Preparing his extensive Te Puna garden for its first showing at the Tauranga Garden and Artfest didn’t phase Alf Mundt – he’s had bigger challenges in the garden’s short life.
The 1ha site was part of a kiwifruit orchard when four years ago Alf and wife Shirley fell in love with the uninterrupted views to Mauao (Mt Maunganui) and decided to build their retirement home.
“I’ve put in something like 3000 plants,” Alf says, “and I’ve probably lost about 10 per cent to Phytophthora diseases. They’re a fungus that cause a plant to quickly collapse and die. I’ve had one that attacks the roots and one that starts at the top of the plant.
“But you’re dealing with Mother Nature so you can’t get too demoralised when you lose a few plants – and the worst seems to be over.”
The Mundts, who had farmed in several places including Paengaroa and Taupo, used Te Puna designer Peter Lochhead for the house, his wife Lynette, for interior design advice, and Lynette’s father, John Burton, for help with landscaping.
“John became my mentor,” Alf says. “I couldn’t have done it without him.”
A “secret” woodland walk meanders away from the home’s striking entrance, which includes a water feature and a miniature waterwheel, made by Alf and “something I had always wanted”.
The path through the woodland area has been built so its entire length is never visible and Alf also likes the fact that looking at the garden from the lawn gives no idea how extensive this area is.
He has planted it for colour, texture and scent, including Backhousia citriodora (lemon myrtle an Australian native with scented foliage), white daphne, Heucheras (coloured foliage), Loropetalum China Pink, some of which have been trained into columns, and the yellow variety of forest pansy, Cercis canadensis Hearts of Gold.
Alf’s now finishing a north-facing bank at the back of the house where plants must cope with hot and dry conditions.
He has used mostly Australian and South African natives in groups of three or five, especially those that cover themselves in flowers, including several different grevilleas, Thryptomene Supernova, the small shrub Adenandra uniflora, Phylica pubescens (featherhead) and Virbunum tinus.