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.




Digital Technology is (not) the future of Landscape Architecture

27 January 2012

Technological advancement of digital media is a fascinating topic for landscape architecture. Landscape Architect Jane Rumble discusses the merits and drawbacks in contemporary practice.

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Digital representation is a relevant and invaluable topic of study within the academic realm, with benefits for the discipline as a whole.
There is an intrinsic quality in the hands-on explorative process that is lacking in the digital format. Hands-on design processes offer an intimate approach to conceptual thinking about the site. Whether it is a rough freehand drawing, abstracted photographs, makeshift model or mosaic that has been cut up, folded and moved around, early explorations communicate design thinking. These media can evoke the experience of a place in a way that offers richness to the conceptual process.
With the recent surge in the use of digital representation, hand-drawn images are a refreshing addition when integrated in to a design package. However, the drawing board alone will not keep landscape architecture in step with our partner industries. 

Tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and AutoCAD have much to offer. GIS layering of site qualities, landscape patterns and connections inherent to the site enrich site analysis and feed into the design process. Programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator are useful for layering different types of media, testing a concept and adding texture and interest to a presentation. The technical accuracy of Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs such as AutoCAD enable drafting accuracy, modelling, flexible editing of drawings and are formatted to allow the transfer of information between construction and design industries. 

Digital software is an invaluable tool for landscape architecture and sharpens our skills as designers, however the creative process should not be confined to a computer. Digital advancement will continue to pervade the industry, thus computer-based technology is the future of landscape architecture. However, a visual representation can come to life through the thoughtful integration of hand-drawing and conceptual thinking with digital technology. 

As designers we are taught to experiment and find new ways of doing: discovering techniques to connect land and people through meaningful design. The skill lies in then choosing the most effective means of visually communicating that information from the overall picture down to the smallest detail. 

Good design starts with an idea.

Suggested reading:
Cantrell, B and Michaels, W (2010) Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture: Contemporary Techniques and Tools for Digital Representation: John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey, USA

By Jane Rumble
Landscape Architect
Natural Habitats 

People Love A Good Lawn

09 January 2012

We tell you how to get a good lawn (you know you want one)... plus we give you the chance to win a free lawn renovation this summer!

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The value of that patch of green connected to our home;

Since landscaping began as a conscious and planned activity areas of short grass sward have been important. In both a visual and practical sense lawns add to the quality and comfort provided by our living space.

The satisfaction gained by the act of mowing a lawn or by seeing or walking over a nice piece of turf runs far deeper than might first be suspected. Conversely the unsettling discomfort we feel when the lawn gets a little shaggy can be disproportionate to its actual importance. 

To test this theory try leaving your lawn to grow – hey why not who said we must trim the areas around our homes at 50mm constantly? Think of the time and money saved and the habitat for animals and insects you will create. I wager that within a matter of weeks discomfort will build. Your neighbours will begin to comment and your property will stand out in the street.

Our personal savannah;

The source of this deep and primal response to our environment is simple. If the grass is short sabre toothed tigers can’t hide in it and eat you!!! Since pre-historic times humans have preferred to live where the grass is short and preferable directly in front of our homes.

So go with your primal flow;

Once we acknowledge the primal satisfaction that we can gain by having a well tended lawn we can start to think of the best way to create said lawn. Auckland with its sub-tropical climate and predominantly clay soils is a difficult place to grow a great lawn.

The detail of good lawn care;

One of the most powerful influences on a lawn’s overall look is the infestation of weeds. Due to the variability of early summer weather conditions in and around Auckland predicting problem weeds is an art.

At Natural Habitats we employ a specialist Lawncare team whose sole job it is to interpret and care for lawns to ensure weeds are controlled and grass is always looking great. Soil management is also essential to good lawns.

The correct balance of fertility, drainage and soil conditioning will create the necessary environment for your chosen grass variety to flourish. Any lawn will need renovation over time. To keep it lawn looking its best it is important to give it a make-over every so often (We recommend every 1-2 years) with a combination of soil treatments and fresh seed.

Irrigation is important if you are after a consistent lawn over summer. In ground automated systems are by far the most efficient and cost effective solution to watering. Finally the selection of grass species is important.

