This garden in the Wellington suburb of Mornington was one of my most interesting challenges in 2014. High on a ridge with great views of the harbour and south coast:
the house sits well below the road and is approached by a series of concrete paths and steps in true Wellington style.
The hillside faces south, so lacks winter sun. Drainage in some of the beds seemed to be poor, with the soil presenting as claggy clay.
Our starting point for the planting was the native NZ grass, Carex testacea, not only for its suitability for the site, but because it reminded the owners of a favourite place, the high country of Mt Arthur in the Kahurangi National Park. A deceptively simple plant palette followed, with a combination of plants that work well together in colour, size and habit, that suit the conditions of the site, and meet the important requirement that the garden be very low-maintenance.
I wanted to de-emphasise the concrete and to allow the warm red brick walls to feature, so the concrete walls were painted in a soft colour complementary to the new scheme on the house.
Around the back a flight of steps was transformed using the same elements.
Give these plants a couple of years and the journey down to the house will feel completely different. The hard surfaces will have all but disappeared behind a sea of rippling grasses that will take you, just briefly, out onto those sub-alpine grasslands of the South Island.
In this instance it was amazing what could be achieved with plants, pots, and paint. This is a total transformation, achieved on a modest budget.