Te Whare Māra: The Garden House — Pōneke Wellington

Te Whare Māra — Pōneke Wellington

Landscape architecture by Mark Newdick, Local Landscape Collective

Te Whare Māra – The Garden House – blurs the lines between landscape and architecture. This Wellington garden exemplifies landscape design that boasts beauty, sustainability and meaningful spaces to inhabit and enjoy.

The urban property is compact, with a challenging topography – yet still achieves sophisticated and practical outdoor spaces surrounding the architecturally designed home. Te Whare Māra was named for its view of the Wellington Botanic Gardens and the landscape design’s emphasis on indigenous plantings and terrain. 

The garden was designed by landscape architect Mark Newdick of Local Landscape Collective. His project took out the latest NZILA Awards category for ‘Residential & Gardens’ landscape architecture (2022). The judges applauded this calming small garden’s variety of spatial experiences and rich plant palette of both indigenous and exotic species.

But more than an award, the real result of this design is that the spaces are actively used and well-loved by its occupants. There is a clear relationship between the residents and their garden, which is both beautiful and lived-in.

Wellington Courtyard Native Garden

The Brief

Mark explains that this project’s brief was to develop a comprehensive landscape around the home that related strongly to the existing and proposed architecture, along with the site’s indigenous landscape context. 

The homeowners wanted a visionary landscape for the courtyard to achieve both an attractive outlook from the house and a sophisticated representation of contemporary landscape architecture in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Planting throughout the garden to be bold, textural and lush.

Consideration of how the courtyard physically, visually and conceptually connects with other parts of the garden was to be taken into account, as well as the landscape context beyond. A ‘boundary’ was to be installed around the whole property to provide privacy and shelter, without unnecessarily affecting views or sunlight access. 

As a practical request, the owners wanted the first level of the upper garden to be developed into a utility area with a workshop/shed, herb garden and washing line. With the upper garden area to include an edible garden with raised vegetable beds and an orchard.

The Transformation

The garden’s plantings draw on a range of textures and colours to celebrate and promote Aotearoa’s indigenous landscape and identity. 

Small divaricating trees and shrubs are used to provide fine, delicate textures which contrast with the bolder strappy planting.

Ground covers alternate with the stepped ground, while small trees and lancewoods play with the verticality of the house and terrain. The eye is led up over fencing to foster a connection with the borrowed landscape of the forest and sky beyond.

The fencing has been carefully designed to be both elegant and recessive to ensure the garden in front takes centre stage. Palings of varying height, depth and thickness blend in with the planting to create a seamless transition from the inner garden to the bush clad hills beyond, while providing a shadow-play at certain times of the day.

At night, the courtyard takes on a new life with carefully planned lighting integrated under benches, in steps, up-lighting plants and against walls. This helps showcase the garden and brings shadow play on the house, engaging with the interior lighting to achieve a seamless flow between indoor and outdoor.

The Result

This garden celebrates the characteristically rugged terrain of Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington). Level changes are broken down into a series of sculptural stepped steel, concrete and timber elements that represent abstractions of local landform – specifically the jagged greywacke which underlies the site. 

The design deliberately repeats this narrow palette of materials to provide a sense of unity throughout the various spaces and create an engaging but restful character. The dark grey powder-coated steel planters were crafted to utilise every inch of horizontal and vertical space, while creating individual ‘stages’ for showcasing indigenous flora.

The design outcome offers an attractive outlook from within the house and an exploration of contemporary indigenous identity in Aotearoa through the abstraction of indigenous land form, promotion of indigenous plants as well as the incorporation of habitat integration and food self-sufficiency.

The landscaping of this property strongly relates to the site’s existing architecture and the indigenous landscape. Careful incorporation of Te Aranga Māori design principles throughout the project has resulted in what landscape architect Mark Newdick describes as a sophisticated representation of contemporary landscape architecture in Aotearoa.

Mark says Te Whare Māra’s layered courtyard provides a sheltered and private centrepiece around which the house is wrapped to provide views from its most important spaces. He says the boundary treatments were carefully considered to blend in with the “borrowed landscape” beyond or to screen unwanted views.

Key Plant Selection

Small vertical trees to take up minimal space —

  • Pseudopanax crassifolius (horoeka / lancewood)

  • Plagianthus regius (ribbonwood)

  • Hoheria populnea (lacebarks)

  • Carpodetus serratus (putaputawētā / marbleleaf)

Plants to provide “twiggy” textures —

  • Sophora prostrata (prostrate kowhai)

  • Muehlenbeckia astonii (shrubby tororaro)

  • Coprosma virescens (divaricating coprosma)

“Strappy” plants for contrasting form —

  • Astelia

  • Libertia Grandiflora (native ‘New Zealand iris’)

  • Ferns

Native groundcovers —

  • Scleranthus biflorus (cushion plant)

  • Raoulia

  • Fuchsia procumbens (prostrate fuchsia)

  • Pimelea villosa (sand daphne)

  • Lobelia

Plus extensive fruit tree planting in the rear of the section.


About local

local is a collective of established Landscape Architects with a commitment to advancing our experience and respect of our surroundings through collaboration and creativity. Together with a network of like-minded specialists we respond to local needs with bespoke design teams conceived around unique project requirements. Our vision proposes an innovative way of working that nimbly responds to the individual needs of our clients, communities and environment. We work collectively to enable meaningful designs that strive to be a universal benchmark while remaining local.