Dig this - the new cure for your garden

BY CATHERINE WOULFE | PHOTO BY PHIL DOYLE Sunday Star-Times

Garden coach Lester Brice will weed out your garden's weaknesses.

Confused about compost? Daunted by your daphne? A new kind of gardening help is at hand.

The phenomenon of garden coaching, where experts coach would-be gardeners on a "gardening journey", is taking off around the world.

Patient, passionate and eternally perky, these coaches will analyse your garden, hold your hand at the garden centre and help you every step of the way to creating your dream backyard.

The idea is that clients learn and are empowered to do the work themselves, says Auckland garden coach Lester Brice. The former garden centre guru and landscaper is based in leafy Mt Eden and uses the tagline "sharing the knowledge, growing the mind". "It's motivating and encouraging and supporting the client, a bit like a coach does on a sports field," he says. Brice branched out into garden coaching about eight years ago and says business has been blooming. He charges under $100 an hour, which he says is cheaper than hiring professional landscapers.

Brice starts by putting the garden through its paces, pointing out plants that need to be moved, cut back or just given a good mulch. Then it's off for a tour of a garden centre and Brice's hands-on lessons in potting, pruning and other garden tasks.

"The client realises through this process that it's not that hard to look after their own garden after all," he says. "Everyone's having fun in the process [and] that's what it should be about."

Takapuna woman Anne Millar has been coached by Brice for about six years since he helped her tame a large garden in Milford.

"How do you put it? I'm very green-challenged," Millar says. "I was lost in the garden, I felt very overwhelmed. I just knew that I had to have some help." A garden centre pointed Millar in Brice's direction and now she couldn't be happier. "I guess that he's helped me on my journey to become a New Zealand gardener. Here I was, someone very, very lost, and thanks to Lester, I have been found."

Now in a smaller, subtropical garden, Millar still catches herself thinking, "Oh, Lester probably wants me to be out there watering that right now, I'd better do it." Jennie Forder is another satisfied client: her once-rambling Remuera garden is now a well- behaved, colourful mix of gardenias, camellias and buxus and she and husband Paul have loved learning how to garden for themselves.

We were not gardeners," the retired newsreader says. "Before it was just something I walked past. Now I enjoy looking at my garden, and actually doing things."



To make an enquiry with The Garden Coach, click here.