Garden Design Nz

Bob and Alison Maysmor turned a flat weed-covered area at their Paraparaumu home into a bright, colourful and surprising garden.

We bought our Waterstone property in Paraparaumu in late December 2015 and took possession in late January 2016.

We wanted a garden design that surprised... that gave different vistas as you moved through the garden. We didn't want a rigid symmetrical garden so it had to have lots of casual curves.

Unfortunately, the land was flat - a vast empty field covered in kikuyu and weed.

The empty expanse of land that came with Bob and Alison's new Paraparaumu home. BOB MAYSMOR

The empty expanse of land that came with Bob and Alison's new Paraparaumu home.

We wanted elevated, contoured land forms like peninsulas flowing out over a sea of grass and creating bays, sheltered anchorages for different types of plants.

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The first sketch I drew on the back of a serviette in a cafe turned out to be the design foundation for the new garden. I drafted up a scale drawing of the property and using a grid, copied the original sketch on to the grid.

Once we had possession of the property I laid out the enlarged scale grid on the ground using white string, then curved rope across the grid to define the borders of the 'peninsulas'. Spraying the curved lines with day-glow paint gave me a guide as I formed the soil into the elevated areas. 

Later, we drew up a loose planting plan that ensured the colour, texture, size and type of plants selected created interesting vistas and also, where possible, provided food for birds.

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One of the most successful results is the cluster of about a dozen Chionochloa pallens (mid-ribbed snow tussock), whose soft feathery plumes create whispery dancing movements behind the pond.

On the two headlands of opposing peninsulas I planted sentinels, one a Cornus alternifolia Argentea (Wedding cake tree), and the other an Acer palmatum Osakazuki (Japanese maple). Once matured, these feature trees will dominate the passage between them.

Grasses, exotics, perennials and natives all have their place, however we have no roses or other prickly nasties. 

BOB MAYSMORPart of the fence was removed so the trucks could get through to deliver the soil, but it was a tight fit. All the soil was then moved by hand to create the contours Bob wanted.

The first big challenge was to remove the field of kikuyu grass and weed, which was all individually dug up and taken off the property. The next challenge was how to get five big truckloads of soil on to the property so I could build the contours.

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I measured the width of a truck I saw on a building site and found that the gate from the street was too narrow, so I had to remove some of the fence and build a bigger gateway. 

It turned out the trucks that delivered the soil were even bigger than those I had measured and it was an orange-peeling exercise to squeeze them through the widened gate.

Two months in and results of Bob's contouring are clear to see. BOB MAYSMOR

Two months in and results of Bob's contouring are clear to see.

With the Kapiti Expressway being built at the time, much of the available soil in the district was being stockpiled for planting the roadsides. Luckily, a friend told me of a local bobcat operator excavating building sites who was only too pleased to have a free site to dump the soil.

It felt like a real achievement when I had finally man-handled about 50 cubic metres of soil from where the trucks had dumped it, into position to form all the raised contours.

Another milestone was the making of the pond, complete with arched bridge.

Like most of the properties on the coast, the ground here is predominantly sand. I have carted well over 100 large bags of zostra nana, eel grass seaweed, from the shores of the Pauatahanui Inlet to feed into and improve soil texture, nutrition and drainage.

Nine months into the project and you can see the pond and bridge have been completed, but there's still plenty of room ... BOB MAYSMOR

Nine months into the project and you can see the pond and bridge have been completed, but there's still plenty of room for planting.

This is the first time I've tackled a gardening project on this scale but I have had experience of spacial design, having worked in museums as an exhibition curator, creating layouts and pathways for visitor flow. Strangely enough, I found similarities in the two processes. 

I also developed a garden at our previous hillside home at Paremata but it was quite limited by the steep banks and heavy clay rock soil.

Two years on and the garden is forever changing, with new flowers appearing from season to season and as new plants come into bud.

Fifteen months in, and the path has been completed and the bank alongside it fully planted. BOB MAYSMOR

Fifteen months in, and the path has been completed and the bank alongside it fully planted.

Stunning surprises have been the pink spider flowers on the Calliandra (Blushing Pixie), the glistening snow-white blooms of the Dietes grandiflora with their purple and gold highlights, and the mass of amazing orange flowers on the South African Leotis leonurus (Lion's paw).

I'm awaiting the first super large blooms on the Romneya coulteri (Californian tree poppy) and the intriguing golden apricot foxglove blooms of the Isoplexis canariensis (Bellbird plant), from the Canary Islands.

I also look forward to seeing the blaze of red on a recently acquired mature potted Xeronema callistemon (Poor Knights lily). 

The garden is virtually full but a space was found for a recent addition - Elegia capensis, an elegant South African reed with its tall feathery stalks that waver and float in the breeze.

We are constantly amazed at the growth and like most visitors to the garden, we can still hardly believe that it is just over two years old.

It is still evolving, some plants get moved and a few new plants fill spaces where others have been removed.

Birds also abound, including the raucous tuis and rare visits from a korimako (bellbird), long-tailed cuckoo, a Californian quail, kakariki and scarlet chested parakeets.

The rewards from our garden far exceed the work required in developing it. Life is good.

What a difference 22 months and a lot of hard work can make. BOB MAYSMOR

What a difference 22 months and a lot of hard work can make.

 

Making the pond and bridge were a milestone in the project for Bob. BOB MAYSMOR

Making the pond and bridge were a milestone in the project for Bob.

The fish seem happy and settled in their new home. BOB MAYSMOR

The fish seem happy and settled in their new home.

The wide variety of plants throughout the garden have attracted many different birds. BOB MAYSMOR

The wide variety of plants throughout the garden have attracted many different birds.

Bob has been pleasantly surprised by the snow-white blooms of the Dietes grandiflora. BOB MAYSMOR

Bob has been pleasantly surprised by the snow-white blooms of the Dietes grandiflora.

Calliandra (Blushing Pixie). BOB MAYSMOR

Calliandra (Blushing Pixie).

Leotis leonurus (Lion's paw). BOB MAYSMOR

Leotis leonurus (Lion's paw).

Bob's scale drawing of the layout design for their garden. BOB MAYSMOR

Bob's scale drawing of the layout design for their garden.

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