IN THE MIX Cab­bage trees, grasses and cheer­ful flow­ers: this colour­ful Marl­bor­ough gar­den has it all.

Cheer­ful flow­ers meet stately na­tives in this all-sea­son Marl­bor­ough gar­den


Apair of cheeky fan­tails flit nearby as Rosanne An­der­son walks down her gar­den path. Ri­otous masses of colour erupt from the flower beds be­side her, while hun­dreds of honey bees nuz­zle their way to pollen. tight line of cab­bage trees sep­a­rates this bright cor­ri­dor from the deep, dense green of the na­tive bush be­yond, where Rosanne and her hus­band Atholl have planted thou­sands of trees to tempt tui and bell­bird, along with pi­wakawaka like these.

Karamu will be open to the pub­lic for the first time this Novem­ber, as part of a new Nel­mac Gar­den Marl­bor­ough tour, but eight years ago, this flour­ish­ing ecosys­tem was a tree­less horse pad­dock amid the sur­round­ing land­scape of vines.

Rosanne is an early child­hood ed­u­ca­tor, and Atholl an ar­chae­ol­o­gist, aca­demic and writer who co-au­thored Tan­gata Whenua: An Il­lus­trated His­tory, win­ner of the Il­lus­trated Nonfiction prize at the Ock­ham Book Awards last year. The cou­ple hail from the South Is­land, but lived in Can­berra be­fore mov­ing to Marl­bor­ough in 2008, tempted by the cli­mate and the sail­ing.

“The lush coun­try of New Zealand was a de­light to re­turn to and a gar­den with na­tive bush was on the wish-list,” says Rosanne. “But that’s not so easy to find when you go look­ing to buy a house. So we thought, ‘Right, we’ll grow the bush.’”

They bought a hectare of land on O’Dwyers Road and re­solved to build an eco-friendly so­lar pas­sive house with “wild” peren­ni­als at its feet and a bound­ary of vi­brant bush, of­fer­ing pri­vacy and a pocket of di­ver­sity among the vines.

The flower beds were in­spired by Dutch gar­dener Piet Ou­dolf whose nat­u­ral­is­tic gar­dens in­clude bold swathes of herba­ceous peren­ni­als and grasses, as beau­ti­ful in dor­mancy as they are in full colour. “I loved the style and thought, ‘That’s what I want,’” says Rosanne. “Then you get this big blank hectare of land and you go, ‘I don’t quite know how to do this.’”

So Christchurch land­scape ar­chi­tect Robert Wat­son cre­ated a broad plan with na­tives, flow­ers, veg­etable beds and fruit trees, all an­chored by a stretch of path head­ing straight to the north with 20m-long beds of peren­ni­als on ei­ther side. >

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