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Rachael Mathews wins Gold & Emerging Designer of the Year

Words: Tim Durrant, editor | | March 2012



Wellington designer Rachael Matthews has received two gongs at this year’s Ellerslie International Flower show in Christchurch 

Inspiration for the award winning vege garden came from her mother’s own veggie patch which tended to run wild at this time of the year.

Rachael is an established landscape designer and owner of HEDGE Garden Design & Nursery in Wellington. She was awarded Gold for her garden ‘‘Gone to Seed’’ and also received the supreme award for Emerging Designer of the Year.


Rachael said the inspiration for the garden came from her mother’s own veggie patch which tended to run wild at this time of the year. She began growing the vegetables for the garden in November, saying it was “nerve-wrecking with the weather, and then working out how to transport my larrikin lettuces from Wellington to Christchurch without the beets behaving badly, a broccoli rebellion or a full-scale mustard mutiny”.

Gone to Seed - larrikin lettuces, beets behaving badly, a broccoli rebellion and a full-scale mustard mutiny”

Veggies aside, the garden is packed with innovative ideas for home gardeners, like space saving layouts for growing fruit on walls, an underground composting system that doubles as a boardwalk between the beds and DIY bean frames made form sculptural flax flowers, alliums, bull rushes and toetoes. Lead Judge of the Emerging Design Category Renee Davies from Auckland said Rachael’s garden stood out for its innovative design.

Clever composting in small spaces

“Within a small space, she had put a compost bin below the boardwalk and had climbing frames on the courtyard made from recycled materials; everything was done in such a way that was simplistic and had great clarity.” She praised Rachael’s use of materials and how everything growing in the garden had gone to seed, reflecting the mature stage of the clients whose dream was to live “the good life”. “The construction was outstanding, the detail impeccable and there was a real beauty in the way the theme manifests in the plant quality.” “The quirky touch was in the way she had used toe toe, flax, and alliums to stake her plants.”


Renee says when young designers are given a brief to design a garden; the difficulty is in ensuring they don’t overdo it. “What was clear with Rachael’s design is that she didn’t put in what wasn’t needed and showed real clarity with what she did put in; that is what made it stand out.”

Gone to Seed - a sustainable vege garden designed for Tom & Barbara Good

The judges said overall they couldn’t fault the garden and it would also have won gold in the exhibition category. They thought it was a superb design and a clear winner. It was very innovative, fulfilling the brief with many layers of detail. The garden demonstrates very artistic arrangements and well thought through design. The other judges on the panel were Linda Hallinan and Simon Farrell.


The general feedback is that the public love the plants; the underground composting system; and the bean frames which are made from flax flowers, garlic flowers, bull rushes & toe toes. Congratulate Rachael on the Hedge Garden Design and Nursery Facebook page. Check our the Hedge Garden Design and Nursery portfolio on


Emerging Designs/Student Designer of the Year 2012 Competition Results:


Rachael Matthews (Weltec) - Gold & Student Designer of the Year

Katrina Pinnington (Design & ArtsCollege) - Silver Distinction

Sheldon McNamara (Weltec) - Silver

Ben Saywell, Darryl Johnston Silver

Kate McDougall, Lachlan Munro - Silver

Lauren Lee and Lucy Magill (CPIT) - Silver

Kyle Lewis & Richard Lorgelly (CPIT) - Bronze

Danilyn Green (Design & ArtsCollege) - Bronze

Fleur Mar (Weltec) - Merit

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