Landscaper Profile – Val Puxty Landscape Design
Val has been designing beautiful gardens in Auckland for over ten years. She shares her thoughts on landscaping here.
A combination of a career in commercial photography and five years spent gardening with a friend led Val to a love of garden design. After graduating from Unitec with a Diploma in Landscape Design, Val became a principal designer with Palmers Remuera and continues to design for them and her own clients.
For Val, gardens are an extension of our living environment. She sees it as her job to listen to the client, understand what they are after and how they want to use the space. Push the boundaries, and develop something that reflects their personality and sits well within the site. A garden has many roles; it guides the visitor onto the property, announces the relationship it has with the owner, can frame or soften a house, and screen unwanted views.
A garden is fluid; it changes each season. The colours, textures, movement, shade, and shadows all create life and atmosphere. The planting within these spaces enhances the experience and allows visitors to absorb the surroundings, fragrances and sounds.
Val discusses a recent large project:
Birkenhead - March 2020.
My client contacted me after seeing my work on Instagram. Their brief to me was, ‘They would like usable areas, want to screen the neighbours, have the garden reflect the grandness of the architecture of the house and have a pool’. They wanted fruit trees, colour, flowers, no natives.’ The site sloped 5m from Hinemoa Street all the way down to the bottom of the garden. There were no level areas whatsoever. A concept plan was produced, building retaining walls through the site and creating level areas. At the top level, I positioned massed perennials for a looser look. To encourage birds and bees, a beehive has been installed, and shrubs, such as hydrangeas and camellias, add pops of colour and texture.
Next, at mid-level, a huge lawn for ball games, stephanotis screens were added for privacy and rows of Gardenias and Agapanthus Lapis.
The wow entrance was the next level, that stepped through to both the upper levels and lower garage and pool level. Gorgeous clean large pavers were added, and more formal garden-style buxus balls, salvias, heliotrope Royal Marine, stachys and gardenias. In keeping with the desire to grow food, a row of beloved stone fruit trees were planted.
A pool was added in the lower garden. We were able to manipulate the area so the pool sat within the contour of the slope. Once again, another leveled space was created for the family to entertain and enjoy. Ficus Tuffy was used as a lovely dense hedge surrounding the area, with masses of hydrangeas and salvias.
A pool company was introduced along with a hard landscaping company. As the area was deemed a special character area, resource consent was required; the lawn areas were completed first, whilst the pool was ordered. The pool area was completed and ready for Summer 2021.
Val’s recent small space project came from a client who had seen previous work done by her.
Western Springs – 2022.
My client had seen a couple of gardens I had designed and installed. She contacted me to rid her of bamboo and replace it with ‘Green, clean, elegant and formal’. They had done the hard landscaping themselves; it was fantastic. White block retaining walls delineate different levels and incorporate a fireplace. She also had a gorgeous water feature. It was not a difficult decision on how to approach the design.
The client’s career as a hairdresser made her a perfectionist. So I suggested we remove the messy bamboo, which was a major! We screened the rear fence with pleached titokis, a lower hedge beneath, Michelia ‘Coco’, with a buxus hedge along the front and blocks of buxus in the lower planters. A feature tree was added—a small Acer ‘Shaina’ for a spot of colour.
We reused the existing buxus balls she had and added a soft row of hydrangeas below the existing Ficus Tuffy standards.
We did not need to go to the expense of a plan; she could see where I was heading— the water feature sits perfectly above the green gem hedge, so it appears as if it is floating. The buxus balls and buxus blocks are being trimmed flawlessly.
Do you have any tips for winter gardening/maintenance you can share?
In every consultation I do, the first comment made by the client is they are not gardeners and don’t want heaps of work. My answer is, ‘Gardens can be low maintenance, not no maintenance.’ A garden can only be as good as the people who care for it.
Gardening during the winter months is very rewarding. Cutting back, clearing around the plants and reshaping the garden in preparation for spring. It is a time to give back to the plants after they have performed so beautifully through spring, summer and autumn—a good time to check their health.
- Cut back the perennials, and remove dead, diseased and damaged vegetation.
- Clear debris and spent leaves from in and around plants.
- Now is the time to lift and divide, and or reposition plants.
- Add products to improve the soil structure and add nutrients, e.g., Compost or Sheep Pellets. I use premium garden mix on all the gardens I install and believe initial soil quality to be paramount as the garden grows.
- Mulch. Mulch is the number one key component in the garden leading into spring. It behaves like a duvet, keeping the ground warm and protected in the winter, holding precious moisture in the hot summer months and reducing weeds overall—a win-win.
Finally, Val shares the value landscaping brings to a property.
Of course, a great garden will sell a property hands down, having curb appeal, giving the visitor that sense of what is beyond, vistas from the house, screening and softening, balancing and style. However, the real value of a garden is in how it is loved, appreciated and used; the memories of family and friends, entertaining and playing. Creating edible areas to grow produce, courtyards for socialising and lawns for playing.
Two of Val’s gardens have appeared in the Auckland Garden DesignFest in recent years.