Meet Eden (the plant whis­perer)

Build­ing a new home near Nel­son gave this young cou­ple the chance to sculpt their steep sec­tion into a beau­ti­fully de­signed ter­raced gar­den com­plete with out­door liv­ing room

Your Home and Garden - - Front Page - Text by Carol Buck­nell. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Daniel Allen.

Nes­tled at the heart of Tas­man Bay is the Waimea In­let, a large, semien­closed es­tu­ary that is home to mi­gra­tory birds such as the bar-tailed god­wit and the white heron. When Canopy Land­scape Ar­chi­tects were asked to cre­ate a gar­den for a new house over­look­ing this beau­ti­ful stretch of coast­line, their prime con­cern was the cre­ation of out­door liv­ing ar­eas that were shel­tered from the site’s sea winds but al­lowed en­joy­ment of the won­der­ful view across the wa­ter.

“Our clients were a young cou­ple, Scott and Jus­tine, who had just moved back from over­seas to set­tle in Nel­son and were in the early stages of build­ing their first home,”

Canopy di­rec­tor Heidi Ste­wart ex­plains. “The site was a slop­ing sec­tion and we needed to cre­ate flat, us­able spa­ces, in­clud­ing a lawn ter­race and out­door liv­ing ar­eas. It was also im­por­tant to pro­vide pri­vacy from the road and a sense of ar­rival so that vis­i­tors would be clearly di­rected to the front door.

“Scott and Jus­tine wanted a mix of na­tive and ex­otic species for the gar­den that would fit into the ru­ral, coastal con­text of the site. They were very hands-on with the project so it turned out to be a good col­lab­o­ra­tion.”


Scott and Jus­tine bought the 3000-squareme­tre site six years ago. “It was a fairly steep, semi-ru­ral coastal sec­tion,” re­mem­bers Scott. “The main chal­lenges were its steep­ness, ex­po­sure to af­ter­noon sea breezes, prox­im­ity to the road and lack of pri­vacy. Our new house was fin­ished in June 2013, 18 months af­ter we bought, and the gar­den was started soon af­ter.”


Scott and Jus­tine put a lot of thought into the look and func­tion­al­ity of their gar­den. “We wanted a semi-for­mal, struc­tured look with whites and greens as key com­po­nents. The gar­den had to be easy-care and in­clude large out­door ar­eas that were pri­vate, as well as flat, us­able spa­ces and an or­chard.”

Canopy came up with a de­sign that re­flected the style of the house and its set­ting. “Clean and con­tem­po­rary in de­sign,” says Heidi. “We took a sim­ple, struc­tured ap­proach to plant­ing, us­ing grids of flow­er­ing cher­ries and hedges to re­late to the ru­ral con­text of the site. We then in­tro­duced a more re­laxed pal­ette of na­tive plants on the sea­ward side of the gar­den to con­nect it to the wider coastal en­vi­ron­ment.”


The first stage of work in­volved ex­ten­sive re­tain­ing to cre­ate large ter­races for out­door liv­ing and flat lawns. Tim­ber decks were built on two sides of the house along with tim­ber and con­crete steps to con­nect the var­i­ous ar­eas of the gar­den. The main out­door liv­ing area is con­nected to the north­ern end of the house and fea­tures an el­e­gant steel per­gola with cedar rafters, an out­door fire­place, bar­be­cue and an in­te­grated out­door fridge.


The hero of this gar­den is clearly Scott and Jus­tine’s de­light­ful out­door liv­ing room. Jus­tine worked closely with in­te­rior de­signer Emma Mor­ris of Eterno De­sign to style the space with fur­ni­ture, light­ing and ac­ces­sories. “We can use it all year round with the ad­di­tion of two 3kW in­frared heaters and the awe­some big out­door fire,” Jus­tine says. “We eat out­side most evenings dur­ing sum­mer and the out­door area, in­clud­ing the ad­ja­cent lawn, is fully utilised through­out sum­mer for plenty of gath­er­ings with fam­ily and friends. The flat and con­tained lawn space sur­round­ing the court­yard is fan­tas­tic for our one-year-old daugh­ter, Ara­bella, and Otto, the fam­ily Labradoo­dle.”

Now it’s all done, the cou­ple couldn’t be hap­pier with their gar­den. “We thor­oughly en­joy our out­door liv­ing spa­ces and the gar­den we have cre­ated. Through the ex­ten­sive plant­ing and gar­den de­sign we have achieved com­plete pri­vacy and shel­ter in a short space of time and are de­lighted with the re­sult. The de­sign­ers re­sponded ex­tremely well to our brief. We spent a lot of time and ef­fort work­ing through the de­tail with them and couldn’t be hap­pier with the re­sult.”


Plant­ing trees in grids cre­ates a smart, ar­chi­tec­tural look in the gar­den. Along with flow­er­ing cher­ries (Prunus ‘Mt Fuji’), Scott and Jus­tine’s plant­ing plan in­cluded or­na­men­tal pear, mag­no­lias and miche­lias. Griselinia and sil­ver-leaved teu­crium were planted as hedges, while the dwarf na­tive shrub Pit­tospo­rum ‘Golf Ball’ was planted in grids and lines to cre­ate the look of clipped top­i­ary. Among the many na­tives in the gar­den are coastal tree species such as titoki, kanuka and yel­low-flow­er­ing kowhai, along with oioi, hebes and flaxes. •

TOP An out­door fire­place, bar­be­cue and in­te­grated fridge turn the ter­race into a com­fort­able out­door room. ABOVE For­mal plant­ing close to the house be­comes more ca­sual as you move fur­ther away.

LEFT The plant­ing pal­ette is mostly green with touches of white and sil­ver in­clud­ing a clipped teu­crium hedge. BE­LOW Strips of con­crete paving con­nect the ter­race and lawn; bat­tened screens pro­vide pri­vacy.

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