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turning Japanese


From Habitat magazine - issue 16

Splashes of red and a black house are perfect ingredients for an oriental style garden.

Vibrant outdoor colours
Vibrant shades of red and violet are perfect in this striking garden.

There was no debate when it came to the starting point for landscape designer Lyndell Shannon's garden on a sloping valley site on Auckland's North Shore. Straight away, she seized on the architecture of her 1970s cedar-clad home – "I'm sure the architect had a Japanese intention" – to form her clear vision for an oriental theme. In her minds-eye she pictured a traditional Japanese garden scene with the vibrant red gate or archway juxtaposed against black buildings and pink cherry blossoms in flower. The previous owners had obviously not been so inspired. They had struggled with conditions that switch in some areas from ultra-dry to permanently wet. But that didn't faze this talented designer and plants woman. "Gardens are always about choosing the right plant for the conditions. It's being aware of shape, proportion, texture and putting plants that like the same sort of situations together. There's a rightness to it," she says.

Irregular stepping stones of Paradise Stone lead from the door to the deck. An informal path meanders through the top of the garden, between alstroemeria and hostas. A sheltered corner of the deck is perfect for outdoor dining and can be covered by a shade cloth when needed. The house exterior is Resene Waterborne Woodsman CoolColour™ exterior wood stain tinted to Resene Crowshead.

Japanese garden
Irregular stepping stones of Paradise Stone lead from the door to the deck. Get the look with Resene Waterborne Woodsman CoolColour exterior wood stain tinted to Resene Crowshead.

The lush and varied growth, with its bold, seasonal splashes of colour is testimony to her ability to get it just right. "The original planting had lapsed into a confused muddle. Other than mature trees, there are only about three or four of the original plants that have survived," says Lyndell.

Lyndell and partner Mick began the project by staining their house Resene CoolColour Crowshead, a black from the Resene Waterborne Woodsman exterior wood stains range. A wooden bridge to the front door was a dull brown. "There was nothing else for it, the bridge and trims had to be red (Resene Red Berry)", asserts Lyndell. "We added a pond and a water feature beneath the bridge, because a bridge with water under it makes more sense."

Outdoor deck
Japanese garden pathway
Deck: A sheltered corner of the deck is perfect for outdoor dining and can be covered by a shade cloth when needed. The house exterior is Resene Waterborne Woodsman CoolColour exterior wood stain tinted to Resene Crowshead.  Pathway: An informal path meanders through the top of the garden, between alstroemeria and hostas.

As you stand on the bridge and look down, surrounding the water are plants that like damp shady conditions, including acorus grass. Nearby, groups of clivia paint bold splashes of orange here and there. "Most of the plants in this area – azaleas, camellias, maples and a toad lily with its variegated leaf – have a connection with Japan. And in certain seasons, there are a lot of pink flowers among the foliage."

Bordered by bromeliads, the Japanese effect becomes more diluted in the courtyard. Lyndell created this area in 2009 and it won Gold and Best Design for Small Projects at the National Landscapes of Distinction Awards in 2010.

Garden bridge
Lyndell Shannon
Bridge: The bridge to the front door is now resplendent in Resene Red Berry.  Lyndell Shannon: Lyndell pictured a traditional Japanese scene with the vibrant red gate or archway juxtaposed against black buildings for her garden. Get the look with Resene Lumbersider tinted to Resene Red Berry.

"Although it now looks so natural, the courtyard was originally a long, skinny, slope going down to the house, where the trees had heaved the bricks every which way." It posed a challenge for Lyndell.

"I couldn't deck it because it would be above the house floor level and there were drainage issues that needed to be resolved. There was quite a lot of design resolution in creating this space."

To create the different levels with broad steps down into the courtyard and a haphazard path across sand, tonnes of schist-like Paradise Stone were brought in from Whangarei.

A timber bench along the back of the garage is scattered with bright red squabs that tone in with frothy red toothbrush flowers bursting from a pot of Poor Knights Lily nearby. When the lower deck was added, Lyndell says, it changed the proportions of the space and created a delightful private area for summer dining. On summery days, out come the stripey red canvas deck chairs and they eat at a table that Mick made out of old macrocarpa.

