This floral blogger’s garden is filled with, you guessed it, beautiful flowers

Julia Atkinson-Dunn, a Christchurch garden and design blogger, is a collector of beautiful blooms. She takes us on a tour of her own garden and shares some expert tips.

Julia Atkinson-Dunn is such an engaging and delightful force of nature that you can almost visualise the sap running through her when she talks about gardening. “Flowers are food for the soul,” the design and garden blogger and art seller says about her passion for beautiful blooms.

Since immersing herself in the world of all things floral three years ago, Julia has been on a mission to recruit more people to the horticultural hobby, posting inspiring images and stories and lively “how to” videos on gardening and flower arranging on her website, Studio Home. Her garden also inspires her Creatures From My Garden series of overpainted photographs of flowers, which are selling faster than she can paint them.

birds eye view of feet standing next to a basket of flowers

Julia is emphatic that anyone can become a gardener. “Some people might be born with a green thumb but it’s not a prerequisite to being a gardener,” she says. “You can literally learn anything you want!”

She uses herself as a case in point. “I used to feel about gardening the way I felt about accounting – all too hard.”

Julia Atkinson-Dunn gardening

It was moving into her Christchurch villa and planning her backyard wedding ceremony that got the former interior designer started. “I really like to nest into my spaces and I wanted the garden to look beautiful,” says Julia. She bought potted colour from the garden centre and planted the beds up with punnets of Iceland poppies, pink and white cosmos and nemesias.

“To my amazement, as such an amateur, it looked full and romantic on the day.” It was enough to get her hooked. “I bought myself a Yates Garden Guide, then every time Mum came over I would drag her into the backyard and ask her questions.”

Lawn in a back garden with grey house

Julia started sourcing plants and seeds from Trade Me and online New Zealand nurseries offering a wider range of plants than most garden centres. Favourites include Puriri Lane, Ashton Glen Perennial Nursery and Susie Ripley Gardening.

Right now she’s most excited about growing ruby-red Cosmos ‘Rubenza’ and pink and white Cosmos ‘Cupcake’, lacy white Orlaya grandiflora and apricot-coloured ‘Madame Butterfly Bronze’ snapdragons. A favourite plant is purple-flowering Verbena bonariensis, which she affectionately refers to as “VB”.

raised planter bed with sunflowers

You’d expect an interior designer to employ some tricks of the trade, such as sticking to certain colour schemes, when it comes to exterior design, but Julia rejects this approach. “I think the garden offers much more forgiving use of colour than many people are comfortable with in their homes. Right now, interior trends seem to be skewed to a very monochromatic, clean and textural look. If you tried to do that in the garden you’d end up with all shrubs, which is fine for some but removes you from the beautiful changes in seasons. More is more in a garden and Mother Nature makes it all work.”

steps in a back garden

Julia’s gardening tips

Julia’s top tip for gardening novices is to attend garden tours or festivals, such as Garden Marlborough and Grow Ō Tautahi (for which she is an ambassador in 2021).

And if you’ve never grown anything before, Julia’s advice is to just get started. “Rig up a bamboo teepee or find a sunny fence line and sow sweet pea seeds. When you pick them and give a simple posy to someone, you’ll feel amazing.”

Check out Julia’s inspiring tips for beginner gardeners on her website,, or follow her on Instagram @studiohomegardening.

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