ARTICLE Libby Schultz
Gardens can be a work-in-progress, spanning several seasons or even years.
Once you have an overall vision for your garden, a good first step is to start work on the basics like structure and soil.
Planning upfront can save you time and money
If you have a smaller budget, you may not afford to complete the work all at once. But it’s more cost-effective (and exciting) to get your overall vision at the start.
‘’Clients with restricted budgets often opt to do their landscaping project in different stages. Having a smart design allows for this,’’ says Zones Landscaping Specialist Debbie Gill.
‘’We can then indicate where the best place to start is and how to finish the areas that you will utilise the most yet still considering the required preparation for the next stage.’’
That way, you can enjoy the new parts of your garden while you save up or organise finance for the next stage.
To stretch your budget further, you should also allow more time for your plants to grow. Landscape designer Nichola Vague says less mature plants are always more affordable.
“A smaller budget is more about planting well, and letting it grow. It will just take a bit longer…but gardens are meant to be a work in progress.”
Having a long-term plan will keep you focused, says Nichola, and ultimately save you money.
“Keeping to a plan is particularly important with planting. It will prevent unnecessary purchases, especially if you tend to just grab things from the garden centre at weekends.”
Should I hire profressionals to landscape my garden?
If you’re going to call in the professionals, it pays to know who’s who. There are essentially three types of people you’ll come across – a landscape architect, a landscape designer, and the landscaper/contractor.
A ‘landscape architect’ has a degree in Landscape Architecture, and is usually registered with the NZILA, a professional body. As well as designing residential gardens, they often work on big urban planning projects, and are qualified to give evidence in court around the Resource Management Act. A 2009 survey of NZILA members showed most landscape architects charge between $80-$150 plus gst per hour. Alternatively, they might charge a lump sum, or a percentage fee of the total works.
A ‘landscape designer’ usually focuses on the residential market, and will often have a Diploma in Design. They usually charge an hourly rate, which might vary between $75 - $150, depending on their experience and reputation.
A ‘landscaper or contractor’ is the person (usually a team of people) who does the actual digging, excavating, planting etc. They will quote your job using the plans you give them. Some of them also offer design services.
Some landscaping specialist companies will provide the project management necessary to coordinate the designer, landscapers and tradespeople into one package so that the homeowner only has to deal with one company or person for the entire process.
Where do I begin?
Just like a well-designed home, a professionally-designed garden will have good bones and a sense of flow. The hard landscaping creates the ‘rooms’ within your garden; while the planting acts as the paint, carpet and soft furnishings.
Debbie Gill explains: “Creating well defined areas for your garden using edging, changing of materials, or creating structure and shade all help to clearly outline a new purposeful area.’’
And just like a house renovation, you need to check your foundations before you build anything. This starts with the quality of your soil. If you’re in Auckland, you are virtually guaranteed to be working with clay soils and poor drainage.
‘’Soil preparation is such a key investment to the health and longevity of your garden,’’ says Debbie.
‘’Planting does not thrive in lesser conditions. Irrigation, mulch and soil conditioning are often overlooked costs but these items make the difference between a beautifully healthy lush garden or a garden that is less vibrant and continually struggling to get what it needs.’’
Expect to pay around $100 per cubic metre of good garden mix; with the average-size garden requiring around 10-15 cubic metres. Mulch is additional, costing around $90 per cubic metre.
Good drainage is another biggie - unless you’re prepared to have a soggy, unusable lawn for half of the year. Your designer will advise on the best drainage solutions for your property; but expect to budget around $3,000-$4,000 in labour and materials for a basic system.
Is there any value in flattening a sloped garden?
Of course, garden budget is extremely dependent on the size of your garden – and whether it’s flat or sloping.
“As soon as you get into retaining, it takes your budget to another level,” says Nichola Vague.
“But turning a sloping area into a flat space is always money well-spent. I think unusable lawns are a real waste of space – it’s one of my bugbears! Lawns should be functional spaces that you can enjoy, not just another area to mow.”
So let’s say you spend around $30,000 on an average-sized flat section, starting with a blank canvas. What can you expect to get for your money?
According to Nichola Vague: “For that budget you can expect a small amount of hard landscaping, a lawn, basic decking and planting. It will be fairly simple, but you’ll have a nice well-structured garden.”
‘’There are also other ways to keep costs minimal, including looking at alternatives, for example coloured cut concrete as compared to large, more expensive pavers and less mature planting,’’, says Debbie.
‘’For each element in your design there are often more economical options, yet this comes down to personal preference. Sometimes, our clients’ most favoured items are worth spending a bit more of the allocated budget on.’’
Willing to work with a slightly larger budget? Read our project estimate for a mid-range landscaped garden. Or if you are looking to introduce a piece of paradise into your garden design read our project estimate for a high-end landscaped garden.
This project estimate by Libby Schultz featured in Issue 019 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine . New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.
If you would like to discuss basic garden options and ideas for your outdoor renovation project, 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.
*Costs are rough estimates and are subject to change. For a fixed-quote accurate to your specific project, please consult your local Zones landscaping specialist. All Zones franchises are independently owned and operated.