Yates Garden Guide was first published in 1895 specifically for New Zealand gardeners and has been our gardening bible ever since. Throughout the more than 100 years this has been in publication, the entries have been continuously updated and revised making it as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.
It begins with a potted history of gardening in New Zealand, from the time of the Maori, who voyaged from East Polynesia bringing with them Kumara, taro,yam,gourd and the pacific cabbage tree. The first Pakeha (Europeans) to arrive in New Zealand gardened because they had to. It was a case of survival. Their basic ‘shacks’ were surrounded by bush, there were no shops and were often miles from the nearest neighbour. Although they had little time or resources for ornamental gardening, plants from their home countries would have brought a little comfort in familiarity. In the mid 1800s,creative gardening was fast gaining popularity and, at around the same time, it became fashionable for women to garden. The lawn also became popular in the mid 1800s, with borders of neatly spaced flowering shrubs and perennials. By the turn of the century, a more informal garden was replacing the formal geometric layout of the Victorian era, and reflected a newfound subtlety and prosperity. There were breakthroughs in plant breeding including the first hybrid tea roses and ramblers.
Through the 1920s, 30s,and 40s, gardens became simpler due to the influences of the war and economic depression. The advent of state housing meant smaller suburban sections, and a demand for more compact plants. As prosperity returned in the 50s and 60s, outdoor living spaces began to make an appearance with courtyards, pool and barbecue areas.
In the 70s, the ‘native’ or natural garden began to gain a strong following, symbolizing our new environmental awareness which continued to be popular into the 80s.
The 90s saw a return of the more formal garden, including the decorative vegetable potager garden. Now, in the 21st century, New Zealand’s gardens reflect many influences – cottage, English, subtropical, Mediterranean, and native among them.
This latest edition includes an invaluable month by month gardening calendar, handy hints from New Zealand gardeners, in-depth information on a wide variety of plants, ornamental, fruiting and vegetable, plus a guide to gardening in special conditions.
My Nana (we were never allowed to call her Grandma. Apparently her own grandmother, whom they had called Grandma, had been a bit of an old battleaxe) gave me my first ever copy of this book almost fifty years ago. I, in turn, gave my children a copy, and will do the same for my grandchildren should I still be alive.
This is an invaluable resource. I consult mine monthly to plan my planting and harvesting schedule. In particular, the guide to gardening in clay soil has been particularly useful. Never has my garden looked so good, and never has my vegetable garden been so bountiful. And while this may not be relevant to those of you living outside New Zealand, I am sure that there is something similar relevant to your country.