Journal

This is an amalgam of news, recent events and other miscellanea that we find interesting. We will regularly post thoughts and images relating to design, culture and plants within this journal.

Jun 28 2017

There is a great deal to be said for design that is conducted onsite, for one can put forward ideas, resolve issues and take in surrounding features or influences much more readily than working on plans solely within the office. Accordingly, Winston, Rob and I decamped to Lake Hawea for 3 days (in mid-June) for research and intensive onsite design - including visiting an impressive outcrop on the eastern hills above Lake Hawea, which was informative for the entry paving design on our project.

Jun 06 2017

The seemingly incongruous sight of native beech trees growing within our warm, northern forests was the focus of my attention on a short walk that I made on the weekend. Although a number of populations of hard beech occur within the wider Auckland region, it is notably rare in the Waitakeres - where this small stand of trees remains in a beautiful, and botanically interesting, valley.

Apr 29 2017

At the beginning of April, I travelled to Central Otago for a research trip with Winston and Rob. The purpose of the trip was to observe plants and landscape patterns, as part of our design work on a number of projects in the region.

Mar 21 2017

When looking into the possibilities for planting a place, it can be easy to look past seemingly anonymous features that already exist on the site. A recent project in Queenstown is an excellent example of valuing existing vegetation, for even though it mostly consists of exotic grasses, the dry grassland that currently covers the site forms a beautiful, varied pattern (which will be retained over much of the site).

Nov 26 2016

Amongst the impressive coastal landscape of Turakirae Head (to the east of Wellington), one of our most attractive native orchids, Dendrobium (syn. Winika) cunninghamii, has formed an unusual thatch on top of a giant boulder. The level of exposure that this sheet of orchids endures (on what is a frequently punishing coastline) is surprising for a species that I encounter more regularly as a forest epiphyte.

Nov 06 2016

Minor variation between closely related plants is not just a matter for botanists. A fine example of this is the relatively recently-described Pimelea orthia, whose upright growth form provides a range of opportunities not afforded by its more commonly cultivated, ground-hugging relatives.

Oct 15 2016

In the last fortnight, I spent several days on the East Coast/Tairāwhiti, looking at rare and interesting plants in the wild with two friends, Graeme Atkins and Tim Le Gros. One of the main events of this trip was seeing the critically endangered kaka beak (Clianthus maximus, or ngutu kaka) in one of its few remaining populations, within coastal forest to the north of Tokomaru Bay.

Sep 25 2016

Within a dune hollow at the southern end of Pouto Peninsula, a truly remarkable forest endures in the space between pine plantations and the open dunes. The main drawcard for visiting this place was the presence of a beautiful, near continuous canopy of orooro (Nestegis montana) over significant patches of this remnant.

Aug 22 2016

During the design process, drawing is not simply about putting things on a page for the purposes of communicating one's intent. It is also a means of thinking. We regularly sketch whilst working on designs, whether to test ideas or to get a clearer perspective on a given area.

Aug 11 2016

Whilst in Central Otago for a site visit to a new project, I extended my stay to look at plants and landscapes of the area. In addition to places where I had already looked into the local flora (such as Kawarau Gorge), I walked up Wye Creek (on the western face of the Remarkables), to search out a native cliff-dwelling carrot, Anisotome cauticola.

Jul 14 2016

In researching the book 'Vernacular', David Straight and I were conscious that we wanted to represent living traditions - especially ones that incorporate a modern sensibility into their making. This humble, yet finely-crafted, boat ramp at Riverhead Township is an exceptionally well-crafted recent example of such a landscape feature.

Jun 28 2016

At the southern end of Hokianga Harbour's entrance, a population of the threatened Hebe speciosa endures on the impressive cliffs that run down to the Tasman Sea. These rugged ecologies are also inhabited by a range of other interesting plants, including sand coprosma (Coprosma acerosa) and an upright species of native daphne (Pimelea).

