Lawnmowing takes five minutes flat in this super-easy and very stylish Christchurch garden.
Downsizing to a contemporary, easy-care property has not meant compromising on style
First impressions are of a grand and somewhat classical property: a tall pitched roof home where the path to the front door runs between manicured box hedging and elegant rows of upright camellias. There are tantalising glimpses, too, of a private little garden just over the white walled perimeter and aluminium louvre fence.
Beyond the front entry is a light-filled home with a spacious living area that opens directly onto courtyards on either side, connected by decking. This is the home of Christchurch couple Mary and Ray Sefton, who built their house here nearly a decade ago on what was an empty section on a bend in the road in suburban Burnside, just across the road from Jellie Park Reserve.
“We went from a very traditional home in Harewood on a large section with a cottage garden to a much smaller piece of land, a much more contemporary home and a structured, easy-care garden,” says Ray, a registered master builder who constructed their home to a design by Grant Miles Architectural. “It has been a great move; Mary does the lawn with a battery mower these days and it only takes five minutes.” >
Now that they no longer have to tend lawns and cottage plants they have more time to spend entertaining friends or with family, including nine grandchildren who love to visit.
With its low maintenance design, the garden stays tidy even when they are away. “We like to travel to Europe every now and again,” says Ray. “It’s a weight off our minds knowing we won’t have a lot of pruning or weeding to do when we come back.” And now there are a few souvenirs of their travels in the garden.
Landscape designer Debbie Rimmer put together the planting plan for the couple, who say they haven’t changed a thing since. Red roses and red flowering rhododendrons echo the colour featured in the home’s interior. These are complemented by white hydrangeas, Christmas lilies and hellebores (winter roses).
“There were winter roses growing in my mother’s Christchurch garden in my childhood,” says Mary. “I’ve loved them ever since and planted them in every garden we’ve established.”
Buxus cones and balls provide an underlying formality, and creepers reach for the tops of garden walls. Spring brings out the blossoms, and feature trees such as Japanese maples bring colour in autumn.
It is a garden with some witty elements. A black table and white chairs in one of the courtyards is matched with a white table and black chairs on the other. Each of the courtyards has a water feature, sited opposite one another. It takes a while for the penny to drop that there is mirror image interplay at work here.
“We started out with this idea of putting in matching water features to mirror each other through our living space,” says Ray. “I designed them with a friend, they were fabricated by an engineer and then I installed them. When it came to furnishing the outside, we played around with the mirror image concept again and that’s how it all came together.” >
‘There were winter roses growing in my mother’s garden in my childhood. I’ve loved them ever since’
The couple say their best times in the garden are undoubtedly when they share it with friends and family.
“We’ve had 28 for Christmas here and it’s just so easy,” says Mary. “We usually have a Christmas barbecue in the evening, sitting outside and sharing wine and leftovers from lunch. There’s a pavlova or two and the kids will be running around. It’s just a lovely Kiwi family Christmas.”
THIS PAGE Red azalea and white star jasmine alongside the water feature on the home’s north-west side. OPPOSITE Acer platanoides 'Crimson King' is one of Mary and Ray’s garden favourites – its leaves are deep red in summer and produce vibrant autumn colour; here it's underplanted with star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides); the garden’s formal planting echoes the strong linear architecture of the home, clad in composite panels.
THIS PAGE Red flowering camellias at the front of the property are framed by buxus hedging.