This story comes from the team at NZ House & Garden magazine.
“You got a little more than you bargained for,” laughs garden designer Geoffrey Marshall as he sits in the bright new pavilion at Melanie Hollingsworth’s mid-century Remuera home.
The duo remembered the genesis of the stepped and planted garden that they had created together for seven years. In the tropical border next to the driveway, for example, Melanie remembers saying she wanted hibiscus and cannas, but when that pair of plantaholics were done, there were 75 different plants in a single strip. of garden.
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There can be a huge variety of plants, but everything is carefully thought out, using Geoffrey’s skill at creating a tapestry of shape and color with foliage and flowers, and with each area of the garden telling its own story of color. Melanie has worked for many years as a commercial interior designer and Geoffrey says: “Her color sense is quite different to mine – it’s a much richer sense in some ways and it’s given it a real twist compared to what I could have done otherwise.”
This confident approach to color is evident from the yellow mailbox, which leads the eye to the yellow front door of the house she has lived in for 35 years. When Melanie and her late husband Philip bought it, it reminded her of a “little Rangitoto bach” with a flat roof, creosote planks and white trim.
Although small, it was a happy family home, with a large sloping garden and a stream for their three children to play in. The couple had planned to renovate, but Philip’s family life and business interests always got in the way.
“My Christmas letters for years and years said we hope to renovate this year, but don’t hold your breath,” says Melanie. Philip died after a short illness 12 years ago, and a few years later Melanie decided to embark on the renovation they had wanted to do together. “I wanted the house that Philip wanted us to have and that he would have liked too,” she says.
Melanie wanted to preserve and expand on the mid-century features of the house, without making it a mid-century design sanctuary. She treasures the antiques and precious pieces passed down to her by Philip’s family. “I designed the house around the safety of our children.”
A magnificent walnut desk, once owned by Philip’s godmother, sits in a custom-designed nook in the entrance hall. A pair of early 19th century portraits of Philip’s ancestors, which were passed down from first son to first son, are set off against a wall of floral wallpaper.
Melanie says she got along like a ‘house on fire’ with architect Robin O’Donnell who was in tune with her decorative bent. “So many homes don’t have enough display space,” she says, telling Robin, “I need walls and more walls, full-height shelves and display shelves low height.”
She also wanted the house to be warm – the original house had no insulation – and filled with light and color. So the clerestory windows let in the sun and offer views of the sky and treetops from the eye-catching yellow kitchen.
How did Mélanie choose the color of the kitchen? It was the same shade as his favorite yellow jacket. “I stood at the end of this big, wide unfinished room in my yellow jacket and thought, this is what this room needs. It needs a pop of color. Everything else flowed from there.
The color is tied from the inside out, with the view from the kitchen a painterly blend of foliage with oranges, yellows and dark browns. A striped ottoman proved an unlikely inspiration for the color scheme here, Melanie says, while the plants on the patio next to the guest bedroom pick up the colors of the Indian-inspired jewelry in the downstairs area. of the road.
While the renovation was in progress, Geoffrey gave advice on hard landscaping, but then walked away for a few years until the house was completed. Then the couple started nibbling on the garden.
After the house was rebuilt, not much remained of the original garden, although Melanie and Geoffrey agree that a group of mature native trees around a stream at the front of the section was “a gift” allowing them to create a wooded grove with lush vegetation that shows off the beautiful tree trunks.
The giant bamboo at the back of the section was also saved, and Melanie loves how it has a golden glow when the afternoon sun hits it.
Developing a garden with a client over time is the most satisfying way to work, says Geoffrey. “You can experiment, teach and adjust as you go. You’re not trying to crash everything all at once. You can wait for the opportune moment to fill in the gaps.
Melanie says she learned a lot in the process; the botanical names now roll off his tongue. The couple share a love of gardens that are full of interesting plants, with bolder plantings in the distance, colors, scents and details closer to home, and repeats to keep them tidy.
For Mélanie, the process of creating this garden was a pleasure: “I would never have what I have now without Geoffrey; it’s like having an interior designer involved in your home, they always take you far beyond where you would end up.
Melanie’s Garden is featured at Auckland Garden DesignFest on November 26-27, 2022; see gardendesignfest.co.nz.
Q&A with Melanie Hollingsworth
A helpful idea: I have created a document for each area of the garden, with the botanical name and a photograph of each plant, which gives a good general idea of the color scheme and a record of the hundreds of plants Geoffrey and I have planted.
Most Proud DIY Achievement: My “containment lawn” at the front of the house. I laid a pipe to determine the shape and dug it all myself. It took me the whole first lockdown of 2020.
Favorite garden equipment: My Gubba bag – I can carry it to the bank behind the house and back down – and also my weeding hook and pruning shears.
I couldn’t have done it without: Paul Naylor of Garden Transformations. He is fantastic and has done all the crazy paving, fences, sleeper steps and rock faces.
A useful hedge plant: Japanese Privet (Ligustrum japonicum ‘Rotundifolium’) does not grow too fast and is ideal for shaping – it has a fascinating texture and color.
Time spent in the garden: A lot. I love being outdoors – the fresh air is so therapeutic. I just gardened for three days, five hours a day. But that’s because it’s spring and I’m trying to keep it clean for the Auckland Garden DesignFest.
Best gin and tonic spot: Sitting on the foredeck under the umbrella in the late afternoon sun, looking at the trees and listening to the tūī.