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2016 GARDENA Gardener of the Year: Vera Farrant

The overall winner of the 2016 GARDENA Gardener of the Year competition has been chosen by the public: Congratulations to Vera Farrant.

Vera Farrant - Hamilton

Few plants in Vera Farrant’s jam-packed garden escape being divided and potted up to be sold at Habitat for Humanity’s Hamilton ReStore shop. Nic Greene, who works for the housing charity, estimates that Vera’s plants have raised over $100,000 for the organisation since 2000. If you consider that most of the plants sell for just a couple of dollars, that’s a lot of plants!

Vera and her late husband, George, helped set up Habitat for Humanity in Hamilton in the mid-90s. When the organisation opened a second-hand store to fund its building work, Vera offered to supply the plants. She grows what she calls “hotcake plants”, which are anything that takes the customer’s eye and sell readily. She tries to provide a variety of plants to keep them interested, but always has a good supply of herbs. Vera keeps prices low for edibles to encourage people to get into their garden and eat home-cooked meals, but she will also wrap up a bundle of five or six primulas in newspaper and sell them for a dollar. “A young mum going into the store to clothe her family might think, ‘Yes, I can afford those.’ And they’ll brighten up her life.” 

Most of Vera’s plants are propagated by root division then potted up in the garage – which used to be so pristine when George was alive that you could “eat your dinner off the floor” – on an old pool table covered in plant labels and pots. As well as sourcing plants from her own garden to sell, Vera is given plants that other people no longer want. 

“If I can get the stock, I can do something with it – I can increase it. I can’t say I’m worth so much an hour – so it doesn’t matter to anyone whether I’m watching soaps or playing bowls. But I might as well be doing something!” Vera, who is 86, has been involved with plants her whole life. “You don’t need to be as insane or as single-minded as me to see the advantages of just having a pot of something and to enjoy the development of growth in the garden. I wish I could do more but I just do what I do. There’s an Irish proverb: ‘It’s in the shelter of each other that we live.’ Everyone has something to offer.” 

Photo: Dominico Zapata
Text: Rachel Clare

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