By LLOYD CHAPMAN
Driving North from Otaki, up the Pukehou hill you come across the site of old Pukehou nursery, once a well-loved garden centre, now with a sign for The Greenery.
Curiosity prompted me to enter. I remembered the immaculately clipped tall hedge, but my memories blurred and I was unprepared for what lay beyond.
Imagine my surprise when I found a bright new garden centre, full of interesting-looking plants. Beyond this I was taken aback to find myself speaking to a knowledgeable plantswoman.
Gardening is a cyclical business. Two decades ago, when Maggie Barry invaded our living rooms, everyone was garden-crazy. Post-recession it all went downhill, and the fashion deteriorated to pebble-gardens and the odd native. Well, there’s every reason to believe it’s on the way up again, and spearheading the renaissance are Tina Mullins and Grant Irving, long-time Otaki residents and well-qualified gardeners and nursery men.
Both in their forties, both with relevant degrees from Massey, Tina & Grant represent the new wave of clever and articulate gardening knowledge. This knowledge is hard-won. Tina worked in a number of high-profile Wellington garden centres, before a six-year stint with Porirua council as their Horticulture & Biodiversity advisor. Before his university degree, Grant also worked in one of Wellington’s best-loved garden centres. His degree in Natural Resource Management saw him involved in planning and implementing projects from city gardens to coastal resource management, wetland planning and finally consultancy.
Now with a four year-old daughter, Grant and Tina are breathing new life into one of the coast’s once-great garden centres. Their customers come from far afield, seeking plants-people who know what they’re talking about, who sell quality plants and can talk with conviction of their management. Commodity plant supermarkets always disappoint. The Greenery does not. At a glance, one can take in well-grown plants, appealingly-presented and well-priced.
Grant’s development plans are well on the way, with fast-growing natives that provide shade & shelter, just what many new lifestyle-block people seek. Many of The Greenery’s plants are locally-sourced, and Grant speaks highly of the quality young plants he gets from Geoff Stent’s Manakau Village Nurseries. Grant’s knowledge & experience ensures that you can find the right plants, whether it be for bare land shelter, for coppicing or for planting alongside a stream.
Tina reckons that a third of her sales are edibles: Today people want trees that look nice, and are capable of giving a decent return. Their decent range of fruit trees, both dwarf and large include a good selection of heritage fruits. Not the sort of stuff that you can buy at a hardware store, but then again the man selling you timber and paint probably doesn’t know much about plants, does he? Tina definitely does. Favourite plant ? Easy, she says, clematis paniculata.
What’s in the offing? With a gleam in her eye, Tina talks of decent coffee served in a garden environment. Grant’s focus is on expanding the nursery. If you’re looking for interesting plants and knowledgeable people, you should visit The Greenery. With new energy, big dreams and well-managed plants, this couple and their Greenery are about to take off.