Xmas special - Garden Design Notes
Christmas special - Reg Shaw, Palmerston
GARDEN DESIGN NOTES by Tony Murrell
By night at Christmas Reg's house was really a wonderland. The children and families of Palmerston North have for years been privileged by the generosity of Reg and his family. To sacrifice one's home and entire living environment for the greater community well exceeds our Mucking In criteria. By day, however, Reg's house resembled something quite different and after a conversation with him and Michele I decided to let the magic of Christmas feature by day.
The long term plan for the property had been discussed and this had always been the location of Santa's present-giving location. So, we needed to put in place a long term strategy by way of landscaping, a new Santa's workshop to facilitate this. The back half of the garden, namely the garage and outbuildings, were burgeoning with toys for renovation, old cobwebs that had built up over the years and a draughty cold space - perfect for the car and for storage, but not for a very special Santa.
The children would line the driveway in a procession, waiting for the magic beyond. Yet the journey to the surprise did not evoke the Winter wonderland that I felt was required. My idea was to resite Santa's workshop with a magical Winter wonderland at the front of the house for there was space in plenty - and an opportunity to provide Reg and Michelle with their own space defined and closed off from the public audience.
Simple planting and pruning to existing garden beds were pretty much all that was required along with some careful recycling and the laying of Hoggin chip under the Liquid Ambers to provide a cool restful area, away from the main road and the crowds, over our warm Summer Christmas.
Santa's existing workshop featured a model railway that ran around the wall. I thought it would be a great idea to have an outdoor railway - while the children lined the new garden paths they could look onto the fun train and carriages that led down to Santa's new workshop - all brilliant and red.
The house and existing garage had been decorated with simple outdoor lighting that certainly changed the feel of the place at night. There was a magical quality that would allow your imagination to take you to that special place where Santa resides. We were lucky enough to find a company (Flexilight) that specializes in outdoor illumination to a very high standard for year round interest and a super Christmas theme.
They wrapped lights around trees, around new plants, attached them to the house, to the new workshop and a cascading snowfall effect right at the entrance would have children jumping up and down with excitement on their next visit to Santa - the results were stunning.
All of the planting for this property I decided to keep in the same genre. Conifer varieties that would resemble Christmas trees, crisp green shrubs and red berries like Holly and drifts of white flowers thanks to Star Jasmine, would all enhance and create a Winter Wonderland in the height of the Kiwi Summer.
Firth Paving is so easy to lay and the Colourways allow your imagination to go wild with patterns and design. Now a new path was laid for Santa to walk from the house to his workshop in secret from the children waiting to see him.
The existing planting out front featured but one tree that could not be sacrificed for the Weeping Cherry was where it all started. This, now enveloped in white light, became the feature and reminder of the joy that Santa brings to this community. A bold new fence with a colour scheme to resemble Iced Gingerbread, helped reinforce the theme but should not be attempted to be nibbled on.
I used Conifer plants to define and frame a new straight path off the drive to the front door. These in time would reach a couple of metres in height and would all link up to form a green wall and backdrop to the Wonderland. These trees, all individually wrapped with white and blue lights, already looked very striking. The maintenance of this garden would require some annual pruning and shaping with an opportunity in the future for magical topiary shapes to evolve from a very natural plant.
For this was a garden that in time would show some more magic, compliments of Nature, and a guided helping hand.
Santa's new workshop, complete with built-in shelving and sumptuous settee coloured bright red (purpose-made by Freedom Furniture) was the perfect invitation for small children and adults alike.
Even the Elves had their own special place nestled out front with illuminated drummer men behind them. Twinkling Christmas trees, magical Christmas lights and baskets full of gifts were now all ready for Santa's biggest fans and boy, were they in for a treat !
The main house had to be carefully taken into consideration and so, after much thought and deliberation, we all decided that a house coloured white and red would be befitting our new garden theme and blend in with the new scheme to complete the look.
Red window frames and white walls complimented Santa's great red shed and at night comes to life, thanks to careful placement and installation of sparkling lights.
This style of garden and exterior treatments, while not for the fainthearted, suits our Reg/Santa and his family.
Christmas is their life and the planning for it every year holds their enthusiasm and love for the wider community and their own personal closeness. Now life in this new Winter wonderland can never wain from their focus because they are now constantly reminded, and the greater community too, that this is the house and garden where Christmas truly exists.