South­land

Do you en­joy a vista of some sort as you’re weed­ing your car­rots or prun­ing the roses? Rolling farm­land, per­haps, or snow-capped moun­tains in the misty dis­tance?

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

Robert Guy­ton’s gar­den with a view

Gar­dens are beau­ti­ful places, with their leafy glades, vibrant flowerbeds as well as or­derly rows of veg­eta­bles and herb-fringed paths. However, ev­ery gar­den is im­proved by hav­ing a back­drop to­wards which the eye and mind of the gar­dener can wan­der when tools are downed and fo­cus shifted from the near to the far.

I’m very for­tu­nate in hav­ing a ro­man­tic out­look, both fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally. From my gar­den, I look out upon a sparkling body of water and a mys­ti­cal moun­tain. The glis­ten­ing wa­ters of the Jacob’s River Es­tu­ary and the two rivers that feed her, Pourakino and Aparima, and the maunga tapu, sa­cred moun­tain of this part of the world, Taˉk­itimu, weren’t put there, I know, for my view­ing plea­sure, but en­joy them I do for their beauty and the con­trast they pro­vide to my own sim­ple ef­forts at cre­at­ing a land­scape.

The sky too, I count as a dis­tant foil to my plant­ings of trees and shrubs, but like the moun­tain and the es­tu­ary, it has the habit of dis­ap­pear­ing.

So thickly have I planted the or­chard, swathes of na­tive shel­ter trees, fruit­ing and flow­er­ing shrubs, and scram­bling vines, that be­fore I know it and with re­lent­less reg­u­lar­ity, the cur­tain of green of my for­est gar­den that closes over the view can’t be drawn back with­out a good deal of work.

It’s not a prob­lem for my wife and I, oc­cu­py­ing as we do, the bed­room at the top and front of our two-storey house. From our window we can look out over the trees and en­joy a view of 100km and not have to peer past any­thing to see whether there’s snow on the moun­tain­top or dol­phins head­ing up the river.

The curved belts of na­tives – shaggy cab­bage trees, dense broadleaf and even the dark-bladed flaxes – are the real chal­lenge in keeping the view clear. They all grow so quickly and thickly, ig­nor­ing their progress leads to clo­sure of all the sight lines and com­plete loss of out­look.

It’s true, I could climb a tree to spy the scene, but my par­ents-in-law won’t and I owe them the plea­sure of a lovely view when­ever they visit, so I prune and clear ev­ery year – just av­enues, mind you, not clear-felling. I love the “foresty” feel too much to lay ev­ery­thing flat for the sake of an out­look. It’s enough to keep the ap­ple trees pruned in an open style. I also keep

the flaxes light rather than dense. I oc­ca­sion­ally fell a too-dense tree for no rea­son other than to let in the light.

It would seem a heavy chore if trees had to be re­moved en­tirely from the gar­den, but I’ve learned the value of leav­ing as much of the wood as pos­si­ble, on site, cut into small­ish pieces to cover the ground off the path­ways, where they can even­tu­ally re­turn to the soil.

Some of those branch seg­ments I as­sem­ble to make small fires for my grand­chil­dren and me to en­joy in the evenings; per­haps black­en­ing a sausage or car­bon­is­ing a marshmallow, but more of­ten for pok­ing fen­nel stalks and lengths of bam­boo into, to cre­ate cas­cades of sparks that swarm up the col­umn of hot air the fire cre­ates. Those fires, when trans­formed to ash, cooled and spread through­out the gar­den, then add to the health of ev­ery plant that re­ceives them.

So the man­age­ment of the gar­den with the vista in mind is no hard­ship for me and has many ben­e­fits.

Let­ting sights from the nat­u­ral world into the gar­den is a plea­sure and a priv­i­lege.

I know not ev­ery gar­den en­joys a spec­tac­u­lar out­look or even one that’s tol­er­a­ble. Yours may open out onto a build­ing site or a block of apart­ments, so your needs will be dif­fer­ent and you’ll choose screen­ing rather than vista-re­veal­ing as a way to get the max­i­mum en­joy­ment from your gar­den.

Where a screen is needed and a wall isn’t al­ready in place, fast-grow­ing plants can cre­ate a liv­ing bar­rier be­tween you and the scene you want to for­get.

De­pend­ing upon the scale of the cover-up re­quired, long-lived peren­ni­als, those that dis­ap­pear back into the soil over win­ter, bi­en­ni­als or an­nual plants can be used to make a green screen.

Built struc­tures too, such as a trel­lis or light net­ted fence, can pro­vide a lat­tice upon which rapidly grow­ing climb­ing plants – any­thing from the nas­tur­tium or the pea fam­ily – can be en­cour­aged to clam­ber, and unattrac­tive sights be made to dis­ap­pear as those vig­or­ous plants gain height.

Sun­flow­ers and Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes rocket sky­ward when given the chance and a rich soil, and can quickly form a wall of big leaves behind which in­dus­trial vis­tas can be hid­den.

Toe­toe is a mar­vel­lous grass for screen­ing scenes that don’t make your heart flutter with de­light, and have the bonus of more than dou­bling in height just when you need them, with the even­tual erup­tion of their tall and at­trac­tive plumes.

Bam­boo, or at least va­ri­eties of bam­boo cho­sen for their man­age­able growth habits – the clumpers, not the run­ners – make re­silient and at­trac­tive curtains through which you might still get the oc­ca­sional glimpse of the out­side world when the wind is sway­ing the canes and that might be just the re­minder you need of how lucky you are to have a gar­den at all into which you can es­cape from the harsh out­side world.

Whether you are trying to get a look at the land­scapes be­yond your gar­den fence or keep the sight of them from your eyes, plants are the key to suc­cess and are the tools we gar­den­ers best un­der­stand.

Robert looks out to the Jacob’s River Es­tu­ary and, back amongst the clouds, the Tak­itimu moun­tains.

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