On Sunday, a friend and I took the opportunity to take a peek at some private gardens that were part of the second Auckland Garden Design Fest. These gardens are not usually available for viewing by the public, so we must give thanks to the owners for their generosity in making them available. In total, I think we managed to view 17 or so of the available 25 gardens – no mean feat I can tell you! Although my energy and enthusiasm waned as the afternoon progressed, I am grateful that my friend encouraged, even cajoled, me to get around as many of the gardens as was physically possible within the six hour time frame.
As much as I enjoyed all the gardens, there were two in particular that stood out for me. First up, was a garden designed by Bryan McDonald. Apparently the Arts and Crafts style home had undergone major alterations – by Fearon Hay no less who have since gone on to architectural superstardom. Bryan was commissioned by the client to develop a garden that would blend in with the existing trees and palms and reflect its Auckland/South Pacific location.
From the moment you entered the front gate, you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into another world altogether – one that was infinitely more beautiful and peaceful. For me, the definite highlight of this garden was a series of zig-zagging timber boardwalks beneath a canopy of mature palms that led you down the site and eventually revealed the house and an inviting outdoor terrace. Following on from the terrace was a series of looping paths that took you down to a wide lawn area on the harbour’s edge, eventually returning you to the house. This was the first garden we saw – the bar was definitely set high for the remainder of the day.
The second garden that stood out for me was designed by Xanthe White. To be more precise, it was the native front garden that I fell in love with. The rear garden, although lush and inviting, displayed the usual subtropical plant suspects in wide curved beds that I have seen many times before. The front garden was something altogether unique. Xanthe is a master when it comes to designing with New Zealand natives and this garden was beautifully composed. Using a subtle and sophisticated native plant palette including ribbonwoods, Muehlenbeckia and Selliera radicans, plants cascaded over, down and around the various sized rocks that anchored the slope.
At the rear of the property was a dark paved terrace with an adjacent pool and spa. Now I am a pushover when it comes to a dark pool and this one was a beautiful wee gem hidden behind a wall of papyrus. Of all the pools that I saw that day, this was definitely the best.
In conclusion, it has to be said that the house, designed by Glamuzina Paterson Architects, is one of my favourite houses in Auckland. Named the S House for the way it expands and contracts spatially on its elongated rectangular site, it won a Housing Category Winner award in the 2013 New Zealand Architecture Awards. I have no doubt we will be seeing many more inspiring buildings from these young architects in the future.