Auckland Garden Designfest 2015

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Come and be inspired by some of the country’s best garden designers at this year’s Auckland Garden DesignFest. This special two-day festival on November 14 and 15 will feature up to 20 private gardens across Auckland that are not normally open to the public.

 

 

Auckland Garden DesignFest garden by designer Robin Shafer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organised by the Garden Design Society of New Zealand and the Rotary Club of Newmarket, the DesignFest gives visitors the opportunity to chat to designers in the gardens they have created. The event will raise funds for Ronald McDonald House, Garden to Table and the Rotary Club of Newmarket Charitable Trust. Daily bus tours to a selection of gardens will leave each day from Auckland’s historic home, Highwic in Newmarket.

Tickets for the Auckland Garden DesignFest go on sale at iTICKET on 01 August 2015, plus various garden retailers (see website for details) and onsite at the garden gate. Visitors can choose from a $65 all garden ticket or single garden access for $10 each.

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‘Shrubland’ Gardens

Replace the woodchip and bark below your shrubs with a living layer of plants.

nick robinson landscape architect
My last piece was about allowing grasslands – mainly lawns, to grow more naturally and to include flowers both for our enjoyment and for the benefit of those crucial insects, the pollinators. Here I will look in a bit more detail at the idea of the meadow as a garden and landscape element and how it can be combined with shrubs to create wonderfully diverse and ecologically intense ‘shrubland ‘gardens, replacing the ubiquitous woodchip and bark below your shrubs with a living layer of plants.
The ornamental meadow originally developed as a design concept, and has since gained huge popularity, in Europe and in North America. Its inspiration was the partly managed and partly natural grasslands of these regions – the prairie of North America, and the steppe of east Europe and central Asia as well as the traditionally managed hay meadows and grazing pasture of Europe. In fact the North American ‘prairie garden’ has a long history dating back many decades to the Landscape Architect Jens Jensen whose ‘prairie style’ of the early to mid twentieth century celebrated the space and native plants of the American Mid-West. Jensen worked with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright (whose Prairie Style architecture was one of the architectural landmarks of the twentieth century). So its history is long and renowned. Jensen’s prairie design included groups of trees and shrubs scattered in the flowered grassland. The prairie was also the inspiration for design with perennials by landscape architects Oehme and Van Sweden in recent years in North America. Prairie has a similar design meaning to Meadow in Europe and many of the forbs (broadleaved flowers), such as Echinacea, typical of these North American grasslands have also proven to be very successful in creating assemblages of late summer perennials in Europe.

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Photo 1 Prairie planting on the New York High Line park, creating an impression of the natural grassland community that inspired it (Design: Piet Oudolf. Photo Fred Long).

In tropical, sub-tropical and even warm temperate regions Such as New Zealand there is a greater emphasis on tree and shrub based plant communities because these are the typical local vegetation or because they have the value of providing protection from the sun. Also, in these warmer climates the use of gardens is less seasonal and so there is a need for ornamental planting to provide colour and other interest throughout the year. The concentrated summer display season of temperate perennials combined with their long dormant period would leave large areas of the landscape looking rather neglected. However, a combination of shrubs with evergreen perennials such as Clivia, Hymenocallis, Strelitzia, Agapanthus and Anigozanthos, plus seasonal bulbs and emergents would provide an extended season of interest and consistent cover. The shrubs chosen for this important part need to be exceptionally strong on aesthetic interest with, I believe, at least two, preferably three points of major interest – flower, fruit, autumn colour, fragrance, ornamental bark, exceptional foliage interest, unusually elegant form etc. Examples include Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, Hamamelis mollis, Hydrangea quercifolia, and perhaps Sophora ‘Dragon’s Gold’.
This is in fact the idea behind the traditional ‘mixed border’. It is a combination of shrubs with herbaceous perennials which became increasingly popular in the early twentieth century when gardeners began to include shrubs with herbaceous planting partly to help reduce the labour of maintenance and also to extent the period of interest. Many shrub species flower earlier than the main perennial season as well as, later in the year, adding autumn fruit and foliage colours to the late perennials flower.

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Photos 2 and 3 This planting at Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, California combines shrubs, trees and herbaceous all in a naturalistic way producing a ‘shrubland garden’ modelled on the chaparral communities typical of the region and featuring Californian plants such as Fremontodendron, Ceanothus, Clarkia and Penstemon.

