I ran out into the garden last night before it got dark and took these ‘snaps’ (to use a nice old fashioned term). Gardens are so hard to photograph in full sunlight. They bleach out and look flat. They lose the mystery. And it seems to me a garden is all about mystery.

This is our front garden. Or I should say ‘my’ front garden. I’m allowed the front while DLJ has the back. Make of that what you will.

When we arrived here, the house had been in flats for almost fifty years.  There was the remnants of a garden. The hydrangeas were there, but mauled by over severe pruning. The tecoma hedge was a mess. It was allowed to grow just enough to hide a garden rubbish bag.

In the five years we have lived here we have encouraged the tecoma hedge along the front wire fence. (Tecoma capensis)  is the old fashioned hedge, which used to once be everywhere. It has orange flowers. As kids we used to lick the ‘sugar’ out of the funnel of the flowers as we walked home from school).

The hedge is now just below the eyesight of passersby. DLJ’s idea is to carve a picture window in the hedge. This allows people on the street to look ‘into’ the garden and enjoy the flowers. It also allows us the view of the occasional handsome muscular runner jogging by. So everyone is a winner, you could say.

But like most gardeners I am always looking to the next season. I can see how to improve the summer garden (even though now it is at its height.)


A hydrangea hedge was very common when I was a kid. There’s something about the rangy bulk of it and that slightly peppery smell of the flowers. They require a lot of space and sprawl everywhere. They fade in the sun and then die away in winter to stalks. But somehow their bravura expenditure of flowers seems to me to be all about summer.

I have twinned these smoko-pink hydreangeas with pink mellow and red chinese lanterns (abutilon). The redder accents are tall hollyhocks wavering in the wind.

A friend who is an accomplished professional gardener took one look at the ‘border’ and saw what was wrong. It should run against the front fence, she said, so we view it from the windows of the house, looking out into the garden. As it is, we tend to see the back of the border.

I know what she means. I well remember a Hawera farm garden which you looked at from inside the house, across a lawn. It always seemed elegant and you felt you lived practically in a palace, but it’s too late to change now. The kaizuku trees are in position, as is a box semi-circle.

Sometimes you have to live with your mistakes.


Our neighbours to the side don’t have a front garden. They have gravel and dirt. To be polite it ‘lacks imagination’.

I want to grow the tecoma hedge on that side of the garden and block them out. There’s enough ugliness in every day actions, in political corruption, in human behaviour. So I choose – we choose – to have one small zone of beauty. I guess that is what this garden – and house – is about.

I love the kind of mystery you get at dusk when you blur your eyes and you suddenly see the garden as it might be, in the future, when it grows.

Dusk is the magic time to be working in the garden and I always find myself lingering out there.

The cats come out and join me.

In my mind’s eye I can almost see how the garden will evolve in the future…

I’m a writer by trade and there are so many similarities to writing and editing and gardening.

But gardening at dusk. Now that’s bliss.

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