Jun 06 2016

Over several years, I have managed to see a significant number of our 'native daphnes' growing wild throughout the country. In several stretches of coastline, members of this genus (Pimelea) serve as the host for a range of attractive moths (Notoreas spp.) which I had not seen in the wild until a recent field trip to Pencarrow Lakes, near Wellington.

May 01 2016

In conversation with two landscape designer friends who recently returned from many years working in the London, we have discussed the challenge of recalibrating one's knowledge to different climatic zones. This is particularly relevant to the use of flowering perennials within landscape design in Auckland's warm, humid climate, where lessons may be learned from the proof offered by established gardens.

Apr 11 2016

As Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander observed the coastline of the North Island's East Coast, they noted both natural and manmade features of these 'exotic' landscapes. Within our design for the 1769 Garden at Longbush Ecosanctuary, we incorporated one of those human marks into the design, in the form of mounds laid in a quincunx pattern (as recorded by Banks).

Apr 03 2016

Some of the best lessons that we can learn about plants (especially bulbs and perennials) are provided by gardens that have ceased to be tended for a long time. Whilst most garden plants disappear, certain beautiful survivors (such as various Nerine species and varieties) endure, demonstrating their suitability for a wide range of situations within landscape work.

Mar 28 2016

The manner in which this wild garden on Wellington's south coast has been lightly formed amidst this powerful, windblasted stretch of coastline lends it an enigmatic, ambiguous character that is reminiscent of Derek Jarman's famous garden at Dungeness, England.

Mar 21 2016

Of all the plants that Auckland's climate precludes us cultivating, one of the most desirable is the foxtail lily (Eremurus), which throws up spectacular orange, yellow or pink spires in cold, dry areas. However, all is not lost, as the sea squill (Urginea maritima) is a remarkable (yet rarely grown) bulb that produces similar, although pure white, flowerheads in the warm north.

Mar 06 2016

During a journey to South Africa 10 years ago, I was able to spend some time looking at plants of the remarkable Cape Floristic Region, including at the Cape of Good Hope. Amongst the fynbos and cliffs of this area, familiar horticultural plants (such as Pelargonium, Salvia and Haemanthus species) sit within natural plant communities, in contrast with the isolated manner in which they have are often seen in gardens.

Feb 29 2016

Other than the battering effect of the winds rolling off the Tasman, erosion plays a significant role in the interesting patterns that some plant communities develop on the coastal hills between Bethells Beach and Muriwai. In parts, small outposts of vegetation remain amidst scoured areas, reading like small 'erosion gardens' on the clifftops.

Feb 06 2016

A couple of years ago, we were asked to design a small bench for clients with whom we have had a close association since the earliest stages of O2 Landscapes' existence. This was an enjoyable exercise, similar to the related design of an 'arch' (which is actually formed by a pair of rings) that we designed for the same clients two years previously.

Dec 20 2015

In the first week of December, I flew to Nelson to see a number of rare plants growing on mountains of this botanically rich province, with a nurseryman friend from Nelson, Tim Le Gros. In addition to perusing Mt Burnett's distinctive ecologies, we were particularly hopeful that we had timed our trip to coincide with the flowering of Clematis marmoraria - a diminutive character restricted to two neighbouring peaks in Kahurangi National Park.

Nov 22 2015

Cape Reinga's wind-sculpted shrublands, Te Paki's forests and the striking volcanic landscape of Whangaroa Harbour were the focus of a northern journey last weekend. Of particular interest were several plants that we have used in gardens before, yet never seen in the wild - notably Pseudopanax gilliesii, Pittosporum pimeleoides and Coprosma 'Henderson Bay'.

Oct 26 2015

On Saturday morning, David Straight and I had the great pleasure of 'Playing Favourites' with Kim Hill on National Radio, to discuss our new book, 'Vernacular'. Later on, under clear skies, I then rounded off one of the better days of my life with a visit to a particularly botanically rich rockstack, with Penny Allan (Professor of Landscape Architecture at Victoria University).

Oct 10 2015

During our travels for our book on New Zealand's everyday built landscape features, David Straight and I made a trip to Hooker Valley (near the foot of Mt Cook), to observe the finely crafted, humble detailing of bridges and railings associated with walking tracks there (which I had admired on many occasions previously).

