David White / Stuff
For self-confessed workaholic Charlotte Ryan, watching her garden grow is magic for the soul.
Charlotte Ryan is a music journalist and presenter of RNZ Music 101’s Saturday afternoon show. She lives and gardens in Eden Terrace, Auckland, with her 14-year-old daughter Annie and her cat Minnie.
I get teased to watch to my garden. I’m going to go out and stand right there and watch it. I’ll look around and think, what do I want to do there? I also like getting dirty, digging holes, moving trees.
My grandparents had the most amazing garden, in Christchurch, on Riccarton Rd. Their vegetable garden was huge, they had rose gardens and manicured lawns. And when I was little, my mother had an enchanting garden, I believed that the fairies lived there. But when I got into my teens and 20s, I really didn’t do any gardening. Living in an apartment, we might plant a little vegetable garden but it would always die.
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mom and dad live in a farm. With foresight they planted hundreds of trees and 30 years later they are massive and amazing. I call my stepdad “Dad” and everyone says I look like him, they say “you’re a real Ryan!” He adopted me when I was 6 when mom married him. Looking back, I can’t believe what an incredible man he was, taking my sister and me as his own. He and mom had two other kids who I totally call my sister and my brother, there’s no half in that.
I was a Top 40 lover. One of those kids who made compilation tapes and recorded their own voiceovers. I remember discovering alternative radio when I was about 15 years old. My sister was always super cool and ahead of the curve and she lived in one of those apartments in Christchurch with RDU [Canterbury student radio] play constantly. It opened up a whole new world. I became obsessed with RDU.
Moving to Auckland was really exciting. I started working at RDU when I finished my studies and within six months I met the director of [Auckland student station] bFM and he offered me a job. I didn’t know anyone here except the bands I interviewed and I remember calling Liam Finn because we made a deal that I would hang out with him if he was in Christchurch and he would hang out with me if I was in Auckland.
Annie wasn’t really expected, but her dad and I were so in love, so she was the beautiful thing that came out of it. I’m so glad I had her at that age – 27 was quite young compared to a lot of my friends. She was 9 years old when her father and I separated. I don’t think there is ever a good time. I’m always sad when she goes to her dad’s house, but when I started having that time to myself, I found it incredibly confronting and just worked the whole time. Now I’m dating, and booking fun stuff with friends and that’s also where my love of gardening comes in.
I remember going on vacation in samoa for the first time as a single mom and i was so excited i had been saving up for a while but when i got there i was surrounded by lovely families and everyone was asking me where was my husband. It was the start, but it was a challenge and there are definitely some things I had to get used to. Financially, it is more difficult, because no one does things by halves. But my ex and I have come to a good place now where we can have a cup of tea and it’s nice.
The good thing about being a single parent is one-on-one time. Annie and I lay on the couches and talk for an hour about random stuff and I wonder if there was a third person in the house, if we would do this. She gives the most impressive advice, it can be a work situation or friends. She’s just straight enough and a clear thinker.
I’m listening to music while I garden. And I listen to a lot of interviews with artists that I will interview myself, especially a foreign band that intimidates me, I like to know what their energy is like before entering the conversation. I’m a loyal Kim Hill listener. I love it. I know some people find her brash, but I learn a lot from her, like the way she jumps from subject to subject. I also love Lisa Owen, she comes up to me and tips me, even though we do such different shows – she just has that vigour. Jim Mora is adorable too. And Jesse Mulligan, he bikes past my house on his way home and he’s going to pick limes off my prolific tree so he can come home and make a margarita for his wife.
Gardening works magic for my soul. I tend to work a lot so it’s a good distraction. Annie will sleep until noon if she can, so I usually have the weekend mornings to myself and love to tinker; the doors are open and I pace back and forth, stopping to play or edit the disc. Watching things grow makes life easier. I get really excited when there are bees sucking my flowers. I love reading about compost and how to improve my soil.
I will probably grow old in this house and I look forward to what will become of the garden. I’m only four or five years old and I’m still learning a lot. I can’t wait to see what it will look like in 20 years.
Charlotte’s Gardening Tips
When buying a vegetable like bok choy, cut off the end and plant the stump. He will grow.
In late spring, rather than cutting the messy stems of daffodils and tulips etc., tie them into a knot and fold them over. Some say it helps all the nutrients seep into the bulb.
Plant raspberries and blueberries because they are very expensive to buy and really easy to grow and taste so much better straight from the plant.