Garden of the week: A Pahoia garden with a pond, pool and putting green
When Philip Crawshaw's youngest son James declared a yearning to be married at home, it came as no surprise to those familiar with his family's property. Philip and Celia Crawshaw's six hectare block sits on a coastal headland in Pahoia, just north of Tauranga, where it's safe to say the setting of James' wedding this December will be memorable.
Vows will be exchanged on a grassy knoll with the blue Pacific as a backdrop and pohutukawa standing witness. The property wraps around the coastline and the pohutukawa blossoms bring flashes of red to the cliff tops. Philip and Celia have replanted the steep land leading down to the water's edge with karaka trees, flax, astelia and Coprosma repens 'Poor Knights', but the pohutukawa remain the stars, Celia says.
It's 14 years since the couple bought the block of bare land, and seven years since they moved into the home they built there. The intervening years were industrious ones, as Philip began planting the site years before construction started.
"The land was rutted from deer, and old deer fencing was still up when we bought the property," Celia says. "Philip had the foresight to start the landscaping as soon as we bought the land and that has really paid off. This meant the gardens got a really good start, as did the majestic kauri grove at the top of the driveway."
Before building began on their modernist home, which was designed by Warren and Mahoney, Christchurch landscape architect Robert Watson worked with the architects on some of the planting design and on positioning the driveway and pond.
Just for fun, Philip decided to create a small island in the pond, with its own golf hole (balls fired at the island are of the floating variety). What he didn't anticipate was that his wife would become a mad-keen golfer, who would come up with the idea of a putting green, which sits above the house and is accessed via a meandering crushed shell path flanked by hebes, flaxes, rengarenga lilies and grasses. There's also a second golf hole, with the tee sited so that Celia can hit out to sea, aiming at another island – a small, rocky one with a fledgling pohutukawa growing on it. Golf balls are retrieved when the tide is out.
While swinging a golf club has brought hours of enjoyment, there's a more serious, environmentally focused side to the couple's vision for the property.
Philip says their respect for the land's stunning location influenced their planning, and native plants were the obvious choice. Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest plays out here, with mass plantings of hardy specimens such as hebes, grasses, flaxes, rengarenga lilies and astelia that are just right for the coastal environment.
Garden designer Trish Waugh was also involved in the project, and she knew that an unfussy garden would complement the modernist house. So planting was kept simple, consisting only of corokia hedges and a big bank of muehlenbeckia sprawling down to the tennis court. In contrast, the plantings around the edges of the site are more naturalistic.
Expanses of lawns add drama to the garden's design. The Crawshaws employ a gardener three days a week, and much of his time is spent lawnmowing and hedge trimming.
It's worth traversing these manicured green carpets, as the property delivers surprise after surprise.
There are pa site remains, caves where Maori stored food and a fire pit, a comparatively recent addition that designer Trish Waugh deemed a garden essential. It's inspired by the idea of beacons being lit along the coast as they were hundreds of years ago. Philip walks the dogs to the fire pit most mornings and also enjoys clay pigeon shooting from this elevated position with its commanding water views.
"We have a lot of fun around the fire pit. At Christmas we sat around there in beanbags with the neighbours. And it's where Philip and I chose to farewell the last of summer this year, with a barbecue and a couple of G&Ts," Celia recalls.
A wending path leads from the fire pit, past the place where James' wedding will be held, downhill via a tractor track to the water's edge where a hot spring pool and pool house is sited.
A previous owner had framed the natural, tidal hot pool with concrete blocks and there was an old bach to the side. The Crawshaws have tidied up and tiled the pool, and renovated the bach, adding a modern shower and toilet as well as bunks. It's perfect for overflow accommodation when family visit (Celia and Philip each have three children). The pool house is also an excellent base for all the water-based pleasures this property offers – paddleboarding, water-skiing and jaunts in the couple's amphibious boat.
The couple couldn't be happier with their property; a place that offers so many opportunities for relaxation and fun, while still dealing sympathetically with the environment. "We wanted the house and garden to be timeless, to blend in but to be something special," Celia says. "We feel it has all grown into itself in exactly the way we hoped it would."
The Crawshaws' property will be open to the public during the Bay of Plenty Garden and Art Festival from November 17-20, see gardenandartfest.co.nz to find out more.
Favourite spot in the garden: The fire pit is my favourite place and the kauri grove my favourite feature. (Philip) The golf green. Obviously I practise my golf there, but I also spend time looking out to sea. This was one part of the garden we never really went to – it's the perfect use for that space. (Celia)
All the sculptures in our garden: Are by Paul Dibble who is from Palmerston North, which is a nice connection for us as that's where we moved from, and it was where Philip lived for 25 years. (Celia)
This garden differs from our previous garden: In Palmerston North we had a three-storey home with a formal garden that was big on buxus hedging and roses. There was no temptation to repeat that at this site as we wanted to fit in with the coastal look and landscape. (Philip)
Celia and Philip Crawshaw
- NZ House & Garden