Birds and art - as well as some lovely plants! - Birds and art - as well as some lovely plants! - 18 De La Mare Avenue - ARTIST - Dot & Barry Harding

Birds and art - as well as some lovely plants! - 18 De La Mare Avenue

Dot has provided us with this great history of their garden, and some information on their wonderful art.

When I met Barry in 2005 his 2000m² property was 3/4 bare. On the left of the driveway were Hebe's and Flax plants while the inside front garden had a spindly Kowhai and a young Silk Tree.

Behind the house was a pile of organic rubbish where some vege plants were attempting to grow. There was also a huge Ornamental Pear Tree well established. I had limited knowledge of gardening and this was my first bare palette.

When we married in 2007 the inside front garden was established with curved wooden edging and lots of planting. The Kowhai was moved into a better position and took off with now having companions. Barry built a big pergola where the wedding took place. At the back of the Pergola there is a wooden Tui. Neither of us like wearing rings so we engaged a well-known Maori carver to make us a Tui for the wedding. He designed it with a short and long Koru to represent ourselves.

These Koru were held together with a fern while the Tui sat on top to guard us. He blessed the Tui then told me what to do when I positioned it in the garden. We felt very privileged to have something so special.

The organic rubbish pile was the next target. I put in some Grisilinia's for hedging around the Ornamental Pear and laid wandering paths. I put a repurposed bath into this garden along with a repurposed toilet and planted lots of cottage flowers. I later found a pair of ornamental human legs and as a bit of fun upended them in the toilet. 

Barry made a little ladder so that it looks like he tipped forward and fell off into the toilet. I filled the bath with soil and put Lock Ness into it with moss plants. There was a small repurposed Gazebo that I positioned near the Ornamental pear.

This colourful cheeky area was soon the best on the property. A few years later a huge storm took a big portion of the Ornamental Pear down that more or less destroyed the garden, blew the Gazebo over and finished the bath. I have since redesigned the whole area into a more formal garden. The Gazebo is now tucked against the fence and more formal planting has transformed this into a very quiet and restful area. In summer it is a delightfully shady spot but the gnome in the toilet is still there.

As the inside front garden developed the birds started arriving. By now Barry had retired and taken up his woodturning full time. We decided a bird bath in here would be good. Then I started feeding the Sparrows and they established an apartment house in the big Kanuka and still live there.

Looking for more variety for garden ornaments Barry made some feeding saucers and of course we had to trial them. The Sparrows loved them and we have upwards of 40 come for breakfast each morning. Because of the design the local cats were frustrated they couldn't catch any birds and have given up trying. The Sparrows were using the barrels on our Patio for dust baths and making a huge mess. When one barrel started to fail we put it in the garden for them. At my request Barry made a roof to keep the soil dry so now they have a Sparrow Spa.

More and more birds were coming so again with Barry looking at more variety in the garden he made a Starling nest on a big pole and erected it in our front garden. We could not believe how quickly it was claimed. As it was across from our window seat we could watch the comings and goings. When the first babies showed their heads it was a delight. Consequently we now have 4 Starling nests and 2 Sparrow nests around the property and all are fully booked. There are as many as 3 sittings in each nest during the season so there is no end of entertainment.

Last summer we started to have Tui arrive in the garden so the obvious thing for Barry was make a Tui Feeder. We could not believe that within 2 hours of setting it up we had 12 Tui fighting for a turn to drink. Since then Barry has refined the feeder into a very simple but elegant garden ornament that is so easy a child could use it. Not being satisfied with that he then made a deluxe model with a dormer window and a chimney.

We also had a Buddha nearby with a big mirror behind him. Barry kindly made a roof over his head and then a wooden seat for him to sit on. He now has a path leading to his throne. What with Sparrows, Starlings, Finches, Tui, Blackbirds and Waxeyes, nests and birdbath, all this we can see from our window seat and could spend hours watching the antics.

Because we had invited the birds they seemed to think the vegetable garden was for them too. In the end Barry built a big frame around the raised gardens and covered it with bird netting. It was funny watching them sit on the top and look down at food they couldn't reach.

As the garden was growing so was the need for hoses and watering. Barry, ever creative, made some Miss Piggy hose holders and we now have two of those around the property.

Our back boundary is next to a farm and we are open to the Southerlies. We decided we would like to plant a mini forest to encourage the Wood Pigeons and Tui across from Maungatautari . We took advice from a gentleman who deals in natives and planted the nursery. Over the years they grew tall enough to try putting in the real native trees. We wanted Puriri but after three attempts the frost was too severe so we gave up. However 3 years ago we tried 2 different species - a Matai and a ?? and they appear to be growing especially now I have recently cleared weeds, pruned dead limbs and planted a variety of ferns. This is still a work in progress. 

A couple of years ago our 5 year old grandson was coming up for a Christmas visit. He requested he make a dinosaur in granddad's workshop. We decided 5 year olds and machinery are not a good match so made a wooden frame and covered it in chicken wire. It turned into a family Christmas project to papier-mâché it and now have a dinosaur in our forest.

Barry built me a room of my own in the front corner of his workshop. He insulated and carpeted it so that I could have somewhere to create my patchwork art. As it had its own door away from the main door he built a covered veranda and pergola roof in front. 

The area between the workshop wall and fence was nothing but paspalum. I laid large pavers down the middle, put my Lock Ness on the wall side among pebbles and the fence side I planted. This was so protected the plants just took off and now give a lovely entrance to my studio along with a bit more garden art.

My patchwork style is not just squares and triangles like the traditional works but more actual art in the form of applique although I do occasionally make traditional quilts. My family paint but I can't and have found my outlet in fabric. At the moment I am exploring black and white subjects which is exciting and quite successful.

All through this garden progress Barry has made more different types of garden ornaments from little Kiwis through to big totem poles. The garden benefits from prototypes and mishaps and have over 100 different types of garden ornaments, though to look at the garden it doesn't seem that many. We have created the gardens organically and recycled where possible. It has been an exciting and challenging trial and error journey with lots of errors and much learning.

When he retired Barry's woodturning started mounting up so we took to craft markets and did really well. As the years caught up with us we decided to let the people come to us and opened up the Gallery and also a website. Both have been very successful. 

There will be at least 18 different totems for sale and various other garden ornaments along with products in the Gallery. 

We are cash only or electronic transfer.  www.cambridgewoodcraft.co.nz.

We are easy to find, just put 18 De La Mare Avenue in your GPS or Google Maps, but make sure that you don't join the words together, or you might find yourself on the other side of Hamilton!!


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