Passionate Plant People: The Heart of Growing Community

11 Sep, 2022

For some people one backyard isn’t enough for their gardening passion, long-time Kings team member Helen is one of those people. But it’s not just about having more space for the plants she loves, it’s also about sharing the experience and joy that gardens bring her. And to do that she’s taken her passion beyond her backyard into local community gardens.

Helen has spent more than ten years as part of the Kings whanau, and it was family who got her started in the garden. Watching her dad grow every edible plant imaginable in their Christchurch garden as a child sparked her ongoing love. He had a bountiful garden with row after row of raspberries, strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, beans and more. With so much growing, her mum mastered the art of preserving to make the most of the abundant harvests.

Sharing plants and loved cultivars was also something that ran in the family, with her grandmothers often sending Helen and her sister home with cuttings of their favourite plants for them to establish in the garden at home. They’re plants that survive to this day, thriving under Helen’s guardianship and bringing back fond memories each time Helen tends to them. With so many great memories associated with gardening and the value of sharing being instilled through it, it’s little wonder Helen has looked for ways to extend that caring spirit.

“I am happiest in my garden, and my dream is to help as many people as possible experience the same wonderful moments I have been fortunate enough to experience.” She says, and she has definitely put those words into action.

During her time at Kings, Helen has supported local schools and community gardens with donations and through generously giving her own time to help them create beautiful spaces that bring people together.

" I believe everyone should have the chance to learn gardening skills... it's just so good for your physical and mental wellbeing. But mostly it just brings me so much joy seeing different people come together. I’ve made so many wonderful friends at the Forrest Hill Community Garden and am so proud of what Phoebe and the team have created.”

Phoebe is a Forrest Hill local, who alongside her husband Dave, wanted to find a way to get more people out in the garden to experience just how good growing your own food can be. More importantly, they wanted to create a space for neighbours to get to know each other, fostering that sense of community we’re losing in our fenced-in suburbs. And so, the Forrest Hill Community Garden was born, at least as an idea over three years ago, and Helen jumped on board. But, there was a lot of organising and behind-the-scenes activity to get the idea off the ground-fundraising, arranging sponsors, and working to get permissions. Finally, the Forrest Hill Community Garden at Seine Reserve was opened to the community in 2021.

The garden boasts nine raised beds with seasonal veggies and fruits all grown organically. There is also a composting station where locals can drop off their food waste, with all the goodness returned to the ground. And every Sunday from 2pm – 4pm, rain or shine, the neighbourhood working bee takes place - you’ll find Helen there most weeks. Everyone is invited down to learn basic gardening skills and to help take care of the gardens. Not only do helpers get a taste of how good gardening is, they get a taste of the success, enjoying the fruits of their labour as the harvested herbs, veggies and fruits are shared around those who contribute.

As you come into the garden there’s a small market stand where the community share their home garden harvests and swap seedlings. The stand went up during the 2020 lockdown before the garden was even built. It was a way for the little gardening community behind the project to stay connected through sharing seedlings, seeds and harvests from their home gardens when connecting in person just couldn’t happen. Lockdowns may be a thing of the past, but the market stall and caring spirit remains. In fact, during our visit the stand was brimming with bunches of herbs, some freshly harvested lettuces and an arsenal of flower seed bombs rolled by eager little hands, ready to add a burst of wild spring blooms wherever they land. It’s a realisation of the team's ambition to have a next-generation learning and sharing the gardening joy with others.

Phoebe and Dave imagine in the future the garden will become a teaching garden, with a space for locals to share knowledge, prepare food and learn new techniques to apply at home. With Kings Takapuna just around the corner, we have been pleased to support this community project since the beginning, and look forward to helping in this next stage.

"A garden is so much more than a space to grow plants... it’s a place to tune out from the world and connect with nature and the people around you”, says Helen.

Whether it’s working with the Forrest Hill team, or chasing her dream of doing even more in the community space to share her gardening love, Helen is determined to make a difference, even if it’s one garden at a time. That’s what passionate plant people do!

If you'd like to volunteer or donate to support the Forrest Hill Community Garden, visit

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