June top & flop CROPS

Lynda’s reg­u­lar round-up of the best & worst sea­sonal per­form­ers in her Hunua coun­try gar­den.

NZ Gardener - - The Good Life -


This lush, leafy Asian green (pic­tured at the back of my salad for­ag­ing bas­ket) is my new flavour of the month. Not only is tatsoi quick-grow­ing and ver­sa­tile, raw or cooked, its dark green rosettes also look at­trac­tive in the gar­den.

Also known as spoon mus­tard, spinach mus­tard and rosette bok choy, tatsoi is a cut-and-come-again Chi­nese cab­bage. It’s frost hardy, fast (ready in 40-50 days), com­pact, ideal for con­tain­ers and pretty care­free, espe­cially now that we’ve seen off the last cab­bage white but­ter­flies for another sea­son.

How to eat it? Add the spoon-shaped baby leaves to a mixed green salad, soup or noo­dle dish, or roughly chop the whole head and stir-fry in oys­ter sauce with lots of gar­lic, fresh chilli and ginger.

Sow tatsoi di­rect (source from Kings Seeds or Eg­mont Seeds) or pop in a pun­net of seedlings from your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre.

When a gar­den is lo­cated in a dra­matic coastal set­ting, it can be a fine bal­anc­ing act to me­di­ate be­tween it and the wild beauty of the wider en­vi­ron­ment. Add an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of out­door art and a strongly con­tem­po­rary house into the equa­tion, and the task be­comes even more chal­leng­ing. For­tu­nately for the own­ers of this gar­den on Auck­land’s west coast, land­scape de­signer Tr­ish Bartleet was more than able to find that bal­ance, cre­at­ing a place where house, art­works, gar­den and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment work in per­fect har­mony.

The own­ers have a city apart­ment, but the beach house is their chief res­i­dence and the out­side space their only gar­den. For this rea­son, Tr­ish con­sid­ered it im­por­tant that they were able to go out­side and en­joy the gar­den, not just gaze at it from within or from above on the wide ter­race that runs around the north­ern side of the house.

“The clients are also pas­sion­ate art col­lec­tors and wanted to dis­play many pieces out­side so the gar­den de­sign had to al­low space for these,” the de­signer ex­plains. “They drove the se­lec­tion and place­ment process, and we talked at length about where in­di­vid­ual pieces might go.”

Right from the start, Tr­ish knew that she didn’t want to repli­cate the ver­dant green bush which sur­rounds the house. “The idea for the gar­den was that it was not to be a com­pletely nat­u­ral land­scape. It would have a more con­trolled look, but still con­tain nat­u­ral el­e­ments,” she says. “The p¯ohutukawa screen the house quite well but the gar­den is not meant to be hid­den. It de­clares it­self as a gar­den.”

Achiev­ing this goal was par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing given the amount of large p¯ohutukawa around the edges of the steep site with lit­tle open space apart from nar­row areas ei­ther side of the house and a lit­tle at the front and the back. “I didn’t want the own­ers to feel as if the gar­den was hem­ming in the house,” Tr­ish ex­plains. “I know the area very well and in so many west coast prop­er­ties, the bush comes in very close to the houses. I wanted to make the gar­den feel more spa­cious, so you don’t feel as if all the large trees are crowd­ing you in.

“The planting gives lit­tle hints of what is in the bush and the wider en­vi­ron­ment as you walk around the gar­den, with­out try­ing to im­i­tate it.”

“The out­doors is so ex­treme on the west coast, you are con­stantly buf­feted by the winds so it was about pro­vid­ing havens.”

“Us­ing struc­tural el­e­ments and planting, I tried to cre­ate soft, cool restora­tive spa­ces around the gar­den. The out­doors is so ex­treme on the west coast, you are con­stantly buf­feted by the winds so it was about pro­vid­ing havens.”

The oioi gar­den just above the main en­trance is one such haven. An in­for­mal court­yard de­signed to be viewed from a quiet sit­ting area inside the house, the gar­den com­prises hor­i­zon­tal bands of the na­tive jointed reed ( Apo­das­mia sim­ilis), in­ter­spersed with lines of pavers to lead the eye out to the bound­ary. This broad­ens the feel of the site, Tr­ish says. “And the wind blow­ing through the reeds cre­ates move­ment and a fur­ther feel­ing of space.”

At the end of each strip of paving is a ver­ti­cal panel of Corten steel fram­ing the branches of the p¯ohutukawa trees on the other side, draw­ing your at­ten­tion to the tex­ture of the bark and the in­ter­twin­ing limbs of the trees. In the af­ter­noon the sun sets be­hind the pan­els ac­cen­tu­at­ing the glow­ing or­ange of their weath­ered sides. In con­trast, the inside of the pan­els fac­ing the house have re­mained a rich brown as they are not as ex­posed to the weather. “They are a foil for the dark green of the trees and a bar­rier be­tween the house and the bush. Even though they are not a solid bar­rier, they still cre­ate a feel­ing of en­clo­sure,” the de­signer points out.

