Special features: Railway line 2 mtrs from boundary, river below property, large barn type house, steep slopes from house looking north and west

Planted numbers: 1300 grasses, 280 natives, 40+ fruit trees including peaches, plums, nectarines, almonds, apricots, apples, pears, persimmon, figs, blueberries, feijoas, loquat, passionfruit, grapes, macadamia, guavas, citrus, avocados and persimmon

Landscape Designed: Forgotten Fruits, Benji Woodman

Design brief:

Clients wanted to get away from busy lives in Auckland and plan to permanently live here in 4 years.  Food production is vital as both are restaurant owners and enjoy growing the produce they cook with in their kitchen.  They also have a business plan to host weddings on their property in the near future.

Project information:  This has been a rewarding and ongoing project that has evolved as it has gone along.  Our clients have given us free rein of their property and the orchard landscape has flourished beyond all of our expectations. What started out as a backyard with some totaras and a fence surrounding the entire living space place has changed into a food and structural paradise with very low maintenance.  A place that is incredibly peaceful and hard to leave. 

1. The wooden posts and fences strangling the property and driveway had to go, they were initially there to keep out cattle and sheep from next door’s farm.  Taking out the posts released a bigger space to work with.  We recycled the timber as much as possible to construct a boardwalk to enable fruit to be picked from a steep bank they were planted on, turning an undesirable space into a productive and attractive space.  The eucalyptus boardwalk is recycled from old pellets.  This boardwalk curves with the contour of the land and feels like a floating path. The soil was very poor as it was very wet clay most of the winter, then to the other extreme, which was to crack and dry out in the summer.  The need to bring in topsoil and make raised bed systems was obvious and has worked very well with the fruit trees bearing good amounts in their first year.

2. The next project was to use the steep south-facing bank. It also had very poor soil with blackberry and totara trees, the earth pitted and terraced from grazing.  We made a path along the contour and planted into topsoil mounds.  We planted almonds, red leaf nectarines and red leaf plums under planted with poa, native tussock and reinstated the original juncus that was growing there.  This has been an amazing success and after 1 year, the poa now touch hands and the bank looks like a moving living wall with fruit trees and foliage popping out.

3.     Next was to plant fruit trees on the top knoll of the property, this area has all day sun but dry boney soil.  Again soil was bought in and a horseshoe shaped design was established with 10 fruit trees from plums to apples, pears, figs and blueberries.  A practical fun and productive area which gives another nice area to walk around, to admire the view that looks down onto the house and when the harvest does eventually commence, this area stands conveniently opposite the vegetable garden and structure.

4. The original vegetable garden was in a broken down state, the soil from the beds were in good condition.  We cleared and leveled the sight to place 12 macrocarpa raised beds bought in from a local mill to form the vegetable beds again.  We designed and constructed a massive macrocarpa structure with netting to allow the veges to stay safe from pesty peacocks and possums.  The original soil was put back, veges were planted and mulched with straw. We then installed an automated irrigation system. The beauty of this space is the feeling of being in the garden and not feeling trapped inside a cage.  Standing in the garden when the train is rolling past just metres away is almost heart stopping and exhilirating.

5.  Next was to tackle the water.  It all drained down to the bottom of the hill where the lawn was.  We dug a good ditch, both on the lawn side, which drains to the river below.  The same procedure was done on the driveway.  The lawn riverbed was lined with a plastic liner and then landscaped with rocks with a pool at the top for dogs, frogs and reflections. The rock used is a favourite of mine, with the roundness and colour mimicking a natural riverbed.

Next was to move a 2-ton rock bath into position in the front orchard garden, which is an amazing addition.

6. The entrance pathway linking the boardwalk to the lawn via the driveway is one of my favourite pieces with the use of sleepers curving around with pebbles in between and a steel rod reinforcing the whole path and also accentuating the curve. The railway sleepers are continued through the lawn linking onto the pathway that travels past the natural pool and yoga platform up to the vegetable garden.

7. The east-facing bank needed more earth moving to gain access.  Once mounds were created for trees, we planted avocados, feijoas, loquats and macadamias. We used poa for the ground cover to keep continuity of the overall landscape with additional muehlenbeckia axillaris to creep over the ground giving a cushion like texture and contrast to the blonde grasses.

8.  The Yoga Platform has been a fun project to tackle.  When standing on the platform, we wanted to feel as though we were up in the trees with the view of the property.  This zone offers a fantastic shady summer hang out that opens up the space to have many more uses than just yoga.

9. The black water tank needed screening. We built a curving steel mesh screen to provide a climbing structure. We planted passionfruit evenly along the base so it can become a thick screen of glossy green leaves that bear fruit.

10. We constructed a natural infinity swimming pond with a waterfall and river. This runs directly under the yoga platform.  The water used from this comes from the river below, gets pumped up to the top rill, down the river to the pond and from the pond back down through the river stones to the original source.

11. Last on the cards for the home garden is to finish off this steep curving path up to the vege garden.  This will be resealed with a lime base with sleepers, a grapevine structure will be established with grapes growing down one side of the path and rock lights will be on the other side to light the way in the evening.

There are future plans for the wetland area to be focused on, this is an area I will really enjoying working on.