March 2014

Townhouse Courtyard

The Brief

The homeowner of this central city townhouse had rickety, rotting decking and a large, protected, mature Norfolk Pine on a shared boundary.  Historically, Captain Cook used the Norfolk Pine for building masts on ships, however, in a domestic, suburban garden they are not nearly as useful and if you're living in the shadow of one, don't make for an easy care property.

Our brief was to replace the decking and the existing cobblestones, which were moving and uneven due to the Norfolk pine roots. Build an accessible vegetable garden, plant smaller trees for privacy screening to enable easy flow, outdoor living.

The Solution

The challenge was how to build around the drip-line of the Norfolk pine, whilst protecting the root system.  Paving and concrete were not an option, as this would move and crack also, growing plants amongst the roots of a mature tree is very difficult; there is just too much competition for nutrients.

The solution was to build a new deck like a bridge, and span the precious root systems.

We took this further and included raised planters to enclose the deck, all suspended above ground.

The Result

The new deck has been extended out over the old cobbles, and over the tree root systems to maximise the available usable space.

A one meter wide garden along the boundary remains accessible for maintenance, with shade loving NZ native ground covers to keep the weeds at bay.

The new stained pine deck extends along the length of the living room wall with a single step to the main level. A 450mm high raised vegetable and herb planter encloses the space on three sides, with built in seating.

The step allowed us to keep the finished planter height below the 1 meter maximum height, without the need to install a handrail.

As a solution to combat the Norfolk dropping seed pods, we resolved to minimise the hassle of cleaning up this natural 'rubbish' by installing a discrete hatch in a corner of the deck.  A simple canvas sack is hooked on below the deck and the leaf litter and seed pods can be quickly swept away and transferred to the collection bin at a more convenient time.

Your ideas were exactly what I wanted & the special leaf collector trap door has been a particular masterpiece! I am delighted with the result & now use the area much more. Great to work with you.
— Joyce H


'Before' rickety decking had to go!


The 'bridge' deck in progress


Pine decking, newly stained


Leaf litter hatch, neatly tucked away


Leaf litter hatch, open


Newly filled planters


Shady spot to entertain


New floating decking


Vegetable planters & litter hatch