Landscaping in Auckland

Skyline of Auckland homes along the shores across from the city CBD.
ARTICLE Patricia Moore

Gardening is in our DNA; you’ve only got to look at the number of specialist television programmes, the crowds at garden centres, and the excitement generated by events such as garden shows. In fact, recreational surveys indicate that after walking, gardening is the most popular leisure activity enjoyed by Kiwis.

Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than Auckland, where even the most modest dwelling will invariably boast a colourful garden plot, and a diverse range of ‘open’ gardens attract a wide range of visitors, both local and international; the Wintergarden in the Auckland Domain, the Auckland Botanic Garden, Parnell Rose Garden and private gardens such as Ayrlies in Whitford and Coatesville’s Woodbridge Gardens are all popular destinations.

Auckland’s moderate climate is a major factor in the interest around gardening. Because the region effectively lies in the transition between sub-tropical and temperate zones, Aucklander’s normally experience warm, humid summers and mild wet winters; summer temperatures may reach the high 20’s and NIWA’s 20155 climate summary showed Auckland was the sunniest of the main centres. In winter a maximum in the teens can be expected, frosts are not common and the prevailing winds are south-westerly.

Auckland homes along the waterfront.

Gardening in Auckland has a history dating back to the country’s earliest arrivals; for at least a thousand years before the first Europeans settled here, Maori were essentially gardening for survival, cultivating plants brought with them from across the Pacific Ocean. They cleared the forest to grow vegetables that, together with native fruits, berries and edible roots, and the bountiful resources of the Manukau and Waitemata harbours, comprised their diet.

The region’s first European settlers also landed well-armed with plants of all types and introducing a whole raft of new species, many of which thrived. Some, such as Tree Privet, introduced as hedging, finding the Auckland climate and soil conditions so much to their liking, they’re now regarded as pest plants. (Auckland has been declared ‘one of the weediest cities in the world’).

In spite of the comparatively small size of the area, there are wide variations in rainfall and soil type, which impact on landscaping styles across the region. Zones Landscaping Specialist and award-winning designer Jules Moore, highlights the clay-based soil on the North Shore, the good loan topsoil to the west of the region, and the rich volcanic loam of the areas around Mt Eden, among the different soils landscapers encounter.

And while the top soil has invariably been removed by the developers in new subdivisions, gardens undergoing a makeover will probably have a reasonable base from which to work, says Jules.

Auckland home landscape design by Jules Moore.
Landscape by Jules Moore

Matt and Boyd Gillespie are Zones Landscaping Specialists on the North Shore. They know the Auckland area well and together bring a unique set of skills to their landscape projects. They’re both experienced in the construction business and understand the importance of creating outdoor spaces that are functional, pleasing to the eye and, importantly, meet the client’s criteria.

“Not knowing what’s under the surface can be expensive,” says Matt. “Unknown soil conditions can add significantly to the cost and pose the biggest risk of a project going over budget.” The presence of volcanic rock is a prime example and a major influence on the type of work done on site, he says.

Landscape designing in Auckland’s volcanic areas means keeping construction simple. Anything that goes into the ground will strike rock, which can rule out the extensive foundation work required for timber retaining walls and decks – unless the homeowner is prepared to spend on the machinery needed to break it up. “Keystone retaining walls are a more suitable option and concrete patios rather than timber decks,” says Matt.

But while too much rock is problematic, Jules and her team have worked on at least one project where it was an asset, enabling the creation of a water feature that played a large part in the successful sale of an Auckland property.

Rock water feature in Auckland residential home.
Landscape by Jules Moore

Rainfall can also be a problem for Auckland landscapers, unless home owners add additional water storage, rural properties on tank supply can struggle for adequate water to irrigate, and higher rainfall in the Waitakeres and Titirangi means it’s important to allow for adequate drainage. That said, putting in an irrigation system, rather than allowing for excessive rainfall, can often be easier to manage, says Jules. Planting in coastal properties subject to higher winds and sea spray can also be a challenge.

As Auckland has grown – with a population of around 1.5million, it’s now home to over 30% of the country’s population – section sizes have reduced and family homes have increased in size. There’s also growth in inner-city apartment dwellings, where the traditional Kiwi garden is often replaced by a cluster of containers containing kitchen herbs and ornamentals.

Townhouses with multi-tiered landscape designs.

Garden styles have changed over the decades and for many Aucklanders having time to garden is also an issue. Everyone wants a low maintenance space and they’re seeing a growing demand for artificial turf, rather than grassy lawns, reports Matt.

“We recently completed a project where we added extensive decking with sheltered areas, Tiger Turf lawns and new gardens to create a low maintenance backyard that was previously unused by the clients.”

Major landscaping projects may involve the need to obtain a building consent from the Auckland City Council; failure to comply can affect the ability to sell further down the line. Broadly speaking, the requirement for consents covers retaining walls higher than 1.5 metres, fences higher than 2.5 metres, swimming pools and swimming pool fences and decks higher than 1.5 metres from the ground.

Resource consents are necessary ‘for any activity that affects the environment’; typical landscaping activities that may be affected are the pruning, removal or working near a protected tree, building a swimming pool, and the discharge of wastewater and stormwater.

First impressions definitely count and a professionally designed and executed landscape is always a winner. And while it can seem like an expensive undertaking, the upside for Aucklanders is that they will have an amazing outdoor space, designed to their particular requirements, to enjoy – and could well expect to at least double their investment when they sell.

You might be interested in reading this Zones' case study in Auckland: Bringing the tropics to the city.

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If you would like to discuss options and ideas for your outdoor renovation project in Auckland, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your landscaping design and build. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.

*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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