FEA­TURE GAR­DEN

Sue Linn vis­its a gar­den de­signed for all sea­sons

Go Gardening - - Editorial -

A Taupō Trea­sure

Taupō is a strik­ingly beau­ti­ful place in which to live. But it poses some in­ter­est­ing chal­lenges for gar­den­ers, as Colleen O'Sul­li­van dis­cov­ered when she and her hus­band Sea­mus moved to cen­tral North Is­land pumice coun­try af­ter many years gar­den­ing in Welling­ton.

In just four years since mov­ing into her river­side home, green­fin­gered Colleen has cre­ated a thriv­ing gar­den that looks like it’s been there much longer. Her first chal­lenge was to plan her gar­den so that it com­ple­mented the spec­tac­u­lar out­look over the Waikato River. She knew it was im­por­tant to get the bones of the gar­den right and that the de­sign did jus­tice to the unique set­ting with­out dis­tract­ing from it, so she con­sulted lo­cal gar­den de­sign guru, Gor­don Col­lier.

It's of­ten said that a suc­cess­fully de­signed gar­den is one that holds its own dur­ing off­peak sea­sons. I vis­ited Colleen in the mid­dle of win­ter, and she was quick to lament that I wasn’t see­ing it at its best. I look for­ward to spring when Colleen's gar­den will be brim­ming with the fresh colours and per­fumes of her favourite peren­ni­als and roses. But few gar­dens look so good in July. The view from the in­door and out­door liv­ing

ar­eas is dom­i­nated by the river, but fully en­hanced by the strong geo­met­ric lines of griselinia hedges and a long lawn echo­ing the flow of the wa­ter.

On the other side of the house by the drive­way there are mass plant­ings of ev­er­green shrubs. Their colour­ful fo­liage will brighten the scene un­til the sleep­ing de­cid­u­ous trees, roses, laven­ders and flow­er­ing peren­ni­als take over in spring.

Colleen loves old-fash­ioned flowers. Her Welling­ton gar­den was a cot­tage gar­den. While struc­ture has been a high pri­or­ity for her Taupō gar­den, her favourite flow­er­ing plants have been given their right­ful place. “I was even more in­spired to plant peren­ni­als af­ter my visit to the Chelsea flower show in Lon­don,” she con­fesses.

Along the river side of the gar­den, a me­tre or so be­low the house, a wide peren­nial bor­der runs be­tween the griselinia hedge and for­mal lawn. The cun­ning de­sign means that the bare­ness of dor­mant peren­nial beds can­not be seen from the house dur­ing win­ter. Fill­ing the nar­row space be­tween Colleen and Sea­mus’ home and their neigh­bours is a ‘se­cret’ gar­den filled with scented shrubs and shade lov­ing peren­ni­als. The trea­sures Colleen has planted along­side the soft bark path in­clude daphne, rhodo­den­drons, camel­lias, hy­drangeas, hostas, helle­bores, Chatham Is­land for­get-menots and ferns. She also loves spring bulbs, but they’ve not been so easy to grow in the loose soil. ‘They seem to dis­ap­pear down deep in the soil,” she says.

The soil posed chal­lenges from the out­set. “Luck­ily Sea­mus is good with a spade” Colleen laughs, “be­cause we had to break through a hard layer of pumice be­fore we could plant any­thing.” The com­pacted layer of pumice, 30cm be­low the soil sur­face, is a re­sult of the

Ev­er­green hedges and clipped shrubs form the ‘bones’ of a gar­den that looks good all year.

site prepa­ra­tion that is the prac­tice prior to con­struc­tion of the houses in the area. But once that layer is bro­ken through, the soil is ex­tremely free drain­ing with min­i­mal abil­ity to hold wa­ter and nu­tri­ents. Colleen gets around this by treat­ing her gar­den to four trailer loads of com­post per year. She also has an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem. “Gor­don said ir­ri­ga­tion is es­sen­tial if you are go­ing to main­tain a gar­den in this soil,” she says. She also feeds her gar­den a lot. Colleen is big on fo­liar feed­ing and makes her own seaweed fer­tiliser.

“One of the most chal­leng­ing things about this soil is keep­ing a lawn look­ing good,” Colleen adds, to the ex­tent that she ad­mits she is con­sid­er­ing re­plac­ing the lawn with ground cover plants, although I can’t help but won­der if this is also a way for her to find more space for all the in­ter­est­ing plants she trea­sures.

Colleen and Sea­mus’ gar­den will be open to visit dur­ing the “Gar­dens Flowers and All that Jazz” fes­ti­val pre­sented by Taupō’s St An­drew's Angli­can Church on 17,18 and 19 Novem­ber, 2017. As well as the many fab­u­lous gar­dens to visit, there will be ad­di­tional “flavours, art, mu­sic and fab­u­lous flowers”. For more in­for­ma­tion and tick­ets go to www.gar­den­walk­staupo.nz

Colleen and Sea­mus’s river­side gar­den in win­ter (OPPOSITE PAGE) and in spring (BE­LOW).

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