High on my list of stunning things to do with my life would be to win a gold at the Chelsea Flower Show. Yes, my comedic regular readers, I know my chances are pretty much limited to possible runner up in the best dried arrangement section. Xanthe White, on the other hand, appears to be most adept at moving beyond landscaping being a mere media gardener – even if Xanthe does still manage a video diary on the side. I believe the end result 100% Pure New Zealand garden is superb. So superb, from the detailed panorama, it’s clear it’d be a great looking garden in our backyard (hint, hint). Xanthe has taken the design requirements of a corner lots and made a typically Kiwi response. Plants. Native plants. And lots of them. The other garden design from this part of the globe takes a typically Australian garden response – let’s do the same as we did last year, and use lots of hard landscaping. I like it. V.Australian, and uses just a few, well chosen (slow growing) plants. Kind of trophey-ism.
That to me is the hallmark of our respective landscaping cannons. Australian landscaping, at its best, incorporates hard landscaping – concrete, stone, scupltural forms – beautifully, with vegetation often minimal, spartan, functional – replaceable. It’s almost as though the thinking is “well, we could have a bush fire over this lot tomorrow, all we’d have to do is cool it down, spray for the white ants, pick up a couple of flats of instant colour from Bunnings, and we’ll be good for a barbie with Ken in time for the footie.”
New Zealand landscaping seems to think of hard landscapes as those on steep clay slopes with dry shade. Accordingly, Xanthe’s design is first about the planting, and second about the sculptural components. It’s a tribute to her training, experience, and design skills that the hard landscaping integrates with the planting in ways evocative of the west Auckland coastal forests. The selection of plants used in the 100% Pure New Zealand garden (1,500 were sent from NZ, the rest sourced in the UK and Europe) is interesting: Kauri (Agathis australis); Kowharawhara (Astelia banksii) with the silvery-green, strappy leaves; Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) – of course; Toothed lancewood (Pseudopanax ferox) – the sculptural tree (as a juvenile) with the jagged bronze-y, chocolate-y brown leaves; Nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida) – essential; the Shrubby tororaro (Muehlenbeckia astonii) – you know the one – it has the little green leaves that sort of ping out randomly as the stems zigzag wildly; Coprosma propinqua – a divaricating species for groundcover; Libertia ‘Taupo Blaze’ – from the breeding work at Taupo Native Plant Nursery, with reddish, iris-like leaves; Cyathea medullaris – the mamaku, of course; Apodasmia similis, the Oioi, or jointed wire rush, (aka Leptocarpus similis) with its spikey rush-like leaves (it’s not a rush, by the way, it’s a restid – details, readers, details); and finally (but not exhaustively) the Saltbush (Atriplex cinerea) with its silvery-grey foliage.
The next best thing to winning at Chelsea is to go. If, like me, the wallet is slightly thinner than usual, you can take another virtual panorama tour of the 100% Pure New Zealand garden, courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society. Just lovely. Congratulations, Xanthe and team for the Silver-Gilt Flora. Yay!