Colleen Fenemor has incorporated weathered fencing as well as salvaged tools and machinery in her garden design. Photo / Bevan Conley
In an occasional summer series, we take you into some of our region’s residential gardens. Today we meet Colleen Fenemor whose rural Mangaweka garden above the Rangitīkei River is evidence of her ability to combine lush plant life with manageable spaces. Liz Wylie reports.
When Colleen Fenemor and her partner John Coley bought the farm property a decade ago, the garden was filled with rampant plants growing in a cottage garden style.
“I spend long hours working on the farm and I wanted a more practical design that would be relatively easy to maintain,” she said.
“I wanted to increase the amount of lawn but we needed to make it easy to mow so the aim was to build sturdy borders to contain the garden beds.”
Fenemor found the perfect material in the farm paddocks – a good supply of well-weathered totara fence posts provide borders for some of the plots and smaller pieces have been wired together to provide low fencing for other beds.
She has also planted a lot of box hedging plants to contain some of the beds.
The beds are filled with a wide variety of perennial flowering plants and big clumps of ground cover varieties.
There are lots of dahlia varieties which are a combination of pre-existing bulbs and ones that Fenemor has planted.
“I like to have big groupings of one colour and I’ve moved a few things around so they are in their best spots,” Fenemor said.
“There was a lot of agapanthus throughout the beds and I’ve moved them alongside the driveway.”
Fenemor leads the way down a shady path to the chook house where some happy hens have produced a half dozen eggs that morning.
The well-designed hutch allows the eggs to roll down into a covered tray so there’s no need to go hunting for them and the chickens have a big fenced backyard with shady plants, a water trough, and a sand bath.
“And here’s our rooster,” said Fenemor pointing to a nearby metallic garden ornament.
“He’s the best rooster I’ve known – he doesn’t crow.”
There is a strong smell of sheep manure despite there being no livestock nearby and Fenemor said she had spread the daggy wool from the latest shearing on some of her garden beds.
“It’s fantastic fertiliser,” she said
“It works as mulch, breaks down really well and it attracts a lot of worms.”
Fenemor has discovered a number of vintage farm machinery items and tools around the property and hidden underneath foliage in the garden beds.
As an avid collector of such things, Fenemor said she was delighted with the discoveries.
There’s a plowshare, cartwheels, and a number of old hand tools which she has had metal plated and fashioned into a gate for her vegetable garden.
The vegetable plot is also fenced with salvaged totara and the beds are covered in pea straw.
“I love the stuff,” said Fenemor.
“It’s great for the vege plants and it keeps the weeds down.”
Another feature salvaged from the farm paddocks is a large boulder with a small weather-worn pond on its surface.
Two inanimate ducks sit by the pond and like the rooster around the corner, they are low maintenance and don’t disturb the peace and quiet.
The only living house pet in the garden is Charlie, the black and white cat who joins the garden tour and dives in and out of the beds along the way.
“He’s about 2 and I got him from the cat rescue people in Marton,” said Fenemor.
“My other cat used to ride around with me on the farm bike but he got old and died. I haven’t trained Charlie to ride with me but he likes to follow me around.”
The homestead driveway had recently been repaired and the shingle had been replaced after the flash flooding that hit Mangaweka last weekend but Fenemor said there had otherwise been no damage.
“Some people with lower sections weren’t so lucky. There was 100mm of rainfall within an hour.
“We had been in Whanganui where we help out on my parents’ farm. The road was closed when we went to come home so we stopped over at the pub in Hunterville until they opened the road.”
Alongside the reclaimed vintage farming equipment found on the property, Fenemor had recently purchased a wooden horse-drawn cart she plans to restore.
“It’s probably at least 100 years old but it’s in pretty good condition,” she said.
There are low power lines over part of the garden and Fenemor points to a white rambling rose that had climbed its way up to the wires when Fenemor and Coley moved to the property.
“It had to be cut back with a chainsaw so I make sure to keep it trimmed now,” she said.
A shady pathway planted with silvery shrubs and grasses leads down to a former pond that had been fenced and planted with moisture-loving plants.
“We drained the pond because it was too risky having it there where children could fall in,” Fenemor said.
“I bought the kauri tree for John’s birthday and it seems to be thriving here.”
The area in front of the house has the biggest expanse of lawn and white standard roses planted on either side of Fenemor’s garden shed.
“When I get time to sit on the veranda, I don’t want to be distracted by things that need doing so I keep this area simple,” she said.
The view from the front of the house takes in the Ruahine Ranges beyond the river.
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