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.

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