Greg Dean in a garden by Maureen Burke, Birkenhead. Picture / Guy Coombes.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Working in the garden comes naturally to these green-fingered folk


Greg founded the Jassy Dean Trust following the death of his teenage daughter Jassy, who contracted Meningococcal Meningitis. The Waiheke Garden Safari on November 7 and 8 features 13 unique gardens including native bush, exotic flowers, potager and rose gardens. It also includes an art auction, a weekend-long plant sale, plus evening food, drinks and entertainment. All proceeds go to the Trust, which provides financial and emotional support to families of sick children living on Waiheke.

How would you describe your gardening style?
Haphazard. My garden is in total disarray as we are in the middle of house renovations and have no time to attend to it. Once renovations are complete we will re-establish the garden as maintenance-free as possible with plant species that need no watering, such as flowering succulents and native shrubs. Waiheke has long, dry summers and clay soils, and depends on collected rainwater as we have no mains water supply, all of which make gardening a challenge and plant selection critical. I may strew poppy seeds randomly at the bottom of the garden to get some colour, and I will definitely develop our herb and salad garden.

What are your favourite plants?
I love colour in the garden, however New Zealand does not have many colour species. There are some lovely hebe varieties and other native plants such as flax varieties with subtle colour, however most vivid colour comes from non-native plants and these need quite a bit of maintenance.

Tell us about your most vivid gardening memories.
I grew up in relatively humble circumstances and as a boy in the 1960s, I remember every year my father hand-digging up the entire yard and planting potatoes, then several months later helping him dig up the potatoes and put them into sacks to be stored.

Which garden are you most proud of?
I get the most satisfaction from growing herbs I use as I cook. There’s something special about spreading fresh coriander that I have grown over grilled fish, especially when accompanied with Asian sauce made from chilli, lemongrass and garlic that I have grown.

Any gardening mishaps or disasters?
I don’t grow tomatoes as there are too many pests and diseases that are only controlled effectively with chemicals. I tried to grow carrots once, but the ants ate them and as they are so cheap to buy I never tried growing them again. Pumpkin has to be the easiest vegetable to grow, especially when it seeds itself from the compost patch. The vines grow madly. Once I had a pumpkin hanging from a vine up the backyard apple tree. However, my last pumpkin attempt ended in failure as the ground became sodden from an underground broken pipe and the pumpkins rotted.

What do you get out of gardening?
There is nothing quite so meditative as weeding; the mindless task allows space in my head to sort out my thoughts. It’s quite amazing the solutions to problems that come to mind when my hands are covered in soil. It’s a beautiful antidote to the stresses and worries of work and a busy life. The satisfaction of seeing what I have planted become a beautiful flower in the backyard or on the table, or even on my dinner plate is unquantifiable.

• The Waiheke Garden Safari is on November 7 and 8. Tickets $35 from iTicket. Visit for more info.

Kirsten Sach at home in Oratia. Picture / Guy Coombes.


Kirsten has run Kirsten Sach Landscape Design Ltd for nearly 10 years. The company has won a number of awards.

Why did you decide to become a landscape designer?
I used to work in the film industry for years on set wardrobe and found the hours taxing and the job uncreative. I had always dreamed of being my own boss doing something that I found creative, but most importantly, working on my own terms with flexible hours.

Tell us about your new garden at home.
I’ve recently moved into a character home with my husband, which is surrounded by apple orchards and includes a gorgeous studio separate from the house. It has floor-to-ceiling window views out to the orchard, which is in full blossom at the moment. The property had previously been landscaped but needed some new planting design and updating as it had been rented for years. Lots of subtropicals and spiky plants that, although rambling and interesting, have taken over.

There’s a stunning old olive tree, Rimu and pencil cypress on the property that adds to the charm; they were planted when the house was first built. I’m looking forward to bringing a bit more structure to the garden sympathetic to the lovely character home.

How would you describe your garden aesthetic?
I don’t have a particular style, but right now I love adding vintage and prettiness to the garden. Good strong structure with layering of plants and a balance of leafy textures.

What are your favourite plants?
Right now I’m loving magnolia and cherry blossom. Seasonal change is just so gorgeous in the garden. My favourite tree right now is cercis canadensis with its burgundy heart-shaped leaves and lilac blossom.

Favourite season?
I’ve always loved autumn as the hot weather cools down, with brisker mornings and the leaves changing to reds and burnt oranges. It feels like a winding down.

What are your favourite gardening memories?
My grandmother showing me her large lemon verbena tree, crushing the leaves so I could smell the amazing lemon scent that she loved to use in her potpourri. My mother spending hours in her large organic vege garden and producing huge carrots and celery.

Thomas Keal pictured in his client’s garden. Picture / Guy Coombes.


Thomas is an artist and landscape architect from Natural Habitats, who worked closely with his mentor Mark Read on the Auckland garden pictured. He graduated from Unitec with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (honours) in 2013.

Why did you want to become a landscape architect?
I was fortunate to grow up in west Auckland where I was never far from the native bush. I’ve always found the natural context of a site to be interesting, and particularly how a place changes over time because of its local history and culture.

Landscape architecture is an incredibly broad an interesting profession, spanning the gap between engineers, designers, urban planners and the environmental professions. For me, the attraction was the ability to create environments where people live, and to have an impact on people’s quality of life. In addition to many residential projects, I’ve been designing the landscapes of schools, hospitals, retirement villages and large commercial projects.

Can you talk us through the thinking behind your client’s garden?
This garden had an amazing view toward the city, however the original design didn’t make the most of it. The large design moves were to add an outdoor living space and to re-orientate the view to the city ...

The level changes in the property gave us an opportunity to create a secret garden, and really make the most of the property by creating this destination and a garden path leading back to the house. The garden has a beautiful story as you move through it. A different plant palette was developed for each character zone, these being a traditional garden, a remnant garden, a subtropical retreat, and a wilderness garden.

What are your favourite plants?
I love large, bold leaves and textures where there is space but I also love delicate foliage and the subtle complexity you can get from grasses and reeds. The exciting thing about planting is the garden is not finished — it’s the start of a journey.

Seeing a garden unfold over time is part of the magic of what we do, and I’m really looking forward to coming back to these projects in the future and seeing how they have matured. There is also often a practical element to the plant selection, whether it is erosion control, providing food for native birds, screening a neighbour, or reducing the wind, and we carefully select plants for all these purposes.

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