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The Sunset Garden

The Sunset Garden at Crosshill Garden

A visit to Monet’s Garden ‘Givernay’, Normandy, France, in 1995 woke me up to the idea of formalising my garden plans, working with colour to form cohesive vistas. It's something I’ve been working on ever since.

My most favourite of Monet’s concepts was the Sunset Garden, designed to be enjoyed in the fading evening light. In my previous gardens I have located the areas which receive the best evening light. Choosing flowering plants in bright shades predominantly orange, red, yellow and incorporating blue/green/grey foliage.

Right plant, right place is also employed in the design, selecting plants that thrive in our harsh Central Otago climate. However, frost tender Dahlias are an absolute ‘must have’ - the focal point of my display.

My first challenges in our new property was to locate the ‘spot’ for my Sunset garden, this was surprisingly easy after I had worked out where the summer sun would set, the backdrop was what I can only call perfect, this being a 140 year old woodshed, conveniently painted ‘Barn Red’. It was Spring but the ground was weedy, paddock grass, it needed a lot of work.

With a plan in mind a large horseshoe shape was mapped out using hoses. The shape designed to nestle within a perimeter of established Cotinus ‘Smoke Bush’, Birch and Grisellinia trees and shrubs. A grass path, wide enough for two people to walk beside each other, encircles the new garden. Layers of thick cardboard filled the shape and were then covered with a large quantity of pea straw. Adding a wheelbarrow ore two of Sheep Poo from said wool shed as often as I could but otherwise leaving the area to the hardworking worms.

During the cold winter, whilst watching my daily dose of Gardeners World, I had an epiphany - if a ‘writing room’ (old shed) was good enough for Monty Don, then a ‘reading room’ was just right for me. Insert my retired 1973 two berth caravan “Dotty”. The garden plan was coming together and Spring was on her way. An old farm cart which had belonged to my husbands great grandfather, and which has travelled to each of our gardens was delicately ‘planted’ into the new garden with the intention a climbing rose would navigate its way through the cart wheels and over what is left of the cart.

From the moment we arrived I began propagating plants from the garden. Phlomis, Huechera (deep Purple) Hellebores (grey/green foliage) and Irises. Over winter I divided a white peony from the front garden and I’m delighted to advise they flowered in the first year. Often after dividing they sulk for a year or so. Sadly, I realised white is just too bright for the Sunset theme, so they will be re-deployed elsewhere in the garden.

I ordered three climbing roses - *** Three types of Dahlia - Cornel Bronze, Mango Madness and Autumn Orange. For height I have included the grasses Anemelanthe and Miscanthus (including - and Monet would be horrified - a variegated variety).

Spring arrived and planting began in earnest. Grouping tiny little seedlings at what seemed ridiculously immense distances. I started off seeds of Scabiosa Starball, Antirrhinum ‘Lucky Lips’, Nasturtium ‘Night and Day’, Cornflower ‘Blackball’ purple and the Flanders Poppy, of which the first bloom arrived on Anzac Day.

Thirty orange Gladiolus corms found their way into my Mitre 10 trolley one day and they made a spectacular appearance all at the same time, next year I will stagger their planting for a longer display.

Astilbe was a spontaneous purchase that has settled well into the collection, I just wish I’d bought 3 not just the one.

A visit to Maple Glen Gardens in Wyndham saw me add a few soft yellow *** which settled quickly and gave a wonderful display of blooms.

Butterscotch Achillea are a lovely companion to the *** rose

A 'sunset garden’ in honour of Monet would not be complete without a Monet bench seat. After a full day in the garden it’s wonderful to sit and enjoy a cool evening drink and watch the fading light illuminate the rich colour palette.

Sunset at Giverny Monet 1886

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