Wellington garden designer uses home patch as a colourful testing zone

Greg Stevens

Not all experiments are carried out in sterile laboratories.

The backyard of designer Rachael Matthews is a mixture of her enjoy of bouquets and her horticulture trials to present her prospects with the most effective plants. In carrying out this, she has established an at any time-modifying feast of colour and interest.

From outdoors Matthews’ gate, it’s obvious to see a yard designer lives within just. The lawn on the roadside berm is laid among railway sleepers that mirror the pattern of espaliered Chinese jasmine in her earlier back garden.

Soon after seeking unique types of lawn bulbs for two many years, previous yr Matthews planted 25 garden crocuses. These drew lots of feedback from passers-by, and encouraged her to plant yet another 150 bulbs this calendar year, but none surfaced.

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Matthews thinks both the rain rotted them “or Tim mowed them”, she suggests of her spouse with a grin. Undeterred, she will plant even extra up coming yr.

Five years in the past, Matthews and her spouse and children moved from Kelburn to Khandallah, and now their dwelling is also her workplace, nursery, demo and display screen backyard garden. Her backyard garden layouts for clientele are really structured with seasonal desire and this is mirrored in her individual yard.

Matthews has remodeled what was a backyard at the entrance of the home into a patio and below she keeps topiaries for sale to clients, generating a area of clipped inexperienced buildings.

Water plants grow in the bowl beneath the lion head, a remnant of the previous garden, with pleached ornamental pears (Pyrus calleryana) on the nearby brick walls. Buxus sempervirens topiary cones and flat-topped pyramids join Buxus 'Green Gem' balls in the centre. 'Antique Orange' tiger lilies, Rosa 'Pierre de Ronsard', Physocarpus 'Shady Lady', and white mophead Hydrangea 'Bridal Bouquet' add interest and colour.


H2o vegetation grow in the bowl beneath the lion head, a remnant of the earlier backyard, with pleached ornamental pears (Pyrus calleryana) on the close by brick partitions. Buxus sempervirens topiary cones and flat-topped pyramids sign up for Buxus ‘Green Gem’ balls in the centre. ‘Antique Orange’ tiger lilies, Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard’, Physocarpus ‘Shady Lady’, and white mophead Hydrangea ‘Bridal Bouquet’ add curiosity and colour.

Double pompom Buxus sempervirens topiaries line up in front of ladder ferns in French urns.


Double pompom Buxus sempervirens topiaries line up in entrance of ladder ferns in French urns.

She likes to use ailment resistant Buxus ‘Green Gem’, and is trialling Osmanthus ‘Pearly Gates’ with its bonus of fragrant white bouquets in winter. She also grows ivy topiary as an alternate to buxus as it is a far better performer in the shade and soaked.

An ornamental pear, Pyrus calleryana, is pleached versus the black fence of the patio – it is Matthews’ favourite plant for pleaching. In entrance of it are ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ climbing roses, and although they are staked, they have no body to scramble up as Rachael needs them to froth out “like champagne bubbles”.

As nicely as the fences encompassing the yard, there are others dividing the grass spot out the back from the plant nursery. Each individual fence has one thing growing in opposition to it to exhibit clients how it’s feasible to make an fascinating backyard with just a fence. In the vegetable backyard garden, an apple tree is espaliered in the traditional strategy of education just one particular layer a yr.

Espaliered Trachelospermum jasminoides with pleached Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon'.


Espaliered Trachelospermum jasminoides with pleached Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’.

On the reverse fence, a Chinese jasmine is trained on wires. A ginko espaliered from the backyard get rid of is grown – like the liquidambar – for its leaves. A few crabapple column trees develop versus the back again fence. A further fence has a pleached liquidambar and on the other aspect are scarlet runner beans which Matthews crops each individual year, plus sweet peas (planted in autumn fairly than spring) and hops.

Matthews enjoys hops and finds they are a good way to get males to turn out to be enthusiastic about a new backyard – “mention hops and they’re sold”.

The carport opposite the patio has a clear plastic roof and is perfect for storing vegetation as very well as getting the suitable unloading bay. In Rachael’s preceding property, the truck drivers refused to generate up the steep hill so she experienced to satisfy them at the railway yards at all hours to collect her purchases.

Matthews chuckles that Tim only obtained to use the carport for a day right before she took it over and now their cars are parked on the drive.

Fast-growing hops vine Humulus lupulus.


Rapid-growing hops vine Humulus lupulus.

A deck sales opportunities from the home to a garden Matthews would like to flip into a buying backyard garden, but this “has to be negotiated with Tim”.

