When the Maniototo Garden Club held its first Open Garden Day in 1996, it was supposed to be a “oncer”, says Jane Falconer, a keen gardener who has been a member of the club for 50 years and is a life member.

“The Ranfurly Hospital was being refurbished and the Lions Club and the farmers were running around killing sheep and raising money, and we thought that we could do something.”

Fifteen or more gardeners put their names down to take part and the club raised $3000 — quite a sum in those days, Mrs Falconer said.

That first event covered the whole of the Maniototo, with people travelling from Poolburn to Danseys Pass and The Styx.

“Everyone was buzzing around in their cars, dust flying here and people flying there — it was just a buzz.

“The Maniototo had never seen anything like it.”

This year is the event’s 25th anniversary. It was not held last year because of Covid.

Tending a garden in the region could be difficult, especially before the Maniototo Irrigation Scheme was commissioned in 1984, Mrs Falconer said.

Maniototo Garden Club president Raylene Hansen (left) and club members Glenis Crutchley and Jane...

Maniototo Garden Club president Raylene Hansen (left) and club members Glenis Crutchley and Jane Falconer enjoy the garden at Mrs Crutchley’s Danseys Pass home yesterday. Photo: Tracie Barrett”We have extremes of temperature from -20degC to 35degC, altitudes from 1300 to 2000 feet and our rainfall is 12-14 inches.

“When I first came to the Maniototo in the early ’70s, it was classified as semi-arid and was equal to the Desert Rd in the North Island and the Mackenzie Country in Canterbury.”

Club president Raylene Hansen said that first event was such a success the club decided to make it an annual event, but had narrowed the area covered, with each community putting their own mark upon the day.

The proceeds from the day are split three ways.

“One-third goes to a project in the area hosting, one-third is for a project that benefits the wider Maniototo community, and one-third is kept by the club to cover general running costs.”

The garden days have given more than $40,000 to the community since they began, and Ms Hansen said they hoped to raise about $6000 this year.

The proceeds raised would go to maintaining the Kyeburn Diggings Cemetery and to the Otago Rescue Helicopter, she said.