A riot of colour

— Parnell, Auckland

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This grand old villa in Parnell is made up of five original barracks buildings relocated from Auckland University. My client dreamed of a rambling garden that would help to settle the villa into the site. He wanted the existing lawn at the back of the property to be replaced with a perennial flower garden that was a “riot of colour”. He also dreamed of a chess garden, a native shade garden and a kitchen garden. The design needed to make all these separate spaces and ideas work together cohesively without feeling too busy.

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The concept regards the new structural elements of the garden as existing, as if ruins from another time; a low brick wall in front of the olive tree in the back garden creates a space to sit that feels as though it could’ve been there forever. The hardscaping elements and spaces in the garden use the architecture of the house as the key axis; this creates a sense of cohesion and order in the garden.

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The garden was built in stages over 18 months and was a wonderfully organic, collaborative process with the contractor Justin Hurt and the client being involved in the design details as the garden evolved. Instead of planting plans the client and I poured over books and visited nurseries together. Justin created beautiful details with materials found on site, such as the old brick wall to create a garden that feels as though it has been there for a century.

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The flowering perennial garden is overflowing with colour. It dies back in winter to reveal the ‘bones’ of the garden - such as clipped Corokia balls - but it is not dormant for very long before fresh Spring growth emerges. This period of stillness was a conscious design decision, in a garden which is so abundant throughout the rest of the year.

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The house has since been sold and I have been lucky enough to be able to continue my relationship with the garden as the new owners engaged me to redesign the carport and entrance. It has been a very special journey forming new friendships and watching this garden evolve. The angles of the front gate were adjusted to be in line with the front door, creating a little alcove off the footpath allowing visitors to pause at the threshold of the garden.

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The design for the carport was informed by the roof shapes of the house, floating in the space, allowing light and views through the structure. Old brick from the original garden is utilised for permeable screens which are backlit at night to allow a soft wash over the gardens.

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Project Details

Key Plants

Alstroemeria 'Walter Fleming', Armeria maritima, Astelia chathamica, Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy', Chrysanthemum, Corokia x virgata 'Frosted Chocolate', Dahlia 'Zoe's Red', Hemerocallis 'Memories', Loropetalum 'Burgundy', Lychnis coronaria, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Penstemon 'Blackbird', Phlomis fruticosa, Stachys byzantina, Salvia leucanthe, Thymus pseudolanuginosus,

Date

Location

Parnell
Auckland
New Zealand

Architects

Native Architecture

Construction

Justin Hurt

Photography

Carme Aguayo

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