Happy Birthday Yates!

Went to Auckland for the day on Friday, invited to a “High Tea” to celebrate the 130th birthday of Yates and to launch the 78th edition of the Yates Garden Guide.

Judy Horton, communications manager from Yates Australia, MC’d the event which took place at the Kelliher Estate on Puketutu Island in Manukau Harbour. Oddly, you have to drive through the Mangere wastewater treatment station to access the causeway across to the island. An inauspicious start to many marriages, one would think.

Fortunately, the palm-lined walk up to the beautifully restored Spanish mission mansion is calming and wedding parties doubtless arrive in good form. Businessman Sir Henry Kelliher bought the 200ha volcanic island in 1938 as a farm and stables for his beloved racehorses.

The start of the garden party and high tea event. The balls hanging from the pohutukawa are draped in Spanish moss. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The gardens feature tropical-look plants although, oddly enough, there is a large rose garden with an Dracenea draco (dragon tree) at its centre and surrounded by a bamboo hedge!

Arthur Yates, who came from a family of seed merchants in Manchester, opened his own seed company in Auckland on June 1, 1883 – and Judy noted that income on the first day was one shilling and sixpence, while expenses totalled two shillings and sixpence! Seeds in packets, rather than sold by weight, were introduced in 1893.

The company has gone on to thrive and is a byword for garden products, including sprays, fertilisers and seeds. As part of the birthday celebrations there will be a range of New Zealand native plant seed released in October.

The first Yates Garden Guide was published in 1895 and was devised while Arthur Yates was recovering from illness. It was 90 pages. The latest edition is 525 pages (my old 1989 one is 346 pages) and will be available from August 16 at an RRP of $49.95.

Judy Horton, Yates’ communications manager, and Finlay Macdonald of HarperCollins with the new edition of the Garden Guide, available on August 16. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Judy launched the latest “collector’s edition” in tandem with HarperCollins publisher Finlay Macdonald, and paid tribute to HarperCollins editor Eva Chan who, Judy said, had picked up and rectified errors “that had been there since the year dot”.

In an earlier chat, Eva had told me she had been born in Tauranga, although moved with her parents, who had had a greengrocer’s, to Auckland when she was aged only 3.

All in all, a grand day out and a very pleasant way to launch a book.


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