About Us

The Garden Design Society consists of a wide range of people who share a passion for garden design: practicing garden designers, academics, teachers, students, garden owners, landscapers and others who appreciate the value of skilled garden design. One of our main aims is to encourage and support members to reach new levels of innovation and creativity in their work.

Accredited Members have undergone a rigorous process to ensure they can provide a full professional service in the industry. Designers listed on this site include Fellows, Accredited members and those whose expertise has led to their participation in the biennial Auckland Garden DesignFest.

Distinguished Members

Beverley McConnell

Mrs Beverley McConnell MNZM, QSM, VMM,

Michael Jones
Life Member

Michael Jones

Gil Hanly
Life Member

Gil Hanly

Trish Bartleet

Trish Bartleet

Gil Hanly

Xanthe White

National Committee

Penny Cliffin (President), Deb Hardy (Communications), Mellissa Marjo (Secretary), Phil Oster (Treasurer), Jordan Draffin (Website), Glenys Yeoman (Accreditation), Trish Bartleet (Events), Margaret Phillips, James Walkinshaw, Sue Wake

Events Committee

Val Puxty (Secretary)

Penny Milne, Sue Lyons, Ann Farquharson, Trish Bartleet

Accreditation Board

Jill Rice (Chair), Ian Henderson (Registrar and Secretary), Penny Cliffin (Academic), Rachel Carley (established professional in a related discipline)

CPD Registrar

Michael Jones

News & Recent Activities

See our latest newsletter below for a sample of some of the activities members have been involved with recently and achievements and milestones we have celebrated.

Green Shoots April 2017

Members are able to view all previous editions of Green Shoots Newsletter by logging in to the members only section.


Even more congratulations to our Patron, Mrs Beverley May McConnell, MNZM, QSM, VMM, AHRIH (NZ) – June 2015

Mrs Beverley McConnell has received an even more prestigious honour in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for 2015. She is now a Member of the New Zealand Order Of Merit and can add the letters MNZM to those already attached to her name, for services to horticulture. How fortunate we are, as a Society, to have such an outstanding role model as our honoured Patron.


Mrs Beverley McConnell QSM, VMM, AHRIH (NZ) for being awarded the prestigious Veitch Memorial Medal As announced at the AGM in June, 2012. Bev was at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show at the beginning of July to receive the award in person with her daughter and grand-daughter as her guests.

The Veitch Memorial Medal is awarded annually to persons of any nationality who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the art, science and practice of horticulture, by the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain.

Named for James Veitch of Chelsea, the list of recipients includes people like Sir Harold Hillier, Francis Kingdon-Ward, Graham Thomas, Roy Lancaster, Helen Dillon, Piet Oudolf, Dan Hinkley, David Wheeler, and Rosemary Alexander. Apart from being the owner of Ayrlies, a Garden of International Significance and widely recognised as one of this country’s most important and influential gardens, Bev has contributed to horticulture in New Zealand in countless ways.

She is a Vice-Patron of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture and a foundation assessor and trustee of the NZ Gardens Trust. She helped organise the Auckland Trinity Garden Festival; worked for many years for the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust; has been a trustee of the Friends of the Auckland Botanic Gardens and also a judge at the Ellerslie Flower Show, besides assisting with the New Zealand entries at the Chelsea Flower Show. She is undoubtedly a worthy recipient and one of a select group of New Zealanders to have won the medal, including Leonard Cockayne, Sir Victor Davies, Lawrie Metcalf and Alan Jellyman.

We offer Bev our heartiest congratulations on this extraordinary achievement.

Rose Thodey


Michael Jones
- a special tribute by Chairperson Sue McLean – July 2010

At the AGM Michael Jones was formally presented with a certificate recording his new status as our first Life Member. It was a pleasure to present this to Michael following the recent announcement of the honour.

Society members are familiar with Michael’s enthusiastic and scholarly presence in our midst and many have been taught by him at Unitec. Not so familiar may be the story of his inspiring and rewarding career in the field of Landscape and Garden Design.

