I have a passion for the plants and ambience of the tropics.
Raised on a farm near Hamilton in the fifties and sixties, where winters seemed long, damp and miserably cold, I used to long for summer and beach holidays.
My parents, passionate and gifted gardeners, passed on a wealth of knowledge about plants, gardening and design, a skill base which has served me well.
Graduating with a zoology degree from Auckland University in 1972, I taught biology for two years in Whangarei, living on the coast at Ngunguru and Matapouri Bay.
Then began a life-long addiction to travel, though Matapouri Bay has remained my home.
It began with a back-packing journey through Southeast Asia, India and Nepal where the exotic plants, the food, and the charm and energy of the people captivated me.
Then came a year in California where I used my knowledge of plants and design to begin a career in landscaping. Part of this time was spent in Mexico where again the tropical plants, foods and rural lifestyles had a major impact on my view of the world.
Returning from California, I bought a hundred acres at my beloved Matapouri Bay in 1977 and established Earthsea Gardens, a subtropical plant nursery and garden, nestled in a swampy, bush-clad gully.
Earthsea became an evolving showcase for my landscape design and for the many unusual new plants collected on my travels and from other enthusiasts.
In 1990, I began a new garden in the next valley which had been dammed to form a small lake, many years before. The house nestles into lush plantings at water level, the lounge suspended over the lake on wharf piles. The garden is again a showcase for the exotic plants the nursery produces.
My partner McGregor Smith and I travel regularly and collect seed (MAF willing!) in tropical places to try here. We also network widely with other enthusiasts in the North of NZ such as Robin Booth (the wonderful Wharepuke Nursery in Kerikeri), the Austin brothers with "Exotic Nurseries" at Kaitaia whose nursery has always been an inspiration to me, Peter Enticott (Lake Ngatu Plantations), the Endt family at "Landsendt" in the Waitakere hills and more recently John Prince and Rosemary Steele of "Nestlebrae Exotics" near Helensville.
For many years I wrote a regular gardening column for the Northern Advocate newspaper (Whangarei) and more recently write a column about exotic plants for the glossy lifestyle quarterly, "Alfresco" magazine, and Whangarei's monthly glossy "Scene" magazine and "Subtropicals" quarterly newsletter, as well as occasional bits and pieces for "Weekend Gardener" and "NZ Gardener".
These days the nursery has expanded and produces olive trees as well as trialling and propagating an ever increasing range of subtropical plants. Several equally passionate plant-loving part-time workers help me keep this show on the road. Its an exciting, sometimes fiscally scary but rewarding journey.
The garden and nursery are open to the public every weekend and public holiday and visitors are welcome.
On weekdays its best to phone first before visiting to ensure someone is available to help you.