Garden & Arts Festival: Men take lead


This year’s BOP Garden and Art Festival includes plenty to please the men.

Any pre-conception the festival is simply a garden ramble for women has been well and truly blown out of the water. Like its predecessors, this year’s festival includes a diverse line-up of events and sights likely to appeal to the menfolk.

Festival director John Beech says the festival is a good opportunity to acknowledge the creativity of many clever male gardeners, artists and sculptors.

Many of the gardens on the trail are testimony to menfolk’s hard landscaping abilities.

Examples of the latter can be found in various parts of the district. There’s Joe Dabrowski up in the Oropi hills, for example, Peter Blair in Tauranga suburbia, and Noel Coombes of Te Puke.

Joe Dabrowski will be the first to admit it was hardly a life-long ambition to be a key player in the creation of an impressive garden. It wasn’t until one of his children expressed a desire to get married from home that he decided to fulfil her aspirations for an impressive garden on their rural property. Joe, with help from a friend, constructed two pergolas, an archway, a gazebo, and raised vegetable beds. And then he took to garden art.

An old wooden pole from the back of the Dabrowskis’ property was brought up to become a character-infused garden lamp-post, while another garden light was created from a “beautifully rusted” old diving bottle he found under a hedge.

A couple of old axe handles have been fashioned into a garden handrail, while one of the garden’s new archways has been festooned with all matter of garden tools.

Meanwhile, in suburbia, Sandy Blair says her husband, Peter, started dreaming up design concepts for their property the minute they signed the ownership papers. Creating a super-sized and multi-levelled pond, measuring 25 metres by 10 metres, was a good starting point.

While her husband has a good eye for flora and fauna, Sandy is quick to point out his landscaping talents extend beyond that which grows. Many chunky, solid, timber features are attention grabbers in their garden, and these are further testimony to Peter’s creativity, she says.

Furniture, the wharf that sits pond-side, and a children’s play hut are all Peter’s handiwork.

He also designed, and was involved in the building of, his “man hut”. Milled from native timber Peter got out of the bush, it features an old brick chimney above an open fireplace, with a solid timber bar leaner alongside. It’s likely to be the envy of many a male taking time to enjoy the festival’s trail.

Te Puke will be showcasing man-made delights too. At Julie and Noel Coombe’s property, for example, sculptures and structures add whimsical interest. Giant-sized dice, created by Noel, are an eye-catcher, as is his solid hanging pot plant structure.

At Matapihi a delightful coastal garden carries the name “Pete’s Retreat”. Peter Ferris has had an active role to play in creating this large garden, which includes roses and flower beds flourishing under mature trees. A walkway leads to the aviary, passing spring-fed ponds on the way. Hillside paths wander through native bush, which has been developed to encourage birdlife.

Heather Loughlin’s Matua garden has long been a festival favourite. This year her partner, Howard Jones, will add another element of interest, separate to Heather’s woodland.

Howard, a classic motorbike enthusiast, has committed to converting a garage on the property into a stable for classic English motorcycles for the duration of the festival. The bikes will include: a 1954 Velocette MHC350, a 1954 Norton Dominator model 7 500 Twin and a 2001 Triumph Bonneville T100 790 Twin.

For something different, garden trailers are encouraged to have a chat to Gary Cook of Rivahaven garden in Katikati. He will have “music of the plants” playing in his garden. It’s an opportunity to listen to plants singing through modern technology, he explains. Visual delights – not just aural – can be found here, for example the huge carving of a man’s head.

The trail aside, the festival offerings include many other elements set to interest the male gender.

The Sculpture Walk alone is set to thrill. It will feature sculptures from the primal (a driftwood dinosaur by Jack Marsden Mayer) to more contemporary offerings. Wood, limestone, metal and driftwood are the mediums used by the guest and local sculptors involved. Sculptors include Anton Forde, Shivaun Hogan and Jack Marsden Mayer, as well as local talent Chris Ponton, Linda Munn, Mary Paton, Peter Crammond and more.

The line-up of festival speakers is just as impressive, featuring landscaper extraordinaire Ben Hoyle and TV and radio gardening guru Tony Murrell. Other speakers are: Fiona Eadie (head gardener at Larnoch Castle, author and native plant specialist), Jo McCarroll (NZ Gardener editor), Robert Guyton (gardening columnist) and Sally Holland (Goodbye Gluten recipe book author).

A new offering this year will be the Tauriko Business Estate Industrial Garden Challenge – businesses will create gardens for their very own trail, and the public will judge.

the details:
tickets –
One- and four-day tickets for the November 17-20 festival are available. Single day ticket: $35, multi day ticket: $60. Reduced prices of $30 and $50 are available for TECT card holders. Tickets are also now available for the speaker events and the Indulge Long Lunch. For further information seeĀ