6 garden experts share the latest trends to try at home

Plants may not grow as quickly as we’d like, but the world of garden products and technology is blooming. We ask the landscape designers who use these items every day for their latest updates and tips


Outdoor lighting 

Restraint is key these days, says Auckland-based designer Kirsten McCarthy of Kirsten Sach Landscape Design. “There’s a fine line between too few lights and lighting up your garden like a Christmas tree,” she says. “More and more people are realising that an entertainment area, when lit at night, not only creates ambience and wow factor but has a function too. My clients often ask for a lighting plan.”

“LED lighting is all the rage,” adds Chris Paul of New Plymouth’s Plan-it Earth Landscape Design. He likes to put strip lighting under steps but warns against using too much. “It can be distracting. And when you are out by your fire pit it’s nice to see the stars.”

Jenny Pullar of Landscape Lighting & Garden Design says her clients are more likely to want LED lighting than halogen. “Although more expensive, there are many advantages with LED: lights are cool to touch, the light source has a significantly longer life, less power is used and there are no voltage-drop issues, meaning fewer heavy cables. Choosing a quality product is even more important with LEDs as they are more sensitive to moisture levels. I always recommend Hunza solid copper or stainless-steel lights as the fittings have a very long life (10-year warranty), look good and focus easily. The LED chips can be easily changed if they were to fail, unlike many ranges where the whole fitting has to be replaced.”


Robin Campbell of Moth Light also finds LED lighting is the go-to choice for clients, with linear products such as the New Zealand-made Offspring Profiles range being one of his favourites. “These are great when used as a concealed light source, for example under a bench seat or grazing light down a stone wall. Flat Freddie 14 is a product we use regularly in outdoor environments from city bus shelters to residential facade washing.”

Robin advises garden owners to pay attention to the materials exterior lighting is made of, particularly for coastal properties. “Exterior environments are harsh and cheap light fixtures can often end up costing more long-term than better quality products. Copper and black fixtures are popular at the moment, partly due to the large amount of cedar cladding we’re seeing lately.”


Decking and terraces 

key considerations for designers at Plantation Design, says Michael Mansvelt. “Decks too close to natural ground level tend to go green much faster than elevated decks,” he says. Where suitable, a paved terrace can be a better option. “Concrete and tiled patios warm up in the sun and generate passive heat. Often a stone patio can cost less than a timber deck.”

Kirsten McCarthy says her clients often prefer decking because it allows for a seamless indoor-outdoor flow at floor level. “You can float out over slopes and connect spaces with boardwalks,” she says. “Decking has a warmth to it that is nice underfoot and appeals to lots of families. There is a lean towards composite decking, which is essentially plastic. It’s low-maintenance and quick to construct. Hardwood decking timbers that are sustainably sourced are also popular.”

Chris Paul finds composite decking popular with his clients too. “There are many brands, such as Ekologix at Bunnings.” Sandra Batley of Flourish often specifies Shadow Deck, a nail-free decking solution. “It has a nice, clean look that’s perfect for decks and boardwalks.”


Outdoor kitchens 

Integrated outdoor kitchens are the preferred option for Michael Mansvelt of Plantation Design in Taranaki. “I’m a big fan of building an outdoor kitchen to house the barbecue and everything else. Standalone barbecue units can look somewhat like an afterthought sitting to the side of a well-designed courtyard. So I say build it into the design in the first place.”

Chris Paul says his high-end clients definitely want kitchens in their garden rooms. He favours stainless-steel components for the outdoor kitchens he designs.


Heating, outdoor fireplaces and fire pits 

Fire pits are increasingly popular, says Chris Paul. “There are lots to choose from these days at all levels, from Mitre 10 to bespoke.” Kirsten McCarthy recommends siting fire pits on a paved or concrete area. “Fire pits can be built-in or freestanding depending on the layout. They’re very popular for families with teens and young adults.”

Down in Nelson, Shea Gillison from Canopy Landscape Architects regularly specifies outdoor fireplaces in her designs. “We prefer modern statement pieces that are not only functional but become a sculptural piece that forms the focal point to an entertainment setting. A few of our favourites are the Huntington concrete LPG fire table, the Escea EF5000 outdoor gas fireplace, the Burton wood fire from Trendz and the Angelina wood fire pit.”


Vertical planting 

Wendy Twine of Twine Landscape Design uses a variety of vertical planting techniques, including espaliering, pollarding and pleaching trees and shrubs, training climbers and installing vertical planting pockets. “Many clients want the feeling of being transported to a tropical paradise,” she says. “When entertainment areas are small with high surrounding walls and fences, vertical planting has become increasingly important, both for aesthetic and health reasons.”

Michael Mansvelt also loves working with vertical elements. “Hanging planters go a long way towards dressing up verandas and balconies. I find orchids and Boston ferns work really well for sheltered shade.”


Screens for rain and wind protection 

Tim Goom of Goom Landscapes in Christchurch uses vertical shutter structures to protect outdoor living areas from the wind. “No matter how nice you make an outdoor living space, people will not go outside and enjoy it if it is not sheltered from the wind. This is a great sculptural option that looks better than just whacking up a fence. Some of the vertical shutters we have been designing can also be moved to accommodate changes in wind direction, or opened up when there is no wind.”

Wendy Twine says that retractable, translucent blinds are becoming increasingly popular for shelter and privacy while still allowing a view. “The new glass Sunflex Slide & Turn doors and sliding all-glass windows by Louvretec are the ultimate in new and high-end innovation.”

Words by: Carol Bucknell.

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