A formal planting scheme and crisp, groomed lawns frame some jaw-dropping ocean views at Tapuae Country Estate in Taranaki
This sprawling clifftop section in Taranaki has an impeccable formal garden
Some people imagine sea views and coastal walks for their dream lifestyle property. Others prefer green farmland with bush trails and inland waterways. Brent and Maree Schumacher are lucky enough to have both. The couple live on the Tapuae Country Estate, a 58-hectare farm park southwest of New Plymouth, where cattle roam freely on the lush pastures that weave through the estate, while its residents enjoy all the aforementioned attractions just a few minutes from their doorsteps.
The Schumachers bought their property, one of 30 house sites on the estate, nine years ago. Although much of the Taranaki coast can be very windswept at certain times of year, Brent and Maree chose a site that was protected by a cliff face on its western side, sheltering them from the prevailing wind. “The wind seems to hit the bank then go up and over us,” Maree says. “It can be windy say 50 metres from the clifftop, but not right next to it.”
While their split stone-clad house was being constructed the couple got started on developing the garden. As the land had formerly been a dairy farm, the site had no trees or vegetation on it. “It was just a paddock,” Maree remembers, “but the soil was very fertile.”
The house took just over 12 months to complete and, by the time Maree and Brent moved in, the paved areas, steps and some planting had been finished. “In our first six months living here we developed the lawn and gardens closer to the house,” Maree explains. “About 18 months later we added the lower deck and the seating area overlooking the beach.”
The couple had a clear idea of the style they wanted to achieve for the garden. “We both like the formal look of box hedges and roses,” says Maree. These are planted on both the south and west sides of the house, complementing the traditional style of the house. The couple also liked the idea of a “horizon lawn” with green grass stretching out on the seaward side of the house towards the water. They defined these grassy areas with pavers in keeping with the formality of the rest of the garden. Towards the cliffs and away from the house the garden becomes more informal with native grasses and shrubs.
Roses, lavender and box hedging are the main plants in the formal areas of the garden. Clipped griselinia hedges add more structure while rosemary is used for more informal hedges around the paved terraces. Maree only grows ‘Iceberg’ roses as she finds them easy to grow here. “They don’t mind the salt and tolerate a fair amount of wind.”
To create shelter from the strong coastal winds the couple planted natives (grown from cuttings at Tapuae Estate’s own nursery) along a bank on the south side of the house. “The shelter belt has grown quickly and provides good shelter, especially for the roses,” says Maree.
The couple run a travel agency in New Plymouth but, despite their busy work schedule, still find time for their garden. “We both work from home a couple of days a week so that allows for some flexibility on garden chores. Brent does the lawns and the only other maintenance is hedge trimming and spraying the roses at different times.”
To begin shaping what was virtually a blank-canvas site, the earthworks involved creating a building platform for the house plus some retaining walls and the construction of a ha-ha to stop cattle entering the garden. A ha-ha is a traditional method of keeping livestock out of certain areas without creating barriers that might inhibit the view. To achieve this effect, Maree and Brent built a wall, just over three metres high, below the lawn area at the front of their property. This allows them to enjoy panoramic ocean vistas as well as the bucolic sight of cattle grazing in the foreground.
This would have to be the knockout views of the Tasman Sea, which are best enjoyed from the expansive outdoor living area on the seaward side of the house. Maree and Brent entertain outdoors regularly and their lovely terrace is also an ideal place to enjoy Taranaki’s spectacular sunsets.
Although their favourite time of year in the garden is early summer when the roses are in bloom, it’s pretty special in any season, says Maree. “Even on a windy or wet day the views are always changing. You can sit on the terrace and watch the rain clouds approaching – it’s incredibly dramatic.”
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Jane Dove Juneau.