Garden Photo of the Day

Restoring a Neglected Family Garden

Carrying on a family gardening legacy

Today in the GPOD we’re taking a trip to New Zealand.

My name is Awhina Kingi, and I am an obsessive gardener.

I moved to a family-owned property in a semi-rural location up north in October 2016. Generations of my maternal side of the family were raised in the house; the last to live here were my grandfather and his elder sister, my great aunt, who was the matriarch of the whanau (Maori for “extended family”) and a dedicated gardener. Both passed away prior to my arriving and were laid to rest in the whanau urupa (family cemetery) on the property.

My granddad was a veggie gardener with a little 10-foot by 10-foot plot to the rear of property near the orchard, and my aunt was a prizewinning flower gardener with a humongous garden full of blooms ranging from the easy to get to the rare, and even a small native forest she planted herself.

When I arrived here, everything was dead or dying after a severe drought, and no one had lived here for two years while the house was vacant and repairs were being undertaken to make it safe. In fact, the only things thriving were the wild ginger and tobacco, privet, buttercup, and kikuyu (a grass, Pennisetum clandestinum), which was so long it actually covered trees. But underneath it all were the backbones of a very well planted garden.

I had NO idea about gardening. In fact, my last attempt at gardening had been growing radishes as a ten-year-old! I was determined to learn, though, as I hated seeing their pride and joy disappear. Slowly it became less of a duty I was doing in my aunt’s memory and more of a passion I was indulging in for myself.

I now have a few hundred dahlias and succulents, plus frangipani (Plumeria) grown from seed as well as many tropical plants, mostly through trading with friends and other growers, or earned by selling cuttings and seedlings. It has been a fascinating and wonderful journey. There is a long way to go, but there is massive progress on both the garden and my soul. The saying “While I work on my garden, my garden works on me” has never been truer.

The garden in 2016 when Awhina arrived.

More of the garden before. Some plants have survived, but it is clearly in need of a lot of love.

Jump forward to 2018, and the garden has been reborn!

flowering shrubsLush flowering shrubs frame the neatly mown grass.

dahliaA dahlia bloom, a favorite plant of gardeners everywhere.

A diversity of plants is now flowering in the borders.

Gloriosa lilyGloriosa lily (Gloriosa superba, Zones 8–10 or as a tender bulb) is not really a lily at all, but it grows these incredible flowers on a scrambling, vining stem.

A huge dahlia plant towers over other flowers.

Lilium hybridBold colors on this lily (Lilium hybrid, Asiatic group, Zones 4–9) bring the fire, even on a rainy day.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

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To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

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View Comments


  1. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/17/2019

    Good morning, Awhina... (or perhaps Happy Tomorrow due to the time difference)...anyway, I loved reading your story and want to express sincerest congrats on the wonderful restoration you have already achieved. I know you feel you have much more to do but that just means you are a real gardener...there is always so much more to do...a major project here and a little tweaking there...and so it goes. Your flowers are beautiful and are, obviously, thriving under your nurturing care and attention.

  2. User avater
    pattyeckels 10/17/2019

    I love seeing before and after pictures of gardens and you have done some wonderful work in your garden. I can’t believe how tall that dahlia is...without staking it! Everything is lovely. You have done good work.

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/17/2019

    I adore seeing what gardeners from other countries grow. And as for your dear ones & your home, it brought tears to my eyes k owing that you want to preserve what had been created by those who are gone.

  4. cheryl_c 10/17/2019

    Awhina, you clearly are carrying the 'gardening gene' to have such good vision and success in just a few short years! Such hard work, but such delightful results. Your granddad and great aunt are surely smiling as they see you continuing the work they left for you! Please send more pictures, so we can watch as things grow and change! And good for you for searching out alternative ways to obtain plants for your garden!

  5. NewberryNikki 10/17/2019

    Beautiful! Such a work of love and beauty!

  6. User avater
    simplesue 10/17/2019

    What an interesting story about your garden and family. I love that you rescued the old family garden and brought life and beauty back to the land. Very impressive!

  7. btucker9675 10/17/2019

    What a wonderful labor of love you've done restoring this garden to its former glory. Beautiful!

  8. Cenepk10 10/17/2019

    What an amazing restoration in only 3 years. So grateful you shared. Drought makes me feel helpless... so amazing how our “precious” plants spring back to life with even the smallest bits of rain. I know firsthand. What you’ve done is commendable... The history of your family continues!!!!! Yahoo !!! Plus - your plant selections are stunning!

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