This lush Havelock North garden was once an apricot orchard

A Havelock North sculptor’s garden is a lush sanctuary of shade-loving, hardy plants where art can be discovered around every corner.

Kay Bazzard’s cool and shady garden is such a welcome retreat from Hawke’s Bay’s balmy sunny days that it’s hard to believe that it was once part of an apricot orchard. The only lingering hints of the garden’s horticultural history are a gnarled apricot tree, which produces a delectable crop of tangy ‘Trevatt’ apricots every summer, and an old potting shed that Kay has converted into her sculpture studio.

Little white bell flowers with yellow centres
The little lanterns of hardy abutilons light up the shady garden. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

When Kay and her late husband, Charlie, sold their vineyard in Waimauku, Auckland, and purchased the Havelock North property 21 years ago, the orchard was long gone, having been converted into an area of residential housing in the 1980s. When the previous owner commissioned modernist architect John Scott to build the house, she’d also consulted him about the planting. She wanted a fast-growing garden, so together they planted dozens of trees, very close together.

Vertical slatted timber house surrounded by greenery
The John Scott house was built in 1986. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

Treasured trees inherited from the previous owner include huge golden elms, a gleditsia, with an elegant weeping form and lime-gold leaves, and a liriodendron, commonly known as a tulip tree. Although the forest framework of the garden was established, there was no underplanting when the Bazzards arrived. “Apart from the trees, it was a rough and ready garden,” says Kay. “You make a garden your own. I shaped it by putting in smaller plants that can live beneath trees and in a hot, dry climate.”

A deep red daisy bush
Vibrant marguerite daisies bloom all year. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

Plants that have excelled in these conditions include hostas, hellebores, ligularia and hen and chicken ferns. The site is on a 6m gradient, so to prevent the rain from running off the banks and into the driveway, Kay had retaining walls built in some parts of the garden. She says the improvement in the soil once the moisture could be retained within the walls was astounding.

A bird sculpture in a thriving garden setting
An albatross, which is a work by a friend, peers through a rhododendron. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

To stabilise the banks she planted various groundcovers, such as green mondo grass, as well as Spanish irises and agapanthus. Ivy is also a high-achiever here, but Kay doesn’t treat it with the contempt that other gardeners do. “I maintain the ivy when it starts sending out runners but it protects the banks.”

A carved stone male torso in lush garden setting
A weeping Japanese maple shrouds a torso Kay sculpted out of Hinuera stone. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

Kay isn’t interested in pampering plants that aren’t suited to the garden’s conditions. “The plants I grow here have coped in pretty inhospitable drought conditions. If something gets put in and it can’t survive, it has to be replaced with something else. I tend not to irrigate in drought conditions.” Other than a survival-of-the-fittest approach, Kay says she has a relaxed attitude to her garden.

Small red bell flowering shrub
The striking abutilon came from a friend’s place. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

“I have very few rules about my garden. I don’t want my garden to rule my life but I want to live in it and with it. I have great respect for the plants here.” She hires an arborist every two years to trim the trees and pays a gardener to do a couple of hours of weeding occasionally. “I’m in my 70s and I don’t want to be working in my garden all the time because I want to be working in my studio.”

A sculpture of a naked headless female form sitting
A ceramic figure perches among echeveria. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

Kay sells her work in several Hawke’s Bay galleries and had a solo exhibition at Hastings City Art Gallery in 2018. Many works have taken up residence in the garden, appearing against leafy backdrops on the shingle pathways or beside seating.

Garden sculpture of a figure pointing a finger ahead
Kay sculpted the figure with the ball at a workshop in Tucson, Arizona, and had to pull it apart to fit it in her suitcase for the trip home. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

“I love the idea of discovery in a garden, of having a sculpture that doesn’t stand out like the proverbial, and is softened by foliage in some way or another rather than it being like a monument. I love the human form and how it expresses itself non-verbally. I’m very much a people person and I love the best side of human beings – that’s what I seek to convey. My figures are generally happy, thoughtful, enquiring, loving. That’s what I value.”

A sculpture head amongst green ground cover
An early work is camouflaged by ligularia. IMAGE VIA FLORENCE CHARVIN

The same goodwill extends to her garden. Kay celebrates its unique untamed quality. “I love everything about my garden. I love its peacefulness, its sense of being its own place. Almost without me, it will be its own place. It has an idea all of its own, and the plants seem to like living together.”

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