It’s almost 20 years since Wairere Nursery first began in Gordonton. Give or take, says Lloyd Houghton.
“How long? Heaven forbid, I have no idea. A long time. Twenty years or thereabouts.”
It’s a rare moment for Lloyd – he’s not wrenching roses out of the garden, carting perennials or dashing off after a customer inquiry – but sitting at his desk having a cup of tea. Partner Harry Janssen is off in town (or has sneaked down to the Firepot Café for a quick bite of a macadamia brittle, perhaps.)
The two are far too busy to really notice things like anniversaries, but Harry, when provoked, says they’ve been adding a gay touch to Gordonton for two decades.
Close enough. There’s been a few changes since they bought the land, at the south end of the village, which back then was amply supplied with blackberry, privet, honeysuckle and other unpleasant weeds. Now it is stunning garden, with landscaped ponds and a highly successful nursery, selling mail order plants throughout New Zealand.
Alarmingly, they find themselves now selling plants and trees to the children of their original customers, which shows how the years have clipped by.
But it’s good to see the younger generation coming through and gardening.
“It’s interesting. Our generation want more maintenance-free gardens, requiring less work, and their kids are right into colour – perennials and trees.”
Like heuchuras, a species of perennial plants, native to North America, with amazing foliage.
That’s the other issue – things botanical keep changing and one has to keep up with developments and advances.
“The whole fruit tree culture is huge at the moment, and everybody is planting them, and the more they do that, the more we have to extend our knowledge. We’re having to upskill constantly.”
That’s possibly the aspect Lloyd enjoys so much about the business. “You never stop learning. Even after 20 years.”
These days they even employ someone to do research for them and write descriptions for their labels.
“If we get sticky questions about plants from customers, we go to Chris, who has retrained in horticulture and is particularly interested in botanical nomenclature.”
A supplier sold them a lime, saying it was Mexican. “It turned out it was a rangipur lime, which is not really a lime at all, it’s more like a sour mandarin, she found out. The true Mexican lime doesn’t grow in New Zealand.”
This is important information for a nursery that wants to sell every lime going. “It’s good having someone who can find that sort of thing out. It extends us.”
There’s also a case for abandoning old knowledge. “Both of us were trained, and we believed, that apples had to be self-fertile. But it’s not the case. We’ve since found that there’s such a predominance of apples in the environment that the need for pollination is not there. Unless, of course, you live in a really remote area. So sometimes, what we’ve been taught isn’t always right, and we’re still learning.
“Nothing is cut and dried. That, for me, is one of the neat things.”
Technology is also always changing and requiring getting one’s head around – and Lloyd says the biggest area of growth is mail order, all around the country.
“We have on-line shopping, and the on-line card, data lists – but we still get our regular clients calling in and stopping to have a chat. We love it.”
Of course, the nursery began in 1990, as the records show. So – Harry and Lloyd have been delivering joy, colour and texture to Gordonton and beyond for 22 years. Thanks guys.