Ask the experts

Ask the experts

We speak with four of Christchurch’s leading landscape architects and designers to shine a light on the fundamentals required to create stunning outdoor spaces. 

Tony Milne - Rough & Milne Landscape Architects

What inspired you to become a landscape designer? Growing up in rural Otago and Canterbury is where I developed an affinity for the land, and I’m sure my ‘Pop’, who was a gardener for the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, had some influence over my own future aspirations.

What are your responsibilities as a landscape architect? Ensuring we treat the land with respect and honesty. On one hand, we have the client for whom we are enlisted to create their own little patch of paradise where life is for living and memories are created. On the other hand, we are entrusted with the broader landscape, and with decisions that affect future generations.  

What is the secret to design success? A landscape architect’s job is to first garner a clear understanding of the client’s wishes and aspirations, and then offer a creative interpretation of them. A clever design response must not only resonate with your client’s brief, but also show an appreciation of and reverence for the setting. No matter what the parameters of size or budget, each design only has meaning when people can connect and interact with it.

Where in your own garden will you be spending time this summer? Having just invested in a swimming pool, I plan on spending every waking minute in it! It’s such a fantastic addition to our garden and I anticipate plenty of fun times spent in and around it with family and friends.

03 366 3268  |

Emily Hastie - Kamo Marsh Landscape Architects

What do you love most about your job? I love using my creativity to offer clients the full spectrum of possibilities, including ideas they may not have considered, to improve their quality of life on a day-to-day basis.

What is your primary function as a landscape architect? To listen carefully to how clients live and to what they want. From there it’s a landscape architect’s job to assimilate and interpret all the information to form a detailed design, which is then brought to fruition by liaising with other architects, designers, consultants and contractors.

How do you achieve optimal results? I find that honing in on four distinct aspects: dining, entertaining, relaxing and playing, opens up a dialogue that helps me discover how people live and how they intend to use their outdoor living areas.

How does your experience working in Europe influence your work today? I appreciate the importance of creating quality, timeless designs, and embracing seasonal changes within the garden, and have the technical skills required to efficiently utilise space on various scales, from intimate outdoor living spaces to urban planning for high density living.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? For me, it’s all about people: collaborating with the client, bouncing ideas back and forth, and ultimately creating spaces they will have great pleasure spending time in and engaging with.

Where in your own garden will you be spending time this summer? After a busy year, I'm looking forward to enjoying some down time in a newly developed spot in our garden that has stunning views across the water and captures the last of the evening sun.

03 366 8181  |

Nik Colley - Morgan + Pollard Landscape Architecture

What inspired you to become a landscape architect? My love of the great outdoors, and having the good fortune to grow up on a lifestyle block was definitely a good starting point.

How has your experience working in Brisbane influenced your work? While I was there I fell in love with tropical plants. Creating lush tranquil spaces that provide respite from the heat is applicable to New Zealand: even though our design tends to focus more on sun-seeking, we still require shelter from the wind and sun.

What are the necessary ingredients for creating successful outdoor spaces? Having a realistic budget is an important starting place. Then there’s creating cohesion between the green space and the architecture, functionality, ecology, and of course the client’s personal style, which is carefully woven into the overall aesthetic. 

What is the top request you get from clients? Low maintenance. Apart from the few avid gardeners, people who tend to lead busy lives simply want a beautiful outdoor space to enjoy without the hassle of upkeep. However, people are also keen to grow their own food; so having an area demarcated for fruit and vegetables is a common request.

What are the greatest challenges & rewards of the design process? A restricted budget can certainly present challenges depending on the site, but it can also be the driver for creativity. And therein lie the rewards. It’s always very satisfying to see a project come to fruition and to see the joy it brings.

Where in your own garden will you be spending time this summer? As a landscape architect, my own garden is still very much a work in progress. The only area that’s complete is the deck, which is where I plan to hang out under the canopy of a giant Manuka tree. 

03 349 8228  |

Sandi MacRae - MacRae Landscape Design

What inspired you to become a landscape designer? I’ve always loved the outdoors, so choosing this profession was a good way to combine this passion with my avid interest in design. I really enjoy designing functional spaces that are relaxing and fun, where memories are created. 

How do you determine your clients’ needs? Asking questions in the initial stages of the design process will form the blueprint for the overall design. Getting to know how they live, or want to live, is key to producing an outdoor oasis they will enjoy for years to come. As a landscape designer my job is to add value to people’s lives by improving and enhancing the way they interact with their home. 

What five essential ingredients create the ideal outdoor space? Function, flow, furniture, family and friendship. I believe these are the key factors that determine successful outdoor living spaces. By exploring the nuances of how people live, I am able to create cohesive spaces they can enjoy all year round.

What aspects characterise your designs? Clean lines, bold structures and interesting layouts with a variety of textures and heights all play a role in creating outdoor spaces that are a pleasure to engage with.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job? For me, it’s like a giant puzzle; bringing all the elements together, from the spatial design that creates an effortless flow between different spaces, to the plant selection and hardscaping, right down to the decorative aspects like sculptures and water features. 

Where in your own garden will you be spending time this summer? Enjoying the sea views in a gloriously sunny spot on our patio that is sheltered by a canopy of olive and Pohutakawa trees. It’s our happy place! 

03 358 5564  |

All fired up

All fired up

Endless summer

Endless summer