My happy place: Margaret Phillips, garden designer

By Bronwyn Sell

For Margaret Phillips designing gardens is ``painting with plants''. Photo / Sophie Leuschke
For Margaret Phillips designing gardens is ``painting with plants''. Photo / Sophie Leuschke

I have always been in awe of plants and aware of how they can have such a profound effect upon us. For me, the sheer joy of seeing an immaculate bud or seeing an entire vista with all its complexities is a perpetual delight. Gardens are the places that make me happy and I love making gardens for others to enjoy.

As a child I remember following the patterns of trees with my eye as we drove through various parts of this beautiful country, and wanting to fill any gaps left by fallen or dead trees, to complete the rhythm. Driving through Fitzgerald Glade, on the way to Rotorua, was a memorable experience for me, as it is for many people.

Patterns and place, colours and textures have always had an impact on me. Gardens nourish me and all my senses, just as music can.

I love gardens - being within them and designing them. For me it is painting with plants. Because they are alive and have their own life cycle, a garden is never fixed and finished, neither static nor entirely predictable.

I have designed gardens for so many clients over the last two decades or so who have wanted to live in their own private oasis.

I thoroughly enjoy being part of this design dynamic - considering the architecture, the soil and aspect of the land, together with the needs and personalities of the people who will live within. It is a combination and awareness of all these elements.

Being within a beautiful space can be relaxing, restorative or invigorating, expansive, thought provoking and often witty.

A designer directs these spaces with planting and hard elements, whether it's a private garden or an urban domain. The Britomart precinct was a fun project to be involved in - bringing flowers and food into our urban fabric. Another garden I enjoyed designing recently was at 9 Pukenui Rd in Epsom, which is open in this year's Auckland Garden DesignFest.

As our eyes are so easily led, it is particularly important when designing to be acutely aware of how the eye sweeps, skims or ignores some elements and yet can so easily be captured by a colour or combination of colours and textures.

All our senses need nourishment and gardens can indulge each of them in so many different ways. I love to make spaces for people to love being in.

- Herald on Sunday

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