Margot Robinson always imagined her new Queenstown home would have what she calls a South Island garden, with wind-blown, mass-planted grasses that would blend with the majestic mountain views.
All that changed on a trip to Melbourne to see celebrated Australian garden designer Paul Bangay’s Stonefields garden. While Margot soaked up the measured formality of the huge country garden, her husband Bruce got chatting to the man himself.
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“Paul does gardens in New Zealand,” Bruce reported to Margot when she’d completed her tour, and so began a collaboration between Paul and Margot that continues to this day, with annual visits to plot the next step in the development of Birchwood, which has been judged a garden of national significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.
Margot had always been a huge Paul Bangay fan; she’d pored over his books for nearly 20 years, and borrowed ideas for previous gardens. But it never dawned on her that he’d fly over the Tasman to help with this, her most ambitious garden project.
Paul didn’t hesitate. The Robinsons visited Stonefields in October 2015, and by December Margot had a full set of intricately detailed plans for the first stages of what is now a series of garden rooms that become less formal as you move away from the house. The design process has been a delight, Margot says.
“Paul’s a lovely guy. He’s so engaging and easy to chat to… and he includes you.”
When mulling over the design of one part of the garden, Margot recalls their conversation: “Paul said ‘Would you like roses with catmint in the front and Portuguese laurels at the back or would you like a herbaceous border?’ I said ‘Whatever you think.’ He said ‘No, I want your input.’”
Margot’s choice? Hundreds of white ‘Sally Holmes’ roses. “With the landscape, there’s already so much going on, so you don’t want it to clash.” The effect is sublime – more than 300 roses flower prolifically from December to April, but their simplicity doesn’t compete with views that span Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cecil Peak and Mt Cardrona.