From BBQ entertaining patios to gardens blooming with flowers and vegetables, these New Zealand gardens will inspire your own outdoor makeover
When owners Brett and Sarah Dobson first spied a five-bedroom house in a quiet cul-de-sac in St Heliers they were undaunted, despite the amount of work that needed to be done. Brett is an architectural designer, and the full section was perfect for a family.
After painting the interior of the house the pair turned their attention to the garden. A Google search led them to Kirsten Sach Landscape Design, her work impressing them with its wide range. Brett and Sarah had a clear picture of the kind of garden they were after.
“A spa pool was important, but we didn’t want it to dominate the space, which they sometimes do, given how large they are” says Brett. “We wanted a space for the kids to play but not one that encroached on the entertaining space. A pizza oven was a must as it creates engagement – people interact together, cook together and have fun together. So, all in all, quite a difficult brief to achieve.”
The backyard has more than doubled their living space and provided them with the perfect entertaining area. “It makes life fun, and for that we feel very lucky.”
Walter and Paulette Scott the owners of this Christchurch property were after a landscape design that reflected the French-villa style of their house and easy-care with outdoor living options. Along came Craig Wilson of Form Garden Architecture who was recommended to them by their builders. Craig was very quick to visualise what would work and drew up an initial plan with the ideas they had agreed on.
Walter and Paulette wanted a structured garden without it being rigidly formal, says Craig. A key element in his design was disguising the boundaries of the irregularly shaped section while also maximising afternoon sun and providing shelter from the prevailing easterly wind.
“Responding to the house layout, we built an outdoor entertaining deck at finished-floor height to seamlessly integrate with the indoor living spaces. The deck wraps around the northern and eastern sides of the house to create a large, sun-drenched area.”
Wide steps connecting the deck to the lawn can be used as informal seating areas for larger gatherings, as can the plastered concrete block planters at the eastern end of the deck. A raised vegetable garden is screened from the easterly wind by a slatted timber fence in a utility area off the kitchen. Although this garden is quite small, it’s still handy.
It took a few years before Siew Ng could realise her dream of a home with a garden but now Siew and her husband, Chee Hong, have their idea of paradise. On a sloping site in the West Auckland suburb of Henderson, a Japanese Zen-style garden is filled with the maple trees Siew adores, as well as a set of meandering steps up the incline, ponds, a rockery, seats to take in views of the Waitakere Ranges and even a flat lawn for the couple’s cute little West Highland terrier, Sky, to play on.
The 650-square-metre property on a steep slope had virtually no garden when the couple bought it. “There were no plants at all and no access to the back. We had to climb up the steep slope without any steps,” Siew remembers. After carefully considering what she wanted to do with the garden, Siew had her light-bulb moment. “I decided I wanted a Zen garden,” she says. “I love Japanese maple trees and really wanted to incorporate them into the garden so a Japanese-style landscape design seemed like a great idea.”
“We enjoy working in the garden – even weeding can feel very therapeutic. Every time our friends come around they say so many good things about the garden. They say they don’t have to visit Hamilton Gardens now, they can just come here,” she laughs.
After facing a few extremely challenging years, Isaac Weston and Lara Bui decided they needed a fresh start and purchased a house in Matua, Bay of Plenty. They soon found healing in creating a bountiful urban garden. Although the property needed updating, its beautiful estuary views, abundant bird life and potential for landscaping really captured their imaginations.
Fast-forward to 2016 when the couple’s backyard was accepted as a Trail Garden for the Bay of Plenty Garden & Art Festival, having been transformed into something truly unique.
The design of Isaac and Lara’s urban garden has multiple areas, such as the pizza oven area, al fresco dining space, outdoor showroom, food forest and vege gardens, all cleverly defined by Isaac’s artworks, mature trees and beautiful urban planting.
The brief for the outdoor area of this Waimate North summer home was to build on the highest point of a rural property where views are at their best. The result was ‘The Altana’ by architect Tom Locke. The clients were Tom’s very own parents. This is the latest addition to the property that Caroline and John Locke bought 20 years ago and have been developing ever since, with outdoor rooms, a boat shed and guest accommodation unfolding as time permits, and often under consultation with their son.
An altana is a small wooden rooftop deck; a place for ladies to enjoy a drink and bleach their hair in the sun, says Caroline. “We thought it was an apt name for our structure, even though it’s not literally on top of the house.” The rural altana sits at the land’s highest point, on top of the concrete-slab remains of a milking shed, a relic from the property’s dairying days.
“From here we get a good view of our maunga, Te Ahu Ahu, the scoria cone beside Lake Omapere in the Kaikohe-Bay of Islands volcanic field,” says Caroline, of the little site that’s a minute’s stroll from her home. “We had begun to sit there with an evening drink and enjoy sunsets when we told Tom we were thinking of building a summer house on the slab,” she says.
If you’re looking to spruce up your outdoor area this summer, here are some suggestions for giving your garden an update whether you want to spend big or small.
Photography by: Kate Claridge, Helen Bankers, Jay Drew, Sam Hartnett/bauersyndication.com.au