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urban oasis

From habitat magazine - issue 38, feature garden

A landscape designer has created a calming zen garden where Resene colours and plants work harmoniously.

A calming zen garden

The Resene Woodsman Uluru deck and Resene Waterborne Woodsman Woody Bay pergola create an island between the water dotted with water lilies and the densely planted Japanese Maple, Miscanthus grass, Camellia Japonica and Cotinus Coggygria.

Urban designer Bayley LuuTomes speaks more than one language, but his first language is nature. “My ethos is all about mimicking Mother Nature as closely as possible,” says Bayley, who has run his eponymous garden design business since 2012. “That means not planting a formal English Buxus garden in a coastal location where it won’t do well or planting daylilies in poor-draining clay soils. I know it sounds a bit odd, but plants tell me where they want to go.”

It’s an ethos the award-winning designer has adopted in the Paraparaumu garden he shares with his family. This is the eighth house Bayley has owned and renovated. “I get bored easily, and once I’ve done up a house and garden, I need to move on to the next challenge.”

This house, built in 2006, was a blank canvas when the qualified horticulturist bought it a year ago. Once he’d had the exterior painted in Resene Jaguar and stained the garage door in Resene Woodsman Heartwood, he turned his attention to the garden, which consisted of an Albizia julibrissin ‘Rosea’ (Persian silk tree) in the backyard, a Gleditsia triacanthos in the front and a patch of scrappy lawn.

“I designed the garden in three zones to show that different styles of gardens can happily co-exist in one location,” he says. That includes the front garden, where a floating boardwalk, finished with Resene Woodsman Heartwood stain, provides access from the street to the front door. “A floating system allowed me to utilise the contours of the land.”

The second zone is on the north-eastern side of the house, where Bayley has turned an unloved space into a Japanese-inspired garden, complete with a 4m x 2.5m pond (“water plays an important part in any garden, adding harmony and balance”), Japanese Maples and Oriental lanterns that are illuminated at night.

A garden with bright orange and black fencing

A glimpse of bright Resene Meteor contrasts with the Resene Jaguar fencing and draws visitors through the garden.

Bayley LuuTomes - landscape designer

“I get bored easily,” says landscape designer, Bayley LuuTomes, pictured on his Resene Woodsman Heartwood boardwalk. This Paraparaumu home is the eighth he's bought and renovated.

He added river rocks to soften the rectangular pond, along with Ophiopogon japonicus (mondo grass) and Anemone hupehensis (Japanese anemone). “It’s my vision of an inner suburban oasis, a great place to enjoy the sun.”

The final zone is the backyard. Bayley recently completed a courtyard off the living room with a covered area and raised block-wall garden beds primed with Resene Quick Dry waterborne primer and finished with Resene Sea Fog and Resene Meteor.

“The beds must be 550 millimetres off the ground, so the dogs don’t jump on the plants or dig them up.”

Having designed about 80 gardens across New Zealand and Australia, Bayley has picked up many tips and tricks, particularly in smaller sections. “The key is to look at your location – where is the sun, what is the soil, what types of plants can grow successfully here? It all comes back to my golden rule of using plants that mimic Mother Nature because those plants will grow naturally in that location.”

Another tip is to hone in on the functionality of a space. "What do you want to achieve in your garden and how do you want to use it? That will help to determine the kind of plants you choose."


Grouping plants by colour

Firstly look at the backdrop of where you will be planting – wall, fence, side of a house or open space. For me, this is important. If you have a dark colour as your backdrop, such as Resene Jaguar, it will pop whatever bright colour plants/flowers you plant. Dark colours are a great backdrop for lush shades of green and silver foliage.

There is no right or wrong way to group plants by colour. It comes down to personal choice. I have seen some odd colour combinations in my time and thought, 'No way will they work,' but in actuality, they do. However, I like to group colours based on the garden's style. For example, in a woodland garden, I would go with soft pastels and cool colours such as peach, pink, white, lavender, blue and indigo. Woodland gardens are mostly in shade to dappled light, so softer colours bring out the mood and feel of that garden style much better.

