A treasure trove of ideas

Last updated 07:08 26/10/2012

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Hidden from the sounds of a central Blenheim street and tucked neatly between her neighbours, Jacqui Kensington's urban garden is a peaceful oasis of lush green interspersed with bright splashes of colour.

Though just metres from the CBD, the only sounds are the wind rushing through next door's beech tree and the trickling of water from a stone lion's mouth hanging from the garden wall, overlooked by a sentinel wood pigeon.

Jacqui's garden may be small but there is something to look at all the way from the ground to the top of the surrounding wall.

At ground level purple pansies abound, softening the edges of the neatly framed gardens and some cheeky ones even raising their heads above the small stones that form the pathways. Shards of broken china scatter the grey stones, a colourful touch and novel method of recycling that Jacqui says comes from her tendency to break china. A pale blue and green ceramic apple presents an unexpected surprise on the ground underneath a bird bath, a brightly coloured teapot catches the eye on a low shelf in the courtyard.

It may be small but Jacqui's garden takes more than a few glances to take in. Each sweep of the eyes reveals another detail, another treasure, another colour.

Jacqui has taken just two years to establish her thriving Munro St garden. Arriving with a huge load of potted flowers from her old half-acre garden a few streets over, she feared her new patch of ground would be far too small but got to work anyway, starting with the hard work of ripping out large flaxes and calla lilies and clearing a petanque court that was "covered in grit". The fig, quince and flowering cherry trees were allowed to stay.

Clean-up over, Jacqui began planting the existing garden plots which she says had been laid out well for the small space. Her plants found a new home, as did many new additions. She built a vegetable garden just big enough to supply herself with greens and planted strawberries in half wine barrels.

Now, Jacqui has come to love the small space that allows her to happily potter without the hassle of a lot of weeding.

"Let your imagination go and fill it with whatever you like," is her advice to those with small gardens. She soon learned there was no limit to what she could fit in, or in finding new plants that interest her.

"It all seems to fit in some way."

In fact, the sheltered area has allowed Jacqui to grow some species that may not survive in a larger space, such as a Queensland frangipani with beautiful yellow flowers that has survived the frosts largely due to its proximity to the house. In contrast to the exotic tropical tree, a yew tree clipped into a pyramid shape stands nearby, reminiscent of English church gardens, says Jacqui.

Within the neatly bordered plots perennials thrive, some blooming and some preparing to. There are no lawns here: Jacqui sold the lawnmower when leaving her previous property and vowed not to need one again. Now the over-enthusiastic pansies are the only ground cover she needs to control.

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Potted plants abound. A mass of pink hydrangea blooms spills from one pot in Jacqui's neatly tiled courtyard, perched on top of an old carved piece of dark wood that

Jacqui says probably formed part of a staircase banister. The unusual stand is one of several Jacqui has found in second-hand or gift shops. A mirror set within a white metal frame from the Blue Door became the perfect feature hanging on the courtyard's purple end wall; a large clock bearing her last name on its face, which did not quite work inside, found a new home out in the fresh air.

Jacqui painted sections of the wall in blocks of pink and purple to "take the blandness away". She added more colour by planting climbers including a perennial sweet pea, climbing hydrangea, clematis and a blooming wisteria dangling over a picturesque bench.

To match the size of her garden, Jacqui chose dwarf varieties such as two potted acers, one a light green, one a deep red. A Ballarat apple tree of dwarf stock towers above her central garden plot, chosen for its beautiful large cooking apples.

Jacqui has even found room for roses, which she initially thought she would not grow a lot of after leaving her larger garden, but of which she now has 18. Species include her favourite, General Gallieni, as well as Golden Celebration, Claude Monet, Evelyn and a Doris Tysterman which came with the house and that Jacqui has enjoyed despite not being a big fan of orange.

Next month, just as the roses begin to reveal their colour, the urban garden will be opened to Hunter's Garden Marlborough for the first time. Jacqui is no stranger to the event, having opened her former garden to visitors four years in a row.

"I enjoy meeting the people very much. You meet some lovely people and they are all so passionate about gardens and you can share so many tips."

- The Marlborough Express


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