Hours spent in the garden: I spend about five to six hours a week, although not so many in winter. I read somewhere that the best thing you can do for your garden in winter is to stay out of it. So I do. (Jean) Watering and lighting: The new irrigation system comes on for an hour a day at 6am unless the rain sensor tells it otherwise. We control watering and lighting using apps on phone and iPad. (Paul)
Most used tool: Battery-operated hedge trimmers and shears. (Jean)
Best edible crop: Around the back of the garage, I grow tomatoes and basil in a Vegepod, a raised garden bed with a self-watering cover. (Jean)
The thing I’ve learned about gardening: Keep at it. Don’t give weeds a chance. (Jean)
Our favourite season: The silhouettes of the palm fronds look amazing in summer. And we spend lots of time sitting out here. (Paul)
Jean and Paul Byrnes
Steps from the lower part of the garden lead to tiled courtyards around the house. There’s a handsome wide-screen fountain that you can see from inside the living room, and hear its soothing gurgles when the bifold windows are pulled back.
The main entertaining area is on the northern boundary, with a marble table and gas fire with a raised hearth; it’s drenched in sun all afternoon, the better for Rocco’s sunbathing pleasure.
The courtyard is private, quiet and sheltered from sea breezes or any lurking cold-hearted sou’westerly. In fact, says Jean, there is always somewhere sheltered in the garden whichever way the wind is blowing.
Before opening their garden to visitors during the Auckland Garden Design Fest last November, the Byrnes did some tweaking (plants) and updating (irrigation and lighting).
Thorny dwarf date palms (Phoenix roebelenii) were given the heave-ho. “I was not unhappy to see them go,” says Jean, who was sick of crawling around them kitted out in goggles and headgear. Their bay tree replacements are much more approachable.
Apart from the rain lilies and the fragrant michelia which have tiny white blooms, Jean does have one other flowery plant, a climbing ‘Iceberg’ rose. And you guessed it, it’s pure white.
THIS PAGE (from left) The original rock wall was built about 90 years ago by an English immigrant who had worked at London’s Kew Gardens; local stonemason Dave Milina of Sustainable Landscapes rebuilt it substantially using existing rocks and extra rocks from a Far North farm. N kau trunks with hydrangeas behind. The large bronze urn planted in succulents was imported from Melbourne.OPPOSITE Curvy ponytail palms repeat the swooping lines of the elegant staircase; Jean and Paul chose trees that would never crowd out the house or obscure garden views from the upstairs verandah.