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 linen cushion covers     |      2019-09-23 22:08

Behind the walls of this city-fringe garden, an Auckland family have created their own courtyard oasis?

The courtyard garden has been around for thousands of years, its basic enclosed form adapted through the centuries to suit the lifestyles of different generations. So it is with this contemporary courtyard garden that Claire and Nye O’Shannessy have developed for their recently built Mt Albert home. Enclosed on three sides by the house and on the fourth by a boundary fence, their sunny courtyard is an oasis of sheltered private outdoor living. There’s no hint of the noise and bustle of the streets outside and there’s little wind to disturb the serenity.

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Just as the inhabitants of the first walled gardens didlinen cushion covers, the couple and their two daughters, Isla and Neve, spend a lot of time in their courtyard sanctuary.

“In the summer the big sliding doors are open until late; it really is an extension of the house,” says Claire. “We eat out there most nights in the summer as a family and also like to have people round for barbecues. It’s so nice to see everyone enjoying the space.”

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Helen Bankers.


Award-winning landscape designer Xanthe White created the garden. “The brief we gave Xanthe was for a lush, ‘secret garden’ feel, with an area for outdoor dining,” says Claire.


The view of the courtyard from the main bedroom upstairs.


There’s also no lawn – not a traditional one, anyway. Instead Xanthe designed ornamental lawns of creeping baby fern (Leptinella) for each courtyard, the bright green foliage contrasting beautifully with the dark-coloured walls of the house.


“It’s definitely not the traditional big Kiwi backyard but I think that is no longer realistic for many people in Auckland,” Claire says (pictured with daughters Isla and Neve).


The planting is a mixture of natives and Claire’s favourite subtropicals.


Paved in limestone chip, the sheltered courtyard is surrounded on all sides allowing the family to eat and entertain out there virtually all year round.


Although the soil was pretty good, the family used raised planter beds to create some depth in the outdoor area and help enclose the space.


The palms, bird of paradise and taro create a delightful subtropical ambience.

There’s still plenty of summertime to savor, but it’s never a bad idea to start planning or purchasing for the upcoming season. With that in mind, here’s some great news:

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