From My Window: Future Proof

An act of bare-faced cheek turns into a home for generations.

From My Window: Future Proof

An act of bare-faced cheek turns into a home for generations.

It all started with an act of bare-faced cheek. The kind of brazen monologue wherein a young(ish) landscape designer suggests to one of his mentors that a great way to keep on top of weeds at his large property in Oratia, Auckland, would be to sell a couple of acres to someone. Like me.

Little did I know that Geoff and Bev Davidson – the owners of the pioneering Oratia Native Plant Nursery – would remember the conversation we had while cutting down straight poles of manuka for a client’s vegetable garden. Seven years later, that copse of manuka has had a driveway punched through it, yet it has still shown the audacity to seed prolifically along the margins of the access drive leading to our future home.

‘Future home’ is possibly a bit of a misnomer. We have been treating the land as our own for several years now, due to our friendship with Geoff and Bev – which developed over the many years that I learned about New Zealand’s flora from trips to natural places and innumerable discussions with knowledgeable nursery owners like Geoff.

The fact that our relationship with the land has been more akin to a slow courtship means that we have been able to eat the first plums off trees that we planted before we are even living in the house. It means that the plants I have been growing for four to five years for our future garden had somewhere to go when we sold our old house to buy the land. And it means that our nine- and 11-year-old boys had built their own tree house in a pōhutukawa long before a digger turned a sod in anger.

This place is where my wife and I will spend our entire lives. It’s a point not lost on our architect, Marc Lithgow, who views the project as half house and half garden – a place where we will watch trees grow for decades, and experiment with plants with the same enthusiasm as when I started gardening as a 13-year old.

Philip Smith is the owner of O2 Landscapes.

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