From fashion to landscapes – one designer’s journey

Lyndell Shannon from Gardens Realised talks to us about her journey from growing up on a farm and studying fashion to her successful career as a Landscape Designer. How many years have you been in the industry?

Lyndell: I changed careers in 1995 from fashion design to landscape design. I had been a fashion designer for about twenty years based in Wellington and continued to practice as a landscape designer there until 2003 when my partner and I moved to Auckland’s North Shore. My accredited membership of Landscaping New Zealand was invaluable in helping me to re-establish my business, providing a network of fellow professional designers and contractors.

Lyndell Shannon What was your journey to this point?

Lyndell: I grew up on a Manawatu farm in a design-conscious family who were also skilled practical gardeners. After completing a degree at Victoria University I studied fashion design at Wellington Polytechnic before starting out in my first career.

Even in those days I was creating gardens around various scungy student flats. When I changed career I approached California Home & Garden for a part time job and regard owner Keith Lowe as a great teacher and mentor with his huge plant knowledge. I became Califonia H&G preferred designer, and on moving to Auckland formed a similar productive relationship with Kings Plant Barn where I work at the Takapuna branch two days a week as well being one of their preferred designers.  What are the key things you have learnt in your career as a Landscape Designer?

Lyndell: A long career in design has given me a thorough understanding of the essential principles, how to relate spaces, proportions, colours and textures, and functionality. As a “real” gardener and plantaholic my own plant knowledge is very broad, especially in selecting plants that are suitable for clients’ climate and soil, and in using a much larger plant palette than most designers to give my clients something unique. What is your design style?

Lyndell: I don’t work to any style label (eg formal, native, cottage etc) but take the style of any project from the tastes and lifestyle of the client, the architecture, the landscape and ‘spirit of place’. That said, all designers have their own personal style. I guess the qualities that define mine would be simple uncluttered lines, rich colours and textures and a fairly relaxed understated look that isn’t fashion-driven or liable to date. What project are you currently working on?

Lyndell: I tend to fall in love with whatever my current project is. Right now it is a rural property near Kumeu where I have been brought in almost at the beginning to provide a planting plan for part of the site as a condition of the building consent.

It’s a rare treat to be involved before a house is built – it should happen more often than it does. I’ve had the opportunity to reposition the water tanks away from being the focal point beside the front entrance before any thoughtless person actually installed them where the planner had drawn them!

My favourite projects have been for clients who love to garden and look after their gardens, putting something of themselves into the design as the garden develops. A garden for a new house at Greenhithe is one of these. I also love to work with older houses and established gardens where there are some mature trees and generally better soil than the scraped clay of new sites.

The Greenhithe garden had a council-specified rain garden located near the front entrance. The challenge was to embrace the concept and make it one of the standout elements of the garden. We achieved it by creating a big garden bed that seamlessly included the functional rain garden in a swathe of bold planting that is appropriate to the different moisture levels within the bed. The scale of the garden bed also successfully mirrors the scale of the big house and anchors it to its site and to the wider landscape including a bush backdrop.

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