There are a range of different turf varieties from tropical to temperate. The grass you need will be dependent on the nature of your garden and how you want to use the lawn.

How to have a good lawn (you know you want one);

The management of lawns is a science and an art. At Natural Habitats we can simplify this task by looking at your property, your family and your budget to come up with a lawn care plan to suit you. The satisfaction gained will run deep when you know that smooth cool looking patch of green does not hide a single tiger...

By Stephen Blomfield
Care Manager
Natural Habitats

Lawncare Competition

Natural Habitats is running a competition for a free lawn start up renovation with our qualified Agronomist. Renovation includes lawn de-thatch, oversow and topdress.

To enter email your name and address to, with subject line "Online Lawncare Competition"

Prize drawn 30th January, to be redeemed from February 2012 to March 2012

Please Note: Competition only open to Auckland residents. By submitting your details you are indicating that you would like to be informed of future lawn care specials and tips. Should you not wish to be contacted please add “no contact” below your name.

Remarkable Riding

05 December 2011

Natural Habitats Central Otago Manager (and mountain bike aficionado) Mark Aston discusses the construction of sustainable cycle ways and his teams work on the Queenstown Trail.

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The initial focus of ‘Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail has been on developing a series of 18 Great Rides. The Queenstown Trail is one of these. The proposed trail will be a spectacular 90km mountain biking ride, which will take riders alongside pristine rivers and lakes and beneath mountain ranges.

Several sections of trail around Queenstown are ready to ride, and the construction of Arrowtown to Whitechapel Road trail is currently being undertaken by Natural Habitats Central Otago.

Decades of mountain biking experience combined a keen interest in off road cycling and track formation means our Central Otago team has been actively pursuing (and riding) each section of the trail as it is completed.

To date Natural Habitats has been involved in the formation of the Gibbston Valley Cycleway, and Upper Arrow River Trail, as well as community work on trails and re-vegetation planting on areas of the Skyline Mountain Bike Trail system (known as Queenstown Bike Park).

Building tracks of this nature include a variety of different work such as scrub and tree clearance, initial track formation, watertable and culvert installation, and building retaining walls and timber boardwalk bridges.

Whilst these projects have been incredible we have been dissatisfied with the roading contractor approach that is often adopted for the construction of many walking and biking trails.

This approach uses outdated construction techniques which are far from best practice and less than ideal from a sustainability point of view. For the essential elements in creating sustainable trails lie with forming rolling contours.

Key to this are:

  • The ‘Half Rule’ which means the trail’s grade shouldn’t exceed half the grade of the hillside, or sideslope, that the hill traverses. If it does then water will flow down it rather than run across it, ruining the trail, even on gently sloping areas.
  • The ‘Ten Percent Average Guideline’ whereby trail grades of 10 percent or less are most sustainable. This helps minimise erosion by users because steeper grades increase the amount of soil loosened by cyclists having to work harder to travel up or down the slope, and allows design flexibility in case there is an obstacle in the path.
  • ‘Grade Reversals which is where there is a point at which the climbing trail levels out and then changes direction, dropping subtly for 3-15 metres before rising again. A grade reversal forces water to drain off the trail, helping them to endure, even with minimal maintenance.
  • The ‘tilt’ on the outer edge of the trail as it contours across a hillside, otherwise known as ‘outslope’. This tilt encourages water to sheet across, and off the trail, instead of funnelling down its centre. An outsloped trail allows water to drain in a gentle, non-erosive manner.

These are just a few internationally recognised construction methods we employ to minimise ongoing maintenance and improve watershedding when undertaking trail construction. Such methods create sustainable trails; generate flow and ultimately a better end user experience, ensuring remarkable riding.

Landscapes Of Learning

05 December 2011

Do you recall the endless summers you spent outside as a child exploring and discovering the world around you? For children, outdoor space is an integral part of the fabric of learning.

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The importance of play to promote connectedness to nature has been well researched and documented.  At Natural Habitats we couldn’t agree more; so far this year we have been involved in the design and build of over a dozen educational landscapes.

