Tributes to Adrian, Marei

Aristea in flower

Paradise Plants live on as a beautiful legacy

Ever since the tragic deaths of Adrian and Marei Webster a week ago, tributes have come in from people in many walks of life.
Many reveal facets of their lives which may not have been obvious to those who only knew Adrian as a capable local politician.
Here’s the moving tribute from the well-known Paekakariki writer and publisher David McGill.

 Our Earth Mother and Father

By David McGill

I lived opposite Marei in Kelburn in 1964, when we knew this dark, willowy, exotic beauty as the Earth Mother.

When I arrived in Paekakariki in 2003, I made a beeline for her Paradise Plants, where Adrian informed me this was their Closing Down Sale, 26 October 2003, while I was still recovering from his iron grip.

Protest leader…unionist…and gardener

I knew him as a protest leader and trade union official. Now he was a true man of the soil, his fingers blunt instruments suited to digging.

His delight in giving fatherly advice was apparent as he told me it was good for the soul to get the hands in the soil first thing every day, thereby releasing uplifting pheromones.

I bought flox, delphinium, Granny Bonnet, an orange poppy, a starry iris, evening primrose, foxglove, Galega

Tangerine poppy

hartlandii and ‘Firecracker’. I wanted colour and uniqueness in my new garden.

In order to retain my memory of what I had purchased, I peeled off the labels they had put on the pots, the essays informing me of Latin and common names and what the plants looked like.

Next Spring I was back at their Reopening, purchasing on 4 September 2005 a Wellington Bronze, honeysuckle, a dark-blue daisy for the bank and Kniphophia caulescens, commonly red-hot poker, as on the label.

Aristea major needs ‘patience’

The following first spring opening day I acquired Freedom Bells, a native fuchsia, the Georgia Blue Veronica, Campanula takesimana, back the next day for a Peruvian lily.  September 16, 2006,  the Aristea major, which Adrian told me I had to be patient for the appearance of the cobalt blue flowers.

At the end of the month I was back for a euphorbia. In the 2007 Spring I bought a smaller Aristea, a Bird of Paradise Marei told me was quite unique, the Cerastostigma willmottianum and a perennial iris.

Angel's Fishing Rod

In 2008’s Spring I was assured by Adrian the Aristea would bloom, and I bought a felicia, the wonderfully named Angel’s Fishing Rod, two kinds of the wallflowers I had really begun to take notice of at Paradise Plants.

In the 2009 Spring I bought a pink phlox, a Chinese Lantern, blue Mexican sage and another kind of Mexican Salvia with flame-red flowers, and a Marmalade Bush.

Photos of the amazing flowers

In 2010 I delivered them a photograph of the amazing Angel’s Fishing Rod stems in full arcing flower and acquired another Bird of Paradise, several more wallflowers, a lilac, a clivia and a red and yellow arctotis.

At the Labour Weekend Closing Down Sale I got a tangerine poppy, white and yellow Granny Bonnets, a tray of purple of gold wallflowers.

Last year I was able to send them an image of the magnificent cobalt blue flowering Aristea major, the flowers at the head of the flax spear so heavy I had to tie them to a post to keep them upright.

This year the Angel’s Fishing Rods are spreading over the iris and mingling with the lantern bush, the blue daisies cascade down the bank, the yellow iris are bursting out all over, the foxgloves are a platoon of flowering soldiers at attention, the wallflowers have spread gold and purple multi-tones along the bank, the gorgeous Granny Bonnets pop up next to the robust arctotis.

My garden is forever alive with the bounty of Marei and Adrian’s loving labour and I treasure the Paradise Plants catalogue Marei gave me last year.

This year the start of Spring will not be the same, I cannot dash into the first day of the Paradise Plants nursery and tell them of my successes with their plants and take their advice on where to plant what, as I endeavour to choose from their unique array of often rare and usually native plants they propagated and sold at a third of commercial prices.

Adrian and Marei practised what they preached, spreading Nature’s bounty at incredibly affordable prices.

Their legacy lives on throughout the Kapiti Coast and beyond, for Maggie and the other gardening gurus fetched up too at Paradise Plants, talking to this knowledgeable and affectionate couple about their life’s work, which lives on in our gardens of remembrance for two people who not only worked for the benefit of the community but were its very heart.

We celebrate and mourn their bonded parting.