Forget the old image of raised vege boxes carelessly scattered in the back yard. Imagine an elegant contemporary planted space that included layers of planting, using standard trees for structure and clipped hedges beneath. Imagine coloured foliage adding interest when there are no flowers, and the added bonus of promised bounty.

Before After
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Before deciding to renovate their house and garden in Remuera, clients Warren and Paula gave their very unusable outdoor space a lot of thought. There were two main requirements; an edible garden that would tie into the house and a suitable functional entertaining area for their family. 

The main concern was that the section surrounding their home was steep and unusable. The slope directly out from the proposed entertaining area was a far cry from how things look like today. Careful consideration of this space was required. 

A landscape plan from Designers Jules Moore and Hannah Naveen was commissioned and a level area became a reality allowing a nice flat lawn and entertaining space with another drop down level area to house the boxed garden beds for vegetables. 

a plant box in the garden

A levelled landscape design

As the land sloped down and around the house, a massive engineered wall was built to stabilise this with a cut and fill approach which was then softened with smaller retaining walls in dressed timber and a series of stairs. The level changes provided access from the front to the back garden.

On the lower level rare miniature tropical papayas are able to grow successfully due to the enclosed nature of the courtyard becoming a heat trap. Usually these are so tropical it is difficult for them to overwinter but in this case in the summer, when they get to a metre tall some fruit can be expected. The maximum height of these papayas is 1.5 metres, making them an ideal plant choice for the smaller courtyard. 

A backyard edible garden

Plant selections

Maximising the limited spaces are also espaliered apples and a fig, thornless blackberry, raspberry and passion fruit (black and the tropical ‘vanilla’) climbers, and selected citrus (including the weeping cipo orange) and a mini peach that also reaches 1.5m in height. Flowering bergenias complete the picture providing a symbiotic relationship with bees and pollination alike.  

There are more than 15 different edible plants in this family garden as well as vegetables and herbs. The ‘NZ cranberry’ creates a fragrant and edible low hedge while feijoas do the double job of screening the fence and yielding yummy fruit. 

Several rare edible and medicinal plants stake their claim. One is the maqui berry, which is still in infancy. The plan is to pleach these so they not only tie in with the contemporary feel of the garden but to also provide needed privacy from the neighbour looking down onto their entertaining area. These trees are of a freak nature! 

a backyard garden

They are one of the fastest-growing trees reaching four to five metres if untrimmed. They take a huge range of environmental conditions and are a superfood. Their health-boosting berries, produced around Christmas are extremely high in antioxidants. The leaves can also be used in teas as well. Presently maqui holds the gold for weight loss among other claims of being an excellent anti-inflammatory for joints, and arthritis is said to be considerably eased after regular use of this berry.

Often it is from our childhood that memories of gardens producing fruit and vegetables propel us into choosing a style of garden in our future. In this case Paula was inspired by this thought and the philosophy was reinvented but with structure rather than random abandonment!

Design elements such as repetition of plants, hedges and rows have created simple, uncluttered clean lines giving a calm contemporary image. Yet this garden is not boring or predictable with edible plants spread right through the garden rather than being confined to one hidden plot.  

Orange tree in the garden

The final result

Rich, coloured foliage combinations such as the orange native iris (libertia peregrinnans) coupled with dark purple iresine and black mondo. Topped with the weeping oranges and flame vine (pyrostegia venusta) yet to spread its lush green leaves across the black fences and blaze of orange flowers in winter this garden will always feel warm and vibrant.  Scented flowers add another sensory experience in the garden.

When renovating a garden of this size, balance and proportion of spaces is really important. Structures like pergolas add dimension and give height to the garden. The area of deck is crucial too, not only does it need to practically work – being spacious enough to house a family-sized table and chairs (and in this case a large umbrella), it needs to be in proportion to the house and surrounding garden borders. This deck is designed to ‘float’ amongst the garden and lawn creating an idyllic, island like feel.  

This garden has successfully combined the key requirements of space, productivity and appeal. It is a lovely environment to come home and relax in. If the landscape design can create that sense of Zen then it is worth gold. 

You might be interested in reading this Zones's case study: Garden design for outdoor living.

This case study featured on page 78 of Issue 009 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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This project was completed in
December 2013
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Project description
Auckland Central
New Zealand
Warren & Paula
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