Graham Park has always had a passion for growing things and began helping in his parents’ Dunedin garden when he was still at primary school.
“I love to plant something and watch it grow. It gives me a real buzz. I’m also good at pruning and trimming and am quite fussy and very precise about such things. I started pruning my Dad’s hedges when I was about 10 years-old.”
Tauranga’s lush, green environment and excellent growing climate were the main reasons why Graham moved here 30 years ago. He had previously worked as a design engineer in Dunedin before travelling to the UK and spending 2.5 years looking after a 300 year-old English manor house and its grounds in Somerset.
“When we returned home, my son said, ‘Dad you need to get an outdoor job and more exercise.’ I had spent 20 years sitting in front of a computer.”
Graham initially took a gardening job at Bayswater Metlifecare in Mount Maunganui and worked there for six years before joining Omokoroa Country Estate two years ago.
“The gardens are a key feature of OCE,” he says. “There are a lot of mature trees here and plenty of space for gardens around every villa. That makes it special because you don’t find that at any other retirement villages in the Bay.”
Spring is Graham’s favourite time of year but he loves the fact there’s always something in bloom at OCE year-round. “I particularly love the rhododendrons but there’s a massive range of plants we can grow because the climate is so good here.”
OCE’s gardening team rotate around the village grounds once every six weeks, and are always keen to factor in residents’ plant preferences around their particular home where possible. “It’s important to maintain the overall ‘look’ of OCE and we don’t want plants that are invasive or going to require a lot of work to maintain.”
Graham works Tuesdays-Fridays and devotes the rest of his time to maintaining his own lifestyle block at Apata. “I’ve got hundreds of trees, both native and exotic, and grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables including citrus, apple, bananas, pears, figs, plums and avocados. I even grow and roast my own macadamias and walnuts. I absolutely love it.”