Franklin landscaping specialists

Olive trees along the hills found in Frnklin
ARTICLE Patricia Moore

Horticulture, which sees the region supply around one-third of New Zealand’s fresh vegetables, is still an important contributor to Franklin’s economy, but today the rolling hills and fertile flatlands also support dairying, horse breeding, olive and grape growing and more.
It’s a big area that offers the best of rural and urban lifestyles and stretches from the ‘wild’ Tasman coast in the west to the Hunua Ranges and the Firth of Thames in the east; the Manukau Harbour forms the boundary to the north and to the south the Waikato River separates the region from the Waikato Plains.

While much of the coast to the west is largely inaccessible, Karioitahi Beach, an easy drive from Auckland City, attracts those into activities such as surfing, hang gliding, sand yachting and horse riding. The fishing’s good and the sunsets are legendary. The Awhitu Peninsula also offers views to the west; from the Manukau Heads Lighthouse, a replica of the original 1873 structure.

Bridge over the Waikato river

Pukekohe, (named for the native kohekohe, or New Zealand mahogany, which formed the original coastal forest) the largest town in the area, lies just 52kms from Auckland. And for many Franklin residents a daily commute to work ‘in town’ via the motorway or train to Britomart, is a way of life. The town is 97kms from Hamilton, a distance that’s shrinking as completion of the Waikato Expressway delivers a four-lane highway from the Bombay Hills to south of Cambridge. Smaller townships like Waiuku and Tuakau also offer an attractive lifestyle.

The Franklins region offers landscapers a wide variation in soils and terrain. While the dark volcanic soils around Pukekohe are largely free draining, they can retain a lot of water after rain and become soft and sticky; elsewhere in the region, clay soils drain more slowly, but bake hard during long dry spells. Coastal conditions, where planting is subject to wind and salt spray, require special consideration.

Rich, volcanic soil that is found in Franklin

With an annual rainfall much like Auckland, and at around 2,100, a similar number of sunshine hours, parts of the region are frost-free, giving growers an advantage over those elsewhere in the country. Summer daytime maximums usually range around 22 to 26 degrees, with winter maximums ranging from 12 to 17 degrees.

In 2010 the greater part of the Franklin region was absorbed into the expanded Auckland Super City; the 2014 Area Plan for the next 30 years allows for an increase in the population of Pukekohe - already new subdivisions are attracting people out of the city to a less pressured living environment.
The area not included in the Super City falls under the control of the Waikato District Council, which means Zones Landscaping Specialists Debbie and Stu Gill can find themselves dealing with either two separate councils to ensure there’s no confusion over by-laws governing landscaping. “Although most of them are the same, and usually involve consents for retaining walls and fences, swimming pools, and fencing for pools and decks - there can be differences and we always need to check.”

While petrol heads claim Pukekohe as NZ’s home of V8 motor racing, the area is probably best known for its market gardening. As Auckland grew, the town’s original market gardeners in suburbs like Parnell, Grey Lynn and Western Springs moved south, establishing flourishing gardens in the Pukekohe area. The Chinese, who arrived early in the 20th century, found the area was perfect for growing a wide variety of vegetables and when, in the 1920s, Indian immigrants from the Punjab began growing potatoes, the region’s reputation as a producer of the best onions and potatoes was assured. Today, lifestyle block holders and urban gardeners are creating outdoor living spaces that make the most of the region’s temperate climate and rich, productive soils.

Freshly picked produce from an urban garden in Franklin

Stu and Debbie emphasise the importance of good design and local knowledge when it comes to successfully creating an outdoor space that works with the climate and meets a client’s needs. “This may mean adding compost to prepare planting areas, as well as ensuring effective drainage to both concreted and paved areas to prevent water-logging and subsequent damage to a newly landscaped area.”

Like home-owners elsewhere in the country, many Franklin residents are trying to make the most of smaller sections. “Under planting, espaliered fruit trees, climbers and small yet compacting planting, helps achieve this without requiring too much space. Clients are also levelling sections to make the space more useable.”

Stu and Debbie report they’re also seeing interest in both sub-tropical and formal planting. “Low maintenance gardens are regularly high on the priority list and there are various ways we can achieve this – appropriate planting is critical.”

Sub-tropical garden

Given the variations over the region, every project is different, with its own unique set of challenges for Stu and Debbie. They believe the key to success lies with the brief and the budget. “Having a good understanding of what the client likes, and wants to achieve, is a great start. We pride ourselves on really listening, then working with the client to create a design within their budget. It’s very important they have a maximal amount they want to spend as there are many decisions that can blow a budget.” Stu and Debbie cite expensive pavers, larger plants, and shade solutions, as often leading to overspending. “As Zones Landscaping Specialists we strive to achieve an on-budget approach.”

Stu and Debbie believe flexibility is also important with clients not always in a position leaving the city to embrace the rural Franklin lifestyle, Stu and Debbie are seeing a growing demand for specialised landscaping knowledge to create great outdoor living areas. “For some home-owners these are ‘statement pieces’. For others it’s just about providing a more usable, cost-effective outside area for their families to enjoy.”

You might be interested in reading this Zones' case study: A backyard makeover for a wedding.

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If you would like to discuss options and ideas for your outdoor renovation project in Franklin, 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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