Natural Habitats is proud to announce that we have won an impressive 11 Awards in the 2016 Placemakers Riccarton Landscaping New Zealand awards – more awards and in more categories than any other landscaping company.

/projects/Brickworksentrancesmall.JPGIncluding winning the prestigious PGG Wrightson SPECIAL FEATURE OF THE YEAR, our team won three Gold Awards and seven Silver Awards for Landscape Design, Construction, Horticulture and Maintenance. That each project won awards for both design and construction is recognition of the complete value our Design and Build service model provides to our clients.

We’ve profiled the award winning landscapes in a series of blogs and would like to thank all our team involved in these projects as well as our clients who gave us the opportunity to design and build such fabulous gardens. First up is Bricklane – Brickworks (Lynn Mall Shopping Centre) which won one of the top awards - the PGG Wrightson SPECIAL FEATURE OF THE YEAR 2016 AWARD, as well as a Gold award for Landscape Design, and a Silver award for Landscape Construction. Congratulations go to Landscape Designer Lloyd Atherfold, and our Build Team – Nick Blandford and Phil Komene.




Think of the Trees

10 October 2012

Once upon a time, when Suzanne Paul reigned queen of the infomercial, calling someone a tree-hugger, was to imply they were a little bit out there - not quite the norm. Now however, as a by-product of a growing focus on sustainability, caring about the environment is no longer the domain of those who choose to take residence in tepees. Yes a short stroll through Ponsonby or Grey Lynn will quickly assure you of one thing – tree hugging is cool.

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Generally speaking however, it’s best to know just a little bit about the seediness or otherwise of the things you’re hugging – so with this in mind, here are some facts about New Zealand’s forests. They are in bullet point format for those of you with short attention spans. 

• There’s a chance, albeit a small one, that the house from the hit 90’s sitcom ‘Full House’ was built with New Zealand timber, as much of our native timber was exported to San Francisco to rebuild it after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

• Prior to settlement, 80% of our fine land was covered in forest. Today that number is closer to 30% - and that’s generously including the 7% of commercial forests dominated by Pinus radiata.

• It is estimated that this reduction in forest has contributed to the loss of 35 species of bird, 3 species of frog, and 3 species of lizard. Further losses in biodiversity can be expected if we fail to protect our native forests.

• There are three distinct types of New Zealand native forest: Southern Beech, Podocarp-Broadleaf, and Kauri forest.

• Southern Beech Forests make up approximately half of New Zealand’s remaining native forest. They are evergreen forests, naturally found in the infertile, alpine environments that characterize the South Island. They are generally composed of one canopy species, with no emergent trees, and few under story species.

• Podocarp-Broadleaf Forests are dense and jungle like in appearance. They have 5 vegetation strata’s and are predominantly found in low altitude areas in the North Island. Podocarps, such as matai, rimu, and totara produce seeds from their cones, whereas their broadleaf counterparts such as kohekohe and tawa are flowering trees.

• Kauri forests are, as the name suggests, predominately made up of kauri trees. Having once been pervasive in Coromandel, and scattered as far south as Invercargill, our kauri forests have suffered at the hands of both environmental change, boat builders who prized kauri timber, and now a new disease discovered in 2007 called Kauri Dieback disease, as yet there is no known cure.

Now that you’re clued up on your New Zealand forests, you may wish to impress your friends with your newfound knowledge. We can highly recommend a trip to the Waitakere Ranges. A Podocarp-Broadleaf forest with pockets of kauri, you’ll also see plenty of rimu, nikau, pohutukawa, mahoe, and rewarewa. What’s more, there’s some pretty spectacular views out to the Tasman Sea. Go see it for yourself, all the cool kids are doing it.

Interior landscapes improve the health and wellbeing

08 August 2012

"Brisbane-based firm Wilson Landscape Architects is behind two projects that exemplify the way landscaping can contribute to the quality of interior work environments, as well as to the health, wellbeing and behaviour of those who work there."

Scientists: Green walls lead to cleaner cities

26 July 2012

An informative article discussing the scientific benefits of green walls in our cities brought to you by

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An informative article discussing the scientific benefits of green walls in our cities brought to you by 

"Planting living "green walls" of vegetation could provide a faster and cheaper way of cleaning up the air in cities than large-scale initiatives such as congestion charging, scientists will say today.