These projects range from early childhood centres to primary and secondary schools such as Aorere Day Care and College, Montessori Preschool St Peters in Cambridge and Ormiston Senior College, New Zealand’s first 5 Green Star School.

At the beginning of this year we completed the design and build of Mauku Primary School. The school’s new grounds utilise spatial hierarchies and transitional connections between areas, to create a cohesive space with a range of functions.

Vibrant concentric concrete paths which create play eddies; rain swales, which collect storm water and drain into the fields; a beautifully crafted circular deck and native planting palette complete with fruiting trees, all encourage environmental learning and play, and most importantly the kids love it!

The students wrote to thank us “for designing their cool school” and to assure us that they “are going to look after their new gardens because they are beautiful.”  

This concept of nature play was also integrated into the landscape design at Te Kohanaga Reo O Kakariki Marae in March.

“Nature play enables children to engage with natural processes, grow and harvest food, use native plants for medicinal purposes, learn about pollination, insects, bird life and engage with nature through their imaginations” says Natural Habitats Registered Landscape Architect Debbie Tikao. 

By creating a diversity of places and habitats for children we wish to provide them with the maximum opportunity for interaction with others and the environment.

By considering the landscape’s potential for rich sensory input, flexible furnishing and endless possibilities for exploration, we can be confident that what we are teaching children when they are not being taught is a valuable lesson!


The Inside Word on Outdoor Living

05 December 2011

With summer fast approaching, senior Landscape Designer Mark Read discusses the ins and outs of outdoor living.

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Trends: colours, materials, plants and design...

The great thing about landscape design and design in general today is that you don’t have to conform to a particular style, people are much more willing to put their own mark on their home and gardens, using materials, plants, colours that reflect their personal preferences.

Having said that the latest trend that is shaping what we do is sustainability. This is not so much a trend as a movement. We have seen growing awareness of people’s willingness to embrace ecologically sustainable materials, green roofs, green walls, native vegetation, eco-sourced plants and heritage blooms and crops. 

This more localised response to your environment is something we fully support and encourage clients to adopt. Choosing plants and materials that complement a particular environs makes for a better end result that requires less maintenance, most people are time poor so this approach just makes sense.

Creating indoor/outdoor in your outdoor living area...

A consistent look and feel between indoors and outdoors will create natural flow. You can achieve this by ensuring your colour palette and the choice of materials in your outdoor living area complement those used in your house.   As a general rule materials and the degree of finish should get more natural as you get further away from the house.

Lighting; a bright idea...

There are several things to consider when addressing outdoor lighting. First and foremost you need to decide on the mood you want to create in your garden. Night time is an opportunity to create a different ambience; most people make the mistake of over lighting.

It is also helpful to decide what areas you want to highlight. Other considerations include separation and control of lighting as well as cost (you needn’t choose the most expensive fitting after all it’s the light you are focusing on not the fitting).

Four seasons in one day; the best materials to withstand rain and sun...

Stone is well known for its long life span.  Basalt and dense sandstone are good options for outdoor living areas because they don’t decay and tolerate a range of environmental conditions.

In terms of timber pine is a good (often overlooked) option for decking, as it is very durable and a renewable material. Cedar is another softwood that is used for structural features because it is rigid, stable and looks great however unlike pine it requires continual maintenance. Concrete is also a long lasting material but it is not as desirable from a sustainability point of view.

Upholstery and timber are generally the fastest wearing materials so it is worthwhile investing in quality products to ensure a longer lifespan. As with anything the more care and attention you pay to it the longer it will last. 

The benefits and enjoyment of investing in a well designed quality outdoor living area cannot be underestimated aesthetically, ecologically, socially and economically.


16 December, 2011

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Greening Cities Conference, Sydney 2011

15 November 2011

Graham Cleary was amongst the distinguished line up of leading international & national authorities who presented their recent work and vision for a greener urban future at this year’s conference. He reports on the event

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I was again impressed by the extent of local government initiatives in Australia.  City of Sydney now hasSydney 2030’ vision in place that actively promotes green walls and roofs as a key part of the response to climate change.

