Mountains & mānuka | Olivia Bird Design

Koura House | Beacon Point

Landscape architecture by Olivia Bird, OBD

Located in scenic Beacon Point, this sleek outdoor space was designed with the intention of being a functional outdoor living space while also encompassing a natural aesthetic and showcasing a selection of materials such as wood, concrete and glass elements. The existing native trees and the incredible views of the mountains of Wānaka provided the perfect base for this garden design to flourish.

New Zealand  based landscape designer, Olivia Bird was invited to this project soon after architectural plans for the house had been drafted, allowing for the landscape and house design to synergise seamlessly and ensure a collaborative approach was maintained throughout the design process.

Outdoor courtyard landscape design

The Brief

A harmony between maintaining the surrounding views of the mountains and having a private living space was a clear goal for the owners. As a result, the priority was to use a natural palette of materials to compliment the house design. The existing native trees — including both kānuka (Kunzea ericoides) and mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) — that surrounded the site, provided a part solution to the desire for privacy from neighbouring properties. There was always the intention to retain as many of the pre-existing trees as possible.

The Transformation

To address the site’s challenges, Olivia implemented various strategies in her design. Retaining walls and terracing were used to level uneven terrain, ensuring accessibility and functionality across the different landscape areas. 

Privacy concerns from the owners were rectified through the strategic use of screening and vegetation placement, which also complimented the overall natural vision for the property.

Structural planting, hedging and mass planting helped to define the various outdoor living spaces at the house. Plant selection was carefully curated to predominantly feature native species while also including exotic plants like white lavender and Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis). These additions contributed to the colour, texture, and overall aesthetic of this beautiful property.

The Result

The key theme that was worked with was the planting textures. With contrasting natives, and adding exotics for colour and textural changes.

Mass planting of tussocks – Chionchloa rubra/conspicua, poa cita and Anamanthele lessoniana – provides a soft muted base for the likes of lavender, guara, sedum purple emperor to pop against. 

Given the existing natives trees of the kānuka and mānuka, we went for exotic trees that provide the ephemeral seasonal change – Acers, Cornus, Liquidambars, and a cluster planting of Silver Dazzler Birches

Key Planting List


  • Acer Griseum
  • Acer Palmatum osakasuki
  • Betula silver dazzler
  • Cornus Eddie’s white wonder
  • Liquidamber worpleston


  • Anamanthele lessoniana
  • Astoria silver spear 
  • Chionochloa rubra
  • Chionochloa conspicua
  • Coprosma lobster
  • Guara white sparkle
  • Hebe red edge
  • Hydrangea paniculata Kyushu 
  • Lavender alba
  • Lavender blue mountain
  • Lomandra tanika
  • Sedum spectacle purple emperor
  • Verbena bonariensis