Last year, when Philippa Walker hosted friends and family in her Tāmaki Makaurau garden for her 75th birthday, she asked for plants – and then named each of them after the people who gave them to her. She did the same thing 40 years ago for her wedding.
Back then, it was to establish the garden. This time, the new plants were for a garden designed by Zoë Carafice, surrounding a glasshouse by Philippa’s daughter, architect Rebecca Walker.
When Philippa and Rebecca first discussed building a covered outdoor space, they initially thought to put it around the back of the house. “Then I started looking at Swedish summer houses and glass houses,” says Rebecca, “and I suggested we do something much more connected to the social areas of the house.”
It’s a simple structure: a nib wall clad in terracotta tiles, with a black aluminium-and-glass structure sitting lightly on top, and a fleur-de-lis finial. Philippa uses the space for sewing and reading, and sometimes just to sit and have a glass of wine. “I wanted it to have a sense of enclosure and connection,” says Rebecca, “and while I’d probably do raw concrete or something like that, I knew that was never going to suit here.”
A path made from bricks found on the property leads to the glasshouse through a garden that incorporates everything from an important miro tree to two 40-year-old crab-apple trees. Roses, Japanese anemones, bulbs and annuals come and go. And there’s a prolific lemon tree gifted by a friend who likes one with her gin – no one else can pick from it. “It’s a real garden and it was quite special to be working with that,” says Zoë. “It was about trying to quite sensitively and respectfully hold those memories and build on that framework.”
It’s deliberately seasonal. When I visit in early spring, the bulbs are just dying off, neatly tied on themselves as they rot down, returning their nutrients to the soil (a trick passed down to Philippa by her mother), and the magnolia is just finishing flowering.
Next come the Japanese anemones. “If you look at the garden, every week you’ll notice something happen,” Zoë says. When she visited, only six weeks after everything was planted, Philippa presented her with a bunch of flowers from the garden. “It needed to be a garden that would have a rhythm,” says Zoë, “seeing what happens at different times of the year and the colours that come out.”
Now, Philippa can sit out in all weather and various times of the day and when she does that, the tūī visiting from nearby Maungakiekie One Tree Hill don’t seem to notice the humans in their midst. “It’s such a special thing,” she says. “It’s really extended the garden – I have to say, we use it all the time.”