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Gardens to Love - Special Gardens Edition

Words Rosemary Barraclough | Photographs Paul McCredie | NZ House & Garden, 2021

beautifully curated compilation of inspirational gardens, of all styles and sizes from city to country, natural to formal and more ....

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Layered and Lush


If you want a city garden that’s lush and full of interest, think about its design in terms of layers, of different heights, textures, colours and foliage types. “Build up the layers,” says Rachael Matthews of Wellington’s Hedge Garden Design & Nursery. “You need structure, trees and flowers, leaves and light. It’s the evergreen structure that holds a garden together through the seasons.”

Think of the fence or wall as the first layer, with both the pattern and the colour adding interest. A climber adds another layer, but only takes up a narrow space, leaving room for planting with different colours and textures in front.

Vertical planting adds height, but it pays to consider the proportions of the house when deciding what to plant. Rachael likes to use plants with a columnar structure, like beech, hornbeam or Italian cypress. Pleached trees, which are trained initially along wires to form a leafy screen, can help with privacy and add another element to a small garden (see the pleached ornamental pears on page 78 in a garden Rachael designed).  

Hedges can also be layered using different types of plants (see page 76). Cutting one end higher than the other can look effective. Or step the edge of the hedge in and out, leaving space for other planting behind. Clipped balls are lovely for adding softness and curves, and if one dies you can easily pop another one in its place, as even if it’s a different size it will still look fine, says Rachael.


Little City Plots


Vegetable gardens don’t need to be hidden at the bottom of the garden. Many urban gardens now make space for a bed of lettuces, pots of herbs or even a climbing frame for beans. Integrating vege plants into the rest of the garden creates interest and makes them easy to pick.


When choosing a design for a vege bed, look to your home for visual clues. It could reflect the shape of the deck, be edged in the same bricks as the house or be a raised bed painted to work with the weatherboard colour.


If you’re short of space, wigwams or other vertical structures can be useful, not just for beans or sugar snaps – cucumbers grow well up a frame. Scatter pots of herbs or salad greens around the garden. Big hanging baskets can look spectacular when planted with tomato varieties like Tumbling Tom or Pear Drops.

Leafy crops are better planted in rotation, little and often, so you’ve got an ongoing supply. Herbs planted in a raised bed or in pots near your barbeque area look pretty and are handy. Even small gardens have room for a semi-dwarf fruit or citrus tree, and fruit trees espaliered against a fence can look wonderful, be surprisingly prolific and take up practically no space at all.

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A beehive could improve your garden’s productivity where its workers won’t buzz past your neighbour’s washing line. If you’re not confident about looking after a bee colony, you can rent a hive.

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