Over winter season, the dahlias she is trialling rest below the kitchen windowsill in their black plastic pots and this 12 months, Matthews is planting even far more varieties, aiming for a prime 30.

Also on the deck are pots of huge, solitary bloom chrysanthemums to see how they would do in Wellington gardens over wintertime. Like dahlias, they are fantastic in autumn and Rachael thinks they may possibly observe in the dahlias’ footsteps for level of popularity.

Rosa 'Sally Holmes' in a giant trumpet frame.


Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’ in a large trumpet body.

On 1 side of the garden is the vegetable backyard garden and on the other the foliage backyard garden the place Matthews grows tons of plants in pots so she can go them close to to see how they go alongside one another.

Among the foliage are many grasses, which includes Stipa gigantea which she plans to improve from seed. “It’s attractive and there is nothing at all like it in New Zealand natives. The grass is transparent relatively than a massive plume and has a attractive sheen. I think about crops in terms of what job they do and if it’s a native, great, I’ll use that, but if not I’ll use anything else.”

There are also seven aromatic versions of rhododendrons getting trialled but the gold medal has however to be awarded.

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Matthews has loved bouquets because she was young when she made use of to choose and push them. On her kitchen area windowsill is a row of small wine bottles, with a solitary flower in every. These are her “seasonal moments”.

She plans it so that even in the depths of winter, there is one thing to select and put on the windowsill. “Some flowers can be quite insignificant but when picked and placed alongside one another they are stunning,” she clarifies. Flowers of each individual colour sit side by facet in Matthews’ back garden, even orange ones, which numerous people avoid. Of these gardeners, she says, “they have not viewed an orange geum.” It’s just one of her favourites.

Matthews specialises in developing topiaries and crops in massive black plastic pots as she’s frequently swapping crops all around and seeking new ones. She loves flowers but doesn’t have ample room in the backyard so puts in additional flowering and smaller expanding shorter year plants in pots that can be swapped out. “It’s like getting four seasons of plants on a person pot location.”

The giant triple topiaries are Buxus sempervirens and about 20 years old.


The big triple topiaries are Buxus sempervirens and about 20 yrs aged.

The pots are positioned in rows on paths which are 1 gumboot extensive. The pots sit on a sandbed, which is a pool liner with sand on top rated. At 5am, the irrigation hose is turned on for 20 minutes to flood the sand mattress, guaranteeing every single plant gets the exact same total of h2o so they mature evenly and the foliage isn’t watered.

Dated photos are getting taken of a vary of daffodils to see if the weather impacts how they increase. Viburnums are currently being trialled as a suggests of extending the hydrangea time. Several pots are stuffed with diverse poppies from specialist plant and bulb vendor, Emerden Flower Farm, and Matthews planted 5 different parrot tulips this calendar year to examine them. A quantity of deciduous azaleas are getting meticulously nurtured as Rachael has not experienced any luck with evergreen azaleas previously. She is also seeking out distinct kinds and colours of phlox.

As effectively as roses expanding from the fence in the front yard and on frames out the back, there are also roses in pots. Matthews stopped spraying her roses two several years ago. “Insecticides and fungicides block the food chain and damage soil lifetime,” she acknowledges.

Giant bird sculptures made from recycled tōtara oars look over Rachael Matthews' latest project, an espaliered Ginkgo biloba (against the workshed). The purple flowers of sweet rocket are nestled in pots amongst Christmas lilies.


Big chicken sculptures manufactured from recycled tōtara oars search more than Rachael Matthews’ most recent task, an espaliered Ginkgo biloba (from the workshed). The purple bouquets of sweet rocket are nestled in pots amongst Christmas lilies.

Final calendar year, a few of the roses “were terrible” so she’s hoping they improve this year. She now sprays the roses with seaweed foliar feed and diluted milk.

Garden design and style is Matthews’ next profession. Educated as a attorney, she discovered the skilled lifetime way too restrictive once she had small children so opted to stick to her lifelong really like of flowers and teach in horticulture. Twenty several years in the past, after a year’s analyze at Massey, she started off expanding amenity vegetation.

As business grew, she moved her nursery to her parents’ Levin residence and constructed up her consumer base. This created into arranging plants to give an notion of how to develop them with each other, notably “instant plants” this sort of as hedges and topiaries which she offered at the Thorndon Honest and Wadestown Garden Tour.

Gardeners commenced asking her for information on structure, and that turned out to be her forte. Matthews’ back garden is frequently changing as she tries out diverse vegetation, situations and combos to discover the greatest methods for her types. Her yard also incorporates the vegetation she loves and grows for her own pleasure. In limited, she has developed a beautifully abundant and exciting tapestry of color, type and texture for herself and her spouse and children.

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