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the enchanted garden

From habitat magazine - issue 35, feature garden

A charming garden in Drury is planted with roses, annuals, perennials and a sprinkle of whimsy.

A cottage garden is a peculiar choice for a perfectionist. Puriri Lane Garden in Drury is like something from a fairy tale, with delicate blooms such as cosmos, nigella and foxgloves bursting from its rambling gravel pathways. The garden’s owner, Deb Sisam, is a self proclaimed fusspot and stickler for detail. She admits she sometimes feels overwhelmed by the untameable beauty of it all.

Shepherd’s hut

The outside of Deb Sisam’s shepherd’s hut, called The Gardener’s Cottage, is painted in Resene Dell and Resene Sugar Loaf complementing the beautiful blooms outside.

Before moving to this property 13 years ago, Deb and her husband Clive had a straight-edged suburban garden with mondo grass and buxus, manicured to builders’-level straightness. But it’s difficult not to be enchanted by the garden they’ve created, complete with a storybook shepherd’s hut sleepout painted in the charming duo of Resene Dell and Resene Sugar Loaf.

“When you come to a place like this, you do need to stop trying to control it all. For example, I never used to want to see leaves in my garden, but now I’ve learnt to love watching them fall and scatter,” says Deb.

Deb picking flowers

A purple garden obelisk

Deb: Deb’s favourite picking flower is Astrantia major. She says it is stunning picked fresh but also dries really well. Obelisk: Deb’s obelisk is painted in Resene Upstage. The blooms in the surrounding pots include geum ‘Princess Juliana’, salvia ‘Love & Wishes’ and Calycanthus raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’. 

“I am a perfectionist, but a garden is an ever evolving thing. I’m always apologising to garden visitors when one of the flowers looks a bit past its best or is going to seed. I guess I’ve just had to learn to relax a bit,” she says.

When Deb and Clive first moved in, the property had established magnolias, ornamental cherry trees and redwoods but not a flower bed in sight. While still holding down her job in the city contracting to a beauty and health company, Deb spent the first year of rural life pulling out weeds. She then started planting the garden with English favourites. Although she comes from a family of keen gardeners, Deb says her interest has only really come about in the past 10 years.

Pathway through the garden

Cheery Shepherd's hut interior

Garden path: While it looks wild and free, Deb’s garden is planted carefully so there are blooms flowering into the seasons. The tall flower near the gate is Daucus carota and the white dahlia is ‘Petra’s Wedding’ which looks delightful when illuminated by lanterns at night (lanterns available from the Puriri Lane online store).  Hut interior: The inside of the shepherd’s hut is built with poplar accented with Resene Dell on the curved beams and chair and half strength Resene Dell on the wainscotting. The table, window seat and window trims are Resene Sugar Loaf. Timber surfaces are protected with Resene Aquaclear.

She and Clive did a horticulture course to learn about propagation and nursery practices before eventually starting Puriri Lane Nursery, where they now both work full-time. They sell vintage-style plants and botanically inspired gifts and garden wares through Puriri Lane’s online store, including many plant varieties not commonly found in New Zealand.

Their own garden is densely planted with species of flowers that bloom across the seasons: foxgloves and poppies in spring, scabiosa pincushion flowers, cosmos and achillea in summer, astrantia (masterwort) and dahlias in late summer/early autumn and hellebores in winter, to name just a few.

The garden is open to the public a few times a year and the couple also host flower-inspired workshops. Next year, Deb and Clive hope their shepherd’s hut, called The Gardener’s Cottage, will be ready to rent out as an Airbnb, giving visitors a chance to wake up to a garden filled with the scent of spring.

Craftsman Steve Sygrove built The Gardener’s Cottage five years ago. Deb’s vintage collection inspired its colour scheme of Resene Sugar Loaf and Resene Dell.

A black and red garden shed exterior

The garden shed is accented with a red rose called ‘Corsair’, an excellent partner for the Resene Pioneer Red trims. Stain weatherboards in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Pitch Black, remembering to use the Resene CoolColour version to reflect more heat.  Alternative solution:Summer loving Deb and Clive moved into Puriri Lane 13 years ago. Clive, who manages the nursery with Deb, says his favourite part of the garden is his shed.

“The painter colour-matched it to an old enamel plate so it felt vintage, and I also wanted it to fit in with the surroundings,” says Deb.

She suggests using rustic furniture, old tools and watering cans in the garden as other ways to add old English charm. Trellises, gates, sheds and fences can add structure and colour even when flowers aren’t in bloom. The two sheds and chicken coop in Puriri Lane are functional, but their Resene Pioneer Red roofs and trims work with the vintage look. Deb also has an obelisk painted in vibrant aubergine purple, Resene Upstage. “I love the pop of colour it gives and the height; it creates a focal point and was put there as a contrast to the orange and purple plantings.”

As cottage gardens are often planted in annuals, which die off after a year, they can look tired at certain times, but that comes with the territory, says Deb.

“Cottage gardens require year-round maintenance. There will be patches that don’t look great all the time, and that is the nature of it.”

While the garden is a lot of work, she does have some help most weeks. Deb gets enormous joy from her garden and working in the nursery: “You couldn’t ask for a better office.”

Gardening is full of surprises, like the nigella ‘Love in the Mist’ that self-seeded and popped up in the driveway. Deb doesn’t have the heart to pull it out.

