More than meets the eye

Here’s how one cre­ative and de­ter­mined Auck­lan­der planted a Japanese-style gar­den us­ing only New Zealand na­tives.


An amaz­ing Japanese-style gar­den in Auck­land filled with na­tive plants.

A“I love the bush. I’m so bi­ased that when I go over to other coun­tries, I go, ‘That’s not as good as New Zealand bush’.”

t some point, ev­ery gar­dener has paused over a plant and ex­pe­ri­enced an epiphany. Auck­lan­der Mal­colm Hay­ward calls his a “clap to the fore­head epiphany”. With the con­struc­tion of his Japanese-in­spired gar­den set to get un­der­way at his Buck­lands Beach home four years ago, he had a sud­den eu­reka mo­ment which pro­vided the in­spi­ra­tion for his ex­tra­or­di­nary front gar­den. He set out to cre­ate a Japanese style gar­den with tra­di­tional plants. “I had the maple tree and crabap­ple tree sit­ting there in their bags, and I sud­denly thought, why don’t I do it with New Zealand na­tives? So the maple and crabap­ple went into the back gar­den and I used New Zealand na­tives in­stead – not one thing is not na­tive there,” he says. And that in­cludes the fish. Mal­colm’s in­spi­ra­tion came from his love of our na­tive flora and fauna, and a de­sire to repli­cate a part of the coun­try he and his fam­ily of­ten travel to in or­der to water­ski. “I love the bush. I’m so bi­ased that when I go over to other coun­tries, I go, ‘That’s not as good as New Zealand bush.’ So here, I’ve tried to do it a lit­tle bit like Lake Kara­piro from the air – the rolling farm­land is the muehlen­beckia, the lit­tle bit of wa­ter there is the lake, be­cause it’s long like that, and if you’re driv­ing down State High­way 1, you’ve got all these huge rocks com­ing out of the hill­sides with grass around them. I tried to repli­cate that feel­ing.”

The re­sult is a view as good as an aerial pho­to­graph, but like most gar­den­ers em­bark­ing on a new pro­ject, Mal­colm had a cou­ple of hic­cups.

“I put down lep­tinella as a ground cov­er­ing, but it died off in big patches. It looked beau­ti­ful ini­tially, but I was told by Ora­tia Na­tive Plant Nurs­ery that it tends to do that.”

So he kept an eye out for a re­place­ment, and in­spi­ra­tion struck 12,500 miles away at Claude Monet’s gar­den in France. “Two or three years ago, I was in Monet’s gar­den. I’m in the shop, and guess what? I look down and see Muehlen­beckia ax­il­laris for sale.”

So he gave it a go, and hasn’t looked back. “That’s done very well,” he says. “It stays vividly green and it’s tough. I trim it with elec­tric trim­mers – I just get down on my knees and trim it reg­u­larly in the sum­mer. The co­pros­mas at the back – the low-grow­ing Co­prosma

‘Haw­era’ and the other ones – I just keep them trimmed very low with my hedge trim­mers.”

In his haste to get plant­ing, though, Mal­colm ad­mits he didn’t take the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions to pre­vent weeds from ap­pear­ing, and af­ter a time ox­alis started to pop up ev­ery­where. “I had to get a lit­tle 600mm square of steel and just go from one end to the other. It took the whole day, twice in a row, get­ting down and flick­ing them out of the soil, and it dealt to them. They didn’t come back.”

It’s a sign of Mal­colm’s metic­u­lous at­ten­tion to de­tail, and, as a re­sult, a beau­ti­ful gar­den emerged with a nod to two cul­tures.

At the rear of the house, Mal­colm in­tro­duced two more cul­tures – English and Ital­ian – and a style that is com­pletely in con­trast to the front gar­den.

“I like that or­der-dis­or­der mix­ture,” he says. But not only that, “I love colour, I love tex­ture, I love light chang­ing, I love green­ery. I also love bright, strik­ing, in-your-face colour. I knew I wanted an Ital­ian and English feel here be­cause I love both English ram­bling and Ital­ian struc­ture.”

The pond has a wrought iron over­hang in Ital­ianate de­tail (“I wanted to make it so when you stand on the edge of the pond, the gold­fish dis­ap­pear un­der your feet a bit”) and the stat­ues are clas­sic English.

The plants ram­ble in a fash­ion that ac­cen­tu­ate one an­other, with strik­ing colours and tex­tures, and am­ple flow­ers and fo­liage.

To one side of the paved court­yard stands a rather hand­some English-style glasshouse. “I saw them ex­ten­sively ad­ver­tised in Euro­pean gar­den mag­a­zines and al­ways loved them,” says Mal­colm, “but I never found one in New Zealand that came close enough to that. I hap­pened to be chat­ting to my son’s boss at his work, an alu­minium join­ery com­pany, and he said he would look at draw­ing it up for me and con­struct­ing it.”

Af­ter sev­eral long meet­ings to nut out the de­sign, Mal­colm fi­nally got no­ti­fi­ca­tion last Au­gust that the glasshouse was com­pleted. “I was in South Africa at the time and he sent me an email with a photo of the con­struc­tion of it and I wanted to come home in­stantly,” laughs Mal­colm. “It’s ex­actly like the ones in the gar­den mag­a­zines. I’m en­tirely sat­is­fied with it. The English glasshouses are solid, have heav­ier join­ery, long panels, and a do­mes­tic alu­minium front door that is the same join­ery.”

The last ad­di­tion to the gar­den was an alu­minium

At the rear of the house, Mal­colm in­tro­duced two more cul­tures – English and Ital­ian – and a style that is com­pletely in con­trast to the front gar­den.

The Ital­ian-English court­yard boasts clas­sic stat­ues, wrought iron de­tail and a ram­bling English gar­den.

Trop­i­cal fish and trop­i­cal plants sit side by side in the glasshouse.

A col­lec­tion of cacti and bulbs, in­clud­ing South African Veltheimia bracteata (left), pro­vide ex­otic blooms.

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