On the op­po­site south­ern side of the house is what Tr­ish calls the N¯ikau Walk. Be­neath the palms are broad hor­i­zon­tal strips of paving de­signed to draw the gaze away from the house. One of the most strik­ing art­works here is Leon van den Ei­jkel’s Ur­ban Tree, its col­umns of or­ange and yel­low metal squares con­trast­ing vividly with the grace­ful fronds of the n¯ikau.

As the palms grow up­wards, other art­works partly hid­den amongst their fronds will be fully re­vealed. “I wanted the N¯ikau Walk to be a jour­ney con­nect­ing the dif­fer­ent out­side spa­ces,” says the de­signer. “You weave your way through the palms and over the step­ping stones with the na­tive ground­cover Fuch­sia procum­bens grow­ing around it. The planting gives lit­tle hints of what is in the bush and the wider en­vi­ron­ment as you walk around the gar­den, with­out try­ing to im­i­tate it.”

Planting is al­most en­tirely na­tive, most species found lo­cally. So why then did Tr­ish se­lect three tree aloes ( Aloe thraskii) to mark the en­trance to the house? “It needed some­thing strong in that po­si­tion,” she replies. “I wanted to cre­ate a sense of ex­cite­ment and ar­rival at the end of the drive­way, so that when you drive in to the house there is some­thing cheer­ful and up­lift­ing to greet you.”

Aloe thraskii grow naturally in the coastal dunes of eastern South Africa and the de­signer knew they

would work in this coastal gar­den, hav­ing used them in sev­eral pre­vi­ous projects. She also knew they would at­tract birds to the gar­den in win­ter which her clients were keen to do.

Cer­tainly, with the dap­pled sun­light catch­ing the edge of their arch­ing suc­cu­lent leaves, the aloes make a strong state­ment, their stat­uesque form com­ple­ment­ing the tall glass and con­crete house (de­signed by award-win­ning ar­chi­tect Mal­colm Taylor of X-Site Ar­chi­tects, with whom Tr­ish of­ten col­lab­o­rates). Shoots, a stone art­work carved by lo­cal artist John Edgar, sits be­neath the three suc­cu­lents while a tum­bling green pro­fu­sion of the low di­var­i­cat­ing na­tive shrub Muehlen­beckia as­tonii unites the com­po­si­tion.

She also works reg­u­larly with land­scape firm Sec­ond Na­ture, who built and main­tain the gar­den. It was a tough project. Be­fore work could even start on the gar­den, they had to con­struct a se­ries of rock re­tain­ing walls through the steep site to al­low the house to be built. The sandy soil made planting dif­fi­cult as did the dense mat of p¯ohutukawa roots. “The pˉo­hutukawa take ev­ery­thing from the soil. They are re­ally tough. We had to se­lect tough plants that could take those con­di­tions. As the own­ers are not here all the time, we also needed to use plants that could be left for rea­son­able pe­ri­ods. Planting is an on­go­ing task. As the gar­den evolves and trees such as the nˉikau come up, the planting will change,” Tr­ish says.

The de­sign of the gar­den had to also be very struc­tural rather than flow­ery, to be able to com­pete with the strongly ar­chi­tec­tural house and the mas­sive forms of the pˉo­hutukawa.

The de­sign of the gar­den had to also be very struc­tural rather than flow­ery, to be able to com­pete with the strongly ar­chi­tec­tural house…

To add colour and tex­ture to the mainly green pal­ette, Tr­ish spec­i­fied plants such as red-leaved cordy­lines, sil­very astelia and var­i­ous muehlen­beckia species with their won­der­fully tan­gled fo­liage. The Corten pan­els add more warmth and the de­signer’s ha­bit­ual en­thu­si­asm goes into over­drive when ex­tolling the virtues of her favourite ma­te­rial. “I love Corten be­cause it feels like an or­ganic ma­te­rial even though it is not. Un­like other man­made ma­te­ri­als such as steel or glass, you can’t con­trol the weather­ing process as it grad­u­ally changes from red­dish brown to or­ange. It works re­ally well with plants for that rea­son. You can in­tro­duce it to al­most any gar­den and it al­ways fits in.”

Work­ing with her client to find the per­fect po­si­tion for the many art­works was one of the high­lights of this project for Tr­ish. “Many of the plants and fea­tures such as rocks and paving were se­lected and lo­cated to en­sure the art­works were seen as part of the land­scape. It was a fan­tas­tic process.”

John Edgar’s Shoots.

John Edgar’s Trans­former.



De­signed to be viewed from the top deck, a wa­ter fea­ture con­nects the house to the sea in the dis­tance.

N¯ikau Walk from above.

In the shade of the na­tive bush stands Fig­ures by Chris­tian Nicholson.

One of two fe­male pro­file cut-outs by Chris­tian Nicholson.

Oioi court­yard viewed from inside the house.

Muehlen­beckia as­tonii.

Coloured flax.

Astelia chatham­ica.


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