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Best of the best

The Landscapes of Distinction Awards bring together the very best landscapers in the country. This year the awards experienced strong growth, with more than 90 entries. Beyond entrant numbers, the judges and entrants agree that the standard of submissions continues to rise, with both established names and newer landscaping companies picking up a bundle of awards

Five of the winners shared their thoughts on how their winning projects developed and what the awards mean for them.

Supreme Winner - Humphreys Landscaping

In awarding Humphreys Landscaping the Supreme winner of the Landscapes of Distinction Awards, the judges didn’t hold back on their praise.

“Humphreys’ Herne Bay House is a triumph of engineering, construction, landscape technology, design, and plant management. The double sloping coastal cliff section has been structurally stabilised in order to support a large house and garden complex. The lush resort-style landscape provides a truly luxurious outdoor living environment, with the highest quality materials, planting, and maintenance.

“This garden truly demonstrates a high level of landscape design, engineering and technology, along with masterful gardening, to deliver the Master Landscapers’ Landscape of the Year for 2021.”

Along the way to collecting the Supreme Winner award, Humphreys also picked up the Best Construction Project, Best Design Project, and Best Horticultural Project awards for their Herne Bay entry.

Director Scott Humphreys knew right from the start that the Herne Bay garden would be a special project, partly due to the sheer scale and partly due to the clients.

“It was a big property when we started, then shortly after we’d started the clients acquired the neighbouring property too, which turned an already massive garden into a very large garden indeed.

“While the final size of the project had increased, because we had worked for this client before, we knew their passion

and high expectations would be pushing us all the way, which is the way we like to work.”

Asked to identify the most memorable part of the build, Scott says it was partly the scale of the implementation and partly just getting material onto the site.

“Given it was five years from client meeting to handing the completed job over, the work was staged as we moved through the property, and it was a memorably massive project.

There was a long design process and a big engineering component, with the house also being heavily renovated at the same time. We worked closely with the builders, who

constructed retaining walls and associated heavy works. We work with these builders, Precision Construction, and the architect, Julian Guthrie, all the time, so we all knew what to expect from each other. This gave us an opportunity to run our processes at a very high level.

“Also, the property is steep, with a number of levels interlinked to living areas of the house, and it had protected trees that needed to stay, so getting all the materials in was challenging. We coordinated with the builders to close the road and used a crane to get materials to where they were needed. That in itself was quite a project.”

Regarding the level of competition at the awards, Scott says the standard is rising every year – and not just from the old guards of landscaping.

“It’s great to see the younger and newer guys pushing the level and it’s great to mingle and share ideas with newer members of Registered Master Landscapers.”

Scott is very aware of the value of the awards to his customers and staff.

“We sent out an article on the awards to our client list and we got an amazing response. I think putting ourselves up against the best in the country is something they like to see. And it’s been just as important for our staff - they absolutely loved being part of the awards. We can’t wait to go back again!”

Special feature award - HEB Construction

HEB Construction was absolutely thrilled to receive the gold medal in the commercial construction project over $250k for its Maungawhau Tihi Boardwalk around the crater rim and lower tihi (summit) of Maungawhau / Mt Eden.

Boardwalk project manager Hayden Sefonte doesn’t have to think twice about what he considers the most rewarding part of the job – witnessing the end users’ enjoyment.

“The best part is the feeling of satisfaction when we turned up after the project was completed and saw the space full of people enjoying the boardwalk. That’s the great thing about government-funded public open spaces – you actually get to see the end users enjoying the new asset.”

Constructing this boardwalk was different than most, mainly due to the cultural sensitivities of the site, which meant that using helicopters and heavy machinery wasn’t the best option.

“Normally we’d use large rigs to drill in big piles and a helicopter to get it all there. That sounds like the best approach from a civil construction standpoint, but once we broke it down, actually hand carrying everything in was best. We used screw in piles that two guys could carry in and hand drill into the ground. It was labour intensive but much less invasive on the site.

“There were some magnificent projects nominated at this year’s awards and many were duly recognised. Our concern when nominating the project was that it lacked the high-end, high-spec bling of the others, despite the substance behind how we went about delivering the project, so was pleasing to see that this substance was acknowledged with the award.”

In terms of what the award means for HEB, Hayden says the company is known for roads and bridges, but there is more to it, and he feels that this award demonstrates that it can create beautiful work too.