For a cottage-style garden, I would go with bright colours such as yellow, red, orange, purple, blue – most colours, really. Cottage gardens are bright, open and full of plants with multiple layers from groundcover to tall towering flowers. You can get away with bright colours as the plants compete for visual space.


Poppy seed pods


From left: Calliandra, poppy seed pods and achillea


Bayley’s journey to this point is fascinating: he arrived in New Zealand with his family in 1984, part of the wave of boat people who fled Vietnam following civil war. They were rescued off the coast of Thailand by the coastguard as their boat began to sink and spent a few years at a Thai refugee camp before coming to Wellington. They arrived in New Zealand with only the clothes on their backs and a few possessions, as most were lost overboard.

His love of gardening comes from his mother: growing up, Bayley would often help her out, learning about different plants and flowers. “We entered a local gardening centre competition in 2010 and won it, which was probably my aha moment.”

At the time, Bayley was working as an art director in the advertising industry but subsequently completed a horticulture degree. Shortly afterwards, he caught the eye of an English designer who organised for him to work alongside another British designer at the Chelsea Flower Show in London.

“That same year, I was the only New Zealander selected to show at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, where I won a silver award for my Kiwi native design garden.”

He followed that up with two gold medals and the Young Designer of the Year Award at the Ellerslie International Flower Show, later representing New Zealand at the 2013 Gardening World Cup Flower Show in Japan, winning a silver medal for his Kiwi/Asian fusion garden.

Bayley has continued to make waves in the gardening world, winning awards at the Singapore Garden Festival and the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show, where judges said his entry “showed how the best designs tread lightly”.

Now that he’s completed his own garden, Bayley is busy flexing his green fingers across his clients’ properties. “That’s where the real joy is for me – helping someone to achieve the garden of their dreams.” And although he hasn’t ruled out buying another house, Bayley is currently happily enjoying the fruits of his hard work.


Bayley’s top tips:

How to choose fence, deck and house exterior colours to go with your garden:

“For me, it’s like painting. You start with a base and work forward. Choose complementary colours – for example, Resene Wanaka on the wall with Kniphofia (red hot pokers) planted in front. The flaming red-orange colour will light up in front of the blue Resene Wanaka wall.

“Neutral base colours work well with bright colours with a strong weighting. What I mean is red is visually more vibrant than purple. You would use a small amount of red in a garden and then more purple.

“For example, I would use Resene Atomic on the wall. Then plant white hydrangeas, purple lavender or pink canna lilies. A white base works with all coloured plants, and so does a black base colour. “I would treat wood stains the same way as paint. The great thing about a wood stain is it allows the wood grain to show through. Because of this, my plant selection would be simple and in mass to show off the stain. For example, Resene Skywater on a board and batten wall with Carex testacea (an ornamental grass) at the base.”

A golden boardwalk and sophisticated dark home exterior

The golden Resene Woodsman Heartwood boardwalk plays beautifully against the Resene Jaguar house, leading visitors through the garden to the front door.

How to enhance gardens with structural elements:

“Gardens are all about balance – you need to have positive and negative space and layers from the foreground to the background. There should be a mix of tall and low elements, soft and hard surfaces, curves and straight lines and dark and light colours. These elements or forms can be made of natural or manufactured products. It’s how you combine them that will enhance your garden.

“For example, you can bend a hard form like steel into a curve to soften its appeal. The curve will create negative space to balance out the heavy (positive) part of the steel. Soft flowing grasses also contrast the stiff nature of steel. It’s about finding the right mix of all the elements.”

A raised garden bed painted orange and white

Resene Meteor trimmed with Resene Sea Fog frames the raised garden, against the Resene Jaguar fence, where Bayley has used largely deciduous trees like the Japanese Maple to make the most of seasonal changes.

Are there any structural elements that are particular to Japanese-style gardens?

Japanese gardens are about creating a space where you feel relaxed, calm and recharged – a place where you can collect your thoughts. These spaces usually have a seating/sheltered structure, such as a tea house or pagoda. Water is important in creating a restful environment. The sound of running water is calming. It also helps block out the outside world. Planting is important. Plants can give off positive energy to help you feel revitalised.

