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Walking on the (re)wild side

As spring gives way to summer, green-fingered folk itch to get out there and start marshalling their gardens into a manicured precision. But wait! A new gardening trend, rewilding, is encouraging gardeners to let nature take its course on kept landscapes.



Technically a form of large-scale conservation dedicated to returning land to a degree of natural habitats, rewilding is taking on new meaning in home gardens.

Now, trendsetters are allowing plants to lose manicured neatness in favour of a more relaxed aesthetic.

Touted as the newest gardening trend by The Guardian, Living Etc, and The Telegraph, rewilding on a domestic scale is about embracing principals of stepping back and allowing natural processes to occur.


Swap chemicals for organic methods – swap fertilisers for an organic seaweed feed.

Choose flowering plants that are ace pollinators – open shapes rather than densely petalled blooms.

If wilding grassy areas, choose plants that cope with competition – such as wild roses, meadow geraniums and poppies.

Plant native hedging rather than fencing to provide bird shelter – flower and berry hedges are even better.

Feed your soil – healthy soil creates a biodiverse garden from the ground up. Top borders and bare earth with a mulch of organic matter to increase soil health.


A love letter to mother nature

Mahsa Willis’ eponymous label, Mahsa, shirks convention by releasing new collections, termed moods, every few years. Metropol catches up with the in-demand New Zealand designer about her latest mood, Enduring Nature.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Derek Henderson STYLIST: Karla Clarke LOCATION: Treetops House, Palm Beach by architect Peter Muller


You don’t follow the usual, albeit changing, pattern of seasonal collections. Please tell us why you take a different approach, and about that approach?
I found fashion was too fast and too surface and wanted to wear clothes that made me feel timeless and confident. I was tired of buying very expensive season-based clothing, it seemed quite meaningless to me and hard to justify financially. I also wanted to allow time for the design process and I think the work needs longer than six months to live and be understood. Each mood encourages a slow approach to purchasing, made up of timeless designs that women can feel calm about purchasing and with longevity in mind. Slowing down the cycle feels good and addressing our carbon footprint and building a sustainable business are also reasons for the slow approach. Fast fashion doesn’t give women time to feel beautiful.

Your moods feature timeless and trans-seasonal pieces – blouses, oversized blazers and coats, and romantic dresses. What is it about these items which attract your attention, and what do these bring to a wearer’s wardrobe?
Dressing is a part of everyday expression, I hope the clothes we make provide a sense of freedom and optimism in the chaos of modern life with enduring pieces that balance utility and romance, masculinity and femininity, reality and mystery.

Your most recent mood, Enduring Nature, is about the resilience and beauty of nature through change and catastrophe (a relatable theme for 2020). What inspired this mood, and how have you encapsulated this through your work?
I had just finalised four years of letting go of a past relationship, and managed to forge ahead and rebuild – maintaining my home, looking after my business, myself and my children. I had an overwhelming sense that I might bloom in 2020…but it wasn’t as simple as that! Enduring Nature is about encouraging people to contemplate nature’s lessons, and especially, nature’s ability to endure. Just like seeing tiny wildflowers emerging from the cracks in the pavement – we are reminded that beauty is found in the hardest places. There are seasons of retreat and seasons of growth, we need to acknowledge the same in our own lives, it’s okay to press pause, and it’s also important to be resilient. The collection has a feeling of nostalgia with vintage themes, not specific trends.

The beautiful photo shoot for Enduring Nature (featured on our cover) was taken in Australia, during lockdown. How did this come about – and how was it orchestrated?
Because we were locked down in New Zealand, I had to trust my friend, Derek Henderson who I have previously worked with, to realise my vision from afar. We found this beautiful modernist house in Palm Beach called Treetops, by architect Peter Muller which was the perfect canvas, it had the right materials that felt raw – stone, wood and lots of tumbling nature surrounding it. We enlisted the help of the talented Karla Clarke, whom Derek had worked with in the past. We worked together but from afar and they both translated the philosophy of Enduring Nature beautifully.

You’ve spoken about how books, films and music keep you inspired. What have you been listening to, reading and watching lately?
I’ve been reading Conversations with RBG by Jeffrey Rosen and I’m halfway through Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. I read an excellent interview about John Lewis in Time magazine. Film, people ask me what I’ve seen and my mind always goes blank. I see so much. Unorthodox on Netflix was brilliant. Music, I’ve been listening to Palace – The Hoxa Sessions 2020 and an assortment of jazz and classical music.


Growing a passion

It’s obvious he is a consummate plantsman down to the very tips of his fingers. Managing Director of Kiwiflora Nurseries, near Templeton, Nalin Gooneratne grew up in Sri Lanka on his grandparents’ tea, coffee and pepper plantation. That heritage and link to the earth and the environment led Nalin to his career in commercial horticulture in New Zealand.



“After gaining my Diploma in Horticulture from Lincoln I did an internship with the University of Minnesota – rather different conditions from New Zealand there,” he says.

“But next I spent a number of years working for a large Canterbury nursery developing my knowledge about the Canterbury climate, which can be quite challenging for tree selection.”

Those years of learning honed Nalin’s depth of knowledge and when the opportunity came to purchase Kiwiflora Nurseries, he was ready to move out on his own.

“This nursery has been something of a hidden gem, tucked away off State Highway 1. My vision is to grow it as a strong player in the industry with an emphasis on the quality of our service, advice and product. I want to impart to my customers my passion for planting trees and shrubs that will perform 365 days a year – not just plants that are the fashionable flavour of the month.”

Nalin says there are many forgotten plants, both native and exotic, that are suitable for growing in Canterbury and he is on a mission to reinvigorate interest in them.

Kiwiflora Nurseries are located at 851 Waterholes Rd, Templeton. Phone 03 349 4582.



Naturally Fun: TimberNook’s back to nature approach to childhood development

TimberNook has just celebrated its first anniversary of facilitating experiences for children in a range of natural settings around Christchurch.


The focus of TimberNook is nature-based play, weaving the therapeutic aspects of nature with an understanding of child development, creating play opportunities that challenge the mind, body, and the senses.
With programmes for preschool and primary aged children, it is designed to empower rather than just entertain. Children are inspired to think and play in new and creative ways. Group and independent play can include themed programmes such as Knights and Dragons, with fort and castle building; Barefoot and Buckets, building rafts to test on the river; or Storybook, where stories are used as inspiration for play in the forest.
“We always have interesting loose parts, building materials, digging equipment, pots and pans for a mud kitchen, string and wool. Tree climbing, rope play, carpentry, learning to whittle and more occurs in a safe environment with great supervision to master these more ‘risky activities’,” Kim says.
The benefits of such nature-based play are many, such as improved gross and fine motor skills, increased auditory processing, better visual and social skills and emotional growth.
With birthday parties, school holiday experiences and regular weekly sessions, Kim and her TimberNook team are kept busy. TimberNook can also host early child and school groups for excursions.
Contact Kim on 027 934 0409 and look for TimberNook Christchurch NZ on Facebook for more information.