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New Lease Of Life For Gardens' House

Work is well under way on the former Curator's House in the Botanic Gardens in preparation for its new life.

That new life will mean the house and courtyards will become a café-restaurant and an eco-education centre.

The centre will aim to raise awareness of the value of a home environment and encourage enthusiasm for gardening as a recreational, productive and healthy activity.

Courses and workshops will have a focus on children, people with special needs and townhouse dwellers.

Even classes for overseas visitors will be held to acquaint them with New Zealand plants and gardening.

Christchurch architects, Collins and Harman, designed the house about 1923 for the gardens' curator.

In recent years a family tenanted the house.

The house design was influenced by the arts and crafts movement of the 19th and early 20th century and built in the old English or Tudor style.

A kitchen area will be added to the present stone house and the new restaurant is expected to open in May by the Botanical Epicurean Company.

The grounds of the house will mostly be in the hands of the Botanic Gardens and assisted by Friends of the Botanic Gardens, which intends to establish demonstration plots with public access.

Already the unwanted growth has been cleared from around the house and it is planning to provide new fencing, paving and borders, planters, seats, composting, the creation of different gardens, and improving the view from the house to Avon River.

The objective of the concept is to extend the educational role of the Botanic Gardens and provide additional recreational opportunities for visitors and the local community.

The vision seeks to establish sub-theme gardens around the house within an overall concept of a "home-demonstration garden." Some will be inter-active and informative for children as well as adults.

It is hoped the garden will provide insight into examples of contemporary Christchurch garden styles and will be flexible to allow for the modernisation of styles and new technologies.

The garden will be both a show place, an extension of the Botanic Gardens, and a centre for public information, ideas, and promoting the "Garden City" concept.

The City Council's Parks Unit staff will support the Friends group, which has a membership of about 400.

The Council's City Design Unit has carried out much of the design work for the external garden area.

Further information: Dennis Preston, Friends of the Gardens, 371 1728; or: Kevin Garnett, Botanic Gardens: 364 7587 or 025 203 5665 Sam Fisher Corporate Communication Co-ordinator Christchurch City Council 03 371-1762 025 229 3552

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