Show and Sell
Words: Bethney McLennan | The Dominion Post, 22 April 2006
When your garden is also your shop window, it has to look its best at all times.
There are some unusual aspects to Rachael Matthews’ pretty Kelburn garden, and it’s not just that a lot of the plants are in pots, planters and black plastic bags and have swing tags fluttering from their stems.
There are also nursery flats crammed with pots of baby trees and groundcovers, while the deck is home to a sparkling range of Perlagoniums, several Oleanders, Dietes and Strelitzia and even a Palm or two, all apparently placed for best effect, despite the fact that the breeze has loosened their price tags to flutter in the breeze.
This is not however, just a garden where Rachael indulges her passion for plants. It’s also the showcase for HEDGE, her garden design & nursery business, and, as such, it must always be well presented, which can be challenging when you have young children, though her girls, aged two and four, are already showing signs of following in mum’s footsteps.
Rachael has degrees in law and commerce and developed the idea for her business when she was on maternity leave. “You can’t work the fulltime hours that you used to in any job, really, as well as maintain your family so a lot of people are looking around for something different to do,” she says.
Though many of the inhabitants are “mobile”, the garden has a well defined structure, with a clipped, waist-high Lonicera hedge separating the lawn and an area of native bush. A high brick wall topped with an informal Lavender hedge, runs along the other side of the lawn. The garden above the wall has a definite “nursery” look, with rows of saplings and shrubs “in training”.
Three baby Lemon trees, for instance, are being espaliered, ready to transform the walls of a tiny townhouse yard, where their flowers wills cent the evening air and they will fruit for most of the year without the loss of precious courtyard space. Michelia too, are in espalier training while nearby, Jasmines are scrambling up formal lollipop frames and topiaried Iceberg Roses are still looking good for so late in the season.
The long view across the house from the lawn has a potted silver pear, underplanted with baby variegated agapanthus, as a focal point and on either side are two formal square gardens, hedged to about knee height with Lonicera nitida, the other with Teucrium fruticans or Silver Germander, about to produce dainty lavender flowers.
The trained and trimmed hedging plants have been grown in pairs in terracotta troughs so they can be used for “instant” effect or can be easily transferred to a permanent site in the ground.
Within the squares, Rachael has laid a base of white stones and set potted topiaries of various species and shapes, such as double-balled Buxus, Portuguese Laurels, Corposmas, Hebes and Pittosporums, on the top. These too, would probably be planted out in a home setting, but having them in pots allows Rachael to show clients the clever combinations and styles that she seems to invent in abundance as she walks about the garden.
One idea I especially liked was the trellis-style design on her garage wall using a large frame and strong, coated wire threaded through metal eyes screwed into the frame. At the base she has planted Trachelospermum jasminoides, which is being trained around the wires and clipped into open diamonds, echoing the diamond-shaped window about which it is growing.
Another fun idea is a topiaried ivy ball trained on a standard of twisted ivy stems.
Rachael’s aim is to serve 2 markets – those who want a low maintenance look without fuss or delay, and those who are keen to learn the skills to make and maintain the garden of their dreams with just a little help from an expert.