A Maungaraki Garden (Nikau Belt)


This is an extract from Jon's book: "Wellington Gardens. Successful gardening for Wellington, Kapiti coast and Wairarapa"

A Maungaraki Garden (Nikau Belt)


In the western, flat part of the garden, olearia provide protection from the strong north-westerlies. The magnolia is struggling in the clayey soils and windy climate. Plants such as lavender and ajuga thrive.

Background: This property of Sally & Brian Petersen has been developed over the last four years. As with many properties on the Lower Hutt's western hills it is very exposed to the prevailing north-westerlies. Mounding and planting of shelter plants has helped to create a better environment. The plants selected are ideal for the conditions on the property.

Size: Small - 1000 sq. m (1/4 acre)

Aspect: Front part of section faces to the east, back section faces west.

Topography: House sited on the flat part of the section, with the front and back sloping. Climate: Frosts very rare, those that occur being light. Maximum temperature the average Jan/Feb daily maximum is 20C Average annual rainfall 1344 mm. Sunlight Very good light in summer, with some shading from the shelter plants and fence in winter. Wind Very strong north-westerlies, as well as southerlies. Salt exposure Exposed to salt from Wellington harbour on a southerly, with some salt on a northerly from Porirua harbour.

Soil: Clayey soils over a greywacke base. The soil is shallow and difficult to cultivate.

Soil water: Not prone to flooding, but becomes very dry in summer.


Soil improvements: Topsoil was brought in to create the mounds on the western side of the house. The mounds are about 40 cm in height. The garden beds on the flat part of the section are raised with treated timber edges, improving both the soil fertility and the drainage. As well as topsoil, compost has been added around each plant. Mushroom compost has been used, except around the acid-loving plants such as ericas.

On the bank at the entrance the plants were chosen to tolerate the poorer soils. Compost was used when planting, except for the ericas and lavenders. Lavenders prefer soils with lower fertility than most plants, so compost was not added. Bark mulch was added to all gardens. In the more exposed locations it blows away readily. Blood and bone is used regularly around plants, as well as the slow-release fertiliser Agriform, which comes as a pellet. Garden Galore, which is pelletised sheep manure, and pelletised peat-straw are also added to most plants.

Shelter: Mounding and planting of suitable shelter trees has been used on the western side where the wind is strongest. A fence gives protection on the northern side. Shelter trees have been used on the southern side to protect the front entrance.

Weeds: The major weed problem is wild turnip, Brassica rapa. It seeds prolifically, but can be removed manually, by taking care to remove the taproot.

Lawns: The lawn on the flat area is showing poor growth, mainly due to the thin layer of topsoil over the greywacke base. Because this layer is only about 2.5cm it is insufficient to hold water and nutrients. A deeper layer - up to about 7.5cm - would be better. Plants: The main obstacles to success are the wind and the dry soils.


A mound was created and planted at the top of the bank. In the four years since, the trees have grown to about 2m in four years, providing improved wind protection.

  • Olearia paniculata
  • Olearia albida

The lower part of this bank is very exposed to the prevailing winds. Tree lucerne has been used as a nurse crop. Pine trees have been planted, not for shelter, but as a cash crop. In amongst the tree lucerne the following has been planted:

  • Pittosporum crassifolium, karo
  • Metrosideros excelsa, pohutukawa
  • Podocarpus totara, totara

On the higher part of the bank where it is drier the following have been planted:

  • Agapanthus praecox, agapanthus
  • Arctotis acaulis (used as a groundcover/mulch)
  • Argyranthemum frutescens, marguerite daisy
  • Arthropodium cirratum, rengarenga
  • Brachyglottis greyii,
  • Cook strait groundsel
  • Carpobrotus edulis, Hottentot fig
  • Ceanothus papillosus 'Roweanus', Californian lilac
  • Cistus spp., rockrose
  • Dodonaea viscosa, akeake
  • Echium plantigineum, annual echium
  • Erica spp.
  • Leucadendron spp.
  • Pittosporum tenuifolium, kohuhu
  • Teucrium fruticans, wild germander


In the lee of the shelter.

  • Ajuga 'Blue Jungle', bugle
  • Arthropodium cirratum, rengarenga lily
  • Banksia spp.
  • Betula pendula, silver birch
  • Ceanothus papillosus 'Roweanus', Californian lilac
  • Clianthus puniceus 'Alba', white kakabeak
  • Erica spp.
  • Geranium spp.
  • Hebe spp.
  • Lavendula spp., lavender
  • Leucadendron spp.
  • Lobularia maritimum, alyssum
  • Magnolia 'Vulcan'
  • Protea spp.
  • Rosa 'Mutabilis'
  • Stachys byzantina, lambs ears


The front garden faces east


The font garden faces east, but is exposed to the southerly winds. The soils are clayey over a greywacke base. Plants such as arctotis, daisies, and rengarenga thrive in these conditions.

The following plants were used at the front entrance for shelter from the southerlies.

  • Olearia paniculata, akiraho
  • Olearia ilicifolia, NZ holly
  • Corokia 'Frosted Chocolate'

Inside this hedge, a low hedge has been planted of Rosmarinus 'Tuscan Blue' On the dry bank which is exposed to the southerlies, the following has been planted:

  • Arctotis acaulis, arctotis
  •  Ceanothus papillosus 'Roweanus', Californian lilac
  • Cupressus macrocarpa 'Golden Halo'
  • Cistus spp., rock rose
  • Clianthus puniceus, kaka beak
  • Coleonema album, breath-of-heaven
  • Dorotheanus bellidiformus, Livingston dasiy
  • Erica spp., heath
  • Grevillea spp.
  • Hebe spp.
  • Helichrysum petiolare, licorice plant
  • Kniphofia praecox, red hot poker
  • Leptospermum scoparium, manuka
  • Libertia peregrinans, NZ iris
  • Osteospermum ecklonis, dimorphotheca
  • Salvia spp., sage
  • Sophora 'Dragon's Gold', Stephen's Is kowhai


An innovative use of a letterbox, with succulents planted into a gravelly mix over polythene.


A magnolia was planted on the eastern side of the property. A large hole was excavated and backfilled with friable, good quality topsoil. Despite being in a relatively sheltered spot this plant has shown little growth since its introduction. Likewise, a rhododendron (R. 'The President') near it is showing poor vigour. Both of these plants come from the northern Asia, where they grow on acid soils with high amounts of organic matter. In areas where the soil has little organic matter and it is dry and windy, these plants will not thrive. As suggested in the section of planting in the introduction (page 36), you can mound up peat or compost and plant directly into this rather than the soil. One interesting addition has been made to the letterbox. Polythene has been laid over the letterbox and a mixture of topsoil and gravel placed on top. Into this mixture succulents have been planted.

Quote from owner:

'My garden evolved with planning, passion, planting and perseverance, (not necessarily in that order). The tenacious resilience of the plants, shrubs and trees amaze me as they bow and bend to natures fury, yet retain their blooms and beauty. This garden has taught me endurance and rewarded me with its magical survival'

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