Greenhithe homeowners wanted to know if anything could be done with their sloping and seemingly unusable site.

WORDS Erin Reilly

The family contacted  Zones Landscape Designers Matt and Boyd Gillespie and Landscape Architect Nichola Vague who helped them to create a sub-tropical family-friendly escape, complete with a multi-level deck, fruit garden and spa area.

A private bush outlook and the sweet sound of native birdsong is the stuff of Kiwi residential dreams. But when the perfect house sits on a less-than-perfect sloping site, a total landscaping makeover might be necessary to make the most of Godzone.

That’s exactly what husband and wife duo Tim and Caroline Plowman did when they purchased their Greenhithe property on Auckland’s North Shore. After moving into the home in April 2016, the couple connected with Landscape Designers Matt and Boyd Gillespie and Landscape Architect Nichola Vague from Zones Landscaping Specialists to transform their sloping and unusable site into a sub-tropical native family-friendly escape.

decking by zones landscaping

“When we first bought the property, it was all grass – and not nice grass either,” says Caroline. “It was a sloping site and it wasn’t very usable. Now we use it all the time. Our whole family loves getting outside and working on the garden – it’s definitely a work in progress.”

“It was a sloping site and it wasn’t very usable. Now we use it all the time."
- Caroline, Zones client

Zones’ solution was a multi-leveled deck and garden that utilises every part of the sloping site. The house opens onto a covered deck which steps down to a landing and the most popular corner of the outdoor area, the pergola and spa pool. A few more steps open out onto a lounging and entertainment area that surveys the native bush outlook (and which cleverly conceals an additional water tank). Another couple of steps down provide access to a grassy area that has been leveled out a little, where planter boxes are filled with edible goodies and fruit trees are already starting to produce their wares after only one year in the ground.

When it came to planning the perfect zone, the Plowmans had a lot of ideas about how to best-utilise the site. But the final result didn’t come without a few compromises.

“Tim had a lot of ideas in his head and planned most of the garden layout, then a landscape architect from Zones drew it up and linked it all together."
- Caroline, Zones client

“Tim had a lot of ideas in his head and planned most of the garden layout, then a landscape architect from Zones drew it up and linked it all together,” says Caroline. “In the original drawings we had an outdoor kitchen, but it just got too expensive so we had to put that idea on hold. But if we change our minds and put one in further down the track, we have future-proofed the area by adding power sockets.”

The site backs onto a patch of native bush that gives the impression of living in the trees.

“I love that we have the bush out the back"
- Caroline, Zones client

“I love that we have the bush out the back,” says Caroline. “We want all the pongas and other natives to come through, so we’re trying to replace some of the introduced plants. You can’t just chop it all out and leave a big hole though, so we’re doing it slowly. We made a bit of room around the spa and a ponga has already emerged from the bush to fill it in. We’ve also planted quite a few cabbage trees that will grow and fill in the gaps.”

While Zones managed the initial landscaping, the Plowmans look at their property as a work in progress.

“We just love spending time in the garden and pottering around,” says Caroline. “We don’t really know what we’re doing, but the space gives us the room we need to experiment and just see what happens.”

“Zones set the foundation for the garden, then we added to it and made it our own with planting, painting and lighting,” she says. “But you’re always adding to it, you know? Maybe we’ll do the outdoor kitchen sometime, I don’t know. Tim wants to add a water feature too. We’re still growing it – it’s still a really young garden – and we’ll just keep adding to it. I don’t know – maybe it’ll never be finished.”

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