Sep 23 2015

After countless hours examining New Zealand's varied landscapes (as well as writing), the book that Philip has been working on since mid-2013 with David Straight, 'Vernacular', will be released in the latter half of October 2015.

Sep 05 2015

In several parts of the country, volcanic plugs emerge dramatically from the surrounding landscape. Over the previous weekend, I went to Northland to look into rare and unusual plants that occupy the interesting habitats at the top of these landforms, foremost amongst which was the Northland horopito (Pseudowintera insperata).

Jul 30 2015

As part of a recent Nelson project, we sourced a one-tonne slab of marble from the same quarry site that Parliament Buildings was quarried from. In addition to the fascinating marks left behind by successive bouts of quarrying for Parliament and other significant works of construction, the plant communities at Kairuru are also deserving of closer inspection.

Jun 25 2015

A recent research trip to Taranaki afforded an opportunity to look at many of the interesting native plants that adorn the eastern flank of Mt Taranaki (or Egmont as it is also widely known), including a particularly elegant, locally-occurring Hebe, called Hebe stricta var. egmontiana.

May 26 2015

In addition to the interesting, naturally-occurring native plant communities that occur at the North Island's southernmost point, the physical evidence of a long history of Maori occupation makes Palliser Bay a worthwhile place to visit.

May 13 2015

On the banks of the Waitara River, a remarkable set of stairs leads down to the point where the Clifton Rowing Club's boats are lifted in and out of the water.

Mar 21 2015

During a period of work in the Nelson area in late January, I was shown several rare plants for the first time in the wild. The most exciting of these was the New Zealand skullcap (Scutellaria novae-zelandiae), closely followed by the experience of seeing the silver-leaved saltbush, Atriplex cinerea.

Feb 07 2015

The giant maidenhair fern (Adiantum formosum) grows in just one area of New Zealand, in the vicinity of the Manawatu Gorge. Whilst returning from working in Nelson, I stopped in the Manawatu to see this impressive species in the wild.

Dec 21 2014

Over the previous weekend, I took the long road to Gisborne. Many of the diverse landscapes surrounding the highway that runs past East Cape evoked a refreshing sense of being relatively unencumbered by the homogenising effects of industrial farming and consumerism that are becoming increasingly apparent in other parts of the country.

Nov 23 2014

One of our rarest native trees, Metrosideros bartlettii, is currently in flower at Fernglen; the gardens that Muriel Fisher spent decades developing as part of her commitment to furthering knowledge and affection for our native plants. This critically endangered tree needs all the help it can get, as its tiny population continues to dwindle in the Far North.

Nov 07 2014

On a recent trip, I traversed Otago and Southland with David Straight, as part of research for an upcoming book project. For six days, our collective gaze was fixed upon vernacular landscape features from this part of the country, whilst my attention was periodically hijacked by plants.

Sep 28 2014

The Coromandel Peninsula's Kauaeranga Valley is a place that interests us for both its manmade features (the network of stone paths and steps that we have already described within a journal entry) and the vegetation. In this entry, our focus is on the distinctive plant communities that occupy the forested valley and the more open expanses at the top (near the Pinnacles).

Sep 23 2014

The concrete roof of a remarkable church juts somewhat incongruously from the surrounding suburbia on Auckland's Te Atatu Peninsula. This impressive Catholic church from the 1960s is one of Auckland's lesser-known architectural gems.

Jul 02 2014

An avant-garde garden festival is held on an annual basis at Chaumont-sur-Loire, where landscape architects and designers are invited to install gardens based on philosophy. The gardens are maintained over the course of several months, which means that the gardens need to survive beyond the normal very abbreviated lifespan of show gardens.

Jun 14 2014

Over the last two decades, the grounds at Larnach Castle have been developed into one of New Zealand's finest gardens by Margaret Barker. They innovatively mix beautiful flowering perennials, bulbs and shrubs with rare and noteworthy native plants (amongst which resides a South American groundcover amusingly known by the common name of 'Bolax').

