Rocking it

A high retaining wall that stretches across the street frontage of a house doesn’t sound promising, but one Te Puke gardener has created a bold statement from necessity.

When Jan Aitchison, who has had large country gardens in Galatea and Pukehina, and husband Bruce moved to Te Puke they bought a property that had a large stone retaining wall, slumping in places and with stones missing from others.

But rather than patch up what was there, the couple decided to start again and create a rock wall that would double as a garden.

Sunlight has its part to play in the success of the wall.

“A landscaper gave us the idea and sent us to Ohauiti to see one he’d done. It was just what I wanted,” Jan says. “I didn’t want to hide the rocks, I wanted them to stand out.”

Seventeen truckloads of quarry rock later, the Aitchisons had a 2m-high wall in front of the house that rises from the street verge, with a lower wall beside the driveway and “specimen” rocks elsewhere to carry the theme through.

“The guy who put them in was so good,” Jan says. “It was like watching someone do a giant puzzle – but a puzzle with gaps. I wanted to put a couple of proteas in the wall so he left bigger gaps in those spots.”

The couple chose rock quarried in Welcome Bay, rather than Te Puke, to tone with the colour of their brick home.

Sedum tumbles out of a gap.

Jan has been practical with her plant choice – tough South African and Australian natives – but the wall is also home to “every colour of Carpet Rose” that tumble happily down the irregular sides.

Although the wall garden is watered occasionally, Jan has mostly gone for drought-tolerant plants – including succulents, prostrate rosemary and grevilleas, gazanias, shiny-leafed geraniums and yucca.

The planting also includes Pittosporum Golf Ball, Heliotrope Cherry Pie, canna lilies and perennials to satisfy Jan’s need for colour.

“The intention was always to show the wall off as well,” Jan says. “The rock has its own beauty so I’m happy to cut things back to keep it visible.”

Part of the rock wall that runs across the front of the property.

This article originally appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times and is reprinted here with permission.

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