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A day in the life – case study of a garden design part 1

You may have seen one on a garden makeover show or heard their words of wisdom on the radio, or even had your garden transformed by one… landscape designers , whilst diverse in their individual styles and in the way they present their ideas,

have a shared passion for plants, landscapes and the people who interact with them.

Creating gorgeous landscapes involves knowledge, talent and experience. Ensuring the garden grows and flourish’s as intended requires a commitment to regular maintenance by its owner. This relationship is what can transform a forgotten, left over space into something of real beauty.

Sandra Batley - Flourish Gardens

Pavlova Paradise

It wasn’t that long ago that a couple of deck chairs , a patch of lawn and a bed full of flowers was the mainstay for most New Zealander’s gardens. The back section was the place for more practical pursuits such as tinkering in the tool or playing cricket on the lawn. From the back door of the house a path led to a revolving clothesline. Somewhere in the corner was a lemon tree and incinerator for burning household rubbish. We were proud, keen gardeners. The Kiwi do-it-yourself mentality was strong and so was our horticultural and gardening heritage. In our leisure time we potted away in our gardens, grew our own vegetables and had all the time in the world to mow our quarter acre section… things are a little different these days.

A trip around the garden centre on a sunny Sunday afternoon will tell you that the interest in gardens and plants is still alive and well. However less people are spending their precious leisure time creating and maintaining gardens. Demographic shifts, changing work patterns and lifestyle changes have meant time is now our most valuable commodity. With this has come a flood of new service related businesses to the market place. Instead of getting the lawn mower out on a Saturday morning, time poor, busy homeowners would rather pay some one else to do it. Paying professionals to clean our houses or even walk our pooch.

The classic kiwi quarter acre site as made its slow decline in cities and larger towns since the 70’s. While suburban sections have shrunk considerably, fewer New Zealanders now have the time to maintain such large plots of land. As a result, large vege gardens are no longer a popular feature of the New Zealand backyard. Even with the recent focus on all things homegrown and ‘green’, our approach to gardening and garden design is being redefined to reflect these changes.

The birth of landscape design

Here in New Zealand we are embracing these changes. People are more than ever inspired by all things beautiful. Flicking through the latest garden magazines, we drool over the picture perfect images. We fantasize about having a lush tropical slice of paradise in our own back yard…and we want it now, along with the new car and flash house. Gardens for outdoor living and entertaining, as opposed to the weekend’s workplace has now become popular. The reality is less people want to spend their precious time in the garden. New apartments and town houses have created smaller spaces for gardens. The term ‘outdoor living’ and ‘low maintenance’ is the new catch-cry for many homeowners.

Despite the fact that our national identity was steeped in gardening and horticulture, there was no academic training in landscape design or architecture until 1969. Now, degrees and diploma’s covering the whole spectrum of landscape design is available.

Out in the market place now are experienced, passionate, talented designers. To use a designer to help with ideas for exterior planning, planting and construction is not just for the rich and famous. Kiwis are quite comfortable with the idea of involving designers to help create their gardens. Gardeners and homeowners are realizing what a difference professional input can make.

One of the most frequently asked questions is “ Do you know, or can you recommend a good garden designer?” In my next story I will take you through the design process to get a better understanding of what you can expect if you hire a designer and clarify exactly what it is we do.


Sandra Batley of Flourish is a multi award-winning landscape designer based in Auckland. Sandra is passionate about, people, plants and design.

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