May 19 2014

Over the previous weekend, I explored interesting landscapes and plants north of Takaka Hill - including visiting the area near the beginning of the Heaphy Track (where the historic Langford Store has stood for most of the last century).

Apr 19 2014

At the beginning of 2014, I experienced the remarkable landscape surrounding the Routeburn Track with a German friend of mine, Dirk Springborn. In addition to the beauty and interest of the plants and ecologies of this area, the sheer power of the waterfalls (following a heavy rain event) is amazing to behold (and feel) at close range.

Apr 03 2014

On recent business trips to Nelson and Wellington, I was fortunate to be able to view interesting native plant communities in the hills near those respective cities. Amongst a period of work in Nelson, I headed up Mt Arthur (a place that I have wanted to visit for years), whilst the Wellington hilltop site is situated just 15 minutes from the city centre.

Mar 10 2014

One of the major features of a recent project is a path based entirely on Māori adze forms. The design and fabrication of this path (which is made from Timaru Bluestone) was an obssessive process, which is recounted herein.

Feb 27 2014

Sitting at the northeastern fringe of the Hauraki Gulf, Great Barrier Island contains an interesting flora and fauna. In addition to seeing a number of plants for the first time, I was able to view a remarkable blue fungus, Entoloma hochstetteri, that I had hitherto never seen.

Jan 30 2014

On a recent trip to the Kauaeranga Valley (and the Pinnacles at the top of the valley), I was amazed by the extent and variety of stone paths and steps that were laid early last century. A range of images from this remarkable array of stonework are shown here.

Dec 01 2013

At the entrance to Nelson's port, a peculiar natural feature slides in front of the horizon. The Boulder Bank is home to several interesting plant species which undoubtedly play an important ecological role in providing food for the large numbers of native lizards that live amongst the boulders.

Nov 02 2013

One of my enduring memories of this year's Labour Weekend will be the sheer drop that we skirted on farm roads in to the Seaward Kaikouras. Fortunately, our guide (Winston Dewhirst, who served an internship at O2 Landscapes last summer) is well acquainted with such roads. Over the long weekend, we were able to view many rare and beautiful native plants in North Canterbury and Marlborough, several of which are shown in this entry.

Oct 09 2013

One of Auckland's most spectacular flowering events is provided by this Australian orchid, Dendrobium speciosum, which has been growing in a central Auckland garden for decades. Every year, I say that I must take photos of this remarkable plant in bloom; this time I did.

Sep 28 2013

Since moving to Japan, David Green (an important member of O2 Landscapes over several years) has sent through many interesting images of both traditional and modern fragments of Japanese landscape - several of which are presented within this journal entry.

Sep 18 2013

The coastline to the northeast of Auckland is a particularly good area to see kowhai's spectacular spring flowering display. At Wenderholm Regional Park, the hillside erupts with the blooms of a fine northern species, Sophora chathamica.

Aug 29 2013

With the arrival of late winter and spring, familar faces are reappearing in our gardens and landscapes; bringing colour and an element of surprise to our lives.

Aug 24 2013

Two playgrounds from very different contexts illustrate how children's play does not have to fit the formulaic template that we are so accustomed to within our extremely safety-conscious societies.

Aug 17 2013

As part of preparations for the 2006 Chelsea Flower Show, I had the privilege of travelling around Cornwall to source plants. The highlight of this trip was a half day spent amongst the ancient stone walls of Zennor, a small village that lies two miles to the north of the improbably-named Ding Dong.

Aug 10 2013

This set of stairs on the outside of a factory in Hastings is a fine study in composition; one that has been produced without pomp or a need for authorship.

Jul 31 2013

Although the honeybee is undoubtedly the most important pollinator for the plants that we depend upon, our many species of native bees make a significant contribution towards the pollination of both native and exotic plant species (including some food crops).

