Common Ground: Garden Histories Of Aotearoa

by Matt Morris

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If this hadn’t been a NZ book I wouldn’t have finished it.

Which is a bit of a oxymoron because if it wasn’t a New Zealand book, I wouldn’t have picked it up!

I discovered this book because I entered an award it won into the Goodreads database and the subject sounded interesting and brought back memories of my childhood. My NZ grandparents and my parents were very keen gardeners. This made part of my childhood hideous, not just because of the weeding but because my parents and grandmother loved looking at other gardens and when they espied a plant they liked they would ask for cuttings. This would drag out the experience further when the garden owner would go find their garden tools and give lengthy instructions whilst wrapping the precious cuttings in dampened newspaper. My worst memory was being dragged around the largest citrus orchard in NZ (at the time) on a stinking hot day.

Ahhh, memories.

My husband has turned into a keen gardener, but he doesn’t need or want any input from me and has edged me out of the area I was interested in which was the herbs. I thought he might be interested in this book, but no, a gardening history not his thing! I’ll add, I’m very grateful that my husband loves vegetable gardening with the ever increasing hikes in food costs here and for a while, the quality of the produce in our local supermarket wasn’t great.

I don’t know – maybe small gardens are too personal, or more likely, I am the wrong reader. Matt Morris is a South Islander, so that is mostly what he writes about. There was just enough about Māori and Chinese gardens in our past to have me wanting more.

Some of the pictures were very endearing and a few more anecdotes like this one (by Cicely Wylie) may have helped. Ms Wylie had a few battles with her odd-job man.

Unfortunately he loves digging. The deeper the better. So I stand helplessly by, while he makes a trench big enough to bury his past. But it is my precious compost he is burying…

In my opinion, this book is for NZ historians and gardeners only. But it is nice to see the little guy/gal celebrated though instead of just the big, formal gardens.

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