Andrew and Zealong – the perfect mix

Zealong's Andrew Hatfield with bronze teapots
“You have to spend time in a garden to get a proper understanding of it through the seasons.”

ANDREW HATFIELD has a bloomin’ marvellous job. Over a perfect cup of tea he talks to Annette Taylor about being the gardener at the Zealong Tea Estate.

As gardener/handyman/go-to-man, he does anything needing doing on the estate in Gordonton.

“A bit of sweeping here, a bit of tidying there – this morning I glued down that bronze statue to make him safe,” Andrew says.

He believes he has found the perfect job, or close to it. “I think about what I’ll do when I’m not here, how to develop certain areas, should I use bark or some different mulch, there’s a lot to mull over. And whatever I do everyone here is utterly supportive.”

All told, he’s in charge of about three acres. “The actual formal garden is not particularly big, but very detailed. I start most days blowing all the leaves off the paths, and check everything is tidy and as it should be.”

Arriving at Zealong has been a bit of a journey for the Yorkshire-born man.

He came to New Zealand as a teacher 17 years ago. “My then wife and I were looking for a change in atmosphere, it was very difficult in the UK in those years.”

Andrew has three degrees under his belt – mechanical engineering, social anthropology, both from Edinburgh University, and a Master of Horticulture, from Royal Horticulture Society.

He was a horticulture lecturer for 11 years in the UK, and in New Zealand has taught at secondary school, kept an eye on horticulture apprentices throughout the country, gardened, worked for an irrigation company and supervised periodic detention work gangs.

More recently he was a ground’s instructor at Spring Hill Corrections Facility.

The last few years have been interesting times – “Which is said to be a Chinese curse, you know.”

Then he spotted an ad on Trade Me for a gardener Zealong, applied and landed the position in February.
Now that he’s been at the estate almost a year, he is just beginning to have a feel for what the garden is about.

“You have to spend time in a garden to get a proper understanding of it through the seasons. It will take me at least three years to get it into the shape I want it to be. ”

He’d only been in the position a matter of weeks when he learned that 100 cherry trees had been ordered.

“The question was where to plant them, to maximise the effect. Now we have cherry trees in an avenue down the main drive, which leads to the main car park, which then leads down below the tea room, which leads you further along to a double row out front of the veranda… Give them a couple of years and they will be phenomenal.”

The garden dates back to 1986 and was a classic kiwi country garden. Now it has taken on international flavours and is evolving its own multi-cultural style.

“A strong Asian influence has been introduced, which works with the existing backbone, all set on a stunning Gordonton dairy farm. I’m working with the owners to bring all this together, to get the vision right.”

Zealong Tea Estate's Andrew Hatfield

For most of the year Andrew lived in Tuakau, more than an hour’s drive from work but he has just found the perfect house in Orini and moves in not long after Christmas.

He’s looking forward to being a local – “I’ve called in at Wairere Nursery – It was famous even when I arrived in NZ – and Clandon Daffodils but I’m yet to visit Woodlands. Visiting that garden is a pleasure I’m looking forward to. After a day’s work I’d jump in the car and head home, grab a shower, dinner, read a book and that was me. ”

Now he’s musing over exactly what kind of daffodils to plant under the cherry trees.

“I’ve got to figure out how to do it for New Zealand conditions. The best daffodils to get, how to plant them, whether to put bark down… there’s a lot to ponder.”

These drifts of daffodils, of course, won’t really get going for about 12 years. “Mustn’t rush these things. Plants need time. Years.”

Which is the reason Andrew enjoys being part of Zealong.

“They have visions for the company, looking 15 or 20 years ahead. Which gives me the opportunity to have vision for the garden.

“And I suppose, after a professional lifetime in horticulture, to be given that opportunity is quite something.”

andrew pansies

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

3 thoughts on “Andrew and Zealong – the perfect mix

  • March 10, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Wonder why I missed reading this write up – interesting J

  • April 12, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Andy,

    I hope you are well!!!

    Do you remember me from ‘Reaseheath College, Nantwich, Cheshire. I did a horticulture course at your college from 1991 – 1992. I was immature and due to my nature I am unable to learn well. However I am now a Official Lifelong Member of the International High I.Q. Society! I remember you asking our class “How much does the moon weigh?” and from that Newton’s physics that objects attract each other with a relative force he called gravity. The earth has a pull on the moon but the moon as an object on has a gravitational weight in relation to something else ( another body ). I was enthralled by your teachings of Newton’s ‘3 Laws Of Motion’. I’m sure you know that as soon as a rocket leaves Earth, its momentum carries it forward as there is no external force to slow it down. One of Newton’s 3 laws of motion, ‘A body in motion, stays in motion unless impressed upon by other external forces.’ So a space craft could travel across space under its own momentum for light years without needing more fuel!!! I now know the basics of the search for ‘Quantum Gravity’, the unification with gravity on the large scale of Einstein’s curved space with the other 3 forces in the quantum world. I have had a poem published in the ‘2009 Fireside Book’ for which I was paid £16 : 50 pence by check and got a free copy of the book. I personally believe that all my poems are SHIT!!! However!!! My father worked at ‘Reaseheath’ after I left, ‘John Fuller’. He is GREAT mates with Dave Mason, even though my father took early retirement they are GREAT friends. I love quotations and compile lists of polymaths, in particular, modern polymaths. I also recite poetry, my own garbage and proper poetry at ‘Poetry And Pints’ evenings. I have given ‘Music And Verse’ presentations too, for local recorded music societies. For example, in ‘Music And Verse 2’, I recite the John Drinkwater poem ‘The Blackbird’ and link it to The Beatles’ song ‘Blackbird’ and say a bit about the music and poetry, predominantly I use orchestral music though.

    I’d love to hear about what your doing in ‘New Zealand’???
    With Best Wishes!!!

    Cheers – Mike

  • February 19, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Hello Andrew,
    this is Michael Lampard from your Buxton College class back in the day. We have been trying to track you down and thankfully, Nick Kirk sent me this link. We are having a Class of 72 Reunion at the old school on Saturday June 4th and we are scouring the globe for fellow class members. I live in Australia now and have done since 1983. Can you reply to to let us know what you think. Also, if you or partner are on Facebook you could search for Mick Lampard and send a friend request. We have a site on there dedicated to the reunion. Lovely to read the article. You seem to be enjoying life, well done sir.

    Best regards Mick Lampard


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