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perfectly formed


From Habitat magazine - issue 24

This small but beautiful garden makes a big impact on a small budget.

Sandra Batley
*Sandra Batley

It's not hard to guess which is the landscape designer's garden as you drive down this quiet suburban street. Amongst the empty front lawns and sorry-looking shrubs, Sandra Batley's garden is a lush oasis. It's not grandiose or showy, it didn't break the bank, but it is perfectly formed.

Just three years ago, the site was barren. In that short time, Sandra and partner John Eagleton have created individual spaces for quite specific purposes that wrap around the modest 1970s brick unit. The garden is dressed in a colourful array of subtropical foliage and flowers, offset by fences stained with Resene Waterborne Woodsman Crowshead.

The property's potential was obvious to the couple from the start. On an elevated corner site facing the sunny north-west, the unit had its own drive and was visually separated from its neighbour. The garden was one big sloping lawn with no access from the living area to the outdoors, so the first change was to replace a window with sliding doors to access the garden.

Home deck and garden
Sandra and John have created a private oasis in suburbia that has everything they need – a seating area, a dining table, a spa and lush gardens. It's enclosed in fences stained with Resene Waterborne Woodsman Crowshead with a capping in Resene Spanish White. The large pivoting umbrella can be swung to cover the table or the spa.

Creating a successful garden isn't just about the pretty bits. First, John and Sandra tackled the drainage issues inherent on a site that sits near the bottom of a slope. They also split the main part of the garden into more usable levels – one for the deck, another for the garden that surrounds the deck and another for the family-friendly rectangular lawn where truck-loads of soil and a retaining wall were needed. At the rear of the home, there's also a quiet slim courtyard that catches the morning sun and an area for a small raised potager garden.

Curved garden
Garden seating area
Curved garden: A curved garden bed by the driveway is filled with purple-flowered turf lilies, canna 'Bengal Tiger' (orange flowers), canna 'Merle Cole' (red), gardenia, lomandra grasses and a cycad.  Seating area: Sandra has even turned the area outside the back door into an enchanting area with an Acapulco chair from Mamasita to catch the morning sun and a pallet table that has been given a washed effect using diluted Resene Spanish White.

The property was always meant to be a stepping stone to a larger one, so the couple were conscious of not over-capitalising. The deck is made of stained pine (Resene Woodsman Decking Stain Crowshead) rather than a more expensive hardwood, the pavers are from a previous job, and John designed and made the smart-looking privacy screen from pine, then painted it in Resene Lumbersider tinted to Resene Spanish White.

Home deck
One of the first pieces of remodelling was adding a sliding door from the house onto the deck, where a screen painted in Resene Spanish White provides privacy and wind protection.

Even a few of the plants were rescued from other gardens; the large cycads by the deck were being removed from a nearby section. "One of the kentia palms was the same; as long as we were prepared to dig it out, we could have it," says Sandra.

Obviously being homeowners who can not only visualise and design a space, but also make most of the features within it, is a huge cost saving. John built pretty much everything, while Sandra designed the unique water feature by pairing a pot with some copper pipe.

Deck and hottub
Sandra created the unique water feature with a rusted-looking pot and a copper spout. It nestles into a garden of canna lilies, dwarf date palms, kentia palms, bangalow palms, clipped pittosporum balls and mondo grass.  Fence: Get the fence look with Resene Waterborne Woodsman CoolColour Crowshead, seen with Canna 'Bengal Tiger' lilies.

During construction and planting there were the inevitable problems – some of the services and drains weren't where they were meant to be, and the property has an unexpected microclimate that brings some heavy frosts in winter. Not a good combination with the garden's subtropical plants. Sandra's advice: "Scope out your site thoroughly before you build or plant. And know your site in all weathers."

Sandra's planting scheme stemmed from her love of subtropical plants and was initially based around a colour theme of lime, black and yellow. She has slowly introduced other colours.

Garden and deck
Outdoor chairs
White fence: Get the look with Resene Lumbersider tinted to Resene Spanish White, seen with a tractor seat plant (ligularia reniformis).  Deck: Get the deck look with Resene Woodsman Decking Stain tinted to Resene Crowshead, seen with Peruvian lily (alstroemeria 'Inca Desert').

As a designer, there's a temptation to keep changing the garden. "We would love an outdoor fireplace, and an outdoor sofa. The spa pool lid needs changing…" But both she and John are now very happy with the garden, particularly the outdoor living area. "We get such a lot of use out of it now. It's so sunny and it flows really well."

