Tinna’s whimsical garden filling hearts – and tummies
26 September 2023
Everyone needs a sanctuary – a place to retreat to when life gets tough. For Christchurch mum Tinna, her sanctuary is the garden she has lovingly created at her Kāinga Ora home, Bush Cottage.
It’s a garden like no other. A labour of love for the last 20 years, it is filled with the unexpected. Toy dinosaurs nestle amongst ferns, there’s a fairy garden, brightly coloured fences, bird feeders made out of repurposed soup ladles, a makeshift glasshouse with a chandelier in it, and trinkets everywhere.
Neighbourhood kids love exploring the whimsical wonderland that Tinna’s created, but the garden also serves a more serious purpose. It’s filled with fruit trees and vegetables which Tinna uses to make meals for her elderly neighbours each week.
She also uses the produce from her garden to help feed the homeless. Tinna’s work with the homeless has earned her civic awards – and a royal encounter with Princess Anne.
Tinna says she spends hours each day tending to the garden and can almost live off the land. To keep costs down she grows most of the plants from seeds or cuttings and makes her own compost – ‘you have to layer it, wet and dry, like lasagne’’ she tells us.
“It is hard work, and you just have to keep at it and at it, but my garden has saved me.’’
By age 15, Tinna had lost both her parents and she has endured more than her fair share of struggles in life. She lives with her 19-year-old son, who is severely autistic and will never be able to live independently. It’s challenging, but the garden brings Tinna respite.
She’s got some chickens in a coop that she made herself and she barters the eggs they lay for gluten-free bread for her son, who has severe food allergies.
Tinna loves bartering her fresh produce for things she needs and wishes more people did that.
She doesn’t like to see things go to waste so when people toss things out that could be put to good use, she is quick to claim them. She puts her own creative twist of them before putting them to good use in either her garden or her home.
Step inside Tinna’s home and you are greeted by a patchwork of colour – it is full of things that she has picked up over the years and given a quirky make-over.
Tinna says she draws strength and happiness from helping others – it’s all about being emotionally rich.
“The most important thing is to practice being grateful, to practice being happy and don’t strive for what other people have. Appreciate the tiny little things and reach for emotional riches, not financial riches.’’
Page updated: 26 September 2023