Growth

When we designed this coastal garden several years ago, we were able to take a particularly adventurous approach to its design, due to the brief that our clients gave us - which went somewhere along the lines of "No lawns, and we love plants and gardens". One of our clients had also looked into our theories regarding integrated planting design in New Zealand - wherein a structure based on native ecology may be augmented by selected exotic flowers that lend additional seasonal colour, scent or movement.

Over the last 5 years, the garden has evolved both the structural backbone and ephemeral dimension that David McDermott and I intended when we designed it. The latter can be a difficult quality to instil within designed plantings, especially considering the risk-averse nature of much of the landscape industry, and the effect that this has on the way in which gardens have increasingly been perceived for the last two decades (although a change away from static plantings seems to be gathering steam at present).

Our means of accommodating both ephemeral appearances by plants, and the ability of plants to move around within the garden themselves, was to establish a matrix of structural plants (notably shrubs, restiads and groundcover species). Plants that provide fleeting high points within the garden (such as several species of a South African genus of bulbs, Lachenalia) are then able to emerge and go to ground amidst this matrix with impunity.

David Straight recently photographed the garden to record its continuing development, having also taken the earlier images of the garden for our portfolio. Our timing was ideal for the spring-flowering display of a spectacular South African bulb, Scadoxus puniceus (pictured above), which lights up the more restrained gardens that we designed for the southern side of the house.

One element that was relatively insignificant at early stages of the garden's development was the grouping of restiads shown above, which perform the dual role of providing structure and a sense of movement on the seafront side. On the day that David took these photos, the feathery silver stems of this compact restiad were waving about in the westerlies that are a regular fixture of Auckland's spring.

On the margins of the seafront garden, structure is established via the altogether different strategy of native shrubs that act like green 'shadows' off the existing low walls. The varying colours, leaf forms and growth habits of these shrubs create a textured, evergreen background for seasonal events such as the scented Gladiolus (a South African species, G. tristis) which is shown at the base of this journal entry (on the left).

One final point is that (as the great German plantsman, Karl Foerster, alluded to) gardens of this nature should never be finished, lest the clients or we get bored. As a result, we continue to discuss new possibilities (with great enthusiasm) that might fit within the aesthetic that we laid down years ago in our design.

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