Noth­ing makes writer Lynda Hallinan hap­pier than switch­ing things up in her Fog­gy­dale Farm gar­den


If you could live your life again, what would you do dif­fer­ently? With apolo­gies to Cher, if I could turn back time I’d buy my first grotty flat in Auck­land (a shabby villa now worth squil­lions), go on a diet be­fore my sis­ter’s wed­ding (I’m im­mor­talised on my par­ents’ wall as a chubby brides­maid in a green taffeta bub­ble) and get se­ri­ous about in­te­rior de­sign in­stead of gar­den­ing.

It’s not that I’ve gone off gar­den­ing. I’ve spent more than half my life ei­ther sink­ing my green thumbs into the soil, or thump­ing out words of hor­ti­cul­tural wis­dom on a key­board.

Yet, as a peren­nial pot­terer, part of me won­ders whether an in­door hobby might have been bet­ter. Feel like a decor change? You can just buy new cush­ions for the couch, re­ar­range the fur­ni­ture and whack up a roll of posh wall­pa­per. But it’s trick­ier to tinker about with a whole gar­den – es­pe­cially one of your own mak­ing – when the mood takes your fancy. (Hus­bands, I have found, don’t take too kindly to up­root­ing trees they pre­vi­ously helped plant, let alone re­lo­cat­ing hedges, fences, decks, chicken coops and raised beds.)

In 2010, when I broke ground on my new coun­try gar­den at Fog­gy­dale Farm, just across the val­ley from Auck­land’s Hunua ranges, I broke all the rules. I didn’t live here for a year be­fore turn­ing the first sod. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a bud­get.

I didn’t have a rain gauge, a wa­ter tank, an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem or the abil­ity to back a trailer. >

What I did have was a wed­ding date and a bid­dable boyfriend with a swag of dig­gers and trucks at his dis­posal. Ja­son Hin­ton, now my hus­band, is a civil con­trac­tor who moves moun­tains at work most days and thought noth­ing of hitch­ing his 70sqm kit­set farm­house to a crane and shuf­fling it 20m to clear a site for a big­ger house that may never even­tu­ate.

And that is how my gar­den be­gan, with the old house site at the top of the hill flat­tened into a for­mal lawn upon which to share our vows, the eques­trian arena at the bot­tom of the hill turned into a carpark for our guests, and a ter­raced path cut up the steep slope be­tween the two.

Af­ter our wed­ding, I filled those ter­races with fruit trees – cit­rus, five quinces, a dozen plums and a grove of pur­ple-leafed ‘Ma­bel’ nec­tarines. It wasn’t my smartest move be­cause that south-fac­ing hill­side, shaded by a tow­er­ing cy­press shel­ter­belt, is frosty and dank in win­ter. In sum­mer, dahlias and rud­beckia daisies do well but the only thing that now grows on most of the fruit trees is a thick beard of lichen.

I had more suc­cess con­vert­ing our eques­trian arena into a potager with a long bor­der of loosely pleached or­na­men­tal pears (Pyrus calleryana ‘Aris­to­crat’) un­der­planted with white daf­fodils, ‘Pur­ple Heart’ hostas and ‘Lime­light’ hy­drangeas.

There are also 36 square beds that house a joy­ful con­gre­ga­tion of an­nu­als, herbs and veg­eta­bles, with ed­i­ble crops from an­gel­ica to zuc­chini. >

I prac­tise crop ro­ta­tion, though not in the con­ven­tional sense. Some­times I mix things up for the health of the soil – where I once grew a quar­ter of a tonne of spuds for the Cleve­don Vil­lage Farm­ers’ Mar­ket, I now grow old-fash­ioned cot­tage flow­ers for our road­side stall – but mostly I just ex­per­i­ment with some­thing old, some­where new.

This gar­den peaks in high sum­mer, only to plunge into a win­ter de­pres­sion when Jack Frost wipes out all but the hardi­est of peren­ni­als in one hit. It’s sad when the dahlias blacken, the coleus col­lapses and the hostas go into hid­ing, but I secretly en­joy the sea­sonal car­nage as it keeps all the bugs at bay. Sow­ing an­nu­als also al­lows me to tutu about with new com­bi­na­tions, all for the price of a new packet of seeds per bed each sea­son.

Noth­ing stands still for long here. The roses that once spilled out over the rock walls in front of our sta­bles now ram­ble down the farm race be­hind it, and my orig­i­nal veg­etable gar­den, wedged be­tween two English oaks on one side of the lawn, now has a board­walk whacked to­gether from tim­ber of­f­cuts sal­vaged from one of Ja­son’s re­tain­ing-wall jobs. >

In a sim­i­lar vein, the an­tique Romanian dove­cote that once stood sen­tinel on our wed­ding al­tar has been trans­ported down the hill and turned into a bug ho­tel of Trump Tower-pro­por­tions (and, like the US Pres­i­dency, it’s a bit skew-whiff).

“There is noth­ing per­ma­nent,” said the great Greek philoso­pher Her­a­cli­tus, “ex­cept change.” And, for ev­ery­thing else, there’s paint.

Last sum­mer, I got a bad case of the blues, re­paint­ing all 36 beds, and our shep­herd’s hut, a deep shade of dam­son blue. The hut wears a coat of many colours, hav­ing pre­vi­ously been painted char­coal grey, claret red, sage green and elec­tric tan­ger­ine. This time, I swear the colour will stay, only I’ve said that four times be­fore so no one, least of all my hus­band, be­lieves me.

TH­ESE PAGES (clock­wise from left) Lynda Hallinan, hus­band Ja­son Hin­ton and sons Lach­lan, five, and Lu­cas, seven, check­ing out the gi­ant sun­flow­ers; Lynda saves the seed heads to sprout for win­ter sal­ads. Weep­ing crabap­ples, white cos­mos and 150 ‘Flower Car­pet White’ roses – “They’re the ul­ti­mate no-main­te­nance rose” – flank the shep­herd’s hut. Lynda con­verted Fog­gy­dale Farm’s eques­trian arena into a large-scale potager with 36 beds, most of which are re-sown each year with a ro­tat­ing se­lec­tion of an­nual flow­ers and veg­eta­bles.

THIS PAGE (from top) Ja­son welded the over­sized bra­zier by the deck: “You’d singe your eye­brows off if you tried to roast marsh­mal­lows over it,” says Lynda. The buxus balls out­side the con­verted sta­ble block were lugged to the coun­try from Lynda’s for­mer city gar­den: “They’ve been in half wine bar­rels for over a decade but still look pretty sharp.”OP­PO­SITE (from top) The gar­den is for­ever ex­pand­ing; this bor­der runs down the farm race be­hind the sta­bles. Sum­mer-flow­er­ing achil­leas in the pick­ing gar­den.

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