A New Garden On A Clay Ridge

A great mix of natives and exotics  for a statement streetfront planting.
A great mix of natives and exotics for a statement streetfront planting.

Two years ago I was approached by Annemarie, who had just moved into her newly-built house. The builder had done all the fences and paving, and created a flat lawn. The site gets all day sun and has great views. A keen gardener, Annemarie wanted to maximise every inch of her site and grow flowers, fruit, and vegetables. She also wanted a bold and colourful mixed planting along her street frontage.

There were several issues. Firstly, the wind. The house is on a ridge with views from Kapiti Island to Mt Kau Kau and is totally exposed to the wind from both north and south. On a compact site we wanted to create shelter from the wind, but keep the views and not to block the sun from either Annemarie or her neighbours.

Secondly, as usual with new subdivisions, any decent topsoil had been scraped off by the bulldozers, and we were standing on compacted clay. Improving the soil was crucial if a garden was to thrive.

Careful plant selection was critical on this site. I used shrubs as windbreaks and created sheltered pockets where more tender plants could flourish.

The lush growth of the grevillea, kaka beak, and hebes belies the fact that this site was bare just a couple of years ago.
The lush growth of the grevillea, kaka beak, and hebes belies the fact that this site was bare just a couple of years ago.

We also used extra topsoil and some large rocks to make a ‘mound’ at the front entrance, which is now a fully-planted garden that makes the entrance feel both more sheltered, and inviting.

A bold colour scheme of reds, yellows, and orange gives this planting real impact.
A bold colour scheme of reds, yellows, and orange gives this planting real impact.

Initially Annemarie used mulch on this garden, but after the wind blew it off, she changed to additional groundcover plantings. The native Leptinella now does a great job as a weed suppressant.

A detail of some the interesting native plant combinations that thrive with minimum fuss outside the front fence.
A detail of some the interesting native plant combinations that thrive with minimum fuss outside the front fence.
Hebes thrive in this exposed situation.
Hebes thrive in this exposed situation.

Inside the property, Annemarie is now growing not only ornamentals but also plentiful vegetables, herbs, and fruit. She has used even the smallest spaces to create productive areas.

A narrow raised bed against the fence has room for plentiful peas plus a splash of colour.
A narrow raised bed against the fence has room for plentiful peas plus a splash of colour.
Annemarie's husband built this ingenious strawberry planter box sitting on top of the fence rails. Growing strawberries off the ground will give them more sun and prevent soil contact that can lead to rot.
Annemarie’s husband built this ingenious strawberry planter box sitting on top of the fence rails. Growing strawberries off the ground will give them more sun and prevent soil contact that can lead to rot.

Having now fully utilised their area of flat land, Annemarie and Martijn have turned their attention to the south-facing, gorse-covered bank that forms the back of their property. No surprise that paths now wind down amongst daisies, flaxes, and even apple trees.

The south-facing bank which was,until recently, covered in gorse. The foreground plant is gaillardia.
The south-facing bank which was,until recently, covered in gorse. The foreground plant is gaillardia.

This garden is a great example of what can be achieved in a challenging location, through good preparation, plant selection, and, admittedly, some sheer hard work!

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