Not to be tucked into a corner, this bountiful potager garden takes over the whole back yard.
In a tiny, pretty street, that’s walking distance to everything in Christchurch, you’d never guess that behind Juliet Nicholas and Ken McAnergney’s house lies a garden that keeps the inhabitants fed.
For the past 15 years, the couple, daughter Josie and cute canine Minnie have learned a thing or two about sustainable living and growing organic food. The garden delivers an impressive harvest for a pair of avid cooks and proponents of spray-free provisions. It’s not all about production. Ken and Juliet believe in aesthetics in equal measure (not surprising when Juliet is a well-known garden photographer).
The garden includes espaliered fruit trees, ferns, bird feeders and five well-planted plots: four big potager beds, and a skinnier side plot for berries and beans. Those plots were relocated from east to west a couple of years ago, but only after carefully considering the views they’d create from different vantage points.
Juliet has ‘visually thought out’ the axis of these plots before committing to their placement. They decided on raised beds, because that increases the soil temperature. The ideal soil depth is about 200mm, Ken says. Here the beds dip below ground by 50mm.
“This side of the garden was endowed with much more sunshine,” Juliet says. “Plus, by having the raised beds within view from living room and kitchen windows, we’re constantly observing and feeling connected to our plants.”
This is a couple not shy of colour, but while they might have jewel-coloured or stripy vegetables growing in the garden, their house is painted in the beautiful moody neutral of Resene Quarter Stonehenge and trimmed in Resene Alabaster.
The garden fence is coloured to recede, disappear even. The fence is stained in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Shadow Match.
Everything is considered: colour, structure, height, plus a blend of formality and informality. Juliet favours blue petalled and fragrant flowers to attract bees wherever possible. On summer evenings she’s often to be found outside with a torch, manually removing slugs and snails. Both Juliet and Ken count the ability to pick salad ingredients, assemble and eat a meal soon after as one of the prime joys in life.
Juliet loves nothing more than gardening and sees irony in the fact that her wide-ranging work photographing gardens and homes for magazines means she often spends more time in other people's gardens than her own during peak season.
With potager gardening, some crops need to hunker down but others do better when rotated for greater productivity. How Juliet and Ken do this is up for discussion.
"I don't mind random plantings whereas Ken prefers rows and order, so we balance it out,” says Juliet. “Gardening is a dynamic process and you're always learning from last season’s mistakes."
Ken is a keen composter. Soil for this amount of food production must be nurtured; mulched, fed and watered appropriately, he says. The couple uses worm wee and castings from their Hungry Bin worm farm, plus well-rotted stable manure to truly nourish the soil. Other ingredients include blood and bone, mulch, plus their own compost of garden and kitchen waste along with lawn clippings.
It’s all part of the life-cycle of a garden that serves a variety of purposes – and not only to delight and nourish the senses but to feed the soul.
A place to reflect… and a place to entertain
Designer Paul Roper-Gee of Canopy suggests this alternative scheme:
Cool, calm and contemporary, this courtyard garden scheme is formed around two contrasting but complementary outdoor living spaces for relaxing and entertaining with friends. A space for reflection and contemplation is sheltered beneath multi-stem amelanchier trees emerging from box hedging and clustered around a bluestone plinth water feature; it's centred in the garden so that it can be viewed from the house. In contrast, an open and sunny concrete seating area is focused around an outdoor gas fire table for socialising. A back-drop of tall grasses and perennials adds colour, texture and movement, and contrasts with the more formal planting around the water feature. Plants include Miscanthus 'Morning Light', plume poppy, smoke bush, canna lily, Helichrysum petiolare and fig.
Contact Paul: phone 021 447 191 web.
The simple life with rustic good looks
Landscape designer Meg Kane suggests this alternative scheme:
This garden design is influenced by the lovely rustic/barn look that I love right now, created by using weighty aged materials, such as reclaimed timber, and contrasting them with simple soft plantings and a straightforward layout. It creates a feeling of being away from it all. Forget being fussy, this look is relaxed, not over-contrived, and easy to achieve. The house has been given a lift using Resene Nero with contrasting Resene Alabaster French doors to add personality and give it a current look. A chunkier pergola brings in a rustic touch. The formed concrete fireplace bookends the deck and is softened by a fig tree. Nonchalant plantings of flowering shrubs and perennials contrast with the rawness of the concrete and stop the design from becoming too austere. Add a long elegant pool and patio – perfect for enjoying the simple life.
Contact Meg: phone 027 241 2332 web.
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