Kapiti Coast

There's a fu­sion of gar­den and art in the Waikanae Beach gar­den of He­len For­rest and Greg Chas­ton.

NZ Gardener - - CONTENTS -

Ju­lian Matthews vis­its a cre­ative cou­ple’s gar­den in Waikanae Beach

Both are ac­com­plished painters and their artis­tic abil­i­ties ex­tend to the way they use the plants which fill ev­ery nook and cranny of their sandy, long and nar­row plot which is just a cou­ple of blocks back from the sea.

They have been fine tun­ing the gar­den for a while now, but a big step was taken last year when they de­cided to al­ter the ap­proach to the front door, which is to the side, fac­ing north. Be­cause of a long deck and a gravel path­way run­ning ad­ja­cent to one another, vis­i­tors some­times be­came bam­boo­zled. Spurred on by a sig­nif­i­cant birth­day ap­proach­ing for Greg, He­len de­cided it was time for ac­tion.

The gravel path area was trans­formed into a potager.

Three high-sided wooden planters were made by a builder us­ing ground treated tim­ber. The planters were filled with the best qual­ity grow­ing ma­te­rial He­len could get hold of – lots of their own com­post, bought mulch and lay­ers of sheep ma­nure (the old-fash­ioned stuff, well ma­tured and gath­ered by hand from beneath shear­ing sheds by a lo­cal char­ac­ter who sells it door to door).

By the time the guests ar­rived to help Greg cel­e­brate his birth­day in late Novem­ber, the now fully planted raised beds of veg­eta­bles were look­ing so good that they be­came the star turn, al­most out­do­ing Greg’s singing!

There were to­ma­toes, still at the green fruit stage but full of prom­ise, sur­rounded by let­tuces, kale, straw­ber­ries, and a good se­lec­tion of herbs in­clud­ing the main­stays sage, pars­ley and thyme.

Not only do the veg­etable beds look stun­ning, they are also a very prac­ti­cal idea, be­ing so close to the house that it’s just a few steps from the kitchen to gather the sup­ple­ments for the evening meal. Plus plant­ing and weed­ing is a breeze, as it can be done stand­ing up. “Eye-level gar­den­ing,” is how He­len puts it.

Also, confusion for folk look­ing for the front door has been over­come. It’s now ob­vi­ous that the only way there is via the deck, pass­ing all sorts of in­ter­est­ing things along the way, such as the pot­ted epi­phyl­lum, stacks of sun hats atop a colour­ful man­nequin, and trays of shells and stones gath­ered from beaches around the coun­try.

There’s colour­ful fur­ni­ture to rest upon too, even a mir­ror which is there pri­mar­ily to pro­vide an ar­rest­ing re­flec­tion of the gar­den, but use­ful should a vis­i­tor feel the urge for a lit­tle last minute titi­va­tion.

Fo­liage plays a ma­jor role in the gar­den and pro­vides year round ap­peal.

Some, such as the big-leafed, shiny green Ligu­laria reni­formis, make dra­matic groups in shaded spots and con­trast with finer fo­liage such as tau­pata ( Co­prosma repens). A group of puka be­side the drive look as if they have been art­fully ar­ranged, mak­ing a strik­ing com­ple­ment to large river boul­ders, tau­pata and a tree aloe ( Aloe baine­sii) with a hand­some, ringed trunk. But these were a happy ac­ci­dent, the seeds dropped by birds sit­ting on the branches of an over­head banksia. The puka, which grow so fast and tall in good soil, are mak­ing slow progress in the sand and stay­ing com­pact, their stunted na­ture en­cour­aged by He­len’s nip­ping out of new cen­tre growths.

He­len fell in love with tree trunks when she and Greg were trav­el­ling in Italy a few years ago.

“We loved the way old trees had their lower limbs re­moved so you could see the ruins be­yond and en­joy the trunks at the same time.”

This in­spired her to limb up some of her shrubs back home in Waikanae. A small karaka and Co­prosma repens got this treat­ment on the bound­ary, and a cab­bage tree was lopped off at ground level so it could sprout away again with multi trunks, which it has done to much-ad­mired ef­fect.

A tall cac­tus in a sunny spot pro­vides a trunk with a dif­fer­ence, its blue-grey colour and tough guy good looks adding a dis­tinc­tive air. It came fully formed, ob­tained from a gar­den at Otai­hanga a few kilo­me­tres away af­ter hav­ing been spot­ted for sale on Trade Me.

“It was hell on earth to move,” re­calls He­len. “We had to wrap it in blan­kets and an old du­vet and it was so tall it stretched from the tail-gate of the sta­tion wagon through to the front seat.”

Plant­ing was a bit of a mis­sion too, but well worth the ef­fort. It’s a plant with a story, as is the case with so many of the in­hab­i­tants of this beach gar­den. ✤

He­len For­rest.

He­len’s eye level vege gar­den.

Trach­e­losper­mum jas­mi­noides.

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