The Essential Garden


This blog will document the creation of the Essential Garden over a period of ten years. Due to work commitments and financial constraints we experienced long periods of inactivity with the project, however the same cannot be said of the plants and trees we planted around the perimeter in the early days. They basked in the environment and were left to their own devices. They now provide a beautiful companion to the native vegetation naturally growing in the area.

This is the site of the garden looking north up the Upper Waiwera valley. The area was once covered in thick, menacing gorse (Ulexeuropaus). Many weekends were spent with a scrubcutter clearing the area. Given its tenacious nature, a simple scrubcutter makes no impression on gorse. However, exchange the thin plastic line for a tungsten-tipped saw blade, ramp up the power and gorse trees 100mm to 150mm thick will drop like they have just been tasered.

View of the Essential Garden site, looking north

The view looking back towards the farm buildings to the south highlights the undulating ground of our block and provides the rationalefor why this site was selected for our herb garden.

The Essential Garden site looking south

Of course, the surrounding area didn’t always look this bushy. Much of the bush on the skyline is native manuka and kanuka and some final remnants of gorse. We always thought it resembled the outline of a sleeping giant complete with bald patch, mouth open and snoring loudly! It’s much more apparent on a dark night with a full moon highlighting his features. But with a little imagination…
All the vegetation in front of the garage (almost totally obscured in this shot) was planted in 2004 and includes native cabbage trees (Cordylineaustralis), flaxes (Harakeke) (pittisporum and lillypilly.

This shot was taken soon after the garage was built and shows some of our early planting at the perimeter of the Essential Garden and before the garage planting had been done.


Our philosophy with planting is twofold. First, if a plant, tree or shrub can’t survive after we have planted it, then it didn’t deserve to be there in the first place. Once something was in the ground we largely ignored it and went off on another project. Everything we planted received 2 slow release fertiliser tablets, plenty of water to get them going and occasionally some weedmat to protect them from grasses and gorse. During hot summers we always gave new plantings a good drink but generally they were left on their own. Secondly, we bought small. Your dollar goes so much further if you purchase small plants and then patiently wait for them to grow rather than outlaying more on more mature plants. In no time at all the memory of them being way too small for their environment will only survive in your photos.

Alasdair Scott