Jul 26 2013

Situated within close range of Auckland's heart, this beautiful landscape bears the marks of several hundred years of occupation by both Maori and European New Zealanders. Of particular interest are the stone walls and structures built (out of differing traditions) from the abundance of stone from the site.

Jul 03 2013

One of New Zealand's most impressive flowering displays happens in early summer when the red flowers of two native mistletoes, from the genus Peraxilla, erupt into bloom within the canopy of our native beech trees.

Jun 22 2013

Near the coastal Taranaki settlement of Oakura, a centuries-old pā site, Te Koru, is a rare example of the use of stone revetting for retaining banks.

Jun 14 2013

This stretch of the South Taranaki coastline is often subjected to a battering from winds blowing off the Tasman Sea. Distinctive coastal plants find opportunities in the dynamic conditions created by the combined effect of the sea and the unstable, underlying geology.

Jun 08 2013

An interesting coastal remnant in the Manawatu provides a home for several rare plants, including the critically endangered Pimelea actea - a species that is perilously close to extinction in the wild.

Jun 04 2013

A distinctive form of Corokia cotoneaster grows amongst windshorn scrub on the top of Paritutu Rock, an extremely steep pinnacle close to the heart of New Plymouth.

May 17 2013

The mounded forms of bog pine dominate Ben Dhu scientific reserve, a rare remnant that provides us with a glimpse of what much of the Mackenzie Basin would have looked like before the arrival of man.

May 05 2013

A distinctive, bright green groundcover (a form of Lobelia) endures in one small area on the Waitakere coastline. Last weekend, I visited this site with friends; a trip that was of particular interest as we have planted a large number of this extremely rare plant in Auckland gardens.

May 02 2013

Plantings serve a number of roles in addition to aesthetics, which provide further layers of satisfaction. The provision of habitat for animals, such as our native butterflies, is one such role. This journal entry includes images of a number of native butterflies species that form interactions with many of our indigenous plants.

Apr 27 2013

The South Branch of the Temple Stream (on Lake Ohau's western side) is a fascinating place that I have returned to on many occasions. The main botanical event in this winding valley, which is populated by riflemen, bellbirds and New Zealand falcon, is the nationally endangered Pittosporum patulum.

Apr 18 2013

To the northeast of Whangarei, beautifully crafted drystone walls line roads and divide fields in the area of Glenbervie. These represent some of the finest examples of this ancient craft within New Zealand.

Apr 04 2013

Stevens Lawson Architects have won a fourth 'Home of the Year' award for the Headland House on Waiheke Island. O2 Landscapes was involved in the overall garden layout and planting around the house, which sits in a spectacular location overlooking the Hauraki Gulf.

Apr 03 2013

As part of a site visit to a project on the Tutukaka coastline, we visited Matapouri Bay to look at some of the interesting native species that grow there. One of the most significant of these is the creeping Fuchsia procumbens, a popular landscape plant that is rare in the wild.

Mar 16 2013

At the southern end of Lake Alexandrina, a settlement of baches retains its ad hoc character, due in part to the ambiguous nature of ownership in this fishing reserve.

Mar 14 2013

At Mt Cook, I observed an unusual spider utilising the white flowers of the Mt Cook Buttercup for what appeared to be hunting. Other plants of Hooker Valley are also shown within this journal entry.

Mar 03 2013

Typography is one of the finer details within the landscape. These examples are from gate signs in the rural Mackenzie Basin landscape and signwriting in a small Canterbury town.

Feb 17 2013

These cuboid steps sit upon the foreshore in Hobson Bay, in Auckland. They are a striking example of the kind of everyday, pragmatic construction that can inform the work of designers.

Feb 10 2013

This unusual and beautiful power pole from Canterbury is a good example of the importance of recording our landscape culture. This set of metal poles recently disappeared, as part of infrastructure works, although a considerable number of them endure on the main highway between Ashburton and Rakaia.

Feb 08 2013

As the crow flies, Lees Valley lies relatively close to nearby towns, most notably Oxford. Yet the steeply undulating terrain and winding road serve to make this botanically interesting area considerably more isolated than a cursory glance at a map might indicate.