Slightly tamed nature

March 28, 2016

To a certain extent, gardens are a way of making ourselves at home within a place. This impulse is often expressed (at great expense) by demarcating boundaries and separating oneself from the surrounding context. In other cases, more subtle interventions are all that is required.

In the case of one extraordinary garden on the south coast of Wellington, subtlety is possibly the combined product of a deliberate approach and the leavening effect of the wild coastal conditions that hold sway here. Whatever the reason for its formation, the tension between its built parts (including shingle paths as well as the counter-intuitive presence of a birdbath and a classical urn upon a basic timber plinth) and the rhythmical, primarily native vegetation that melds with the surrounding landscape provides the garden with a peculiar, ambiguous character.

The lightweight, idiosyncratic manner in which it has been made, as well as scant regard for boundaries, reminded me of Derek Jarman’s famous garden at Dungeness, England – although the Wellington garden is a much more wild affair. The patterns formed within the planting appear like a gently-tweaked version of the natural vegetation that surrounds the historic bach (on the well-walked road to, and beyond, Red Rocks).

On a botanical note, the day of our visit to this area was the first time that I had the opportunity to view the form of native Clematis that was formerly called Clematis hookeriana (and which is now included within C. forsteri). This relatively compact form twines through the protective structure of windsculpted shrubs (such as Coprosma propinqua) less than 50m from the garden pictured herein.

A straightforward response to crossing the nearby stream also caught my attention whilst moving on from this point, wherein a single plank has simply been bolted into rock on either side of the water.