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  • Writer's picturekatelcurtis

A VIP visit to the garden: A Very Important (ex) Prisoner

All community gardens are special. They bring people together across generational, cultural, and philosophical boundaries. But every now and then, we are reminded that the Miramar Prison Garden has provided rehabilitation and healing long before it became part of the wider community.

We had an unexpected visit visit from a Steve, who had been an inmate at the Mt Crawford Prison from 1989 - 1991. He arrived a trained horticulturalist, and after establishing himself as a "good sort" he was assigned garden detail. He, along with a "couple of dope-growers from Waikato" re-established the then-neglected gardens to produce kilos of vegetables and herbs for the prison kitchen.

To our happy surprise, Steve turned out to be the author of the board that had been tucked away in the greenhouse some 30-odd years, describing the output of the garden in 1990.

Steve spent a spent a while with us, telling stories about his time in the gardens. He didn't want us to use his image but was happy for his stories to be shared.

Please enjoy listening to this wander around the garden with Steve, and volunteers Patty Zais and Kate Curtis.

In it Steve describes how the cold frames alongside the greenhouse were used for growing trees - pittosporum, lillypilly among others, and for hardening-off vegetable and flower seedlings grown in the greenhouse. In the greenhouse, where the mini-museum now sits, was a sand bed for propgating cuttings.

Steve and his team had rigged up hot-water pipes to keep the baby plants growing there toasty warm. The superintendent at the time loved warm-climate plants and challenged the garden crew to propogate a frangipani. Luckily, according to Steve, he wasn't able to get his hands on a cutting.

We asked Steve about the Kauri tree, which was only 2 metres tall in 1989. He told us about the constant problems with possums and rabbits, and Crawford, the black and white prison cat who fought with them. He shared stories of the 300 pumpkins grown one year, runs up and down the hills, the mixed reactions from the prisoners to the herbs in their gravy and potatoes, and what life was like in the prison up the hill.

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