Reductions of street level pollution of as much as 30 per cent could be achieved at a low cost simply by growing trees, bushes, and other greenery amid the concrete and glass "street canyons" that characterise modern cities, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Plants clean the air of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, which are blamed for a significant portion of the 35,000 to 50,000 of premature UK deaths that are attributed to outdoor air pollution each year. The World Health Organisation's outdoor air quality database puts the figure of air quality related premature deaths at more than one million a year worldwide.

Scientists at the Universities of Birmingham and Lancaster say pollution struggles to escape "street canyons", which makes planting green walls of grass, climbing ivy and other plants far more effective at filtering out pollutants than previously thought.

Computer modelling suggested green walls trumped plants in parks and on roofs, as well as street trees, which were most effective in less polluted streets where high level leaves did not trap polluted air at ground level.

The scientists say rolling out more foliage would be simple to achieve on a street-by-street basis, while plant covered "green billboards" could be installed in urban canyons. Although they also warned care would have to be taken to grow hardy vegetation that can cope with drought, heat stress, or vandalism"

To read the full article visit

Home Theatre

23 July 2012

Senior Landscape Designer LLoyd Atherfold discusses the brilliance of birds in your backyard.

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The idea of bird watching conjures up images of big binoculours, small notebooks, and wide brimmed hats. However you don’t have to be David Attenborough to appreciate the truly spectular native birds New Zealand has been blessed with, especially when they’re right on our back doorstep.

I am fortunate enough to be visited by a Tui who is rather fond of the flowering tree beside my porch. Its song transforms my garden into a theatre of visual and audio delight, and I would like to encourage ‘my Tui’ to keep visiting. In fact, building a bird friendly garden is a priority of mine, my kids love spotting an interesting bird or hearing birdsong and then discovering the bird that the song belongs to, it’s a fun game.

More than just personal enjoyment, biodiversity is an intergal part of a healthy ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem is a source of food, building materials, energy and medicines and provides for pollination, waste assimilation and water filtration. Birds are part of this diversity and are part of our day to day living.

Unfortunately, our bird numbers are in decline, and this is an indicator of a more serious decline in our biodiversity. Birds rely on the smorgasboard of sugars that flowers and fruit provide, and if that declines, so do they.

Planting trees and shrubs for all round feeding is the key. There are many natives that provide bird sustenance for all of New Zealand’s environments. Many natives cross over into the textural realm and suit an Auckland subtropical climate. Nikau and flax, some of our best known, are just a couple of the many. One exotic that produce masses of vibrant colour, which I am fond of are the Aloes varieties. Selected Aloes flower in the winter and do well in Auckland.

- LLoyd Atherfold 

Still Growing

16 July 2012

Natural Habitats is very pleased to be able to offer the services of a new senior Landscape Designer who comes complete with architectural credentials.

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Our Design team has been strengthened with the addition of Pascal Tibbits. A very experienced Landscape Designer; Pascal has spent the last 16 years working on some of New Zealand’s most elite and beautiful properties, and is looking forward to working with us on A Grand Scale.

Pascal is an excellent addition to our talented group of people. Trained as an architect, he brings his own unique hand-crafted style that expands our offering while also complementing how we work at Natural Habitats.

You will be able to get the measure of Pascal soon as he has also been engaged as the face of Natural Habitats in a six episode Building and Landscape Renovation show. This is due to air in the next couple of months and we will let you know the exact details as they come to hand..

Planting Public Places Productively

02 July 2012

In a time of ever increasing living costs and ever increasing waistlines, Landscape Architect Jenny Wood discusses the potential of planting public spaces productively.

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If you have the benefit (or the curse) of living in a city, you will have noticed that on average our backyards are getting smaller, while our waistlines are getting bigger. You don’t have to know a lot about physics to realise that these two trends will eventually arrive at an impasse. But before that happens, perhaps there is something we could do to avert a human logjam.

One step in the right direction could be to improve access to fresh fruit. With shrinking yard sizes, recent landscaping trends and the ever increasing cost of living - access to fresh food is now a struggle for many people.

This brings me to the notion of productive planting in public spaces. Over the past 20 years or so, landscape architecture has seen our public spaces predominately planted with natives, with low maintenance and aesthetics the main priorities. While these designs are seen as visually appealing - and while I definitely promote native planting, they offer little in terms of produce for people or the ever-important bee.

At Natural Habitats we believe that public spaces such as parks, reserves and streetscapes should be making a greater contribution to the physical and psychological health of our societies. By planting fruiting trees such as mandarins, feijoas, apples, and walnuts - and even perennial herb species such as rosemary and thyme, the local community could have access to a source of seasonal healthy fresh food.

