All posts by sarahnorling2014

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!

Happiness At Haddon Hall

Haddon Hall, Derbyshire
Haddon Hall, Derbyshire

In July I was lucky enough to be visiting the UK, and quite by chance we decided to visit Haddon Hall, near Bakewell in Derbyshire. It is one of the most intact medieval/Elizabethan fortified manor houses in England. Parts of the house date from the 12th century, and the same family has owned it for a mere 800 years. Inside it is wonderfully untouched, yet still feels like the home that it is, and not a museum. (The family touch extended to beautiful flower arrangements throughout the house and chapel, thanks to a recent family christening).

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If you are a movie buff, look out for it in ‘The Princess Bride’ as Prince Humperdinck’s castle. ( I wish I’d known that before I went! ) You can also see it in the films Elizabeth, The Other Boleyn Girl, Pride & Prejudice, and Jane Eyre!

The house itself is marvellous, with its Great Hall, Long Gallery, and Tudor kitchens. But stepping outside into the gardens on a perfect midsummer’s day was an unforgettable experience. The Elizabethan terraced gardens have been redesigned in recent years by the famous Arne Maynard, and they are just beautiful.

Haddon Hall is famous for its roses.
Haddon Hall is famous for its roses.

In an article in Gardens Illustrated , June 2014, Maynard talks about wanting to create an atmosphere fitting to the romance and age of the house. He has achieved this in spectacular fashion.

Roses such as ‘Mannington Mauve Rambler’ and ‘Veilchenblau’ climb impossibly high up the walls. Roses are also used in deep borders, mixed in with herbaceous perennials, sometimes trained up tripods and domes made of hazel stakes.

In the upper garden a tripod supports sweetpeas, poppies, daylilies, and a rose.

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A central formal lawn is bordered on two sides by wide borders reminiscent of wildflower meadows.

This garden is a perfect blend of structure and informality. There is an exuberance to the planting which just makes you smile. Nothing is there by accident, but there is a looseness around the edges that makes it all look so effortless. The garden is at one with both the house and its surrounding landscape.

The Elizabethan-inspired knot garden is softened by bursts of colour, seemingly at random.

By all means experience the grandeur of nearby Chatsworth. Chatsworth will remind you of your insignificance. There, the scale of the surrounding park-like grounds doesn’t really invite exploration on foot. At Haddon Hall, you want to tell the butler you’ll take tea on the lawn before gathering up your trug basket and secateurs to collect an armful of flowers for the house. If you are ever within 100 miles of Haddon Hall, especially in summer, go and soak up the atmosphere and see those roses. I can guarantee you will leave happy.

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Could it get any more postcard perfect? An old-fashioned rose tumbling over a lichened wall, with an oak tree as backdrop.

 

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Another border in pinks and mauves, with a gravity-defying cream rose all over the stone balustrade.

 

Tulip Time

Tulips 'Angelique' and 'Pink Diamond' against a spring sky
Tulips ‘Angelique’ and ‘Pink Diamond’ against a spring sky

Welcome to my garden diary! My garden is such a happy place that it’s time to share it. Starting with one of my absolute favourite flowers: Tulips.

My tulips looked amazing for weeks, even surviving gales and a couple of hail storms. The two pink varieties I chose this year worked so well when the crab apple tree started flowering at the same time. If you want to grow tulips, get hold of some next March, put them in the fridge for about 6 weeks, then plant at about a spades depth and sit back. Unless you have really nice garden soil, I think it’s better to use premium potting mix in a decent sized pot or tub. In Wellington the bulbs are usually discarded after one year. I experimented this year and let some of last year’s bulbs come up (they seemed to want to) but the flowers weren’t as good. So from now on I will be ruthless. Out they go! New bulbs next year!

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