Getting well grounded

By Katie Costain and Ben Freeman

As many Cantabrians begin to rebuild or renovate their homes, it becomes important to start considering the landscape and its functionality within your property.

The garden is typically an afterthought in the building process however, it is a crucial step in the development of your property. It is generally the first view people will get of your home from the street.

If you are building new with a blank canvas, the landscape is going to be costly. By including the landscape early in the home design process, you can ensure that you have a clear understanding of the time and costs involved in creating your ideal landscape.
Get it right the first time and your garden will flourish and continue to serve you and your family for years to come.

When renovating your property, you need to consider the outdoor spaces within their existing context. Features including timber decking, courtyards, sprawling lawns, swimming and spa pools are all design features that are highly sought after by the home buyer, and can transform your property into something that sets it apart from the rest.

So regardless of whether you are starting from scratch or it is time for a change, before you start, here are a few questions to ask yourself to ensure you create the landscape look you are after:
What theme do I have in mind?
Successful gardens utilise the strong points of one or two themes. By sticking to this idea, your garden will read as a cohesive and organised landscape.

What are my goals for the garden?
How do you plan to utilise the spaces within the garden? What are your needs? If you have a young family you may want to consider a large lawn space and planting that is safe for children.
If you like to spend a lot of time outside entertaining, perhaps you would prefer a large or numerous entertainment spaces which maximise sun exposure and are sited in a sheltered position.

What is my budget?
Knowing how much you are able to spend from the outset will make the entire design process easier and more transparent. If your budget allows, hiring a landscape professional is money well spent. Not only can they assist with the design of your property, they can help liaise with and organise contractors, landscape supplies and plants.

How to create the landscape look you are after:
Match the architecture of your house. Your garden needs to be an extension of and compliment the architecture, not clash with it. The best way to do this is to view the inside and outside as a single living environment, with the house informing the outcome of the garden

  • Keep the landscape design simple and fit for its purpose
  • Employ contractors for all/any works you are not comfortable creating yourself
  • Take inspiration from the environment around you. Plants within your local environment are suited to the climatic conditions and soil type of your region
  • Become inspired. Get excited about your garden and all its possibilities and most importantly, make sure you enjoy the process!

Common mistakes:
Not researching. This includes everything from garden trends and themes to landscape supplies council bylaws and covenants. It is best to look around to find something that suits your taste, budget and purpose and meets any regulations and rules that may be imposed

  • Poor planning. Early planning will allow for the most efficient allocation of resources. There is nothing worse than finding that your ideal feature or furnishing can’t be purchased or sited in its desired location due to a lack of access after construction
  • Don’t leave it until the last minute. If you are building, get involved in your landscape design early on and try to coordinate it with the architect’s plans from the outset
  • Skimping on plant numbers. After putting in all that time and effort to create your perfect landscape, you don’t want to be let down by a sparsely planted garden. Clumping plants together in groups will give your garden instant and greater impact
  • Don’t be afraid to seek professional advice. Many landscape architects and designers offer free, no obligation quotes. Utilising the expertise and experience of qualified professionals will enhance the overall outcome of your garden.


Katie Costain and Ben Freeman are the directors of Billygoat Landscape Architecture (BGLA), based in Canterbury and Wellington. For more information, visit

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