Collecting fruit right off the tree will not only save you a penny, add to your ‘five plus a day’ count, inspire a greater connection with nature, increase your feel good factor and foster a collective sense of community well being; it will also reduce transport carbon emissions associated with food.

At Natural Habitats, we are practising what we are preaching and have designed and planted orchards in neighbourhood reserves at Stonefields, Stage 1 of the Tamaki Transformation Programme and also at a number of retirement villages throughout the North Island. We have found that residents are enjoying the health, financial and social benefits of accessible fruiting trees. Residents are interacting with each other, arranging ‘fruit bottling’ get-togethers and taking ownership of the project to ensure its prolonged success.

We have continued our research with specialists at the Council, the Botanic gardens and also Landcare Research to develop a disease and pest resistant palette of fruiting trees suitable to the fickle Auckland climate.

Our aim is to challenge the conventional notion of what a desirable landscape is. We believe a landscape must be evaluated not only in terms of its aesthetic, but also the value of its contribution to society. As populations continue to grow, we have no choice but to make the best use of increasingly limited spaces, and that means prioritising a landscapes functional role.


Jenny Wood

Landscape Architect

Which Came First?

12 June 2012

The Landscape or the Home?

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Have you ever-noticed in advertisements for watches that the time is almost always set at 10:10? Assuming this wasn’t a coincidence I did some digging and found that 10:10 is used because it’s the optimal configuration to frame the watch and show off the maker’s name. It’s the same in architecture, spend some time browsing award winning projects and you’ll notice the majority are set in simply stunning natural landscapes which frame the house and show off its design.

In the same way that the combination of belt and belt loops make it hard to attribute responsibility for holding your jeans at a socially responsible height, award winning projects combine architecture and landscape design with such synergy that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the natural and the constructed environment. The result is a sense of inevitability; as if both the building and the landscape have always been there.

Unfortunately we cannot all live in the shadows of grand mountain ranges, or within earshot of crashing waves as with many award winning projects, but that should not deter us from utilizing the natural landscape within our own property. Good landscape design improves the form, the function, and the value of any property, regardless of size or location. 

At Natural Habitats we see landscape design as an investment. When done correctly it’s guaranteed to pay dividends of pride and enjoyment every day while adding financial value to your property. What’s more, the only risk is the occasional aphid or mealy bug, an enemy far easier to conquer than the directors of a finance company.

Hedonistic Sustainability

02 March 2012

Touted as "the latest and most exciting evolution in the green movement", hedonistic sustainability provides a challenge to the fundamental assumption that going green means going without.

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Hedonistic sustainability. In a society where the never-ending onslaught of buzzwords, catchphrase and ‘hot topics’ can become a genuine threat to one’s sanity, you could almost be forgiven for dismissing this concept as yet another empty marketing gimmick. However, grounding itself in the basic concept that pleasure is the only intrinsic focus for going green, hedonistic sustainability represents what very well could be the start of the next holistic design paradigm.

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and rated as ‘one of the 100 most creative people in business’ by Fast Company, is the man behind the motion. The current discussion about sustainability, he argues, leaves a somewhat bitter taste in one’s mouth as it’s always perceived as a downgrade from our current comfortable lifestyles. Our fundamental resistance to sustainability is that we are yet to really be presented with sustainable options that offer truly comparative alternatives.

But what if our thinking about sustainability is fundamentally flawed? What if we could actually have it all, doing what attains both pleasure for ourselves whilst reaping benefits for the environment?

Defined as “sustainability that improves the quality of life and human enjoyment”, hedonistic sustainability is touted as the “latest and most exciting evolution in the green movement”. It challenges this misconception that sustainability means sacrifice. Copenhagen’s Waste-to-Energy plant designed by Ingels himself is a classic example of such hedonistic sustainability – turning the outside of a waste treatment center into a ski slope using a recycled synthetic granular that upends the convention of the energy intensive indoor ski resort.

Green walls are a clear example that this wondrous intersection between hedonism and sustainability actually exists. Seeing an elaborate garden cascading down the side of a building really does have the power to inspire awe in the mind of the beholder, never mind the harmful air pollutants it’s removing whilst simultaneously reducing that nasty urban heat island effect. Simply envisage a city that could be likened more to an actual jungle than a concrete one, and now you begin to understand Ingel’s concept that sustainable living really can be more fun than normal life.

Our global environmental situation is becoming increasingly precarious, that’s a reality. With the need for sustainable practises not only acknowledged but demanded, the concept of hedonistic sustainability offers new hope that going green is not synonymous with depravation.

