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Landscape Views - Issue 6

This is a column by landscapers, for landscapers. In it, you’ll find knowledge, views and insights from professionals just like you, who are currently working in the industry. This issue, we’ve got feedback on how landscapers just like you see commercial, residential, new build and existing garden work


Q. What are the pros and cons of residential and commercial landscaping? And within residential, what are the pros and cons of new builds versus existing gardens?


BGE Landscape Projects

Interviewee: Brett Garea (Owner / Managing Director)

Location: Glenfield, Auckland

Staff: 10


We are predominantly residential, but our portfolio also includes larger group housing companies such as Fletcher and Universal, so there are some big differences there.


Private residential work requires a lot of consultation with the client. With group housing work, there is a lot less consultation, as the overall theme is already established and the plant pallet/hard elements are pre-determined via master plans.

With group housing work, safety compliance takes up a lot of our time and increases costs as a result. There’s not often the same level of scrutiny in private work, unless you are subcontracting to a complying construction company. Overall, private work requires a lot more one-on-one interaction than the group housing work.

We do a combination of both landscaping for new builds and for existing homes. We find new builds a lot more satisfying, as we are building the landscape from the ‘ground up’ as opposed to renovations, which often involves

removing a lot of existing product to enable work to proceed and a new landscape to take shape.

Second Nature

Interviewee: Chris Ballantyne (Creative Director and Founder)

Location: West Auckland Staff: 45


Originally, Second Nature specialised in the creation and care of residential gardens. As the company has grown, we have expanded our range of services, with specialist teams offering landscape architecture, garden design, planting, construction and garden care services. Our

commercial client base continues to increase, mainly around planting and garden care. Our next goal is to develop a team that specialises in the commercial area.

Residential work is demanding. The clients are heavily emotionally invested and we are working around their homes. The garden creation process is messy, disruptive and often costly. Ensuring the process is well-managed, communication is clear, and the outcome achieves the desired result helps overcome some of these challenges. A strong client/contractor relationship helps in successfully navigating the process.


Commercial work has very different demands. The clients are generally not as emotionally invested, but more outcome

and performance-focused. Timelines are often critical, and we often find ourselves having to work around other trades in the closing stages of a commercial project. Health and safety issues are more problematic on commercial sites, with the public sometimes present and large construction site risks to be managed.

We do a mix of new builds and existing gardens. New builds often mean starting with a relatively clean slate and provide an opportunity to more easily install new infrastructure – drainage, irrigation, etc. The client often seeks to have the landscape works finished as soon as possible after construction. This means we have to work alongside other trades who are still on the site to meet deadlines. Scheduling work around the other trades not under our control can be a challenge.


We often have complete control of the site when renovating existing gardens. This makes management easier. The disadvantage of renovations is the need to work around existing trees, structures and services. The client is often living in the house while work is undertaken, so our team is working under their gaze and needs to minimise any disruption. Site access can be problematic – increasingly we are developing gardens with very challenging access (probably the reason they weren’t developed previously). Access to the work area needs to be created and reinstated on completion. Existing structures, trees and surfaces need to be protected against damage.


Ellis Landscape Co

Interviewee: Dr Erik Ellis (Landscape Consultant / Owner)

Location: Christchurch

Staff: 3


I work with both commercial and residential clients. There are clear differences between them and what is involved in working in each. Commercial clients are usually more driven and have clearer aims. They might have a project plan in place already, which often includes one, five and ten-year aims for the landscaping, and they generally know what they want to spend. All of this means an outstanding result can often be achieved.


A restaurant I worked on recently had a 40-foot container of mature plants that went in. That is a big project with a substantial budget. The end result is amazing and will continue to develop over time. I think gardening is a lot like architecture, except you have to think about what will happen to the garden as it grows over time, whereas the house stays the same. We have to consider more in that sense.


Homeowners often aren’t sure what their budget is, but they will have some sense of what they want to achieve, and often make decisions based more on emotion than budget or plan. This is good but can sometimes lead to tricky situations, especially if, for example, a couple don’t agree on what they want to achieve.

Last year I was working at a newly built, beautiful, architecturally designed house. The owner wanted a Japanese garden. I have worked in Japan and have made a number of Japanese gardens, so I knew we could achieve an outstanding result. And we did. Then the husband returned from being away and said: “what the hell is this?!” Turns out they hadn’t discussed it.


When working on a new house and landscape job, I think you’ve got to get involved early, with the owners, the architects and even planners at the council, otherwise you could find yourself constrained by access when builders are on the site or when a consenting process holds up work. Working on an existing garden is more simple, in that you are generally working with only the owners.




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