The Auckland Flower Show
Auckland Flower Show 2008

A garden that loves bad stuff

We think of the rain as cleansing, but as it hits roofs and other hard surfaces it becomes a medium for a whole range of nasty pollutants that end up in our oceans. Award-winning landscape designer Kirsten Sach has come up with a solution and she wants every Kiwi backyard to have it.

For this year’s Auckland Flower Show, Kirsten has been commissioned by the Auckland Regional Council to design a raised garden that can purify rainwater before it makes its way into stormwater. A gold medal winner for her rain garden at last year’s Ellerslie International Flower Show, Kirsten says both she and the ARC are keen to keep spreading the message about how to create more environmentally-friendly gardens.

“People don’t realise how quickly rain makes its way into the sea, carrying heavy metals with it. They also don’t realise how easy it is to slow that process down, and clean up the water along the way.”

In this year’s garden for the Auckland Flower Show, water will flow off a roof and into a pond, where plants get to work on breaking down the bad stuff through the oxygenation process. When the pond fills (in a downpour), the overflow runs into raised stormwater planter boxes, and further purification takes place through the soil.

It takes special plants to handle such dirty work. Many of them are now becoming rare, such as Astelia grandis (swamp astelia) and Baumea complanata (native sedge), as hard surfaces take over so much of the land these plants once flourished in. The plants in Kirsten’s garden, which she has called ‘Kia ora ai te wai’ (make the water well), tend to be those that handle both wet and dry conditions effectively. Designing for the Auckland Flower Show’s ‘Kiwi Back Garden’ exhibition category, Kirsten has also included a citrus tree to add a classic Kiwi touch.

The planter boxes and decking are made from New Zealand-grown pine coated with sustainable paints. The garden can be easily recreated by anyone who has basic building skills, Kirsten says. “I am setting up the garden as a teaching tool. I want people to see that it isn’t too difficult to be more environmentally friendly, and they’ll have the added benefit of a garden that is lower in maintenance.”

Story ends...

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