When building your dream home, you expect to get incredibly excited about the home design – but often you just don’t think about the garden. However, as Landscape Designer Michelle McDonnell explains, this is an oversight because landscaping adds real value to your home.
Expert Tips for Landscaping a New Home
Adding value and creating a harmonious space
“For every dollar spent on landscaping (when it’s done well), you’ll get four dollars back. People can fall in love with a home straight away if it has a great garden,” she says. “Along with your kitchen and bathroom it’s a big-ticket item that often makes or breaks a property when it comes time to sell.”
As a homeowner, you don’t just get returns on your investment financially, either. You get big returns on your emotional wellbeing and happiness too. “During COVID we really saw how spending time in nature is important, and you get so much more from an outdoor space, even if it’s a small space,” reflects Michelle.
With new build houses, you’re working with an almost blank slate as far as the garden design goes, so rather than see this as a fearsome challenge, celebrate the opportunity to create your dream garden! Here are our top tips to do exactly that.
Create a plan with a Landscape Designer
If you want your garden to perfectly complement your new house, and be cohesive, it’s worth planning it in advance. Your new garden requires some deep thought before you dig in.
“It’s money well spent to get a plan done by a Landscape Designer, and that way you’re not going to go wrong. You may take 3-4 years to complete it in stages — but it’s been carefully thought-out, and you’ve not just had some random shopping experience where you rush out to the garden centre and buy whatever they’ve got that day,” laughs Michelle knowingly.
The plan should incorporate hard landscaping (structural pieces such as fencing, fireplaces, pergolas, pathways and decking), and soft landscaping (your plants) – including the exact amounts of plants you’ll need to buy.
Garden design for the Landmark Homes Omokoroa Show Home
When creating your garden design plan, you’ll need to…
1.Decide what features are essential to you: Perhaps it’s a lap pool (be sure to include the fencing, pool shed, and decking/hard surfaces around it), decking and entertainment areas, an outdoor fireplace, raised vegetable bed, pizza oven, fire pit or spa pool? All of these features are very popular. However, one thing to note is that while sites are getting smaller, people often have very grand ideas about what they want to include. So that’s where you have to really work out what’s important.
2.Consider the aspect, wind and sun levels: All of these will impact your end design. In terms of aspect, you’ll want to create privacy if needed and leverage any views. You won’t want to put a pool in a windy area if you want to get use from it, or you may need to erect a wall or some planting to protect people from the wind. Likewise, a sunny north-facing site will require different plants to shadier south-facing one, and on a west-facing site, strong late afternoon sun often necessitates a louvred roof to get maximum use from your deck. Alternatively, you could plant a grape on a pergola to give you sun protection, while letting a dappled light come through.
3.Assess your soil quality: This is a real issue in coastal areas because the soil often contains a lot of sand, and it’s very hard for the plants to get going. In this case, you may need to build raised garden beds and fill them up with good soil or choose plants that can handle sand (or clay).
4.Pull through aesthetic themes from your new home build: If your home features a specific style or colour, you can thread this through to your outdoor spaces for continuous flow, explains Michelle. In the Landmark Homes’ Omokoroa showhome the main theme inside was white, so Michelle kept the garden white and green too.
Landmark Omokoroa Show Home: Garden Just Planted
Tackle your garden design plan in stages!
Landscaping an entire site can be expensive and involve a lot of labour. If your budget is tight, rather than stress over finishing the whole garden, get a plan done, and then focus on key areas such as hard landscaping/outdoor living and screening/shelter plants first. You can gradually develop the rest of the garden as time and funds allow.
Plan your plant purchases ahead of time
Having your landscape design planned out can help you plan your plant purchases too. While 80% of plants can be purchased all year round (trees, shrubs, perennials), 20% are available only in summer. Plus, you’ll know exact numbers you need to plant, and can purchase them at their cheapest rate.
Plant for the dry
Sprinkler bans are the norm in New Zealand, so Michelle doesn’t recommend plants that require lots of water. Instead, she suggests designing your garden to be more survivable in summer. Her favourites? “Mediterranean plants are beautiful and can handle high temperatures and day-after-day dryness. Plus, they are perennial so offer seasonal change, making your garden pretty throughout the whole year.”
When you build your dream home with Landmark Homes, your design team will often do a lot of the hard landscaping as part of the house design (working alongside a landscape designer), and then you can create a plan for the soft landscaping, should you wish.