Putting out the welcome mat

Pat and Ron Howie of Te Puke love their garden and love showing it off so had no hesitation about planning for next week’s Tauranga Garden and Art Festival as soon as the 2012 event was over. This will be the fifth time they have put out the welcome mat for festival visitors.

“There’s not much use in having a reasonable garden if you don’t share it,” Ron says. “The fact you’re doing it for charity is an added bonus.”


Ron and Pat Howie in their garden. Ron builds the gates and any special features himself. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Howies have some handy hints for anyone planning to open their garden for a big event, such as the well-established Tauranga area festival:

  • Do any big work – tree removal or pruning – at least a year before so everything has recovered and filled in again by the time of the festival
  • Make sure lawns and edges are mowed and tidy before visitors arrive – it improves the look of any garden instantly
  • Never let weeds go to seed and sooner, rather than later, you’ll be on top of them. Planting thickly is a big help in keeping weeds down
  • Be available to talk to visitors; it enhances their experience.

But it’s no good asking them when to prune roses to have them flowering at the right time – Ron gave away all his roses long ago.

Instead, the couple enjoy “pushing the boundaries” by creating a tropical look in a sub-tropical climate, although Ron says they have the benefit of a microclimate thanks to the surrounding kiwifruit orchard shelter belts.

Pandorea pandorana Golden Showers is also known as the wonga-wonga vine and is native to eastern Australia. Golden Showers is a naturally occurring hybrid found in 1967. Photo: Sandra Simpson

“Not every plant is perfect on the day,” Ron says, “but we try and have a garden that has interest throughout the year … and a spring garden can be ruined overnight by unpredictable weather.”

Pat admits the first time of opening can be nerve-wracking. “You’ve got be able to take a little bit of criticism because somebody will always find fault,” she says.

“But if you just be yourself and make people feel welcome everything will go well.”


Cantua buxifolia is a magenta-flowered woody shrub native to Bolivia and Peru. Pat and Ron have the Bicolour hybrid, while the Tricolour is the national flower of Bolivia as it echoes the colours of the country’s flag. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission.


One thought on “Putting out the welcome mat

  1. Pingback: Touch of the tropics | Sandra's Garden

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