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Design Workshop
Words: Carol Bucknell, Gardens Editor | Your Home & Garden, February 2012



Ever wondered how the experts create a gorgeous garden? We show you how. 

Ever wondered how the experts create a gorgeous garden?

This apartment garden in Thorndon, Wellington was very public and lacked any sense of identity. That was before Rachael Matthews of HEDGE Garden Design & Nursery put her skills to work and turned it into a green and peaceful haven.


The Brief


“The garden merged into a common area so the owners wanted some privacy, security and shelter,” says Rachael. “We enclosed the lawn, installed a black aluminium fence and planted layered hedges.”


Pave the Way


Rachael divided this unattractive, narrow passageway into a series of lush green rooms, using evergreen espaliers along the fence and soft mounding plants. “We broke the wind by training hornbeams on an existing overhead structure. This has been amazingly successful, and this area is now really beautiful and tranquil,” she enthuses.


“The existing paving was in an out-of-date curved terracotta pattern, and it had started to sink. We re-laid the whole area, reusing most of the pavers, and added some contemporary pavers in a more classic and timeless pattern.”


Dark Secret


Rachael had all the existing planter boxes, pots and low retaining walls stained black, which she says is the quickest way to give your garden a lift. Black really sets off green foliage, giving it a lush look.”


Generous Widths


Rachael felt the planter boxes along the passageway were too narrow and “mean”, so she chose box hedging to act as a facade along the outside of the planters. This makes them appear much wider than they actually are, without the cost of physically rebuilding them. The visual device is further strengthened by the planting of green mondo grass at the base.


Star Performers


Scented star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides was espaliered in a series of “X” shapes on wires along the fence. This evergreen climber has highly fragrant star shaped white flowers that bloom in early summer. Despite it’s tropical perfume, star jasmine is cold-hardy and not invasive like some other types of jasmines.


Fenced In


The low-cost horizontal slatted fence on the boundary of the property screens the wind and provides much needed privacy. Rachael left the fence natural to contrast with the dark green foliage of the star jasmine., which is trained along the fence.


Points of Difference


Classical pieces like this sculpture add a graceful, decorative touch to the garden and create interesting focal points. However these were kept to a minimum to ensure the garden retains its contemporary feel.


Pretty Potager


A weedy disused patch of earth at the end of the passageway was turned into a raised potager kitchen garden. This was stained black in keeping with raised beds elsewhere in the garden. Roses were trained along the slatted fence, with a row of conifers opposite. The urns adds a sculptural form to the composition.


Take a Seat


A white Lutyens seat forms a focal point at the end of the lawn. The existing hedging was removed from the base of the weeping cherries in the planter boxes (in the foreground) and reused elsewhere. “I don’t like boxy hedging on top of box planters," explains Rachael. “Generally, I use strappy and draping plants along retaining walls to soften all the hard lines. We planted an outer circle of black mondo grass, and circles of pretty Alstroemeria “White Buttons”.


Think Links


Black mondo grass planted around the base of the black metal structures ties them with the newly stained woodwork and creates a cohesive framework, says Rachael. Mondo grass is also used around the edge of the planter boxes by the lawn that house the weeping cherries.


Rachael Matthews


Landscape Designer, Wellington based Rachael runs a landscape design business and her own specialist topiary nursery. She has won two innovative design competitions at Wellington Botanic Gardens. As well as looking after a growing list of clients and her young family, she is studying landscape construction.

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