Bare paddock to garden of acclaim

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By Maureen Bishop

Alan Trott turned a bare farm paddock into an internationally recognised garden, wrote two books about it and has now been recognised publicly for his efforts.

Mr Trott received a Queen’s Service Medal in the New Year’s Honours list – an award that shocked him.

It was given in recognition of his service to horticulture.

Mr Trott and his wife, Catherine, have turned the paddocks into a stunning garden which attracts visitors from around the world.

The three-hectare garden in Racecourse Road has been declared a garden of international significance for gardens considered to be outstanding for their horticultural value in plant material, cultivation, design, construction, and maintenance.

To keep this title it must be assessed every two years and has recently passed again after inspection by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.

Only hardy plants which are the best performers will survive in the garden. It seems as if the plants know that.

When the couple moved to the property in 1978, the first step was to establish a nursery.

“I was propagating a lot of rhododendrons which people came to buy,” Mr Trott said. “Then it grew into a rare plant and specialist nursery.”

The main nursery has gone now allowing more time to spend in the garden.

Alan and Catherine maintain all the huge garden, although son Paul was roped in to trim hedges during his holidays.

Mr Trott trims the distinctive formal knot garden. He admits he likes order, which is why he is attracted to the formal garden.

But there are also magnificent perennial borders.

The double-sided borders are 110m long and contain only perennials.

“Usually borders are mixed with roses and trees and shrubs in with the perennials. I don’t grow roses or natives.”

Then there is the unusual red garden where all the plants have red flowers or red foliage. Many of the dahlias in it are being trialled for breeder Keith Hammett.

None are lifted or covered for winter. Instead they must survive the frost.

“I only have hardy plants,” Mr Trott said. “I am ruthless. If I don’t like a plant I will get rid of it.”

He likens the garden to a theatre – only the best of performers are welcome.

Mr Trott says he doesn’t follow trends but admits to loving gardening books, often picking them up second-hand.

He has written two himself about the garden and has also written newspaper columns over the years.

Keen on gardening since childhood, encouragement from family friends led him into growing, pollinating and showing lilies. Then came rhododendrons. Nowadays he hosts visitors from around the world.

“I meet people from all walks of life. Gardeners are down to earth people. They are not there to impress anyone.”

Kevin Geddes’ work recognised, Page 4