March 23, 2012 - The wild winds that rampaged across North Taranaki this week were the scourge of most local gardeners.
George and Lyn were less worried about the effects on their property - they know their 7881sqm valley setting at 397 Mangorei Rd is a sheltered environment that offers a peaceful private retreat, most of it below the bustle of the city and the worst of the winds.
Their home sits up at road level - an attractive mix of light-coloured brick and plaster walls behind a complementary boundary wall at the footpath. There's no hint here of the expanse of beautiful lawns, gardens and lake that they have created in the valley below over the past decade or so.
This is a property you really do have to walk through to appreciate the detail of finish and the delights that it hides.
The protection down here is also quite real. "It's so sheltered," George notes. "Fifty metres up the road, the wind can be blowing so hard, you can't stand up. But down here you wouldn't know. It's a real feature of the property ... it has its own microclimate."
On Monday afternoon, when we visited, the wind was already working itself up towards its Tuesday frenzy, but a walk down into the gardens revealed an oasis of calm. The delicate branches and foliage of the huge weeping willow at the edge of the lake were barely moving.
It's a setting that George and Lyn anticipated when they bought the land here. They'd come from an eighth-acre residential property which was fine while they owned city businesses. "But we'd always wanted to be living somewhere that was a bit more 'lifestyley'," George says.
The land here was once part of a sheep farm, he understands. They bought a larger portion initially and then subdivided a couple of sections off to leave them with today's grounds. "That gave us an area we could cope with on our own."
There were just a half-dozen or so established trees, including the stately weeping willow, as a starter for the lushly filled garden that they have achieved today. "It's been very, very rewarding," George says.
You can pick your access down to the garden from the house - George has developed the face of the original steep slope, building matching sets of timber-framed steps and making them a dramatic feature of the landscaping. A bright-yellow-painted timber seat is a light-hearted touch on a landing area below the steps, from where broader stone-chip-filled steps take you down to the main lawn area and the gardens that spread out from here.
A concrete drive is an alternative, and George uses this regularly, zipping up and down on a quad bike between the house and his spacious extra garaging and workshop in the bottom of the gardens. There's also a series of terraces to one side that you can stroll through, moving up and down from each and appreciating the leafy tunnels that have developed and the delicate shade-loving plants they shelter.
Out on the lawn, linked to the main steps, there's a circular feature of limestone chips and carefully clipped pittosporum 'golfballs' that offers a nice contrast between white stone and the fine dark green foliage. Across the lawn beyond is the edge of the lake, with a well-planted border to blend the boundary of water and grounds. Pads of water lilies extend the greenery across the surface of the lake.
Ducks fly in as we look out over the setting. They are residents year-round, according to George, adding an extra feathered touch to the plentiful bird-life that takes advantage of the garden's growth.
Trees are distinctive elements of the landscaping here, with major specimens such as the weeping willow, a 'twisty' willow, gracious jacaranda, young kauri rearing skywards, mature maples, and spreading cherries taking the eye.
There are many more, with identities less obvious. George points to one of his favourites, with leaves veined and variegated on top and subtly hued in purple tones underneath. A wealth of rhododendrons is also planted throughout the property, adding their flush of colours in season.
Lighter touches fill the gaps, with Lyn's finer garden sense and planting choices complementing George's practical approach in the garden's construction and development.
Even without the blooms that come and go, this property impresses with its variety in shades of green and the different foliage textures. It's about to impress even more, George advises, with the onset of autumn and the blush of red, yellow and orange across the valley as the leaves change colour.
This is a garden that would impress any visitor, and in fact, there have been plenty of private garden groups through the property. The steeper contour, however, doesn't lend itself to public showings in larger garden festival events, George admits.
The practical effort of shaping and maintaining the property has been made easier with the workshop facilities that George initially built down in the garden area - a huge 126sqm main garage-workshop and a smaller 14sqm garage nearby.
The storage available on this property would be a treasure for a car collector, we work out.
George says he could fit five cars in the garden workshop, another in the adjacent garage, two in the internal-access garage in the house above, two more in attached carports and one last car in a single basement space. Eleven vehicles. Wow!
The house itself is a suitably spacious and well-featured home from which to appreciate everything that this property presents. George and Lyn commissioned New Plymouth architectural designer Owen McCluggage to give shape to the home and make the most of the setting.
Owen came up with a capacious 310sqm home over two levels, with open-plan kitchen-family-dining area, separate formal lounge and three bedrooms, including the master suite, on the main upper level and another bedroom and living room below.
Visitors are welcomed into a tiled foyer with feature half-wall timber panelling and then drawn through into the main living area where they can immediately appreciate the view over the valley gardens. Pastures beyond with grazing cattle add a pleasing rural aspect.
Cooking meals could have attention issues with the well-equipped kitchen offering such eye-holding views. It's a spacious area finished in cream with rimu trim, a quiet combination that lets the windows provide the visual impact.
A balcony runs across the face of the living areas, allowing an easy indoor-outdoor flow on fine days. There's a larger outdoor living option on the roomy deck that runs out from the lower level lounge to provide an enhanced overview of the gardens.
The formal lounge has a curved wall at the street end with panels of glass blocks set in to create a striking feature that lets in light but maintains privacy and keeps this space quiet.
TSB Realty consultant Rosalyn Rowe is marketing the property, which she says is a stunning package of home and garden. "A garden such as this is of a quality worthy of one of the major garden festivals," she says.
"Merrilands is always a sought-after location. This large home with three living spaces caters well to extended family living; and for the avid hobbyists, the massive shed at the bottom of the garden will be a huge bonus."
WHERE: 397 Mangorei Rd, NP.
HOW BIG: 7881sqm in land; 310sqm in home; large separate garage-workshop spaces in lower grounds.
HOW MUCH: Offers over $790,000 invited.
WHAT YOU GET: Large four-bedroom, family-executive home with extra living areas overlooking magnificent valley gardens in a prime Merrilands setting.
MARKETED BY: Rosalyn Rowe at TSB Realty - 0800 872 243.
ON THE WEB: www.open2view.com - ref 260174
SEE IT: Open home tomorrow, Sunday, March 25 and Wednesday, March 28 - 11.00am to 11.45am.
- Taranaki Daily News