A native comprosma virescens hedge creates an intriguing backdrop. "With their characteristic tangled branches, divaricating plants look good in so many settings – coastal, traditional or tropical," explains Lyndell.

All restraint heads out the door in the sunniest, elevated part of the property. Lyndell's "a lot of everything garden" is a haphazard mix of edibles and sun lovers – a wonderful blend of colour and texture. There are no rules, but it works.

It's here that the purple-leaf pineapple lily mingles with orange mimulus and 'Red Baron' alstroemeria struggles to contain a wandering purple clematis rescued from the garden centre where Lyndell works. There are giant miscanthus grasses, dark red day lilies, pink fluffy meadowsweet flowers and tall yellow perennial thalictrum flavum.

"There are lots of flowers in this garden, she says, "but they're the icing on the cake. The other things give the garden its strength." By playing off the architecture and drawing on a simple yet striking colour theme, Lyndell enjoys "the happy accidents" which make this garden so captivating.

Accessories: Paving: Paradise Stone. Purple clematis. Designer: Lyndell Shannon Gardens Realised 09 419 1910. Red Baron alstroemeria.


Alternative solution – sheltered retreat

a shot of red accents lush planting

Landscape designer Erik Ellis suggests this alternative scheme:

Alternative solution 1

This courtyard has become a sheltered retreat for outdoor living surrounded by lush semi-tropical planting. A pergola with adjustable louvres finished in Resene Nero provides shelter in all weathers, while a granite slab water feature is suspended over broken rocks. The water flows over the slab onto the rocks but the slab can also be used as extra table or seating space. Paradise Stone stepping stones provide a soft edge to the timber deck. Clean-lined timber furniture is finished in Resene Sheer Black from the Resene Woodsman exterior stains range, and furnished with red cushions matched to Resene Monza. The sustainable harvested decking timber is finished in Resene Furniture and Decking Oil for a soft natural finish. Black bamboo masks the far boundary fence.

Inviting timber furniture finished in Resene Furniture and Timber Gel tinted to Resene Sheer Black complements a pergola and house in Resene Nero. The decking timber is FSC-accredited Pacific jarrah from Standeven Timber, Christchurch, finished with Resene Furniture and Decking Oil.

phone 03 326 6253   mobile 0274 310 582   email erik@erikellis.co.nz

Accessories: Puka (martyr sinclarii). Adjustable louvre roofing system Vergola. Phoenix reclinata palm. Lancaster bench seat Kenneally Timber.


Alternative solution – eastern influence

a floating bridge creates mystery and privacy

Kirsten Sach suggests this alternative scheme:

Alternative solution 2

This is a contemporary garden with an Eastern influence, inspired by the existing maple in the garden. Plastered and painted block walls create clean lines while retaining and dividing the garden. The floating decking bridge, which is underlit at night, takes you on a journey to a private shaded seated area. The wall to the right of the bridge is painted the warm neutral Resene Napa while the wall behind the timber seat is in Resene Triple White Pointer to accentuate the golden bamboo canes behind. A simple palette of plants has been chosen and mass planted to create impact and structure using Ligularia reniformis, Bambusa Alphonze Karr, Dietes bicolour with a colour palette of fresh greens and warm neutrals. The timber vitex decking is finished in Resene Furniture and Decking Oil for a natural finish.

Rendered block walls in Resene Napa and Resene Triple White Pointer define the garden. The house is Resene Triple Masala and the roof is Resene Grey Friars.

phone 09 818 2827   mobile 021 755 967   email ksach@xtra.co.nz

Accessories: Dietes bicolour (wild iris). Exposed aggregate concrete from your local specialist supplier. Vitex decking, from Herman Pacific, finished in Resene Furniture and Decking Oil, from Resene. Bambusa Alphonze Karr. Ligularia reniformis.

words: Vicki Holder
pictures: Sally Tagg
illustration: Bruce Bryant


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