The secret behind this garden makeover was finding the right landscaper

Longing for an outdoor space that reminded him of Mauritius, this Auckland man found the perfect collaborator in fellow Mauritian Arnaud Daurat, who designed a garden with its heart in the Indian Ocean and its roots in the Pacific

When Michel Adolphe wanted to revamp the outdoor living areas of his Castor Bay home on Auckland’s North Shore he was keen to recreate the atmosphere of Mauritius, the island in the Indian Ocean where he was born. But how to find a landscape designer who would understand the unique flavour of his birthplace?

After contacting landscape design and build practice Branché Landscapes on a friend’s recommendation, Michel was delighted to discover that managing director and head designer Arnaud Daurat was born in Mauritius.

“My wife, Tania, and I both like to travel to tropical locations,” says Michel. “Being from Mauritius, I wanted to recreate a little piece of paradise here at home. Knowing that Arnaud was also originally from Mauritius, I knew he would understand the brief better than anyone.

The brief

The couple have owned their 500-square-metre property for 10 years and, along with their two teenaged daughters, Courtney and Leticia, love its proximity to the beach and connection with the outdoors. After renovating their home “to create a lighter, more beachy feel” they wanted the outdoor living spaces to also reflect this contemporary beachside vibe.

“Our brief to Branché was for a tropical oasis that would blend with my established English-style garden and allow us to sit outdoors with complete privacy and tranquillity,” says Michel. “And I needed a fence that would keep our wee shih-tzu-poodle, Coby, on the property while also acting as a feature rather than an eyesore.”

The site

There were several other challenges for the landscape team. “The existing garden was mostly an open lawn on a steep gradient, with different levels and a mismatch of different plants with little structure,” Arnaud explains. “It was also exposed to the road and pedestrians as well as being slightly windy.”

Taking his cues from the house renovation, which had improved the connections between indoors and out, the designer decided to do the same with the garden. He set to work designing an open space for outdoor living around the front of the residence, with wide steps leading to a layered garden above.

Rather than fight the steepness of the site, Arnaud decided to embrace the gradient and use it to dramatic effect. He designed a cascading garden with a sweeping palette of colours, textures and structures.

“Below the tall palms, I designed a lush tropical garden in one of our signature ‘chic tropical’ styles, with a combination of hot and cold colours that merge with the manicured, structured garden below,” Arnaud says.
“A hedge of Michelia gracipes provides manageable privacy from the street as well as flowering wallpaper in the background.

Standout feature

For Michel, it’s the entrance and the sugar cane palms. “Viewing the front garden from our lounge, I love the entrance with its totara steps and soft up-lighting. And I can sit in the courtyard and look at the palms and picture myself in the islands.”

The landscaping

“Due to the steep gradients, we used our digger to create a levelled terrace at the very top of the garden. This allowed us to plant the Michelia gracipes hedge and create more privacy as quickly as possible,” says Arnaud.

Light timber cladding was built around the outdoor living area to soften the extensive retaining behind, creating a courtyard feel in the space. Rather than laying new pavers, Arnaud opted to dress the existing concrete with a new finish that added fresh colour, texture and height, ensuring a seamless connection between the indoor and outdoor floor levels.

We wanted a tropical oasis that would blend with my English-style garden

and allow us to sit outdoors with complete privacy and tranquillity

Arnaud also designed a pair of beautiful, laser-cut Corten-steel gates and a fence that surrounds the front garden.

“This provides a light screen from the street and keeps the dog inside. Below the gates are ‘floating’ sleeper steps (and a landing platform) installed on a steel frame. A powerful floodlight hidden below the steps provides strong indirect lighting at night to reinforce the lightweight feel of the planting and contrast with the heavy feel of the steps,” he says.

The planting

The plants are a blend of both the English and tropical styles that Michel loves. At the top of the slope the michelia hedge screens the road and reduces noise pollution. Masses of creamy blooms in spring create a flowering backdrop.

Arnaud added mature sugar cane palms (Dypsis baronii) – a clumping variety only reaching around 3m in height – that will soften the existing bungalow palms. “These will provide height and a lush feel, as well as street appeal and light screening,” he explains.

He also used a combination of subtropical flowering and foliage species such as black taro (Colocasia nigra), Ligularia reniformis, Philodendron xanadu, Loropetalum ‘Burgundy’, Liriope muscari ‘Royal Purple’, Iresine herbstii Dietes grandiflora, Heterocentron elegans, Gardenia ‘Veitchii’ and Cape daisy ‘Maseru’.

A hedge (Camellia transnokoensis) was planted above the courtyard’s retaining wall to create more “flowering wallpaper”. And for further structure Viburnum ‘Eve Price’ standards were underplanted with Buxus ‘Green Gem’.

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: David Straight.

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