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OCE Garden Club helps Judy showcase her talents

Mature trees and beautiful gardens are what set Omokoroa Country Estate apart from many other retirement villages – and the recently established Garden Club has also begun to flourish.

It was an idea that greatly appealed to keen gardener and floral artist, Judy Small, who has been an avid garden club member for many decades.

“There’s a lot of joy to be found looking at beautiful gardens,” she says. “You get to see some very impressive things. You learn a lot about plants but it’s all about friendship really as much as gardening itself.”

The OCE Garden Club began in late 2021 and currently has about 12 members – the perfect size for regular outings in the village minivan.

Rather than having a single person in charge, a roster has been set up so members take turns at organising a monthly activity or gathering.

“We’ve been to the beautiful garden centre in Papamoa as well as Decor Gardenworld and Palmers in Bethlehem. We’ve visited some wonderful gardens in Katikati. At Christmas we had a lovely time learning how to make decorations using materials found in the garden,” Judy says.

“This month we’re going to be watching a movie about beautiful gardens on OCE’s big TV in the main lounge. Of course we always have afternoon tea together too.”

Judy can often be seen working hard in her spectacular garden where she carefully cultivates miniature ‘scenes’ and colour co-ordinated displays.

“This area out the front is like a carpet of yellow and gold during summer,” she explains. “I have a wee fernery over here and some tillandsias and gazanias – they’re like daisies and are fabulous.”

Her love of bromeliads is evident, with dozens of different species on display of varying sizes and patterns. “They always take my breath away. The colours are just lovely.”

Before moving to OCE nine years ago, Judy and her husband, Brian, lived in Auckland and ran a home decorating and interior design business. Over the years their garden in Half Moon Bay won many prizes – including the supreme award at an Auckland suburban gardening competition.

“My mother was always a great gardener so I guess that’s where my love of gardening comes from,” Judy says. “We lived in Titirangi for 25 years and had over an acre of gorgeous gardens on slopes there overlooking the Manukau Harbour. Brian and I have always worked together and he helps with the heavy stuff. He doesn’t chop anything out though because that causes trouble!”

Floral art has always been a hobby of hers, and Judy has helped arrange bouquets, corsages and table decorations for everything from weddings to Christmas functions.

Judy kindly shares her talents with OCE residents and goes to tremendous effort to prepare beautiful corsages to make every resident’s 90th birthday. “I’ve loved doing that for the last nine years. The pleasure you see on their faces is just lovely.”

Concert performers and other special guests at OCE often receive posies arranged by Judy, and every Christmas she brightens up our communal spaces with her gorgeous floral and bauble creations.

“I recently put together a floral wreath to mark Anzac Day celebrations at the village. I bought silk poppies and had to iron each one individually so the flower petals sat flat!”

Tauranga’s upcoming Garden & Artfest in November is sure to provide another highlight for OCE Garden Club members. Anyone interested in joining the group is welcome to come along on the second Thursday of every month. Ask Janelle or Tania at reception for details.

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