A tale of two city gardens
designed that may be small on space, but deliver big on wow factor.
Tony recently overhauled a Remuera garden, which was not only tight on room, but featured a huge swimming pool in the middle of the garden, obscuring the entrance and dominating the space.
“It was a typical inner city plot, small but it faced north, which was wonderful. The owners didn’t use the pool and knew they wanted to do something with the space, but weren’t sure what. When I saw it, my immediate thoughts were that the pool had to go and we could create three unique
garden rooms in its place. Through our conversations I discovered they liked the idea of having a rose garden, a perennial garden and a woodland garden – all those things in Auckland’s wet climate!” he says.
Tony started from scratch, although there were some key elements already present in the garden that needed to be worked around. “There were beautiful established trees and the house was charming with lovely architectural features, which spoke to how the garden should be, with its classic, clean lines. There were also numerous challenges with the garden as it was. Some beds were heavily root impacted from large trees and the light was better in summer than in winter. Access was compromised and the owners wanted a low maintenance space. From a design perspective, I had to take all these factors into account when creating the garden.”
Tony’s first job was to get rid of the pool and then work on how the garden rooms could interconnect with each other in the resultant space.
“I deconstructed part of the garden and created opportunities for new plantings within existing planting schemes. Old timber structures were renovated and a paving element was introduced. I convinced the owners to put in a tiny artificial lawn. I love turf, but it would never have established under the large oak tree.”
The garden’s colour palette was arrived at through conversations with the owners, finding out they loved roses and in particular, the yellow David Austin climbing rose ‘Graham Thomas’.
“Most people steer clear of yellow, but keeping the rose was nonnegotiable, so we used it as a starting point for a theme – shades of lime green, dark green, white and blue can quite happily meet ‘Graham’ in the garden.”
For the planting scheme, Tony relied on “all designers’ favourites”. “In shady parts I’ve planted daphne and hellebores and in the rose garden there’s a collection of David Austin and hybrid tea roses. I also used Teucrium fruticans, which is great for formal or informal hedging. In the hot, dry part of the garden I used bearded irises and lavender. All the classics.”
Tony says it’s important that a garden is a reflection of the people who own it and not of the designer. “The owners of this garden had a favourite Karl Maughan painting of Rhododendrons and while I couldn’t plant Rhododendrons in the garden, I could paint the garden in the same colours – painting using plants.”
Size doesn't matter when it comes to gardens. Small outdoor spaces can be dramatic, beautiful and interesting.
TONY MURRELL TRISH BARTLEET