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birds bees and bounty


From Habitat magazine - issue 25

Not to be tucked into a corner, this bountiful potager garden takes over the whole back yard.

Juliet and Ken
Juliet and Ken – enjoying a productive and visually enticing garden.

In a tiny, pretty street, that's walking distance to everything in Christchurch, you'd never guess that behind Juliet Nicholas and Ken McAnergney's house lies a garden that keeps the inhabitants fed.

For the past 15 years, the couple, daughter Josie and cute canine Minnie have learned a thing or two about sustainable living and growing organic food. The garden delivers an impressive harvest for a pair of avid cooks and proponents of spray-free provisions. It's not all about production. Ken and Juliet believe in aesthetics in equal measure (not surprising when Juliet is a well-known garden photographer).

The garden includes espaliered fruit trees, ferns, bird feeders and five well-planted plots: four big potager beds, and a skinnier side plot for berries and beans. Those plots were relocated from east to west a couple of years ago, but only after carefully considering the views they'd create from different vantage points.

Potager garden
Juliet and Ken's potager garden takes over their back yard in full bountiful force. The old playhouse is painted in stripes of Resene Cream Can and Resene House White on a background of Resene Comfort Zone.

Juliet has 'visually thought out' the axis of these plots before committing to their placement. They decided on raised beds, because that increases the soil temperature. The ideal soil depth is about 200mm, Ken says. Here the beds dip below ground by 50mm.

"This side of the garden was endowed with much more sunshine," Juliet says. "Plus, by having the raised beds within view from living room and kitchen windows, we're constantly observing and feeling connected to our plants."

Potager garden before
Apple blossom
Garden: Juliet and Ken relocated their potager garden just a few years ago... and it has flourished.  Apple blossom: Apple blossom in the couple's garden.

This is a couple not shy of colour, but while they might have jewel-coloured or stripy vegetables growing in the garden, their house is painted in the beautiful moody neutral of Resene Quarter Stonehenge and trimmed in Resene Alabaster.

The garden fence is coloured to recede, disappear even. The fence is stained in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Shadow Match.

Vege garden
Pumpkins on veranda
Vege garden: Fences in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Shadow Match backdrop the vegetable garden where an old gate, wire mesh and a cane growing frame are visual and practical additions.  Pumpkins: A harvest of pumpkins sits on the back veranda.

Everything is considered: colour, structure, height, plus a blend of formality and informality. Juliet favours blue petalled and fragrant flowers to attract bees wherever possible. On summer evenings she's often to be found outside with a torch, manually removing slugs and snails. Both Juliet and Ken count the ability to pick salad ingredients, assemble and eat a meal soon after as one of the prime joys in life.

Veranda post and pergola
*Veranda and pergola

Juliet loves nothing more than gardening and sees irony in the fact that her wide-ranging work photographing gardens and homes for magazines means she often spends more time in other people's gardens than her own during peak season.

With potager gardening, some crops need to hunker down but others do better when rotated for greater productivity. How Juliet and Ken do this is up for discussion.

"I don't mind random plantings whereas Ken prefers rows and order, so we balance it out," says Juliet. "Gardening is a dynamic process and you're always learning from last season's mistakes."

Ken is a keen composter. Soil for this amount of food production must be nurtured; mulched, fed and watered appropriately, he says. The couple uses worm wee and castings from their Hungry Bin worm farm, plus well-rotted stable manure to truly nourish the soil. Other ingredients include blood and bone, mulch, plus their own compost of garden and kitchen waste along with lawn clippings.

It's all part of the life-cycle of a garden that serves a variety of purposes – and not only to delight and nourish the senses but to feed the soul.

*Wisteria winds up the veranda post and pergola at the rear of the house. The weatherboards are painted in Resene Quarter Stonehenge and the pergola is Resene Alabaster.

Top tip: Use Resene Terracotta Sealer to seal the inside and outside of planters and pots to help retain moisture, and keep them looking good.

Did you know... that by painting or staining boundary fences or screens in a dark colour, they will absorb and radiate the sun's warmth onto nearby plants, helping fruit to ripen?

Plants in garden: Echanacea: a pretty daisy whose extract is thought to boost the immune system. Chives: bearing purple flowers, chives lend a delicate onion flavour to savoury dishes. Salvia: with its vivid blue flowers, this is a winner for attracting bees and butterflies. Kale: the new darling of health-conscious cooks, great in salads and smoothies.


Alternative solution – best of both

a place to reflect... and a place to entertain

Paul Roper-Gee of Canopy suggests this alternative scheme:

Before alternative design 1
Before

Cool, calm and contemporary, this courtyard garden scheme is formed around two contrasting but complementary outdoor living spaces for relaxing and entertaining with friends.

A space for reflection and contemplation is sheltered beneath multi-stem amelanchier trees emerging from box hedging and clustered around a bluestone plinth water feature; it's centred in the garden so that it can be viewed from the house. In contrast, an open and sunny concrete seating area is focused around an outdoor gas fire table for socialising. A back-drop of tall grasses and perennials adds colour, texture and movement, and contrasts with the more formal planting around the water feature. Plants include Miscanthus 'Morning Light', plume poppy, smoke bush, canna lily, Helichrysum petiolare and fig.

Alternative solution 1

This dual-purpose space is back-dropped with a house painted in Resene Quarter Foundry with trims and pergola in Resene Sea Fog and a roof in Resene Foundry. The concrete seating is stained in Resene Concrete Stain Bleached Grey. The bluestone is protected with Resene Concrete Clear.

Did you know... that there is 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 free from your Resene ColorShop or reseller, or order online from www.resene.com/ordercharts.

phone 021 447 191   web www.canopy.co.nz

Accessories: Buxus sempervirens (box hedging). Timaru Bluestone Flagstone Pavers, from Timaru Bluestone Industries. Huntington Concrete LPG Firetable, from BBQ's & More. Fermob Bellevie Sofa, from Jardin.


Alternative solution – vintage charm

the simple life with rustic good looks

Landscape designer Meg Kane suggests this alternative scheme:

Before alternative design 2
Before

This garden design is influenced by the lovely rustic/barn look that I love right now, created by using weighty aged materials, such as reclaimed timber, and contrasting them with simple soft plantings and a straightforward layout. It creates a feeling of being away from it all. Forget being fussy, this look is relaxed, not over-contrived, and easy to achieve.

Alternative solution 2

The house has been given a lift using Resene Nero with contrasting Resene Alabaster french doors to add personality and give it a current look. A chunkier pergola brings in a rustic touch. The formed concrete fireplace bookends the deck and is softened by a fig tree. Nonchalant plantings of flowering shrubs and perennials contrast with the rawness of the concrete and stop the design from becoming too austere. Add a long elegant pool and patio – perfect for enjoying the simple life.

A vintage luxe look is created with rustic elements against a striking Resene Nero house, with Resene Alabaster trims. The wide veranda is finished with Resene Furniture and Decking Oil while other products include a Vintage Outdoor Bench from Artwood.

Top tip: When using dark colours on a house exterior, ask for Resene CoolColour paint or stain. It reflects more of the sun's heat so helps protect the finish and the cladding.

phone 027 241 2332   web www.megkane.co.nz

Accessories: Large Copper Plant Pots, from Dunedin Sheet Metals. Impressions Outdoor Fireplace, from Rinnai. Lavender Grosso. White echinacea. Vintage Outdoor Table, from Artwood.

words: Liesl Johnstone
pictures: Juliet Nicholas
illustration: Canopy
illustration: Malcolm White


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