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Updated: 2019-09-16 04:04

Garden photographer Jane Dove Juneau is ready to share her own oasis

Jane and Rick like to watch the bird life from their south-east-facing deck, one of two on opposite sides of the house.

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Who lives here? Jane Dove Juneau (photographer), Rick Riccitelli (mathematics and music tutor/mentor).

Jane, what other things do you do in your spare time besides gardening? We go away for trips in summer so it is hard to keep up with the garden as things grow madly in Taranaki. It is a big contrast to where I lived in the mountains at Mammoth Lakes, 2200 metres above sea level in California. I enjoy skiing in winter, hiking in summer and body board year round with Rick who loves to surf. We also mountain bike locally to keep fit.

What do you love most about living in Oakura? I like the village/beach atmosphere. I like the wildness of the West Coast and that Taranaki is a little off the beaten path. People who live in Taranaki have lots of character. We have great arts, cultural and garden communities.

Building retaining walls to extend the level areas around the house was one of the best things she has done in the garden, Jane believes.

Jane Dove Juneau spends a lot of time in other people’s gardens. The Taranaki-based photographer shoots gardens and houses throughout the region for this and other magazines, and also produces beautiful images of the New Zealand landscape that have been published in several books. But while she enjoys seeing so many amazing gardens in her workaccent pillow case baby floor, Jane admits to feeling a little intimidated when it came to developing her own garden.

“Some of the gardeners spend hours every week in their gardens and I am in awe of what they achieve. After a photo shoot I used to come home and look at my garden and feel depressed. But I now realise that gardens take many years to become established so I am happier now with mine.

“What I love about gardens is how they reflect the personalities of the gardener. We each start with a blank canvas yet no two gardens are the same. Each person creates their own space along with the plants that seem to have a mind of their own.”

Jane and her partner Rick Riccitelli live on a roughly 1200-square-metre site in Oakura near New Plymouth which she bought in 1997. She was living in the mountains of California at the time and wanted a holiday home in Taranaki. Key attractions were the fact that the property is sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds despite being near the beach, and its rural outlook towards the distant Kaitake Range, giving it a peaceful, secluded atmosphere, says Jane.

“About a third of the section is flat and the rest runs down a hill to a stream. The section is private and I like the country feel, yet it is less than five minutes to the beach. The flat section was grass and the hill had a stand of about 14 or so large pine trees. After the pine trees were removed I planted natives to help stabilise the hill – puriri, totara, rimu, beech (didn’t make it), karaka, and a kauri. We could once see the mountain and the beach but the views have disappeared behind trees in the neighbourhood.”

Six years after buying the Oakura property Jane returned from California to live full time in Taranaki, gradually extending the original bach. “It’s a bach that grew into a house,” she says. “The house has recycled timber from the original Stratford Hospital, which was milled and is now a Douglas fir hardwood floor. The upstairs living room has an A-frame ceiling similar to a California mountain house lined with recycled timber. I call it a house with ‘character’.”

Deciding upon a theme for the garden left Jane in a quandary initially as she had no experience of gardening in New Zealand. Undeterred she decided to look for ideas by buying herself a ticket to the Heroic Garden Festival in Auckland. “I really liked the subtropical garden of Kevin Kilsby and Brent Scott so I set about buying plants along the lush tropical theme,” she says.

“Since starting on the subtropical theme I have been influenced by the many gardens I’ve photographed. I’ve brought many plants and cuttings home from photoshoots and traded photographs for plants. So the garden now has a range of interesting plants given to me by other gardeners.”

White wisteria is trained to grow up the deck posts while beneath the tall palms the Poor Knights lily makes a vibrant display during summer.

Fortunately Jane’s garden, like so many in Taranaki, is blessed with rich volcanic soil, particularly on the slope below the house where she and Rick have planted a variety of fruit trees including lemon, lime, pear, grapefruit, apple, feijoa, tamarillo and tangelo. There’s also a vegetable garden tended by Rick. Further down the slope the native trees Jane planted merge into a wetlands, then to a line of pine trees on the neighbouring farm. Jane and Rick love to enjoy this “borrowed landscape” view from the house.

As well as extensive planting Jane carried out major earthworks to extend the flat area of the section, bringing in 10 truckloads of fill. “It was one of the best things I did to the section,” says Jane. “By adding space it really enhanced the house and garden.”

Potted succulents such as these flowering kalanchoe and echeveria reinforce the subtropical theme.

Her favourite season in the garden is spring: “When all the plants you had forgotten about pop up through the ground and flower profusely. I also love to pick fruit and vegetables from the garden as there is nothing like homegrown produce.

“My gardening is a little sporadic, but when the garden is weeded and looking great it is very rewarding. Gardening is good for the soul as you are in touch with the earth. After an hour or so in the garden the world seems a better place.”

Rick is the kitchen gardener, planting a variety of vegetables including cabbages, silverbeet, chillies, kale, lettuce, artichoke, beans, tomatoes, rhubarb and many herbs.

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