A well-designed garden pathway is like a good friend, leading you confidently through the landscape and ultimately bringing you to a clear destination.
The de Lautour/Jacob family needed such a pathway that would draw visitors past their front garden, beyond the inviting French doors into the lounge, and direct them straight to the front door, which is actually on the side of the house.
Dorothy de Lautour and her husband, Brian Jacob, have just completed a major renovation of a two-bedroom bach, which is set towards the back of the section. They built forward and up, gradually converting it into a spacious four-bedroom home that would comfortably accommodate them and their three small children.
“We made a conscious decision to place the front door on the side of the house,” says Dorothy, “but that did create some challenges.”
Directing visitors to the front door was just one of the objectives of the garden. Another priority was to create a private and welcoming space that would feel like an outdoor room. With French doors opening out from the lounge, Dorothy was hoping to establish a natural flow between the indoor and outdoor spaces.
A new drive needed to be built leading to a new garage, all-new planting was required and the pathway needed to be designed. Dorothy wanted a low-maintenance garden with a relaxed ambience. She enlisted landscape architect Brett Maclennan of Price & Humphreys Landscaping to give shape and form to her ideas.
“The brief required some significant hardscaping for the drive and walkway, but we also wanted to build a structural garden that had a free-flowing feel,” says Brett.
The property is fenced at the street and the new concrete drive curves around to the garage. It is screened from the garden by olive trees, which define spaces and structure within the garden.
Stepping stones of concrete that match the drive lead past the olive trees, protruding up from the ground to the elevated boardwalk. Built from macrocarpa, the boardwalk is raised above street level, but sits lower than the deck, which reinforces the distinction between the pathway and its surrounding elements.
“We planted Pratia puberula to delineate and soften the edges of the stepping stones and to separate them from the main deck,” says Brett. “Olive trees and panels of bay on the other side of the boardwalk will provide screening from the neighbours as they grow and fill in, helped by two flowering climbers, Tecomanthe speciosa and Pandorea pandorana.”
The grey-green olives and blue-flowering P. puberula complement the pale weatherboards and royal blue trim of the house.
“We used lots of colour throughout the garden,” says Brett. “Flowering plants, used in repetition, can contribute to a softer, more informal feeling.”
For the main garden, Dorothy wanted a grassy area that felt enclosed and would provide a good space for the children to play. This is anchored by two mature trees: a liquid amber, the green leaves of which transform to a radiant bronze every autumn, and a deciduous camphor tree.
With the screen of trees, the garage and the back of the house, the garden feels very private.
“Blocked planting defines the lawn, creating an informal frame, which gives the impression of a secluded area,” says Brett.
Dorothy says her children now run freely from the lounge to the liquid amber tree, where they climb up to a platform, their special place overlooking the garden.
“While it is not formal, the garden definitely has some structure,” says Brett, “but it is simplified in that you don’t have a lot of different plants. We have included a range of colours and textures to provide year-round interest.”
“My favourite is the Aoenium arboreum schwarzkopf,” says Dorothy.
Several of these unusual plants, with dark bronze stems crowned with full, plum-coloured rosettes, are strategically positioned in pots to create focal points within the garden, a typical element of a structured design.
“They are so striking,” she says. “It’s these distinctive, unusual things that catch your eye and really make the garden special.”
Colour is making a big splash in today’s gardens. According to landscape architect Brett Maclennan, flowering plants are becoming very popular. “We are seeing people moving towards softer gardens that are informal but still stylised,” he says. “They have richer, lusher hedges, and lots of colours and flowering plants mixed with different textures of greenery.” To work best, plants should complement the materials and colours of your home and hard landscape. Colour can also define garden spaces or accentuate focal points and architectural features. Here are some plants that work well in Dorothy de Lautour’s garden:
Ajuga reptans: This ground-hugging runner sends up spikes of purple flowers that softly border the stepping stones leading up to the boardwalk.
Aoenium arboreum schwartzkopf: Tall chocolate-bronze stems hold burgundy flowering rosettes that remain stunning year round. Planted in pots, they create focal points in the garden.
Clivia miniata: Tubular orange flowering heads are framed by dark green leaves and provide a showy display that complements the colours of the exterior joinery. A great plant for dry shade.
Pratia puberula: A profusion of starry blue flowers crown this carpet-forming plant that is used to soften the edges of the boardwalk and to complement the blue trim around the windows and doors.
Helleborus orientalis: Blooming in winter and early spring, the large nodding flowers grow above clumps of dark green leaves. Flower colours vary from pure white to burgundy red.
Ferns: Providing texture and a lime-green tone to the colour palette, they fill in under the mature trees in the garden.
Olive trees: With smooth grey trunks and grey-green foliage, olives blend well with the pale grey of the house. Planted as a screen, they are also positioned in pots to create areas of privacy.
Mondo grass: This fine-leafed species forms a dense, soft mat and bears pale purple flowers in summer. It makes a soft edging around the deck and sides of the house and garage..
a modern, contemporary garden
Haydn Sawyer, of Haydn Sawyer Architects, suggests this for an alternative look:
A modern, contemporary look could incorporate a curved walkway to soften the access route and create harmony between the house and garden. A corrugated iron screen at the end would hide interior living areas from view. Raised lighting could flank the walkway, while new plantings at a central point would add texture. In the garden, horizontal corrugated iron could balance the height of the tree, with uplights to make the corner inviting. A swing seat would create an element of movement for children and adults alike. To help define the lawn and create a walkway around the house, borders could be replaced with crazy paving, joining up with the curved decking at the entrance. Existing planters could be grouped for focus, while rust colours could be incorporated in the planting to complement the existing house colours.
three garden spaces
Delwyn Shepherd, director of Xcape Design, suggests this design alternative:
Working with the existing features, a different character could be incorporated into this garden space by splitting the timber boardwalk into three sections to form a stepped or zig-zag walkway. Planting sword leaf lancewood, interspersed with groups of trees, between the verandah and the boardwalk could add dimension, definition and structure to the entrance. The lancewood would mirror the tall, linear lines of the verandah posts and, combined with boundary plantings of nikau palms, would lend an architectural theme to the space. For depth and texture, the garden could be underplanted with native tussock grass and – for low maintenance and visual appeal – mulched with kaiaua boulders. Uplights could be used to highlight both the plants and an oriental trellis fence screening the boundary. The trellis fence could be stained to match the window trim, adding colour and strong directional lines to the garden.
three garden spaces
Ashley Warrington, landscape designer at Urbane Landscapes, suggests this design alternative:
A refined, yet elegant feel could be created by contrast and texture in the garden. Creamy coloured stone pavers could replace the walkway and make an inviting path to the property entrance. The doorway could be flanked by two ornamental citrus trees in sandstone pots, while the pathway itself could be planted with a mixture of grasses and palms. To add texture and define the space, bluestone cobbles could be used to edge the lawn. The rear fence could be stained in a dramatic colour, such as Resene Woody Bay, and nikau palms could be planted along it at intervals to add definition and incorporate some clean lines. Uplights could be used throughout the garden to display the tree and plantings, and to create atmosphere at night. The windows could be repainted in Resene Aubergine to incorporate more colour into the palette and complement the finished look.
words: Allyson Madsen
pictures: Mark Heaslip
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