Although she’s not quite a reformed perfectionist, she’s learning to enjoy the unexpected. “Sometimes plants thrive; sometimes plants don’t do well. I give it a go and love trying new things,” she says.

“Audrey Hepburn had a lovely quote: ‘To create a garden is to believe in tomorrow.’ I love that saying. Gardens create hope for the future, and we love sharing ours with people.”

Puriri Lane sells an array of old-fashioned perennials and annuals via its website, The garden has a few open days and is open to garden groups by appointment. There are also workshops throughout the year – check the website for dates.

How to start a cottage garden

Cottage gardens have dense plantings of ornamental flowers and edible plants. Though the plant species are generally English in origin, they can grow well in hotter climates such as New Zealand and Australia under the right conditions. Cottage garden stalwarts include sweet peas, honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum, not the pest variety), dahlias, old-fashioned roses, achillea, larkspur, cosmos, foxgloves, poppies, hollyhocks, nicotiana and violets to name a few. While there are no rules to this unstructured garden style, think about planting flowers of different heights for interest and ensuring successional planting. “Carefully plan your plantings so that you can have year-round seasonal interest and create a style that can basically manage itself once planted,” suggests Deb. “Use plants that self-sow to ensure that as the plants multiply, there will be no room for weeds,” she adds.

Corsair rose

Achillea millefolium

Astrantia major

Purple Passion

Flowers clockwise from left: Deb says the climbing rose ‘Corsair’ is a winner. “The blooms hold forever and do not fade.” Achillea millefolium is an easy-to-grow drought-tolerant flower which comes in more than 20 shades. Astrantia major is super hardy and fabulous for picking and drying. The penstemon ‘Purple Passion’ blooms from mid-summer into autumn.

Paint it right

Choose the right Resene colours and paints for the job.

Show the moss who is boss

Sheds, fences and garden structures near trees are prone to moss and mould growth, which can damage the paint and the structure. Resene Moss & Mould Killer is a hypochlorite-based wash that kills moss, mould and fungi and should be used prior to repainting when mould growth is present. The most common type of mould is black, but others may be brown or green. On painted surfaces mould looks like dirt and frequently the two cannot be visually distinguished. By wetting the surface and rubbing, mould will show up as slime.

Keep your cool

The Resene Woodman range of exterior wood stains can also be made as Resene CoolColour variants. The special pigment technology reflects more heat and is ideal for darker fences, sheds and exteriors which are prone to heat build-up. A Resene CoolColour finish not only makes the surface of the wood cooler to touch, but it improves the life of the wood stain, paint finish and substrate. A wide range of Resene exterior paints and stains are available as a Resene CoolColour. Look for colours marked ‘cc’ on Resene colour charts.

Timber stains and finishes

Terrific with timber

Protect interior timber panelling with Resene Aquaclear a waterborne urethane varnish available in gloss, semi-gloss, satin and natural flat finishes. If your timber is looking a little faded, you can rejuvenate it first with Resene Colorwood wood stain before applying Resene Aquaclear.

Flower power

These Resene colours are blooming lovely to add some posy power to your home.

a sleek pool cabana ready for summer

Designers Eva Nash and Kate Rogan suggest an alternative scheme:

Designers Eva Nash and Kate Rogan
Evan Nash and Kate Rogan

We love the large trees and abundant light in this garden space and decided to create the ultimate backyard retreat for our hot summers. This pool cabana features everything you need for easy al fresco living, with adjoining outdoor kitchen and wood fire, covered patio and inviting swimming pool. Our design features strong vertical lines with the pergola and deck stained in Resene Woodsman wood stain which, when combined with the Palissade sun loungers, gives it a traditional striped cabana look but in soft, natural tones. We have selected a cohesive palette of colours from the Resene Woodsman range graduating from dark black to soft grey, which helps the pergola blend in with the greenery on the site and complements the garden atmosphere.

email:  web:

Alternative solution - a sleek pool cabana ready for summer

Eva and Kate used rich brown Resene Woodsman wood stains to create this summer haven and fenced pool area. The pine pergola ‘roof’ planks and the cedar slats on the back of the pergola are in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Bleached Riverstone and the deck is in Resene Woodsman Iroko in varying coats to create a subtle striped effect. The wooden seating next to the fire and the barbecue base are in Resene Woodsman Pitch Black and the roof is Resene Ebony. The sky grey sun loungers from Cult Design have an architectural quality which complements the sleek cabana design echoed in the mosaic-tile pool border.  Illustration: Malcolm White

Top tip: Resene Woodsman wood stains will appear darker or lighter in colour depending on the type of wood and how many coats are applied. Test the colour on an offcut or non-prominent piece of timber before starting your project. See the Resene Exterior timber stains colour range to find your favourite wood stain colour or view online.

Sun lounger
Palissade sun loungers, from Cult Design.

Outdoor cooking fire
EW5000 Outdoor Cooking Fire, from Escea.

Turquoise lap pool
Turquoise Lap Pool, from Mayfair Pools.

Mosaic swimming tiles
Mosaic Swimming Pool Tiles, from Artmos Mosaic & Tiles

Proline Flame Failure BBQ
Signature Proline Flame Failure BBQ, from Beefeater BBQs.

Words: Emma Rawson
Images: Deb Sisam, Sally Tagg


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