Philip Smith is the lead designer and proprietor of O2 Landscapes. One of his chief interests is in integrating natives with flowering perennials, to produce a different kind of ‘native’ garden; one in which the effect of native plants is amplified by association with selected exotic species which bring a greater range of flower colour, form and scent to the garden.
He has a special interest in the extended use of a greater range of native plants, particularly threatened plants. He is also especially interested in the preservation of the widest possible range of gardenworthy perennials for use in gardens (they are disappearing from gardens due to fashion), with a particular focus on trialling suitable perennials for Auckland’s difficult, warm northern climate.
Philip studied horticulture and landscape design at Massey University, Palmerston North, between 1995 and 1998. He worked in the landscape industry in Auckland following graduation, and in 2001 travelled to Europe. In Europe, Philip spent six months in Germany, where he worked for three months at Europe’s largest export plant nursery, Bruns, in Bad Zwischenahn (a small town in the northwest of Germany). From this base, it was possible to view the work of several twentieth-century German and Dutch garden designers, whose work focused on more naturalistic styles of planting (notably, the integration of grasses and perennials to create gardens with considerable seasonal distinction). This included visiting the gardens of the Dutch designers Mien Ruys and Piet Oudolf, and the garden of the great German plantsman, Karl Foerster (all of whom are strong influences).
Following working in Germany, he spent three months in the Spanish city of Granada, where it was possible to study the remarkable Moorish gardens of the Alhambra palace complex at length. Upon returning in February 2002, Philip established O2 Landscapes, working in a style based on plantsmanship and locally-inspired design.
After working on the 2006 Chelsea Flower Show project, Philip travelled to Italy, to spend a week studying the work of the Venetian architect/architectural professor, Carlo Scarpa. Scarpa is an important influence upon the design ethos of O2 Landscapes, as he believed in combining modernism and forward thinking with tradition. More information and photos on Scarpa can be found within the ‘Essays’ section of the website.
In addition to the design and installation of gardens and public plantings, Philip has written a wide range of articles for a number of publications; including ‘The Garden’ (the journal of the Royal Horticultural Society), Urbis Landscapes and Landscape Architecture NZ magazine – for whom Philip was the regular contributor of the planting guide for 8 years, up to 2015 (including a series of regional planting guides for New Zealand over the last three years of that time). In 2015, Potton & Burton Publishing released ‘Vernacular’; a book that Philip collaborated on with David Straight to bring more attention to New Zealand’s everyday landscape culture. Since 2010, Philip has lectured in planting design as part of Victoria University’s Landscape Architecture programme.