‘Friends’ help keep gardens in top shape

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Ellen Brinkman’s description of Nelson’s Queens Gardens is almost poetic, so it’s no surprise she is central to a team of volunteers who spend hours in the gardens each week, helping to make them look their best.

The Friends of Queens Gardens formed more than a year ago to help keep the gardens clean and tidy. Between eight and 14 volunteers turn up each week to “fluff” the garden by cleaning down the tables and seats, lights, information panels, deadhead the roses, pick up leaves and twigs, rake the gravel paths and a myriad of other small jobs. Ellen says the idea stemmed from the lobby group, Queens Gardens Preservation Society, and she has coordinated it ever since. Asked why the group is so passionate about the 120 year old historic gardens, she pauses in thought.

“The power of the gardens is that, although they’re on a very small amount of land, you can’t see it all at once, so there are mysteries that unfold. As you walk through you can’t see long distances, you go around corners and get new views, from deep shadow and bright light, parts that are quite tended like the roses and parts that are quite natural, like the woodland.

“In that very small space you get a whole bunch of different experiences. The Queens Gardens tease you through them.” Nelmac is in charge of the gardens, on behalf of Nelson City Council, and does the upkeep work, planting and other caretaking roles and Ellen insists it is down to its hard work that the gardens look so good. “Nelmac do all the work really, we just polish around what they do,” she says. “We’re really grateful to Nelmac and the council and for the opportunity to be in the gardens.”

The volunteers say gardening can often be a lonely hobby so being involved in the group makes it quite a sociable morning. “There’s something quite lovely about being in the gardens as a group. People talk about the movies they’ve seen, the books they’ve read and where they’re going next week.”

Ellen says they get plenty of positive comments for their work. “People often tell us that they like us being there, the sound of raking, the sound of people laughing while they deadhead the roses and people tending gives the sense – if I could summarise from the feedback that I get – they love to see them being tended.”

Other volunteers say the gardens are special because of their history and visitors often marvel at them.

Volunteers are welcome to join the group, the only condition is having a good back and enjoying the outdoors. For more information call Ellen on 546 6533.