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When the property became mortgage free, we decided to build a large implement shed to building standards, which met the requirements of the local City Council as a residence.  After it was built and we had used it for overnight stays, I began to line out the inside, would come out on Saturday mornings stopping at the wood yard to pick up 6 boards each 250m x 50mm dressed pine planks, 2600mm long which we would hang out the window of the Mercedes – it squeezed the girls up a bit, but we didn't have to put any of them in the boot – I suppose the real test of these tales is whether people are pleased that you were around.  Life is beautiful, some people just remind you of that more than others. Initially we had ideas of putting a house on the roadside of the river, but this was extremely exposed and there were high winds, and it would have been quite a small area to build on, beside which the road traffic was close and noisy.  We had put the implement shed, which we occupied as a weekender, in the north west corner of the property, as far away from the road as possible, and quite near our original old shed, which we had earlier used as a weekender and for holidays.  The new shed was one big room, with a back door, two ranch sliders, a roller door over the front, it was the size of a small house and we would develop it further at a later date, but in the meantime we attached an Eden glasshouse conservatory outside the roller door where we could have our meals in the sun and shelter and with a very nice view. Having placed the building at the furthest spot from the road we then decided that we would move the vegetable garden, which had been splendidly productive, and the 30 tree orchard which had been extremely barren of fruit of any kind.  So, we spaded and wrenched the trees and then several months later lifted them and moved them by trailer to plant them near the house.  All grew, but I am sorry to say, they were no more fruitful than when they were over the other side, for apart from 2 or 3 shrivelled feijoas and a few hazelnuts, the only benefit we got was firewood.  Possums and birds fared well. Experts had told us that blackcurrants and gooseberries would do well in our climate.  A short growing season and cold winters were ideal.  We planted 1500 in total.  The results were mediocre to say the least. Early on, we bought a couple of trays of unnamed rooted rhododendron cuttings which we planted fairly close to the house.  The conditions suited them (see their needs below) and they did well, and we liked them, and out of curiosity we researched to try and find what their names were to identify them in rhododendron catalogues, and it was quite interesting.  I guess we got hooked on their characteristics, their colour, their origins, the different types of bark and foliage etc. About the same time we decided to reduce the number of animals we had to a level that would produce just enough meat for us.  Raising animals on a small property is uneconomic.  They are expensive to care for, take a lot of time, and you really have to go through the motions whether you have got 20 or 2,000 sheep.  You've still got to employ the same contractors and buy the same animal health remedies and so forth.  But it is nice to have meat you have raised yourself. I suppose it was in the early 1980's that we decided to establish the garden.  Paddock by paddock we set about planting trees, shrubs and perennial borders.  In a series of vista and garden rooms as the focal points, at the same time we put in several ponds each, we hoped, to be different and interesting. It was not our intention to have a garden which was open to the public, but rather to create a special environment around our retirement place.  A retirement lifestyle which involved our interest in gardening, art and to a certain extent animals, especially those we could eat. Planning a garden is similar to doing a large oil painting.  Firstly it requires vision and like a painting, one must consider suitability of the foundation, (the soil, shelter and climate).  Then follows the proportion, the perspective, the balance, the texture, and the points of interest.  Even a small garden is improved by a combination of vistas and intimate areas, negative spaces, plus the careful selection of suitable and climate compatible plants, and their care and well-being are the basic requirements.  We framed our garden with borrowed landscape, forest and bush covered hills.  Unlike a painting, a garden, when established is a canvas which grows and changes, sunshine becomes shade, wet spots become dry, and you are forever lopping off, moving, pulling out and carting away.  Not that this is irksome and it is not work, it is simply what we do and enjoy. Our liquid canvas that has brought us a lot of joy, valued acquaintances and skills, that we would not have had otherwise, and on its wings it also brought a whole bookcase of garden books and manuals, and nights of going to bed eager to get up in the morning to get into the garden.  Tired bodies, broken nails (for girls only) and blisters for yours truly.  Neither Shirley nor I could imagine or want to be anywhere else but where we are and doing what we are doing at this stage of our lives. We laid out graceful paths, contoured on the wet paddocks by driving our Suzuki 4WD and then following the tyre marks with a spray can of bright paint.  All the path edges are bordered with rocks claimed off the hillside, and in between the edges is gravel.  It was hard work and it all had to be hand barrowed, One weekend we drove to Kings Nursery in Wanganui.  It was established by Stafford King, the originator of the famous “Kings” rhodos.  He propagated Kings Cream, Kings Buff, Kings Crimson, Milk Maid and Kings Pink Glow.  We managed to get over 100 into our trailer and car, it was completely full – we even had plants on their side.  We planted them in groups of 3-5 of the same type.  Unfortunately, these rhodos were potted up in a mixture of papa and pumice and compost obtained locally by Stafford King's daughter and her husband, which proved in the years to follow to be unsuitable because it set hard and became compacted and inhibited healthy root growth, and although we still have many of those original plants thriving in the garden, some of them were hapless and eventually had to be pulled out because they did not thrive Over the many years that followed we planted probably over 2,000 rhododendrons, 800 different species and hybrids and approximately of these 150 are species.  As often happens, not all survived, some died and others have been removed due to disease or overcrowding. Initially we chose to plant the hybrids, particularly the tarty and brazen large blooms like Lem's Monarch, Lem's Aurora and Lem's Cameo, but as our appreciation grew we moved to species with more subtle features and interest, such as bark, leaves, tomentum, indumentums and unique individual features.  We obtained plants from various nurseries throughout New Zealand, but Rodney Wilson from Crosshills garden was our supplier in particular. And just to tempt you further a few lines on the large leaf dinosaurs of the rhododendron family, the tree-like Falconeri (yellow with red eye), Fortunei (blush pink fading to white), Grande (white, blotched purple), Hodgsonii (crimson shading to purple), Macabeanum (yellow), Monstroseanum (intense pink blotched crimson), Protistum (rose purple), Rex (creamy white purple eye), Sinogrande (cream). Interspersed in the garden are many specimens of rare trees and shrubs selected for spring and autumn colour and their unusual features.  We also planted on the lawn 30 Prunus Accolade i.e. Flowering cherries, which stand in rows with a beautiful display of spring bloom, and golden autumn colour. .  
Neither Shirley nor I could imagine or want to be anywhere else but where we are, and doing what we are doing at this stage of our lives.

The History and the making of the Garden Efil Doog

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