Donated plants bring colour to flood-hit Hawke's Bay gardens

7:12 pm on 6 October 2023
Sally Newall's son, Ted, 6, hard at work in their friend's vegetable garden.

Patoka resident Sally Newall's son, Ted, 6, helps put donated plants into their friend's vegetable garden. Photo: Supplied

Plants have been donated to hundreds of Hawke's Bay gardeners whose properties were inundated during Cyclone Gabrielle.

A gifting day at Pakowhai School saw 400 people walk away with free plants, donated from all over the North Island.

Organiser Lauren Treagus said silt had caused a grey, lifeless coating over once beautiful gardens and grass, and this was a chance to put a bit of colour back into people's lives.

Earlier this year, she pitched the idea at a Hawke's Bay Gardeners meet-up.

"I said to them, 'We should do something for a couple of houses, just do some cuttings and whatnot -- bring colour back'," she said.

Lauren Treagus organised a plant donation project helping hundreds of Hawke's Bay people whose gardens were damaged by floods.

Lauren Treagus organised a plant donation project helping hundreds of Hawke's Bay people whose gardens were damaged by floods. Photo: RNZ/ Kate Green

When Treagus put the call out on social media, "it just escalated from two homes to everyone in Hawke's Bay".

Over the next six months, they accumulated a field's worth of plants, from cuttings to young fruit trees, Treagus said.

Donations poured in from around the North Island, as far as Hamilton and Taranaki.

Treagus' family's business, Meeanee Firewood, built planter boxes for residents who were not ready to replant their gardens.

What began as a plan to help a couple of homes saw more plants than Treagus could count given away to more than 400 people.

"Their faces just made the day," she said. "Just the smiles and the stories."

The Hawkins' family home in Pakowhai, Hawke's Bay.

Floods destroyed hundreds of homes and gardens in Hawke's Bay during Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo: RNZ / Soumya Bhamidipati

School principal Tim Race and her administration team of Sarah, Anne and Rhonda were instrumental to the event's success, she said.

Plants were stored at the school pool and field, but watering them required an innovative solution.

"Sarah's partner built a tank on the back of his ute, and he watered all the plants, and so did Anne."

Doated plants outside Pakowhai School.

Donated plants outside Pakowhai School. Photo: Lauren Treagus

Patoka resident Sally Newall was among the recipients, taking away fruit trees for her children's school in Patoka and supplies to build a veggie patch in her friend's garden, which was inundated by floodwater.

"My friend down in Meeanee had a beautifully planted garden that she had spent thousands of dollars on, and lost everything -- everything's dead and covered in silt," Newall said.

"She was really pleased... It's just so overwhelming what's happened to her, and what's happened to everybody else,

"She sometimes struggles to even think, 'Where do I begin?'"

Newall said there was plenty left to do, but it was a matter of chipping away, making small steps back towards normality.

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