With a somewhat ill-defined brief that included low maintenance planting, a feng shui influence, and increased privacy, a landscaping project in one of Auckland’s popular eastern suburbs promised plenty of challenges for Zones landscaping specialists Debbie and Stuart Gill.

WORDS Patricia Moore PHOTOGRAPHY Scott Espie

When the Gills undertook the make-over of the rear of a property in Long Drive, a sought after part of St Heliers, they were taking on a project that had already been attempted by someone with little understanding of landscape design concepts and an apparent inability to get the job finished. The disappointed home owners were also somewhat dismayed by the pergola which seemed out of proportion with the rest of the outdoor area. “If necessary, they were prepared to downsize it in order for it to fit with a better design,” says Debbie.

“..spectacularly beautiful home, but this wasn’t reflected in the landscaping."
- Stuart, landscaping specialist

Landscape design considerations

It is a “spectacularly beautiful home, but this wasn’t reflected in the landscaping,” she says. So plenty of scope – and also plenty of challenges for Stuart and Debbie. The sloping nature of the 200m2 site was one of the biggest according to Stuart. “A sloping site makes paving more difficult and we also needed to consider the clients wish to embrace feng shui, which involves very considered spatial arrangement and orientation.” (As well as filling a house with positive energies, this ancient Chinese art can also enhance an outdoor area)

A feng shui influence garden makeover in Auckland

Drainage was another issue. “A new concrete driveway had been completed, but no consideration had been given to drainage,” says Stuart. “New drains had to be installed to protect the new gardens.” And, he says, the existing water feature also required some attention, “It hadn’t ever been turned on because it required a new water pump.” The timing of the project also proved a challenge, he says. “The Christmas period caused some delays with suppliers shutting down over the festive season.”

On the plus side, once the site had been cleared and tidied up and a new garden design implemented, the focus shifted away from the pergola and its impact was greatly reduced.

“[The client] decided on buxus for the garden borders, star jasmine climbing over the house and camellias in the gardens. The lower area was planted in native ferns which fitted in with the established trees and the more informal style of that part of the garden."
- Debbie, landscaping specialist

Planting plans

When it came to planting, Debbie says she gave their clients a range of options, all of which met their low maintenance criteria. “They decided on buxus for the garden borders, star jasmine climbing over the house and camellias in the gardens. The lower area was planted in native ferns which fitted in with the established trees and the more informal style of that part of the garden.” In addition the clients requested grape vines over the pergola which provide fruit and soften the lines of the structure.

“Given the hot summer weather when we were planting there was a lot of watering required,” says Debbie.

An outdoor space with pergola

Budgets are always a prime consideration and the Gills worked hard to stay close to what the homeowners wanted to invest in the project. “Labour for paving was the largest investment,” says Stuart. “Where possible we attempted to reuse pavers already on the site, however, we did need to completely remove pebbles which had been used in hard surfaces.”

Final thoughts

With its proximity to the popular village of St Heliers, and to Auckland’s CBD, the Long Drive property has a lot to offer the homeowners whose dreams of a magical-makeover of their rear section had been less than successful before they contacted Zones franchisees Stuart and Debbie. Their individual skills, combined with an understanding of the clients’ wishes and the demands of the site – understanding design, soil qualities and what would make for suitable plantings – finally turned that dream into a reality.

“The transformation process of our backyard has been amazing. Having professionals such as Debbie and Stu really helped us throughout the entire project. When it comes to making over the garden, they really understood our needs as customers and what's best for us."
- Zones client

Indeed, their clients are more than happy. "The transformation process of our backyard has been amazing. Having professionals such as Debbie and Stu really helped us throughout the entire project. When it comes to making over the garden, they really understood our needs as customers and what's best for us. They actively communicated with us at each stage, explained all potential options we could have and how they would look in the overall garden. Their creativity, professionalism and high standards have really helped us achieve our goal."

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