This garden includes a mix of flowers to show off different seasonal colours

The garden includes a mix of poppies, daisies and perennials like aquilegia, felicia, lupin and penstemon to show off the different seasonal colours which pop against the Resene Jaguar house exterior, Resene Waterborne Woodsman Woody Bay pergola and Resene Woodsman Uluru deck.

What lessons did you learn from designing your own garden?

I learnt I have too many ideas and would need a bigger property to create them all. I learnt that if you can dream it, you can create it – you just need to work with the right people.


Paint it right

Choose the right Resene colours and paints for the job.

Dark days

Resene Woodsman, Resene Lumbersider and many other exterior products are available in CoolColour formulas. Resene CoolColours are recommended when choosing dark colours outdoors as the unique pigment technology reduces the sun’s heating effect on exterior surfaces compared to the normal colour to help keep the coating and surface cooler.

A pergola in the garden

A garden boardwalk

The great outdoors

Resene Lumbersider Low Sheen is an exterior paint suitable for many projects, including house exteriors, raised beds or pergolas. The waterborne formula provides maximum durability in exposed conditions.

Go with the grain

The Resene Woodsman wood stains range protects and enhances the natural beauty of wood by allowing the grain to show through. Wood stains can be applied with a brush or fence-painting roller. If using Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain on your deck, try a PAL Deckmaster brush.

Alternative solution – contemporary zen garden

serene suburban oasis

Landscape designer Maisy Conway of Sculpt Gardens suggests this alternative scheme:

Maisy Conway
Maisy Conway

I have re-imagined this space as a private, serene space to relax in. A pleached hedge along the fence screens the neighbouring house to create a private oasis. The modern reflection bench provides a place to sit and relax. The meandering path leads you through the garden to the circular opening in the wall, adding intrigue and a sense of space. The earthy colours of the Waikato fleck pebble add to the natural tranquillity, and I’ve chosen calming Resene Ted to paint the entrance gate and bench to connect with the concrete pathway and contrast with lush greenery. I chose lilac shades of flowers (creeping thyme and Campanula would work well) because they’re a soothing colour, reminiscent of Resene Blue Gem. The Resene Pioneer Red dining set reflects the lovely rusty reds of the Japanese Maple trees, wonderful focal points against the serene greens and greys. Resene Pohutukawa or Resene Arriba would also work well.

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Maisy Conway - alternative solution

This restful design literally leads you down the garden path, past the Waikato fleck pebbles from Central Landscape Supplies, to the bench seat and through the circular entrance, both painted in Resene Ted. Along the way you pass the Lava U pot from Hawthorne Group featuring an architecturally pruned Japanese Yew and the elegant Rippledish water feature from Contemporary Water Sculptures. Through the circular door you can see the table and chairs from Jardin, painted in brick-toned Resene Pioneer Red to echo the Japanese Maple trees in the garden, contrasting nicely with the Resene Jaguar house exterior. Lighting the way are hanging lights under the eaves and accent lights in the garden from Gardens At Night.  Illustration: Malcolm White

Garden before alternative solution

Top tip  Keep your concrete paths and other surfaces looking good with finishing products like Resene Walk-on Concrete Clear. For regular easy maintenance, spray on Resene Deep Clean every 6-12 months. No scrubbing or rinsing needed. It will work with the weather to help keep your paths looking cleaner.

Rippledish water feature, Contemporary Water Sculptures
Rippledish water feature, Contemporary Water Sculptures
Lava U Pot, Hawthorne Group
Lava U Pot, Hawthorne Group
Waikato fleck pebbles, Central Landscape Supplies
Waikato fleck pebbles, Central Landscape Supplies
Accent 8 lights, Gardens At Night
Accent 8 lights, Gardens At Night
Bistro folding chairs and table, Jardin Outdoor Furniture
Bistro folding chairs and table, Jardin Outdoor Furniture

Resene Ted

Resene Arriba

Design: Bayley LuuTomes
Words: Sharon Stephenson
Images: Ryan McCauley


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