Indeed climate change is driving a lot of the green roof developments.  Australia is looking at some dramatic changes; especially hot days, where days over 40°C in Adelaide and Perth look set to triple.  These events kill people and cost the cities millions of dollars in health response.

Companies like ‘Fifth Creek Studios’ in Adelaide have responded with detailed research on how to use green walls and green roofs to counter such events. Their studio now has a large green wall system for very tall buildings (up to 23 stories). They have recently undertaken a feasibility study and are in the process of building and trialing walls.  

The conference also featured Dr Patrick Blanc, the inventor of the modern vertical garden, who is designing and building projects across the world.

Dusty Gedge was also of note. He presented on the history of green roof development in London, where council policy now mandates green roofs.  Interestingly, this was initially driven by the humble bird that required ‘brownsites’ for breeding.  Dusty speaks here in Auckland on 23 November.

The major lessons I brought home are:

We (Natural Habitats) need to help the NZ Green Building Council to promote green roofs.  The technology is proven, climate change predictions are saying we can expect greater extremes.  Basic green technology, even simply increasing, cities tree canopies, and installing greenroofs will help to mitigate these, protect our environment and make our cities more liveable.

/blog/GRA_Fukuoka_Blog.jpgACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall a great example on an integrated landscape architectural system.

By Graham Cleary
Chief Rake
Natural habitats 



Green walls putting the red light on pollution

11 November 2011

Persistently elevated levels of pollution are common across many urban areas and cause an estimated 1.34 million premature deaths a year. Green walls are being used to reduce certain types of pollution by up to 20%...

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Green walls it seems are driving a London initiative to reduce the city’s high pollution levels, which cause more than 4,000 deaths each year.

The London Department of Transport has invested 5 million pounds on a research and development program to test the effectiveness of green walls for pollution mitigation.

One outcome of this investment will be visible later this month in London’s Upper Thames Street, which will be fitted out with a green wall specially designed to trap the harmful pollution (particle matter) caused by diesel engines, tyres and brakes.

Composed of a variety of plants with different depths and textures the green wall will work by creating a range of microclimates on the walls surface to catch the tiny pollution particles. Scientists estimate the wall may be able to reduce certain types pollution of by up to 20%.

The wall will be monitored periodically and the different species checked regularly for the amounts of particulate matter that accumulates on the leaves.  The theory goes that the more particular matter on the leaves, the less inside people’s lungs.

Critics of the scheme question how big an effect the green walls will have on pollution levels.  However if such initiatives are undertaken in conjunction with efforts to reduce emissions and congestion, the overall outcome will be beneficial from not only a physiological perspective but a sustainability, ecological, psychological and amenity one too.

While New Zealand's annual mean pollution is 14µg/m3 compared to the United Kingdom which is 23 µg/m3, the potential benefits of installing green walls at priority locations could help accelerate more successful monitoring and management of our environment.

What this exciting project demonstrates is the transition of green walls firmly into the realms of ecosystem services, where green walls provide another valuable function.  Something that Natural Habitats continues to pursue its green technology.  

We are set to install an active internal green wall system in our offices in the next couple of months and will be investigating potential opportunities and locations where we can combine infrastructure and green technology in our wider urban environment. So perhaps in the not so distant future you can have something better to watch than traffic.

Check out the video on BBC  

By Lydia Franken
Landscape Architect 
Natural Habitats 

Maungarei Springs Wetland, Stonefields Opens

10 November 2011

The official opening for the Maungarei Springs (nee Stonefields Wetland and Wedge Park) took place on this week on Monday 7th November...

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The Wetland Park was formally opened by a number of Orakei councillors in the presence of a throng of local residents and eager children.

A selection of Natural Habitats landscape architects and landscapers (who were responsible for the design and construction of the reserve) also attended.

Driven by a sustainability imperative the Wetland is designed to provide both infrastructural and ecological functions for the Stonefields Development. “We saw it as a unique opportunity to restore indigenous lava flow ecosystems by drawing on and enhancing the sites volcanic history and its current wetland environment.” Says Landscape Architect Debbie Tikao. “It is great to see people enjoying the place.”

