by Geoffrey Churchman


First the title: although it is generally expected that a future left-wing government will drop ‘New Zealand’ from the country’s official name in the next 20 years or so, it seems a bit of a risk for an overseas publisher to do that now.  How many in other countries, even in Australia, recognise what Aotearoa means?

Thames and Hudson are a British-based publisher known for books on art, architecture, design and antiquities, so the theme of this new all-colour coffee table book fits comfortably with those categories. It features 12 completed projects by the noted Auckland-based Suzanne Turley, five in the Auckland area, four in the central North Island and three in the South Island.

While there have been numerous publications on NZ residential architecture and gardens, professional landscape design has been less documented in book form.  It is a topic that I raised during the council election campaign, as did architect Rosalind Derby of Waikanae, as the appearance of new developments in Waikanae is invariably ad hoc and uncoordinated and the finished visual impact, let alone the social impact, varies greatly. Like it or not, most of the pasture between Waikanae and Peka Peka is going to be turned into housing in the next 20-30 years, but there is no overarching vision of what it should comprise and look like.

Suzanne Turley is someone who could help with that. Her clientele obviously consists of those who have both land and sizeable budgets at their disposal, which don’t apply at the micro level — the suburban section — but do at the macro level: a country estate, and should in new residential developments.

Her approach is somewhat different from the standard as she not only looks at hard landscaping, but gives exceptional attention to the living material — the trees and plants.  She goes into nurseries and selects her palette first, allowing the design to follow.  Trees not only change shape, but also colour.  The objective should be to achieve a range of textures, colours and heights that constantly complement each other; but given how long most trees take to grow, some long term planning about that is needed.  Another consideration often overlooked is how the right lighting can extend the garden experience after the sun has set.  All of these things have had comment in various Waikanae Watch posts, and as people know, Waikanae is noted for its gardens.

The gardens chosen for the book comprise a mix of geographic and climate situations each with unique requirements and challenges.  The responses of the reader to them will differ like the desires of the clients who commissioned them.  Thus there are some that appeal a lot, and others not so much.

Although professionals are clearly the main target market for the book, the amateur garden aficionado is provided plenty of eye candy in the form of large sumptuous photos that concentrate solidly on atmosphere as much as specifics.  Omitted are detailed 2D plans, although in the studios these have largely been replaced with 3D computer generated imagery depicting what different options will all look like together.

The book has 288 pages in extra large format and a hard cover. One hopes that the Kapiti libraries will acquire a copy or three.

Suzanne Turley