The challenge was to create a new garden on a totally bare site in the challenging climate of Wanaka with hot dry summers and very cold winters with frosts and some snow. Georgie Pinckney, a Wanaka professional landscape architect, prepared the landscape design. www.georgiep.co.nz
The aim was to feature New Zealand native plants and alpines of the region whilst still growing some of the wonderful cold climate exotics such as weeping cherries, crab apples and fruit trees. Throughout there are extensive plantings of native tussocks and mass plantings of the local kanuka to provide a dark green background to the garden and anchor it to its environment.
The style tends to the minimalist to ensure the garden complements the elegant modern architecture.
There are a number of distinctive areas in the garden each with its own character. The garden was one year old in December 2007, so is very much a work in progress.
Next to the conservatory is the herb and rose garden with olives, feijoas and berries such as blueberries and currants and the wild thyme that grows so on the hills above Alexandra. We love being able to wander out of the kitchen and pick fresh herbs every day – even in winter we have fresh rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme. Our wine barrel of various mints is thriving – we have wild mint, ginger mint and basil mint. We also grow tarragon, chervil, dill, curry plant, coriander, basil , chives and various thymes. The roses mean we have been able to put freshly picked flowers in guest rooms every day. Above is an area of heathers. Winter colour is provides by the pale green flowers of hellebores, particularly helleborus foetidus.
The herb garden leads into the orchard which has various fruit trees under planted with bulbs. Central Otago is such a wonderful stone fruit area – our first crop of apricots was delicious (Apricot ‘Cluthalate’). We lost our first crop of yellow queen peaches to frost! But the trees are only one year old. A line of espaliered apple trees include ‘Baujade’, ‘Initial’ and ‘Liberty’. A shady woodland garden nearby has the beautiful delicate white flowers of the native clematis (Paniculata), various hydrangeas, a wonderful blue poppy (Meconopsis baileyii). For fragrance - violets, daphnes, euchrypias and wintersweet.
Beside the orchard is a planting of old fashioned roses and peonies which grow so well here, sheltered by a stand of native beeches – both red and mountain beeches(northofagus fusca and northofagus solandrii cliffortioides)
A feature of the garden is the waterfall and pond. The waterfall provides a lovely background sound and can be viewed from inside the house and from the cedar hot tub. The deck beside the pond is a great place for an evening drink. The waterfall is quite dramatic when lit at night. In fact it can be lit in an array of colours – the only drawback is the remote control only works within one metre which means you need to stand in the middle of the pond to operate it- OK in summer but not winter, so we generally stick with the one colour.
Our first gold fish managed to survive for a year in the dark holding tank for the waterfall after it swam up the pipe but we have now rescued it and blocked off the access and will be getting it some friends. Beside the pond are large gunnera and various native hebes. Next to the spa is an area of Japanese maples and hostas with Japanese windflowers providing a splash of white from February to April. Planting around the pond includes various dogwoods and weeping cherries, and a mass planting of dwarf Pittosporum ‘Golf Ball’.
An area on the south western side protected from the wind has a selection of magnolias and is under planted with the wonderful Chatham Island forget- me- not with their wonderful huge glossy leaves and tall stems of blue flowers (Myosotidium hortensia). Magnolias include ‘Elizabeth, denudate ‘Gere’, stellata ‘Water Lily’ and stellata ‘Royal Star’
Opposite is a large planting of the native renga renga lilies(Arthropodium cirratum ‘Matapouri Bay’) mixed with the Snow Lily (Astelia nivicola). Various distinctive New Zealand natives feature in this area including the amazing the toothed lancewood (pseudopanax ferox), various coprosma, the cabbage tree(Cordyline australis) and corokia
The street front berms are planted with tussock that is so distinctive a feature of Central Otago and features in our logo. The grasses include masses of silver tussock ( poa cita), some red tussock(Chionachloa rubra), dwarf toe toe (Chionachloa flavicans) and gossamer grass (Anemanthele The lower front berm features the NZ iris (Libertia peregrinans) with Chatham Island speargrass (Aciphylla dieffenbachia) mixed with Marlborough rock Daisy (Pachystigia insignis). The lower entry area has a planting of pear trees , the pale green leaves contrasted by the under planting of red Phormium ‘Jester’. The courtyard between the 2 wings of the house has a restrained planting of Lomandra tanika and Scleranthus biflorus with Michelia yunnanensis on one side.
Trees in the garden include kowhai with their lovely yellow flowers in spring ( I am hoping they will attract the magnificent wood pigeons (kereru) when they grow. We have the South Island Sophora microphylla and Sophora ‘Dragons Gold’. Other trees are the lovely mountain hoheria Lyalli with delicate white flowers in summer (I tried hoheria sextylosa but they died in the big freeze of June 2007), various crabappples, and the native ribbonwood (plagianthis regius). Shrubs include Amelanchior Canadensis and green smoke bush for autumn colour and Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Mountain green’.
Birds in the garden
We love sitting on the deck by the waterfall and watching the birds come and drink. The Red polls do not enter the water, but drink the water between the pebbles at the edge of the pond. We have Chaffinches, Sparrows, Goldfinches, Yellowhammers, Dunnocks, Thrushes, Blackbirds, Starlings and Sky larks. Each year we have a new family of quail. We are hoping to attract Bellbirds, Tuis and wood pigeons in due course. We often hear Masked Plovers in the evening and Hawks circle lazily overhead.
The fruit and vegetable garden
We love having an organic vegetable garden. The great thing about Central Otago is there are very few pests and diseases. My daughter Tiffany, our chef, is also a keen gardener and really enjoys being able to pick and serve produce fresh from the garden. We are still learning about what to plant when but so far we have enjoyed broccoli, snow and sugar peas, beans, zucchinis, beetroot, tomatoes and yummy strawberries. Rocket and various lettuces means we can always whip up a salad from the garden with lots of fresh coriander, basil, chives and parsley. We are growing various kinds of potatoes including Jersey Bennes and the delicious earth gems from South America . Tiffany makes a wonderful appetizer of short crust pastry shell filled with grated zucchini, and mint from the garden with feta. Another favourite is the roesti potato and leek cakes she makes for breakfast.