This pic­ture-per­fect farm north-west of Auck­land pro­vides a cor­nu­copia of fruit, veges and pro­duce for its own­ers

Your Home and Garden - - Your Garden - Text by Carol Buck­nell. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Sally Tagg.

When a land­scape ar­chi­tect and a chef join forces to cre­ate a gar­den, the edi­ble com­po­nent is bound to be some­thing spe­cial. And so it is at Vi­o­let Hill Farm, the de­light­ful Kauka­pakapa home of Clin­ton and Renèe Davies. The cou­ple have lived at the prop­erty, along with their menagerie of an­i­mals, for 15 years. Dur­ing that time they’ve cre­ated a va­ri­ety of gar­den spa­ces in­clud­ing a pic­turesque potager and herb gar­den, na­tive for­est, thriv­ing or­chard, Ja­panese gar­den, wild­flower meadow and even a small pond.


Their 2.4-hectare piece of land is lo­cated in a val­ley about 50km north­west of Auck­land. For­merly a dairy farm, the prop­erty was mainly bare pad­docks and a few ar­eas of na­tive bush when the cou­ple found it. In other words, it was per­fect, says Renèe. “I wanted a site that was north-fac­ing and sunny, on a pri­vate gravel road with lit­tle traf­fic, in­cluded some na­tive for­est and had oo­dles of space and po­ten­tial for plant­ing.”

The hard-work­ing duo set about build­ing a house, sheds and fenc­ing be­fore tack­ling the gar­den. Renèe’s an avid gar­dener but even for her the task was enor­mous. “It has taken a lot more time than I ever would have an­tic­i­pated,” she con­fesses.

“Out of ne­ces­sity and am­bi­tion it has be­come an all-con­sum­ing, life­long project.

The main chal­lenge has been turn­ing pad­dock into gar­den and deal­ing with on­go­ing weeds such as creep­ing but­ter­cup and dock. It’s also clay soil, so im­prov­ing the drainage with lots of horse ma­nure and com­post has been an im­por­tant part of the process.”


Al­though she de­scribes her gar­den as an eclec­tic mix, Renèe says the over­all theme of the gar­den is sim­ple. “Mostly it is about beau­ti­ful but func­tional and pro­duc­tive spa­ces. We have devel­oped an ex­ten­sive or­chard with more than 150 fruit trees, a large potager gar­den with glasshouse (where I grow my own turmeric, gin­ger and galan­gal – there is noth­ing bet­ter than fresh gin­ger for a won­der­ful home­grown veg­etable stir-fry), cit­rus grove, pond and walk­way, flower gar­dens and av­enue plant­ings. All the steep and gully ar­eas we have planted with na­tives to at­tract birds and en­sure low main­te­nance.”

A large ve­randa on the north side of the house pro­vides much-needed shade in the heat of sum­mer. “We spend most of our time out here – it’s a lovely space with views out to the potager, then in the evening we stoke up the pizza oven and cook meals so we can spend as much time out­side as pos­si­ble.”


Renèe and Clin­ton are very for­tu­nate to be fully self-suf­fi­cient for herbs and most veg­eta­bles. “We love be­ing able to just walk out the door to gather the herbs and veges we need for a meal. The Auck­land cli­mate means most herbs grow all year, so we have fresh chives on our eggs ev­ery week­end. Clin­ton is a chef and we both love cook­ing with our own pro­duce, so we use the pizza oven a lot, not just for piz­zas. We will cook roasts and veg­eta­bles in there and even the odd dessert – it does a mean tarte tatin. The ben­e­fit is that it also cre­ates a lovely warm out­door space with a beau­ti­ful fire.”

The cou­ple’s large or­chard means there’s never a short­age of fruit, ei­ther. As well as ap­ples, peaches, or­anges and lemons, they grow quince, nec­tarines, figs, al­monds, med­lar, crab ap­ples, chest­nuts and apri­cots. Six­teen beau­ti­ful Barn­evelder chick­ens range freely in the or­chard, help­ing to re­duce pests among the fruit trees. “They love the shade of the trees and scratch­ing around in the grass. Feed­ing on grass and grubs means we have the most orange eggs I’ve ever seen – they’re gor­geous,” Renèe en­thuses.


To keep costs down, the cou­ple use re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als as of­ten as they can. Renèe and Clin­ton found a sec­ond­hand tin shed and re­clad it with old barn tim­bers to blend it into the land­scape. “We used an old axe for the door han­dle and it now holds the gar­den im­ple­ments,” Renèe says. A num­ber of old baths have also been con­verted into raised beds. Al­though very prac­ti­cal, the de­signer in Renèe doesn’t find the baths very pleas­ing so they’re kept out of sight. “They are fan­tas­ti­cally func­tional as I have some that re­tain more wa­ter for my wa­ter chest­nuts and some more moist beds for co­rian­der, then oth­ers that are drier. You can ma­nip­u­late their mois­ture con­tent by us­ing the drainage sys­tem of the plug.”

When it comes to cre­at­ing gar­dens, it seems like the com­bi­na­tion of a chef with a land­scape de­signer is the ideal recipe. When food meets de­sign, amaz­ing things can grow.

VIS­UAL FEAST The out­door log­gia and din­ingarea has pic­turesque views over the potager gar­den. Op­po­site An out­door seat­ing area over­looks the or­chard with a ta­ble dur­ing the day and fire pit at night of­fer­ingplenty of ver­sa­til­ity.


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