I would describe the Oakley Garden in Manaia as a happy garden. Bursting with colour, it is hard not to have a smile on your face when you are there. With at least a dozen hanging baskets, and plentiful pots overspilling with annuals, it isn’t a low maintenance garden, but you get the sense that the maintenance is 100% pleasure.
This garden feels loved and cared for by its owners; you can’t imagine that the maintenance consists of a team of landscapers arriving every Wednesday with their mowers and blowers.
It’s also one of those gardens that looks carefree and yet under the surface real skill has been applied. The colour schemes are subtle; in most areas there are not obvious blue beds and pink beds and so on, but either a lot of thought or an infuriatingly clever, natural skill has reaped rewards in the combining of colours. Perhaps there is an artist in the family?
There are also surprising plant combinations to see. A sun loving Aeonium next door to a woodland foxglove? This would normally look all wrong to me, and yet it is carried off here by the sophistication of the overall design. The structure of the pruned Buxus, the contrasting foliage textures, the natural pathway winding its way through…..if you have a lot of the basics right, you can successfully stretch design principles so much further.
It is also easier to stretch planting principles further if you have great soil. The Taranaki council describe the region’s landscape as having deep, free-draining, fertile volcanic ash soils. Wouldn’t we all die for these adjectives to apply to our gardens?! If the soil is ideal, plants will be much more tolerant of other factors, such as shade levels. Most plants will happily be pushed outside their comfort zone in one or two dimensions, but push your luck in more and they will soon tell you, as I am sure we all know!
Skillful planting, vibrant colours, extraordinarily healthy plants and a bit of imagination and character add up to a very special garden. It seems to fit perfectly with the house, the surrounding area and its owners, ticking every single box. I love that no one garden is perfect for any two properties, but for this one, it is absolutely spot on!