A magnificent New Plymouth cottage garden is filled with pastel pink and creamy roses
Twelve years ago when Coleen Peri first saw the quarter-hectare New Plymouth site that was to become her garden, thoughts of romance filled her head. Not the Mills and Boon variety, though. Coleen’s vision was more botanical in nature, with the large sloping lawn (relieved only by two overgrown rose beds) transformed in her mind into a traditional English garden filled with beautiful flowers.
She was determined to have an “unashamedly romantic” garden, confesses Coleen. “With lots of knock-you-over scented roses and old-fashioned perennials.” Not a task for the faint-hearted, particularly as the garden was not the only part of the property in need of work. The 1950s house was very dilapidated and she and husband Nathan spent 10 months on its renovation. “We pretty much gutted the inside, knocked all the walls out and made a fresh start, adding a third level and a double garage. Great bones were there, though.
“We considered moving the house off and starting again, but we would have put a new house in exactly the same spot, being beautifully north-facing with great sea views from the second and third storeys, and a teasing glimpse from the garden level, so we decided there was little point.”
To help with the layout of the garden the couple employed local landscape designer Chris Paul who helped work out the levels around the house and draw up a plan to scale so they would have something for pavers and other contractors to work with.
Coleen still consults Chris over layout and structural issues in the garden. However planting is exclusively her domain. “I know what I want where plants are concerned, and planting is such a subjective thing. I also tend more towards the romantic and whimsical, whereas Chris is a little more structured and masculine in his plant choices. The key to using a designer in my opinion is to take what you like from their concept and add your own twist to it.”
The garden started out more formal than it is today, as Coleen’s passion for plants makes it too difficult to stick to the restricted plant palette of the formal style. She has over 350 roses in the garden, their soft pastel hues complemented by old-fashioned perennials such as bearded iris, catmint, salvia, foxgloves, daylilies, delphiniums, geraniums and penstemons.
Clipped box hedges, brick walls and gravel paths divide the garden into rooms, balancing the soft shapes and colours of the flowers within. Even the pool area is surrounded by roses; the 23 ‘Sally Holmes’ roses – the first in the garden to be planted – cover the wrought-iron fence with their creamy white blooms in spring.
Originally Coleen and Nathan had planned to get rid of the swimming pool but decided against it, thinking it would be a great place for son Will and his friends. “It was the right decision as the pool area is used quite a lot in summer,” says Coleen. “I find it nice to jump into after a day out in the garden, even if it’s just a quick dip.”
Coleen also runs an online bearded iris nursery called The Iris Boutique with over 400 varieties in its catalogue and nearly 1000 growing. But she is modest about her achievements, attributing her considerable gardening skills to trial and error. “It seems the more you garden, the more experience you gain; you find what works and what doesn’t.”
Coleen describes the rose and perennial beds in the lower part of the garden as her “sanctuary” while outdoor living and entertaining is usually enjoyed around the pool and areas closer to the house.
“People seem to gravitate to these areas with their wine and to have a chat. We have an outdoor sound system and it’s great as you can change the atmosphere just by changing the music. People can always be caught sneaking off, though, for some quiet reflection in the garden somewhere!”
Words by: Carol Bucknell
Photography by: Jane Dove Juneau.