GARDEN WRITER | DESIGNER

The magic of gardens

Added on by Carol Bucknell.

The ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery. (Luis Barragan)

Fuente de los Amentes by Luis Barragan

Fuente de los Amentes by Luis Barragan

I first saw photographs of Barragan’s gardens when I began studying landscape design many years ago at UNITEC. Until then most of the gardens I had seen had been quite traditional, both here and in England where I had lived for eight years. Barragan’s work and that of Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, Martha Schwarz, Isabelle Palmer as well as New Zealanders like Ted Smythe, Trish Bartleet and many others gave me a new appreciation of garden design. I've been passionate about the subject ever since.

Working as a garden writer and designer is for me an ideal combination. Writing about gardens means I get to talk to and see the work of some of the country's most talented landscape designers. I intend to write more about some of their inspiring gardens in this blog.

I'll also provide updates on my own landscape design work, which I'm hoping to devote more time to in the future. Garden writing has been my chief focus for many years but now I would like to have more of a balance between the two.

Personal challenge

One of my most challenging landscape projects currently is the creation of my own garden on Waiheke Island. My husband Barry and I bought a piece of land there about a year ago with the aim of building a house, actually a modest shed but we like the idea of living in a small space. And it suits our budget.

We’re now nearing the end of the construction process and I am desperate to plant the garden before summer. All the residents of Waiheke harvest rainwater for domestic use, there is no mains supply, so water for the garden will be a precious commodity. Planting before the ground becomes very dry in the heat of summer is therefore essential.

The bare site prior to construction work.  It runs in a north/south direction and the photo is taken looking from the road.

The bare site prior to construction work.  It runs in a north/south direction and the photo is taken looking from the road.

My design for the garden obviously has to focus on drought tolerant plants, but many will have to be suitable for planting in a septic field (Waiheke also has no sewage system). This means they must be able to cope with reasonably high levels of nutrients and moisture in the ground.

When we first bought the property I decided to set myself the task of propagating as many of the plants for the garden as I could. With an 800 m² site this means lots of plants! I've had a year or so to do this and now have a flourishing nursery of flaxes, rengarenga, dietes and many other perennial ready to be planted.

Oioi, a native reed ideal for growing in a septic field (left) and Coprosma Poor Knights, a hardy native shrub that I grew from tiny seedlings. These are the only two groups of plants I've so far bought but will probably have to buy more once planting commences.  It's way cheaper however to buy very small plants as I did, and pot them up as they grow larger.  

Oioi, a native reed ideal for growing in a septic field (left) and Coprosma Poor Knights, a hardy native shrub that I grew from tiny seedlings. These are the only two groups of plants I've so far bought but will probably have to buy more once planting commences.  It's way cheaper however to buy very small plants as I did, and pot them up as they grow larger.  

A mix of dietes, flaxes, Indian hawthorn that I grew from tiny seedlings I found in a park, brachyglottis and dichroa (a form of hydrangea) cuttings. These are just a few of the plants I have in my nursery waiting to go into my new garden.

A mix of dietes, flaxes, Indian hawthorn that I grew from tiny seedlings I found in a park, brachyglottis and dichroa (a form of hydrangea) cuttings. These are just a few of the plants I have in my nursery waiting to go into my new garden.