Garden expert: Dan Rutherford brings intrigue into garden design

Dan outside the woodshed in his Cashmere garden.
JULIET NICHOLAS

Dan outside the woodshed in his Cashmere garden.

Scattered throughout Christchurch landscape designer Dan Rutherford's 4000sqm garden are what appear to be large round boulders.

Some are covered in moss and nestled under leafy plants. They are symbolic of Dan's love of rocks, a fascination that started while growing up on his family farm and led to a degree in geology. 

Now rocks provide inspiration for Dan's sculptural spheres, which are modelled on the South Island's famous Moeraki boulders – scientifically known as concretions.

"They're naturally formed and happen all around the world. They've always intrigued me," he says. Dan tries to mimic the natural process when making his spheres. 

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One of Dan’s man-made boulders gathers moss in his own garden.
JULIET NICHOLAS

One of Dan’s man-made boulders gathers moss in his own garden.

"I use the same materials. They're hard reconstituted rock in the middle and as you get into the outside layer they become softer," Dan says. 

His sculptures can often be found in his clients' gardens and offer an element of intrigue – a signature of Dan's designs. He tells us how a different take on hedging, lighting, water and walls can give gardens the surprise factor. 

THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

A stone and driftwood column marks the entrance to a Wanaka property and creates a focal point in the landscape.
JULIET NICHOLAS

A stone and driftwood column marks the entrance to a Wanaka property and creates a focal point in the landscape.

Airy hedges

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Light, round and airy are not necessarily words you'd associate with hedging, but you should, says Dan. He enjoys creating hedges that you can peep through or are grown around objects or structures. 

A new take on walls

One of Dan’s sculptures lights up the garden; made for a Christchurch property, it was moved to Wanaka after the quakes.
JULIET NICHOLAS

One of Dan’s sculptures lights up the garden; made for a Christchurch property, it was moved to Wanaka after the quakes.

"They don't have to be straight or solid. You can make a stone wall quite fluid," says Dan, who has also created revolving walls in his designs (see below left).  

All about the owners 

"Sculpture not only provides a focal point, it's a representation of the owners," says Dan. "Often people will really fall in love with a sculptural work. That will be something they really connect with. We tend to gravitate towards things that represent us." 

A Dan Rutherford-designed double surprise – a revolving wall in Fendalton opens to a new section of garden and the ...
JULIET NICHOLAS

A Dan Rutherford-designed double surprise – a revolving wall in Fendalton opens to a new section of garden and the mirrors extend the space.

Play with lighting

Instead of throwing light onto things, Dan creates interest by putting lighting through plants and objects. "Sculptures are excellent for that, or you could put lights inside a hedge or inside a tree, or put a light really close to a stone wall so you can see the texture." 

The sound of water

Hide a water feature rather than show it, Dan suggests. "To me it's all about sound. We've got a real affinity with water. It's very evocative." 

Art of illusion 

Mirrors can be used to both visually extend a garden and hide unattractive views or areas. "You want it to look as if you're looking through to a beautiful piece of garden, when in fact you're getting a reflection of the garden you're standing in," he says.  

 - NZ House & Garden

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