The couple who had no children, but 120 houseplants, 29 cats and 4 dogs
Andy Macdonald / Stuff
Willow ocicat Asmera in the background
Artists Bernard and Sharon Carroll, both 66, have specially designed their Tasman home to accommodate over 120 indoor plants and their all-consuming creative pursuits. Bernard, whose career has been a veterinarian, and Sharon, a microbiologist, are now full-time artists and describe themselves as “retired”.
BERNARD CARROLL: We moved here for the lifestyle, for the weather and for the artistic environment. We weren’t having much success in Christchurch but we’ve had huge success with our art here.
The house was designed by us about eight years ago. Before that we were in Prebbleton, and before that we had a cattery in Mairehau (Christchurch). We survived the earthquake there.
Sharon makes glass mosaics which involve a lot of glass cutting…and a lot of bleeding from there.
* It’s winter and your indoor plants are also cold
* “I redesigned my new house to better display my indoor plants”
* Why I live in an orange house
And I do mixed media, which means textural painting and sometimes acrylic painting. We sell through cafes, exhibitions and our website bernardcarroll.co.nz.
Absolutely not one tiny bit do I miss being a veterinarian. I have become someone who can’t stand seeing animals hurt or in pain and of course as a vet you have to give them injections and so on. I was too careful, that was the problem. This happened gradually over 21 years.
Here we have built a large studio and a large garden room. I have over 100 houseplants in there, and I’m always trying to collect more. Sharon must be my handbrake.
I am Taurus. I love nature, I love trees and it brings a bit of nature into the house. And I think that’s part of my creativity. In my art, I specialize in native trees and birds, tuī and fantails.
I use a lot of dried foliage, bark and leaves. I get that from the garden; we have a quarter acre here.
We get up around 7 am, then we have breakfast and either garden if the weather is nice or we do art if the weather is bad.
Lately we have had a lot of orders. So we couldn’t let go. We did things at people’s request.
I’m working on one where the client’s late mother squeezed all these ferns into a phone book, and she wants them included in a bush scene, so I’m busy figuring out what to do with that.
Sharon’s latest commission is a large mirror surrounded by clematis, ferns and native birds.
We have been together for 47 years. We were each other’s first loves. We met at Massey University when we were 18, married at 21.
We look back on our lives and think that’s exactly what we wanted. We did everything we wanted in a timely manner and we don’t regret any of our actions. It’s teamwork all the way.
We have no children. It was a considered decision. Our brothers and sisters all had children; there are many children around.
Babies just don’t interest us. Someone shows us a puppy or a kitten, we all get gooey on it. But not babies.
We have had 29 cats so far and four dogs. They took all our love and gave it back tenfold.
At one point we had 10 cats and two dogs. Now we only have three cats, the ocicats. They are absolutely delicious, like dogs.
At this unique Christchurch cafe, coffee and scones are served with a side of Swiss cheese, along with an assortment of potted treasures that would whet the appetite of any houseplant lover.
I have all kinds of plants, pretty much every species, but I don’t want monstera. People don’t realize how big they are getting.
I am a real Scrooge. I rarely buy anything over $30 and those up to $100 I buy as small ones and grow them.
I propagate a lot too and it really annoys Sharon because instead of having one plant of the species, I have five. I sell them, I give them away.
I also have bonsai, about 30, and some are about 80 years old. It’s not really tricky.
My favorite is kōwhai. They are quite good at making their own ripples, swirls and swirls.
Just like art, it’s nice to be creative.