“In the wider market, HEB is perceived as a typical Tier 1 civil infrastructure contractor. This may be right to the extent that most of its revenue is derived from the black stuff you drive on, the concrete bridges you drive over, and civil infrastructure projects throughout the country. But the delivery of this project, open space projects in the greater Tamaki Makaurau region, and the subsequent acknowledgment from within the industry that we are not a one trick pony, is very pleasing to see.”

Best maintenance project of the year - Diva Landscapes

Diva Landscapes, based in the Wakatipu basin, employs a mainly female crew and take particular pride in their attention to detail.

That attention to detail is evident in its maintenance of The Lodge at the Hills, just out of Queenstown, for which they picked up the Premier Award for Best Maintenance Project of the year.

Owner, Simon Leversedge knows the Wakatipu Basin well, which is necessary if plants are to thrive there.

“The most challenging aspect of maintaining a garden at The Hills is the ever-changing weather conditions and the microclimates created as a result. Some varieties of plants grow well in one area yet, only a hundred metres away in another part of the garden, they can really struggle. This means you have to really pay detailed attention to get the best from the garden.”

Asked what has been the most satisfying part of maintaining The Hills, Simon points to the steady growth brought about by a few specific strategies Diva implemented in the garden.

“Watching the garden evolve year after year as plants become established and thrive has been the most satisfying aspect. We can see that our feeding regime and pest control strategies have resulted in the garden developing and improving every year, which is a very satisfying feeling for all those involved.”

Steve has found that winning the award has meant a great deal more than the trophy itself.

“The recognition of the staff’s hard work has been really good for team morale, and the subsequent media interest has already resulted in an increase of enquiries from potential clients! We’re very pleased to have been recognised for our work and we’re very grateful to the judges for the time spent evaluating the entries – roll on 2022 awards!”

Most awards - Natural habitats

With offices in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch, Natural Habitats undertake projects across the country. Company founder (or Head Rake), Graham Cleary is proud to have brought home the most awards from the Landscapes of Distinction awards night.

“The best part of the awards is always bringing our team together with others in the industry and celebrating the really high standard of work from ourselves and our peers right across the country.”

Of all their entries, Graham says he’s most proud of those that feature the company’s green walls, and that Natural Habitats is leading the development of this emerging trend.

“Creating successful green walls, or living walls, is all about watering and building in processes so that, if and when human error causes a disruption to the watering (generally by someone unwittingly disconnecting a water supply) the green wall can hold enough water to survive and alert its waterer that it needs the water supply put right. We have worked hard to improve the technology here and, as a result, our green wall at Westfield in Auckland is the biggest in the southern hemisphere.”

Graham says that “green walls are special because they show that innovation in landscaping is still possible. Ultimately they are making cities more liveable and improving the quality of people’s lives”.

Graham is clear on the value the awards hold for staff and clients.

“The awards are always terrific for staff morale and showing the wider world what we can do is great marketing. So, both externally and internally, there is huge amount of value to the awards, and we are already looking forward to next year!”

People’s choice - Onlandscapes

For Ollie Newman, director of Christchurch-based Onlandscapes, winning the people’s choice award for a complex villa renovation is a big deal. Ollie thinks the win reflects their decision to ensure the landscaping style reflected the style of the renovated old villa.

“The house, which was heavily renovated following earthquake damage, included new foundations that were 500mm higher than previously. This meant building new retaining walls, new stairs, and getting everything to line up across the section and into the house. We did all that and still made sure it followed the historic villa aesthetic, and I’m stoked everyone else appreciated what we achieved.”

Ollie says they did have a big advantage that he says bordered on making their entry a bit unfair to the other contestants.

“Our clients were just so great to work with. They were knowledgeable and passionate and thrilled with the outcome. We knew them before the job through our school-age children. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking working for friends, but it genuinely has made our friendship grow. It’s hard to compete against that!”

Ollie is certain the awards are a great experience for his staff and the business.

“I base a lot of our business around team culture and everyone had their part to play in this win. It’s also great advertising for potential future clients that we’ve won this big award.

“We are hooked on the awards now. We will enter every year now. RML is great and the Awards are a great time – every landscaper should enter.”

Registered Master Landscapers is committed to supporting landscape professionals and young future leaders.

For more information contact CEO Janine Scott on or phone 0275 444 090


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