Q+A with Sandra Batley from Flourish Gardens
Tell us about your background and how you got into landscaping:
I fell in love with landscaping after I bought my first home in Kingsland. Back then I was in the print design industry and knew little about plants or garden design, but I loved working outside in the garden and renovating my home both inside and out. People started to comment on my use of New Zealand natives in my garden which weren't widely back then, it was mostly a cottage look that was on trend.
I then decided to take a sabbatical from my job and do a month long garden tour of Europe combined with further travel for a total of 5 months. This time away cemented my decision to leave my job and go to Unitec to study garden design. That was 16 years ago. Once I completed my diploma I set firm goals to set up my own design business. So after 3 years of working for other designers I branched out on my own and set up Flourish Garden Concepts Ltd, and I have never looked back.
What are your 'go-to' product favourites for outdoor spaces?
I like using contemporary planters and pots, featuring materials such as concrete, natural stone, corten (rusted steel) and timber. Where possible and if I have a really good budget I like to design custom bespoke pieces using a beautiful hard wood timber such as cedar. Add to them stunning feature plants for instant effect. I also like quirky colourful pieces of furniture, cushions and outdoor rugs to dress and accessorise outdoor living areas.
Talk us through your design process:
A well thought-out design forms the foundation for a successful garden and it is important that the client firstly takes the time and effort to write down their personal needs, wishes and requirements for the garden. This is called a design brief, I ask clients to write this down first so we can go through it together on-site.
During the initial on-site visit we go over their design brief. It is very important to discuss the budget at this stage especially if they are wanting the design priced and implemented. From there they receive a fixed price quote for the design work. Upon acceptance the process continues with:
Site analysis and survey
> Photographs taken, check measurements
> Soil, drainage, wind and sun considerations
> Recording positions of existing features and plants to be retained
> Assessing neighbouring properties for screening, shading, etc
Preliminary plan preparation
> Preparation of base plan with the information gathered
> Draw up general plant selection and locations
> Create plant reference sheet
> Draw sketch perspective
Preliminary plan presentation
> Discussion and feedback on preliminary plan and plant selection
> Second meeting if required to go over any changes or modification to the plan
> Refine ideas and incorporate any changes
> Finalise plan including plant schedule
> Draft final plan
> Complete plant reference sheet
>Plan will be sent out
Landscaping and creating 'outdoor rooms' seems to have become more popular recently, do you have any thoughts on why this is?
Increasingly, I meet with clients who lead busy lives and are seeking opportunities to spend more time outside to relax and unwind, who want to bring the comforts of the indoors out, as well as adding value to their homes.
Properties are also getting smaller and higher density living is more common place, especially in Auckland where I do all my design work. Homeowners are therefore happy to pay professionals to help them create that sanctuary outdoors and get as much as they can from their biggest asset being their home.
You use fireplaces a lot in your design, how do you help your clients decide between gas or wood?
A big part of what I do is helping inform clients which outdoor fireplace they should choose. From what style, to its location and whether gas or wood is the best option for them.
Best tips for creating outdoor spaces with 'wow' and street appeal:
For outdoor spaces choose quality furniture. Pieces that are both functional and which have a timeless appeal. Also inject some fun and colour if that's your thing or go for a dramatic monochromatic style with one-off chairs or loungers.
If you can, pay for beautiful landscape materials such as hard wood timbers and natural stone. These perform better in the elements and are worth the initial investment.
Use outdoor lighting to create interesting and special night time effects. The garden comes alive at night with the right lights.
Introduce beautiful sculptures and art into the garden. The right piece in the right location can make a real statement piece in the garden. Water features can also add another dimension in the garden with the sound of water.
Maintenance is everything in a garden if you want it to look good all year round. Invest time and effort in keeping the garden looking the best it can with regular maintenance.
Finally, get a professional designer to create a master garden plan, a well-designed concept will save you time in money and give you exactly what you had hoped and dreamed of for your home.
Favourite plant or flower?
I have many, but at the moment it is Japanese Maples. I love their foliage and range of beautiful colours.
Favourite summer BBQ dish?
I love seafood. Baked whole baby snapper, stuffed with all sorts of healthy ingredients, baked slowly on the BBQ grill.
Christmas is coming up... Do you decorate your outdoor space festively? If so, what items come out at Christmas time in your house?
I am a less is more girl. I love outdoor lighting, so at Christmas time the fairy lights get wrapped around palm trunks in my garden, my vintage festoon lights go up. I have LED lights inserted around my deck which I use all year round and I add simple white tea light candles to decorate tables outdoors. And to light the candelabra nestled in the garden amongst the tropical foliage.