Where were you born and where did you spend most of your childhood?
I was born in Christchurch and grew up in Sumner. Our house was on Clifton hill and backed onto Richmond Hill farm. My brother and I spent a lot of time building huts in the pine trees and catching tadpoles in the frog pond. We had a particularly good recipe for pine needle soup (inedible) that we would make on the leftover embers of dad’s bonfires.

Where do you live now?
I am flatting in Sumner with the home owner, another flatmate and my cat Biscuit. We are a household of mature professionals so it is very civilised with the occasional delicious shared meal. We like to indulge in a cheese platter and wine at the end of the week too.

What aroused your interest in gardening or horticulture?
My parents were both keen gardeners with an interest in landscape design. They created a native garden on Clifton Hill with Ngaios/Lancewoods before it was very trendy to do this. My dad was a landscape architect and my mum worked in nurseries. Mum and dad took us tramping and I loved being in the bush amongst the native bush, ferns, and mosses. I felt happier after a walk in nature. I like to bring this uplifting influence from nature, trees, plants and flowers into people’s lives through beautiful landscape designs.

What gardening or horticultural interests do you have now?
I enjoy working with natives and edibles in particular. I studied permaculture when I was a teenager and was thrilled with the idea of growing fresh food at home. I got home from my course, dug up some of our family lawn and grew the most delicious potatoes. I’ve had the gardening bug ever since. This is channelled into my part time business. I create landscape plans for mainly residential customers including decking, paving, and entertaining zones. I have particular skills with food forest design, where edibles are mixed throughout the landscape. I am also a geology/rock hound and so I enjoy matching the right plants with existing soil conditions.

What fascinates me about horticulture is that it is such an expansive field, one can never know everything!

What’s your favourite plant and why?
Currently my favourite plant is Lophomyrtus – New Zealand myrtle. It has very pretty, shiny leaves and comes in several colours. It makes a lovely low hedge.

What’s been your most challenging and/or rewarding gardening project?
My most recent rewarding garden project was designing a koru garden in Opawa for a native loving client. There are glossy black flaxes to bring the birds and a bird bath in the centre of the spiral. It was satisfying because the client had a fantastic concept which I helped to refine into a balanced structure, and there is a mix of colours and textures which excites me.

When did you join the CHS and why?
I joined in November 2016. I want to make connections with other horticultural enthusiasts and see what happens from there. I am keen to both expand and to share my knowledge.

What is your passion for the future of the CHS?
I would like to share in the development of food growing knowledge, because I think it has so many rewards. Fresh berries foraged from the garden is fun for kids, fresh herbs taste amazing and are good for us, and a beautiful outdoor space soothes the mind that may be weary from hard work. I would like to be involved in bringing gardening to younger people in particular.

Read Kowhai’s first landscape design instalment