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Garden Interview #6
Emma Sage Sage Journal
One of the beautiful things that I have watch unfold over the years is the supportive growing community in New Zealand. It covers all aspects of gardening life from flower growing, to seed selling and sharing of design ideas. Via her wonderfully curated Sage Journal , Emma Sage, has been someone I look to frequently for inspiration and knowledge and when she launched her garden subscription service over the winter I knew it would be marvelous and it was. Each newsletter she sends is a feast for the eyes and I am delighted to share this interview with you. Emma has also very kindly offered a discount for those who sign up to her current spring volume. Enjoy.
Tell us about your garden?
A work in progress - always!
We moved into our home in Hawke’s Bay nearly 6 years ago. The garden was like a jungle, having been a rental property for 12 years prior to us purchasing it. I was so excited to get stuck in, but knowing where to start was a little daunting!
Everything we touched seemed to be overgrown, smothered, half dead or just in the wrong place completely. There were lots of natives like pittosporums, coprosmas, pseudopanax and hebes, all crammed into small spaces - with random pairings of overgrown roses, aloe vera, lavender and alstroemeria. An odd bunch.
Once we got started, we realised that most of it just needed to come out entirely. Exciting, but so daunting! Now, a few years on, we are finally starting to see some of our hard work pay off. Hedging plants now resemble hedges, trees have got some height and density, ground covers are doing their job, and climbers have reached the roof. There’s so much more to do and develop, but it’s so lovely to be at a stage of tinkering and tending to the garden, rather than perpetually being in a state of full renovation and replanting (with 3 young kids in tow!)
Do you have a garden style?
We’ve been lucky enough to renovate two homes - one in Christchurch and recently our current home in Havelock North. With our renovations we have always let the style and age of our home influence our design choices. And likewise, it’s the same with our garden. Our garden in Christchurch was quite formally structured to work in with our 1930s bungalow home, with a large space for vegetable potagers and fruit trees.
But our current home is a 1980s architecturally designed home, that backs onto a hillside olive plantation and is surrounded by pockets of native reserves around the neighbourhood. There’s a pool, guest house and sundrenched courtyard out one side, and a more relaxed deck and garden space out the other.
To bring all of this together, we’ve chosen to steer away from straight lines and perfection, and have embraced an eclectic mix of plants, texture, and curves. A combination of natives and ornamentals, structured shrubs, as well as ethereal plants and flowers for movement and interest.
I’m not sure I could sum up a garden ‘style’ as such, it’s more of an experiment of playing with putting together intriguing plants in interesting ways.
Did you start your garden with a set vision as to what it would look like?
I wanted to bring together the lushness of the existing and surrounding natives, with some of my favourite exotic plants and trees. I wanted to steer clear of it being too formal - I knew with the 1980w style of house it needed to be modernised with movement and dense greenery, to avoid it looking too ‘nana-ish’.
Tell us a bit about Sage Journal and your new seasonal garden subscription series
I’ve watched my mum and grandmother create and tend to magnificent gardens all my life, but it wasn’t until my husband and I bought our first home - a real doer-upper - that a real love of gardening and landscape design captured my heart.
After catching the gardening bug, the idea of working in the botanical world began to tug at my thoughts. I dreamt of running an online space of curated inspirational and helpful articles that were relevant and aspirational for the New Zealand gardener.
While my first two children were very young I built and launched Sage Journal - an online magazine for the garden-curious. For me, it is a space where I can bring together my passion for green spaces, and my experience from my pre-kid career (marketing and brand management, editorial writing, and a decade of dabbling in lifestyle blogging).
I’ve recently launched a seasonal gardening series - a weekly email series on what to do, sow and plant in the garden each season. Timely garden task reminders, along with other gardeners sharing their expertise, seasonal recipes, discounts and giveaways. I’ve been blown away by the response, and am loving being able to create something both beautiful and practical.
The next series is the Spring Gardening Series - registrations are open now!
How do you manage to keep your business out of your time in the garden or is it a happy blend of your business inspiring your garden and vice versa.
I do find competing life priorities keep me out of the garden all too often. But when I can make time to get out there, I do a lot of my ‘thinking’ while my hands are in the dirt. It’s a great place to let creative thoughts bubble to the surface.
What is your favourite time of the gardening year?
Perhaps controversially, I quite like gardening during the summer. I know it’s not a great time for many things - but I kinda like living life on the edge and pushing the boundaries a little with planting new plants, transplanting and tinkering during the hottest months. Especially here in Hawke’s Bay, in the dry hot summer months. Getting outside first thing in the morning, before the sun is too high and hot, and working hard until you’re too parched - then it’s time for a swim and a drink on the deck with friends. The perfect day, really.
What is your favourite gardening read?
I love Kath Irvine’s The Edible Backyard for practical gardening advice. And your writing, accompanied by your gorgeous photos is beautiful!
What is the best gardening tool that you have?
I love my ARS snips from Garden Objects. Love the range of colours and they’re always really sharp! (Hence the name - ARS = Always Really Sharp.)
What is your favourite go to plant which you would love to see more people growing?
Not so much a single plant, but I’d love to see more people combine edibles and ornamental plants in our gardens. Edibles can add some much interest and texture to a garden, and the bees love it!
What is the best gardening advice that someone has given you?
“If in doubt, rip it out.” It’s only got me in trouble a few times, and is certainly something we adhered to in our latest garden development.
Name a garden that you would like to visit and why?
My cousin recently sent me photos of her visit to The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts - wow!
Name a gardener that inspires you?
There are so many clever gardeners out there! I’ve loved following Xanthe White and her garden, and garden designs. I love the boundaries she pushes with planting combos and the merging of a gardener’s goals.
What are your garden goals for the coming garden year?
After having my third child last year, gardening has been a tad down the priority list for what feels like a couple of years. I’d love to just be able to enjoy a non-rainy summer this year and have time and space to potter, prune, add, and edit our existing garden.
Name a dream plant that you love that you would love to have in your garden?
I could list so may! Off the top of my head - a gingko tree, a 'Mutabalis’ rose, and large productive avocado trees (we currently have a couple growing and just one baby avo!).
You can sign up for Spring Gardening Series here and don’t forget to use the discount code. Sage Journal’s Instagram is also a brilliant and has some gorgeous photos of Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum.