CHS Manager Tony Kunowski was invited to contribute the following article to the November issue of Metropol

An old joke said “Keep New Zealand Green. Don’t tell the Kiwis anything!” More recently there has been vigorous debate nationwide, mainly inspired by our polluted waterways, on just how green NZ is and the validity of our country’s marketing mantra of “100% Pure”.

Locally the Canterbury Horticultural Society (CHS) has stimulated discussion on what our mantra of “The Garden City” means in the 21st century, post-earthquakes Christchurch. The Society’s Honorary Botanist, Colin Meurk , on a return flight home opined “ I look around the cabin and see busy or bored indifference while younger ones retreat into some virtual, anti-gardenesque reality. Yet they also are dependent on plants for food, amenity and inspiration.” Meurk’s vision of a future is that of “tussock-fern-lined river banks with weeping, golden kowhai brimming with melodious bellbirds and imagined parklands of totara and matai laden with kereru – go with a reinvented green, sustainable city, edgy, bold and beautiful – not a place from which young people leave in droves or pass through en route to ski-fields.”

Meanwhile Bailey Peryman, an aspiring urban farmer, decided to found Garden City 2.0 as the new and improved version of the Garden City (Christchurch), one “where a community food culture inspires the deep transformation to 21st century sustainability, health and wellbeing for all.” He envisages local, organic food grown in abundance.

Many others share Peryman’s vision and a Food Resilience Network (FRN) has emerged to foster a community-led development of locally grown and consumed food. Now the Christchurch City Council is also developing a Food Resilience Policy. Undoubtedly the “Edible Gardens” scheme initiated by the Shirley Papanui Community Board in 2013 and repeated in 2014 has provided a strong impetus to the Council’s support of the concept. The scheme was also a conduit for the continuation and growth of the Community Board’s relationship with local schools, community organisations and individuals through the support and encouragement of the next generation to grow their own food, nurture the environment, themselves and others.

The Board partnered with the CHS, ensuring that local residents, schools and communities who are passionate about their gardens were valued and supported by the Society’s expertise and knowledge. The Society’s judges were particularly impressed by the creativity and innovation shown by the schools as evidenced by the St Alban’s Catholic School’s recycled milk container “garden” of lettuces.

Established in 1861 the CHS recognises its unique position to assist and guide this rapidly emerging trend to home or community grown produce, especially with children and youth. “We want to transfer our knowledge and expertise and imbue youngsters with passion for growing their own fruit and vegetables” said CHS manager Tony Kunowski.

Supported by a Westpac sponsorship and Canterbury Community Trust grant the CHS has extended its Orchards in Schools programme in 2014 to 5 Christchurch schools – Oaklands, St Martin’s, Gilberthorpe, Northcote and Addington. The brainchild of long-serving CHS member Carole Anderton, the CHS engaged two mature Canterbury University and FRN members – Michael Tennant and Sasha Goburdhone – to manage the project which involved liaison with schools, identification and purchase of fruit and berry trees followed by the construction of the orchards with the children in each school. As much as possible they have selected fruits and berries to ensure a long harvest season to help maintain the children’s interest. In two years the sites will have come to fruition, becoming beautiful spaces covered with natives, herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees for the children and the local community to benefit from.

In March next year the CHS will host a School Gardens Show involving 12 primary and intermediate schools. “The introduction of the schools category to the 2014 Ellerslie International Flower Show was a huge success and given the loss of Ellerslie we wanted to maintain the momentum that this initiative had generated” said Kunowski. “We are pleased to have the support of Oderings Garden Centres as the major sponsor with further support from Intelligro and Christchurch Star”.

The schools will be required to prepare a brief to describe what their garden is intended to portray and they will be judged on four criteria – the wow factor, design & theme, educational elements and presentation. “The Show will be held over three days in the Horticultural Centre and we want it to be a gala event so have arranged Jed’s Rollickin’ Gelato and The Brew Crew to be on site” said Kunowski.