Suggested Viewing:
Bjarke Ingels discusses Hedonisitc Sustainability at TEDxEast

By Jericho Cleary

Stephen Marr Green Wall Reconfigured

01 March 2012

Three years since its original installation,New Zealand's first green wall at the Stephen Marr Salon has been reconfigured. Jericho Cleary discusses how the versatility afforded by green walls can add signifcant value for clients, allowing for the accomodation of changing desires and circumstances.

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Vertical gardens certainly offer an array of benefits to both commercial and residential clients alike. The obvious environmental and aesthetic contributions aside, the simple versatility inherent in the design of Natural Habitats’ green walls is an underrated means by which they can provide significant value to clients.

The extent of versatility and flexibility afforded by a green wall has been clearly brought to light by the recent reconfiguration of the Stephen Marr green wall at The Department Store, Takapuna. Originally installed in 2009, the double-sided wall is 10 meters long by 2 meters high and boasts well over 1,000 individual plants. The concept behind this breathtaking piece of artwork was simple – divide the upper level of the salon as to provide unique spaces that could be used for presentations such as fashion shows. The installation of wall not only fulfilled its physical purpose but also proved to be a powerful branding exercise, with the salon being named the “best concept store in the world” by the respected international publication Monocle Magazine in 2010.

Three years on, the green wall continues to receive both praise and admiration. Recently however, the desire to extend retail areas led to the decision to relocate three of the wall’s ten panels, effectively creating two green walls. Due to the technology used by Natural Habitats to construct its green walls, this desire was easily accommodated and proved to be a straightforward yet outstandingly effective exercise for Stephen Marr. The reconfigured wall provides a significant point of difference for the salon; it demands the attention not only of those unfamiliar with the green wall but also of those who have become familiar with its presence.

At Natural Habitats, we use specialist technology that allows us to cater each green wall to the design and practical needs of each client. Each panel is a self-contained unit consisting of a lightweight frame with its own irrigation manifold. The lightweight frame supports the lightweight manufactured media designed for engineers’ comfort in weight loading designs. The self-contained nature of each panel and the care taken to develop lightweight materials underpins the versatility of our green walls.

 The versatility provided by green walls can provide a significant return on investment when utilised - in the case of Stephen Marr, reconfiguring the green wall accommodated a changing commercial focus and provided a significant means of generating brand attention as a natural by-product. Such reconfiguration goals can lend relevance to residential clients who may be moving house and wish to take their investment with them, or commercial clients who wish to regenerate brand attention or to change the function of the green wall.

By Jericho Cleary

Food for Thought

02 February 2012

As our world's population continues to grow, so too does the amount of land required to produce food. Landscape Architect Sam Parkes discusses the viability of urban farming in creating a sustainable future as space limitations in today's hectic urban environment becomes an ever-increasing reality.

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You can feed 22 people for a year from growing one hectare of potatoes, 19 people per year from a hectare of rice and just 1 or 2 people per year growing beef from the product of the same area (estimates by WHO and FAO)

As the population rises, the requirement of the landscape becomes increasingly demanding.  Where is this land going to come from?  What ecosystems, previous uses, or other potential operations might be sacrificed to meet this demand?

With lack of space becoming an increasingly relevant issue, it’s a good idea to explore what existing urban areas can offer.  Many designers have explored this notion with elaborate urban farms towering skywards, successful community gardens, or the simple and effective backyard vege patch.

A company called BrightFarms are carving a sustainable path for urban farming through their pioneering methods of operating greenhouses on supermarket rooftops. In return, the supermarket agrees to a long-term contract to sell the food that is produced and harvested. As well as providing the customer with visably fresher produce, this method of urban farming dramatically reduces carbon emissions through the elimination of shipping and storage, as well as requiring a fraction of the land or water generally associated with food production. With plenty of rooftops but limited ground space, this form of urban farming could be a way of the future for our crowded cities.

Natural Habitats green walls have been used in areas where space is at a premium and where creation of a sense of tranquillity in an otherwise hectic urban environment is, well, a breath of fresh air. With technological developments in our wall technology we will be looking to adapt our green walls further in the coming years; as personal vertical kitchen gardens for those without the backyard space and with a bit of creative flair.  

Affordable and edible - now that is sustaining.

Suggested reading:
Doig, W. (2012). Urban Gardens: The Future of Food? Retrieved from

By Sam Parkes
Project Landscape Architect
Natural Habitats