Mission accomplished

Extensive hedging, paved courtyards and a mix of subtropical and arid plants enhance the authenticity of this refurbished Spanish Mission-style house
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massed perimeter planting incorporates agave and yucca plants

Traditional Spanish gardens are noted for their vibrancy. Strong colours, leafy foliage, textured plants and citrus trees in terracotta pots are images that readily spring to mind.

To really appreciate such a garden, however, you need the right setting. The historic Spanish Mission-style property shown here is such a location.

Built around the turn of the last century, and formerly a Catholic teachers' college, the house is a significant example of this architectural style. A recent refurbishment has seamlessly merged old and new elements to create a home well suited to modern family living. The refurbishment included extensive changes to the grounds.

Landscape designer Mark Read of Natural Habitats worked in conjunction with architect Ron Seeto of Murray Cockburn Partnership to ensure a cohesive look for the property.

"The landscaping needed to celebrate the period of the house and its architectural significance," Read says. "As in many traditional Spanish houses, the garden needed to be reasonably strong but simple, to provide a contrast to the more ornate aspects of the building. Maintaining a balance was important."

Read says the grounds were formerly very open, with lots of lawns and large specimen trees.

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view of this outdoor entertainment area featuring layered planting thats creates a screen

"We needed to create and define separate areas for outdoor entertaining. The landscape also needed to include a swimming pool, motor court and garaging."

The long, sweeping driveway retains a character suited to the house, with hedgingof Griselinia littoralis on either side. Native pohutukawa trees have also been planted, and will eventually form a canopy above the driveway.

Nearer the house, a raised garden of white and pink roses is bordered by buxus hedging. Tall queen palms frame the porte cochére. The entrance is also highlighted by a water feature, framed with a mat of dense buxus plants.

The pool and courtyards have been positioned at the front of the house, which is also the sunny side. However, this meant it was necessary to screen these areas from the street.

"We needed to provide privacy without reducing the sunlight," says Read.

Substantial perimeter planting and hedging helps achieve this. Nearer the courtyards, the plants include subtropical and succulent species, such as yucca, cactus, agave, philodendron and bougainvillea. A ground cover of Spanish shawl creates a carpet of cerise-coloured flowers. Like many of the plants, this complements the iconic colour of the house facade.

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view of the pool area boardered by griselinia littoralis

The pool is a simple rectangle, bordered on one side by hedging, and designed by Ron Seeto to create a classic composition.

"The pool serves as a mirror to the facade, reflecting the classical architecture," Seeto says. "Beyond this area, the large lawns create a park-like setting."

Seeto says in time the hedgerows will grow to create a more secluded area.

"Slipping through the layers of hedging onto the lawn area is already like stepping into another world," he says.

Aug 30, 2005

Credit list

Renovation architect and pool designer
Ron Seeto, NZIA, Murray Cockburn Partnership
Main contractor
Good Brothers
Pool supplier
Gre Stenbeck
Landscape installation
Natural Habitats
Courtyard and paving
Table settings and accessories
Freedom Furniture
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