Room to breathe

Room to breathe


garden designs

An award-winning Auckland garden fusing formal and contemporary design elements

By Lydia Franken

The complete remodelling of this stately home in Auckland, New Zealand, called for a garden design that reinforced the grandeur of the house. The original driveway/motor court and expanse of uninspiring lawn did not meet the owner’s expectations for their garden, so designer Mark Read of Natural Habitats was brought on board to help make their vision for a serene, structured garden a reality.

The end result is a garden which achieves a clever mix of drama and restraint. A combination of new and old is held together in this design through the creation of garden rooms and functional areas. Throughout the design process Mark was mindful of creating a garden that was easy to maintain while still being user friendly and inviting. It is this simple design response with layered planting and strong hard landscape components that achieves a unified design appropriate to the intricate house design and local surrounds.

While some might describe the garden as formal, the design also draws inspiration from the Caribbean, North America and traditional New Zealand landscapes, which lend it a distinctly contemporary feel. The fusion of these various influences and design cues combine to give the garden its own unique style, which reflects the elegance and charm of the house.

Mark acknowledges that one of the challenges of the design was blending the garden’s combination of themes in a cohesive way. To help avoid confusion he offset the highly detailed garden with a restrained colour palette of beige, cream and browns.

The garden, which won silver and bronze at the 2010 Landscapes of Distinction Awards, hosted by Landscaping New Zealand, was praised for its “bold formal design, which includes many thoughtful details”. A huge spherical water feature is one such detail. Located at the front of the property the bubbling orb sits upon a collection of river stones amid raised orthogonal beds of Coprosma hawera. Behind it the cascading foliage of a weeping cherry tree counterbalances both the smart grid paving of a modern courtyard, and the clipped Waterhousia floribunda which surrounds the property.

“I wanted the front area to have a funky modernist feel to it, in contrast to the garden at the back which has a more romantic Mediterranean feel,” says Mark. The ambience of the back garden is achieved by generating a sense of enclosure in the outdoor lounge/fireplace area. This is an intimate space for entertaining complete with outdoor fireplace, custom-designed metal gates which establish a dramatic entrance, and a glass fence that makes for a seamless transition into the pool area.

At the other end of the garden, the formal lawn and orangery contain a children’s play area. By having the garden function as an outdoor living room, Mark was able to maintain and maximise the children’s play area without it looking like a playground.

The strongly architectural nature of the design carries right through into the planting which features textures and layers of green/foliage, formal, clipped hedges and trees, columnar cypresses “sentry boxes”, fruit trees (orangery) and mature standard roses. A select few flowering plants perfectly capture the strong structure and feeling of serenity that the owners desired to balance their hectic lifestyle. In fact, the four blush pink standard roses and several beautiful old trees are all that remain from the original garden.

The choice of restrained colours, quality materials, good proportions and detail of the highest calibre lends the garden the unity and balance — and are all hallmarks of the designer’s work. This is a garden that gives new meaning to the term the great outdoors.