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‘Shrubland’ gardens would be very effective in areas currently devoted to shrubs with bark or woodchip mulch ground cover, or shrubs and trees in grass. In these kind of situations, there is a great opportunity to create small to medium scale naturalistic plantings that combine the best shrub and small tree species with grassland and herbaceous vegetation. In effect this would amount to adding shrubs to the popular meadow and prairie gardens and including herbaceous species that have a wider range of shade tolerance than the sun-demanding forbs of open prairie and meadow. There are, in fact, many good semi-shade tolerant grasses such as Deschampsia cespitosa and Anemanthele lessoniana and the sedges, especially Carex species such as C. dipsacea and C. dissita, are also excellent plants with which to create a meadow-like matrix in shadier conditions.

This kind of planting would add spatial and structural diversity to perennial planting, increasing the aesthetic value especially in the dormant season when shrubs offer branch form, bark and flower interest. The shrub component also gives a good wildlife habitat. Some examples of this kind of designed ‘shrubland’ exist, such at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens in California, modelled on local wild vegetation but enriched with a wider range of the most attractive species.

The potential of ‘shrubland’ gardens lies not only in regions characterized such natural vegetation, like Mediterranean climates and mountain areas, but also in forest regions where the ‘shrubland’ forms a seral stage of forest succession as a model for designed assemblages. These can be managed to stop further change to forest. The key to their success is to maintain the shrub canopy open enough to allow attractive herbaceous layers to thrive below. This will normally mean planting shrubs at distances from about two to five metres apart, though occasional tighter clusters are effective in creating structural diversity. The aim is to create a range of field layer conditions from moderately shady below the denser shrub species to fully open in the wider gaps as this will allow us to plant a wider diversity of herbaceous plants. ‘Shrublands’ with rich understorey really do suit the human scale of gardens in residential and parks and I find it surprising we still only think in terms of one type of plant in any garden area. Build up the layers to get more value from the space you have!

Nick has twenty years’ plus experience of landscape architecture professional practice in New Zealand and Britain. Before setting up his own practice he worked on significant landscape projects across the North of England as a Landscape Architect for Arnold Weddle, for Rotherham Metropolitan Council, and as Design Principal for ECUS, the Environmental Consultancy of the University of Sheffield. This work included a number of award winning landscapes of industry, new roads, campuses, urban regeneration and parks. Nick has worked for over 10 years in New Zealand, gaining broad experience of landscape design in the varied natural and cultural landscapes of the South Pacific.

In addition to professional practice, Nick has taught landscape architecture at universities in the UK (Sheffield and Gloucestershire), USA (Cal Poly) and New Zealand (Lincoln and UNITEC) and has a range of publications to his credit including the Planting Design Handbook (now in its revised second edition) and journal articles. He has recently completed a sabbatical period working and studying at the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield, UK, with a focus on current thinking on ecological approaches to urban design and innovations in planting design for biodiversity, and working with international experts on urban ecology, green roofs and green walls.

Contact Nick 

A Challenging Waikato Design Project – Nicky Samuel

Based in the Waikato I regularly carry out design projects in challenging places beyond the main Waikato basin. In 2011, I met with a young couple in the Taumarunui region, who had built a new residence on their farm and requested that I provide them with a Landscape Plan.  They wanted a “blueprint” to develop their site.

Being a landscape designer means it’s up to me to determine how to blend the crucial elements of a successful design with the demands of a site. In this case the pluses were stunning views across the landscape of steep farmland, a flat site surrounding the residence and desire of the clients to create a garden that they could work in and develop over time. The minuses were the underlying pumice soil, an exposed site (this often happens with new homes built in the country) and the harsh climate with snow at times during the winter.

Gorgeous Gardens & Design

 

Nicky Samuel, Gorgeous Garden based in Waikato

Planting Plan

Considerable time was spent building a plant list appropriate for the soil and climate, whilst still fitting the “Naturalistic country garden theme’ as well as the clients preferences (provided they could cope with the site).

Special Requests

They were planning on starting a family and also growing their own vegetables which meant that provisions were required in the plan for a sandpit, planter boxes for vegetables, as well as a large lawn and gardens. These all needed to be strategically placed to avoid interrupting the borrowed views of the landscape.