The lush 4ha wetland/storm water reserve was late 2010 is humming with local birdlife (and may soon be buzzing, with its very own beehive).

As summer approaches get yourself a picnic and go and enjoy it! 

Green Space Benefitting Infrastructure

01 November 2011

How can we make the most of our urban environment? Graham Cleary explores the benefits of green space..

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Politicians from all parties are telling us what most of us all ready know; that we need better infrastructure to support and improve our standard of living. To be fair, some of this is now being delivered including some of the roads of national significance and the fibre rollout for fast broadband.

These are big dollar projects; NZTA's Waterview alone is some $2 billion. The cost of broad band fibre rollout, another...billion.

We also see some 'low hanging fruit', projects that would deliver benefits far above their cost that are not as yet being widely considered, namely investing in green space.

Auckland is currently set on becoming "The World’s Most Liveable City”. Consider a city of similar population, Copenhagen. Did you know Copenhagen has more than double the green open space of Auckland, yet is arguably far more space constrained and considered "greener" by most!

 Copenhagen's urban plan demonstrates their city's green fingers

If we actively fostered a similar scale of green space, we could achieve a number of far reaching and needed infrastructure goals through simple and effective green technology. Take for instance water quality, which as a city and a country we have been internationally embarrassed by in recent years, and rightly so.

Green space allows for detention and treatment of the "first flush" of storm water at a fraction of the cost of underground detention tanks or the cost of overwhelming our waste water systems. Imagine our beaches free from sewage pollution again? A vision cheaply achievable using green space and existing technology.

Then there are the added or “free” benefits of added habitat diversity for our flora and fauna, including bees and the pure joy of green space in the city. This would support New Zealand’s powerful but fading Clean Green brand. Studies from the US in particular show that neighbourhood parks support and enhance the value of the real estate around them; in New Zealand greener infrastructure would support the development and maintenance costs.

Not all infrastructure needs to cost the earth, but some can certainly play more than its part in helping to save it.
By Graham Cleary
Chief Rake
Natural Habitats


02 November, 2011

Well said Graham, New Zealand also has a fixation with drains and draining water away from land rather than allowing water to enter the soil - weird.

Green Gold

12 October 2011

A new report released by the Australian Property Institute and the Property Funds Association reveals that the environment case for green technology and buildings are now being supported by the financial case...

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/blog/Greengold_BlogPic3.jpgThe environmental benefits of green technology and green buildings are well documented. We know they can reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, regulate temperature and increase biodiversity. 

The aesthetic benefits of such technology are also immediately apparent. A green wall’s cascading mass of lush foliage never fails to delight. It is the financial benefits which until now have often been considered more ambiguous. 

As kiwis the thought of investing a large percentage of capital upfront is often enough to deter us from adopting green technology, irrespective of its long term pay off. However the latest research by the Australian Property Institute and the Property Funds Association of Australia may help reduce consumer’s perceived risk of return.

The report, 'Building Better Returns', demonstrates that green buildings are not synonymous with green bling.  It found that Green Star rated buildings showed a premium in value of 12% and 5% in rents. “The environment case is now being supported by the financial case,” says Professor Newell one of the report’s authors.

Interestingly the findings also showed that the most dramatic fiscal impact occurred when buildings failed to go green. For instance although rents did not appreciate noticeably for high NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) rated buildings, for lower rated buildings rents fell by 9% in the Sydney CBD and 6% in Canberra.

These findings support the recent work by Ernst & Young on the Six Global Trends Shaping the Business World. The global survey identified cleantech becoming a competitive advantage,a trend Australia seems to be capitalising on. They already have a growing reputation in green and clean tech field, and their best green buildings are highly regarded.

While New Zealand has historically been regarded as a nursery for innovation, in this instance it appears we have a bit of catching up to do. Green technology and green buildings are a growing trend. As companies face increasing pressure from their stakeholders to demonstrate that their businesses are sustainable, It makes sense financially and environmentally to build green technology into growth strategies. After all what could be more satisfying than an investment that literally grows before for your eyes.

by Lydia Franken,
Landscape Architect
Natural Habitats 


28 October, 2011

Good points all aurond. Truly appreciated.