Blenheim and our own native garden that Margaret and Denis started for us at the vineyard.
For many of us who love to garden it's a place to find peace and solace, it's also a special place to be close to our loved ones who spent years digging in the dirt, moving this plant 'here' and that plant 'there' watching a seedling become a mighty tree, anticipating the blooms on a favorite shrub, scratching that persistent itch - the joy of gardening.
Before I left to return to Montauk we spotted two Tui's in the puriri tree, Denis told me 'they pair for life'.
See you in the garden Margaret.