Design response

I chose to provide them with some distinct areas within the garden, so that as it grew, spaces within the garden could be appreciated, such as an enclosed garden that would be sheltered from the wind, and provide space for entertaining, as well as the play area (with the essential sandpit), located within view of the kitchen.

Raised vegetable planters were located close to the clothes line providing easy access for regular harvesting of vegetables. My clients were delighted with the plan and set about marking out and preparing the garden beds ready for planting. This involved adding sheep manure (from the woolshed) and organic matter to the areas in readiness for planting

Ongoing services and involvement with the client

As part of my service to clients, I am able to source plants and deliver them to the site also assisting with placing and planting if required. Over the previous three years, it’s been wonderful to be able to supply plants as required for my Taumarunui clients as time and budget has allowed. I would receive a plant list via email, obtain quotes and when I’d collected plants form the nurseries I’d meet them halfway and hand over the plants.

Earlier this year I revisited the site and was amazed at the changes since I’d last seen the site with my clients clearly enjoying creating their own special garden.

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A ‘Rooftop’ garden in Wellington

Jamie Reid talks about designing rood top gardens and terraces in WellintonJamie Reid

Roof gardens tend to have a good view, not always, and it’s generally something to do with being on top of a building.  Unfortunately with that comes one or two other considerations, especially if you’re in Wellington, like the wind and privacy, or lack of.  So designing a roof garden for a smart set of apartments overlooking Oriental Parade and the harbour offered all sorts of excitements and one or two original problems that needed addressing.

Of prime concern was creating a space that would allow for comfortable and aesthetically pleasing outdoor living.  Not so easy amongst all the existing roof clutter eg: skylights, air conditioning systems/vents, lift mechanisms etc, as most roofs tend to be rather utilitarian environments, designed not for living on but for living under.  The resultant spaces are therefore haphazardly filled with necessary but generally unsightly structures rather than areas that have been thought about with relaxation, entertaining or leisure in mind.

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Drainage, dry and wet weight loading limits to the existing structure of the building, protection from wind for both people, plants and soil, cover from view from buildings behind/above, getting unwanted materials out of the building and new materials up to the roof, protection of the existing roof membranes to ensure continued water-proofing soundness during the build, compliance with WCC regulations re building height/interruption of site planes etc –just some of the issues that needed addressing.  Less troublesome but just as important was finding good-looking furniture sufficiently durable and strong to be able to remain out in all weathers without posing a danger to other buildings or people – other people’s furniture has been known to fly from one building to another during a good Wellington blow.

The Client’s brief was fairly relaxed specifying little other than the need for privacy from certain buildings overlooking the roof and to develop a low-maintenance garden that would offer an alternative sufficiently enticing to draw them upstairs away from their existing, very comfortable patio outside the living room.  Two design options were offered before a formal, symmetrically balanced garden fitted between the existing structures and tying the various disparate areas of the roof together was agreed upon.  The garden was to use the Clients four extg Pohutakawa trees in large pots as strong anchor points of the design.

The aim was to create an elegant, formal garden space whose boundary hedges of hardy, natives were to screen the perimeters of the building thus giving the impression of a predominantly green, vegetative space amid the hard, man-made constructions all around.  The garden was set out on the axis of the steps leading onto the roof with planting, pots, trees, lighting and even the re-aligned paving all positioned to create a balanced, symmetrical, ‘perspective-garden’ leading the eye towards a sculpture at the far end. The main garden boundaries are positioned within the confines of and hiding the existing roof structures such as skylights, air-vents etc and all the existing stainless steel roof lighting has been re-used with spots re-positioned to up-light the four Pohutakawas and the proposed sculpture.

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A ‘dark and light’ colour scheme was designed around the dark bronze metalwork screens/railings protecting all vents and skylights, and the existing pots and pale paving slabs mirroring the fantastic bright, clean light of the city and its reflection off the water.  Light pots and shell mulch contrast with dark planting and a beautiful rich dark blue background for all the constructed levels of the garden.  Part of the planned attraction of the proposed garden was the use of artificial turf for establishing an ‘emerald jewel’ in a situation that would never normally support a healthy lawn.

 

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The planting is very site-specific, with the roof suffering from a healthy number of high-wind, salt-laden spray days, roof loading limitations and generally shallow planting areas.  Corokia hedging around the perimeters in the deepest planters protect other elements of the garden.  Poa cita planted in swathes against the dark blue background of the corokia planters reflect the movement of the wind.  Pimelia prostrata provides a sea of underplanting around the dark phormium in their light pots and black mondo grass continues the light and dark theme set in its mulch of white shells/pebbles.

