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Ngaio Marsh couple take begonia blooms to the next level

Written by Alan Wood
on November 03, 2022

While Janet and Brian Lovelock have won many top Christchurch garden awards, the couple get absolute pleasure from the visits to their garden by fellow Ngaio Marsh residents and their friends and relatives.

The Lovelocks, who have an eye towards perfection, love the smiles their springtime garden of pansies, tulips and lavender bushes bring to those that visit their corner section. Wheelchair bound residents are some of those that beam with pleasure when they see the beauty before them in the couple’s garden.

The latest Christchurch Beautifying Association award – the Clark/Everett Cup – that Janet and Brian have won, is a springtime class that covers flats and townhouses within rest/retirement/multiple housing complexes. The cup is added to another summer award the couple won in February, when the couple took out the Eliot Sinclair & Partners trophy.

Founded in 1897, the Christchurch Beautifying Association has helped define the garden city.

“We’ve been competing in gardening competitions since after the 2011 Canterbury earthquake… we lost our Avondale home in the quakes,” Janet says.

The couple connected over their love of gardening. Brian and Janet have been regular competitors over the past ten years, and before the move to Ngaio Marsh won a total of 51 trophies for their Northwood garden, including three premier trophies from Christchurch Beautifying Association and Canterbury Horticultural Society.  Brian says the couple form a communicative gardening team that plans well.

They have tended gardens in Taren Point (Sydney), Avondale and Northwood.  “We brought with us a total of 440 tuberous begonias of which 220 were potted and mostly named, and some perfumed varieties, along with 220 ‘non-stop’ varieties for the summer garden beds,” Janet says of the move to Ngaio Marsh about a year and a half ago. 

How the couple ended up in beautiful Papanui is a story in itself. They are both from the Berkshire town of Newbury, about 50 miles west of London, and first met while youngsters at a youth club. Brian remembers having from the age of seven to tend to the garden, part of the family council home, to help ends meet given his father was killed in Italy in World War II. Janet lived on a small family farm giving her a close association with nature and its bounty.


Despite the youth club fun, and an engagement the chance for romance eventually dwindled as the couple went their different ways with other partners.

In the 1960s Brian emigrated to Sydney, Australia, where he had an uncle – and Janet to Christchurch, New Zealand. Eventually --- following a 34-year period of no contact – they reconnected.

In Sydney, Brian had forged a career in town planning and horticulture & landscape design, particularly in Sutherland Shire. The knowledge of plants and gardens has served him well ever since, including a spell of employing 18 staff at his own garden centre business.  During the time of owning the garden centre, ‘mother nature’ played a part in the move to Christchurch.  A flood caused the business to close for three weeks, followed by a drought for several years which forced the decision to not renew the lease on the premises. 

When the couple met again in the late 1990s, following a series of international phone calls and flights, romance blossomed gain.  Eventually they married in Gretna Green, Scotland, in May 2000.

In Ngaio Marsh village they have worked in with a neighbour, gaining access to her garage to ensure that the hundreds of begonia tubers have space as they begin sprouting and need more light and space.

 “The spring and summer blooms, designed with the wider community in mind, are always welcomed. People like colour. The people who live here are probably past gardeners in their time, and when they go for a stroll around here now they want to see colour,” Brian says.

“They tell us when they get to this corner (of our house) it lifts their spirits. That’s worth a lot,” Janet adds.

They also run popular garden clubs to give gardening tips to fellow residents at Ngaio Marsh Village and also in their old neighbourhood of Styx Mill, Northwood.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

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