Which is just as well, because as the Auckland property market has soared, the couple's 'stepping stone' home may become more permanent. And having worked on both the inside of the house and the garden for every weekend during the past two years, they surely deserve to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour for a while.

*Landscape designer Sandra Batley can rest easy now after two years of hard work and creativity.

Did you know... that dark-coloured boundary fences not only provide a neutral backdrop for planting, but also give the garden an illusion of extra space? Use a Resene CoolColour version of your paint or stain to reduce heat build-up.

Accessories/credits: Designer: Sandra Batley, Flourish Garden Concepts, www.flourishgardens.co.nz. Chairs: Flutter Design.


Alternative solution – put a skew on it

a sunken courtyard is angled for interest

Ben Hoyle of Blue Gecko suggests this alternative scheme:

When it comes to outdoor spaces we instinctively focus on the wider view. With courtyards the focus is inherently more inward with a desire to screen out the wider world to create privacy. Here, the deck is triangular and set 45 degrees to the house on the left. Finished in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Natural it joins to a floating seat which frames the dining table. The space is slightly sunken beside stone planters to reduce shading from the house and give better screening from neighbours. The courtyard feels more generous by angling the layout, elongating the lines and providing more variable depth gardens for planting.

Alternative solution 1

A variety of materials give texture with horizontal slats clad over sections of the existing fence, finished in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Skywater, and concrete in Resene Concrete Stain Deep Grey. The fireplace provides a focal point and along with a large corner lounger covers all bases for raucous entertaining or quiet relaxation.

With the house on the right, this layout is at a 45-degree angle which extends the feeling of space. The deck is finished in Resene Woodsman Decking Stain tinted to Resene Natural, while the fence slats are in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Skywater. The concrete is in Resene Concrete Stain Deep Grey. Other products featured include an Ivory suite from Top Secret.

Did you know... that there are a range of Resene Concrete Stain colours to enliven your outdoor spaces? See the Resene Decks, Paths, Driveways and Recreational Areas chart for colour options, available from your Resene ColorShop or reseller, or order online from www.resene.com/ordercharts.

phone 021 678 689   web www.bluegecko.co.nz

Accessories: Metrosiderus 'Vibrance'. EF5000 outdoor fireplace, from Escea. Eldorado Stone 'Rustic Ledge Alexandra', from Hard as Rocks. Concrete table, from Flowing Stone. Canna Tropicanna Black, from Palmers.


Alternative solution – an all-weather room

this up-to-date scheme gives a sense of enclosure

Nichola Vague of Zones Landscaping suggests this alternative scheme:

This outdoor space is developed as an extension of the indoor living area. Louvres create an all-weather outdoor room that features a breakfast bar, built-in seating and a fire table. A vertical screen gives enclosure to the space while a cone-shaped hanging planter, wall planter and built-in planters add interest and texture. Inspiration for the colour palette has been drawn from current geometric trends featuring black, grey, white and yellow. The walls and louvres are painted Resene Quarter Alabaster to freshen and lighten the space while black and yellow are added to create depth.

Alternative solution 2

Wide steps connect to the lower garden area which features a stepping stone path. A pleached hedge helps to tidy the view from the property and creates privacy. Planting is kept simple and is used to create interest, privacy and cohesiveness.

A sheltering outdoor room is created with walls in Resene Quarter Alabaster, a deck in Resene Woodsman Decking Stain tinted to Resene Iroko, a built-in seat in concrete protected with Resene Concrete Wax, a bar top in Resene Evolution, and accents of yellow.

Did you know... that Resene Woodsman Decking Stain is now available in a flatter finish, perfect for timber decks? The stain is available in a range of colours, including the newest addition, Resene Bleached Riverstone, and as Resene CoolColour variants. View the Resene Woodcare stand at your local Resene ColorShop.

phone 0800 30 10 20   web www.zones.co.nz

Accessories: Hexagonal Wall Planter, from Cheeky Rascal. Mother-in-law's tongue (Sanseveria trifisciata), Wild iris (Dietis grandiflora), from Palmers. Arizona Wire Bar Stool, from Cintesi. Charleston and Coco Woven Cushions, from Paper Plane.

words: Sharon Newey
pictures: Sally Tagg
illustration: Malcolm White


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