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The whole creates a micro-climate within which people can sit and read, enjoy a meal, chat or just share a drink whilst soaking-up the fantastic harbour views.  Black Dedon furniture chosen primarily for its comfort and looks, is also strong and heavy enough not to fly away in Wellington’s breezy conditions and ties in beautifully with the colour scheme.

 

“I do have to tell you how thrilled we are with the garden. Every time I go up the steps I think WOW.  It is so beautiful up there, and when I think of what we had before (!), and that you could visualise how to make it so attractive, I am so pleased – thankyou.”

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3. Complex layering in established coastal forest

Ecological design models for New Zealand urban areas

This is the third article of a series of short pieces for landscapedesign.co.nz in which I  look at current trends and ideas in garden design.

temp nick

I think there is a  need to move ‘native’ design in NZ beyond the twin poles of revegetation. On the one hand and garden design with natives on the other to make it truly ecologically inspired. I have been thinking about how to do this and, during my ‘sabbatical’ at University of Sheffield, I saw just how effective it can be to model creative ecological design on wild (ie spontaneous) communities. This means looking at and recording the make-up of wild plant communities that thrive and provide an attractive character and that we would want to imitate in an urban area. This can be restricted to just natives but not essentially. It is quite possible to fulfill some of the ecological roles with well chosen exotics.

To do ecological design in urban areas we need to look for vegetation communities that are adapted to similar climate, (testing) microclimate and (often difficult) ground conditions to those found in the urban design site. What makes it more interesting and, in fact, more achievable is when those conditions are extreme – drylands, wetlands, nutrient poor lands, eg gumlands etc.

1. Gumland ferns and sedges and shrubs

Gumland ferns and sedges and shrubs – this characteristic vegetation could be the basis of a design assembly for very poor soils.

We are now quite familiar with the wetland communities found in urban stormwater management systems and how these can be used to create diverse wetland communities. Much urban landscape (especially public landscape) exists close to hard materials – concrete, asphalt, brick, etc.- Rather than remove all this and replace with topsoil at great expense can we use the pioneer vegetation of locations like say the Rangitoto lava beds. In the unique and distinctive Rangitoto vegetation can we see inspiration for city landscape in the northern parts of the country.

2. Rangitoto colonising vegetation

On Rangitoto colonising vegetation grows in the most extreme conditions of drought, exposure and even salt water.

Ecological design is about designing with plant communities rather than plant species. The basic unit of design is the community or ecosystem (the community plus its physical environment). It is the way we put these together that can create the diversity and intensity of vegetation and habitat that we need and enjoy in urban areas. So, if we can find a successful combination of plants that grow together on say the exposed lava fields of Rangitoto they could well be effective in say urban plantings where there is little soil and irregular moisture – perhaps a green roof or perched on walls, or as a temporary vegetation on an urban brownfield site where buildings and structures have been demolished and the land is awaiting reuse.

Complex layering in established coastal forest

Complex layering in more mature coastal forest on Rangitoto creates attractive and intense detail.

Head shot Nick RobinsonNick Robinson, landscape architecture + garden design

Nick has twenty years’ plus experience of landscape architecture professional practice in New Zealand and Britain. Before setting up his own practice he worked on significant landscape projects across the North of England as a Landscape Architect for Arnold Weddle, for Rotherham Metropolitan Council, and as Design Principal for ECUS, the Environmental Consultancy of the University of Sheffield. This work included a number of award winning landscapes of industry, new roads, campuses, urban regeneration and parks. Nick has worked for over 10 years in New Zealand, gaining broad experience of landscape design in the varied natural and cultural landscapes of the South Pacific.

In addition to professional practice, Nick has taught landscape architecture at universities in the UK (Sheffield and Gloucestershire), USA (Cal Poly) and New Zealand (Lincoln and UNITEC) and has a range of publications to his credit including the Planting Design Handbook (now in its revised second edition) and journal articles. He has recently completed a sabbatical period working and studying at the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield, UK, with a focus on current thinking on ecological approaches to urban design and innovations in planting design for biodiversity, and working with international experts on urban ecology, green roofs and green walls.