A welcoming retreat

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An outdoor space with table and chairs

With a Zen influence and a resort style subtropical pallet, this crossover planting and design style is adding a new dimension to landscaping small and angled sections. A Japanese styled contemplation area and subtropical styled garden were the inspiration for Tony Ingrams surprise for his wife Robyn's 50th birthday.

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A Japanese styled contemplation area and subtropical styled garden were the inspiration for Tony Ingrams surprise for his wife Robyn’s 50th birthday.

Wanting the very best for the big day, Tony decided to completely renovate the back of their property in Glendowie. They had lived there for a number of years, and having renovated the inside, were a little stumped as to what to do with the outside. The outside was no small task either. There were a number of issues. The outside was totally run down and in dire need of a makeover. Plantings of random overgrown and ugly vegetation from ten years ago lingered, while the retaining wall, screens and many of the fences were shaded in black-aged mould and well past their use-by-date. 

Wanting to create an outdoor room that was innovative and stylish yet functional was on top of their list and to complete this in time to celebrate the big occasion was a must.

A garden with lots of plant trees

Creating an alfresco landscape design

Maximising the space too was important. The site was rectangular in shape with a sloped L-shaped side access and a retaining wall that wasn’t square to the house but rather on an opposing angle. A clever design solution was required.

Landscape Designers Jules Moore and Peter Nobb’s, took on the design and installation with the help of builder Rob Voigt. Together they completely renovated Tony and Robyn’s backyard, turning something that was nothing into Alfresco living with attitude!

A number of key requirements from the clients made for an interesting wish list. A pergola with a spa, a subtropical palette with bold foliage, lots of contrasting colour and scent with an established mix of taller palms, an edible garden area and an entrance of stone slabs, all with a Zen feel. A large deck for entertaining that would act as an extension to their dining area and another smaller area of deck that could house a teenage get together.

A zigzag styled design for the deck not only solved the clash of the angles and proportions with the existing retaining wall but also implemented an important element in Zen garden philosophy. When following a zigzag path one should stop, contemplate, turn, walk a little, stop and repeat. By doing this, it actually slows down our mind, then our walking and has a calming influence over us. 

An outdoor space with table and chair

Hardscaping and softscaping

As such, you experience this feeling that the design emits and through these design elements, our hectic lives should benefit from this. The philosophy is such, that when you walk you just walk, when you eat you just eat and when you rest you just rest. Even writing about this should have an effect on the reader where one should feel like their reading has slowed down.

Another design element which helped create a different room within the same deck, thus enabling an area for adults and teens to entertain together, was to do a cut out of a 1.5 metres by 1 metre deep planter within the kwila deck for large Kentia. The specimen used was triple planted and at the base a simple yet effective planting of mondo grasses, moss rock and red bromeliads complete the design.

These graceful Kentias were repeated throughout the garden and added instant structure and architectural form. 

Suitable understory planting like Rhododendron Vireya types provided intermittent colour throughout the year. Gardenias were used for scent and Philodendron Xanadus and Vriesea Bromeliads worked stunningly against the rocks.

These rocks were also repeated throughout the garden. The larger underlating rocks predominantly feature at the entrance, where our Zen garden starts. 

A rock steps in a garden

The planting here was definitely different. It was a combination of subtropical, Japanese, alpine rockery, bulbs and woodland plants. This combination is somewhat odd but it works beautifully.

Palms like Bamboo cane palms (Chamaedorea costericana), Sugar Cane Palm (Dypsis baronii), and Cat Palms (Chamaedorea cataratarum), are mixed in with (Japanese spurge) Pachysandra terminalis, Acacia limelight, Miniture Acers (Acer Palmatum disectum types) and bulbs Haemanthus albiflos, Hippeastrum papilio, and bright red Reo Red Bromeliads.

The rockery and steps leading into the deck and spa area were formed by using large slabs of blue stone and pebble which the team implemented, and once again the path meandered deliberately using those Zen elements talked about earlier.

A new garden

The final result

Overall there is a great mix of plant combinations revealing strong architectural form and foliage, colours and flowering surprises in this north-facing garden. With an integration of Zen and subtropical, who would have thought? A garden fit for a 50th on a grand yet humble scale and a welcoming retreat, for a treat.

Watch more on this 'Resort to Zen' landscape design in this episode of 'The Get Growing Show':


Take a look at another Zones' case study: Functional design for outdoor entertaining.

This case study featured on page 73 of Issue 011 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.

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

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This project was completed in
March 2014
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Project description
Auckland Central
New Zealand
Tony & Robyn
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