Bristol born, Michael emigrated to New Zealand in 1961. His training in landscape architecture was in the Lincoln post-graduate DipLA in 1986-7. A group of four on the course decided on the somewhat audacious plan as brand new graduates to form a Landscape Architecture practice, Isthmus Group, in Auckland. So into the turmoil of the stock market crash, the Isthmus Group began in January 1988.

After a lean two years the practice took off and in 1993 won the George Malcolm Award for the design of the Brown’s Bay Town Centre. The practice flourished and has an impressive body of work across the country.

In 1990 Jacqueline Margetts approached Isthmus Group to take over the teaching of Garden Design History at Unitec, which evolved into Michael taking personal responsibility for that whole course.

The following years saw Michael take up a position as the first Landscape Architect in the Urban Design Division of Auckland City Council becoming responsible for drafting the special character zones and criteria for the district plan - a move to preserve built heritage at neighbourhood level, the first such effort in NZ. During his years with Auckland City Michael furthered his passion for garden history by participating in and later leading a specialist study tour of Italian gardens.

Lecturing at Unitec continued until he took up a tenured position. In 1993/4 Michael assisted Rod Barnett in drafting the 4 year BLA degree which commenced in 1996.

Roles as President of NZILA, judge and convenor of judges for the Ellerslie International Flower Show, and LIANZ national awards chair of judges seemed natural extensions of Michael’s dedication to the academic and creative development of Garden Design.

In 2001/2, a small group of staff at Unitec led by Ian Henderson, Lesley Haines and Michael met regularly to explore the formation of a Garden Design Society, in the belief that garden design deserved its own professional organization. Michael visited staff of the Garden Design School at Leeds University to discuss their experience of the UK Society of Garden Design and how it managed accreditation. He found there was no accreditation! Despite this fact and with great resolve, Michael drafted the NZ constitution, to include accreditation.

In June 2002 a group of fifteen formed the Society, subsequently becoming the signatories of the application to the Registrar of Incorporated Societies. Thus the GDSNZ was born in August 2002. Michael joined the National Committee elected that day under the chairmanship of Ian Henderson and has remained on the committee ever since, serving as Chair from 2005 – 2007.

His experience, wisdom, and willingness to guide and support the Society through these important early years is greatly appreciated by us all. May your active contribution as a Life Member, long continue Michael!


Gil Hanly - Life Member

The most defining thing about Gil is that she is omnipresent - Gil is everywhere. At almost every event, be it one of our own Garden Design Society talks or outings or weekends away or trips to Melbourne – she is there. She will pop up at whatever festival or tour you can think of – the annual Gardens Trust Conference, Jo Connor’s trips to Australia and California, Warwick and Sue Forge’s very first foray into South America – Gil was there.

Garden photography may be a large part of Gil’s life but it is by no means the whole story. Art and artists have always been central and her photographic record of the social, political and environmental issues of the last 50 years would be second to none.

Gillian Mary Taverner was born in 1934 during the Great Depression, the eldest of three children on a farm out from Bulls near Tangimoana on the coast, at the mouth of the Rangitikei River and due west of Palmerston North where her husband-to-be, Patrick Hanly grew up.

Gil’s upbringing was a bit different to Pat’s – her father, born in 1896, had won a scholarship to Cambridge in the UK to study medicine and was there when the First World War broke out. He joined the British forces and saw service in Gallipoli and elsewhere, returning home only to find that his father had sold the farm – except for the house and a hundred acres of fertile fattening land.  Gil’s father Lewin, “then spent the rest of his life breaking in a farm where only lucerne really thrived on the sandy soil”.

Some of Gil’s earliest memories are of visiting her grandparents’ home, with its huge macrocarpa trees and exotic white pigs. “It was a wonderful garden for hide-and-seek and we used to play in the hedges, run up and down the raspberry walks – there were hazel hedges too, artichokes and figs.”

Her mother, Alison Kebbel, had grown up between Levin and Foxton and was ‘mad on horses’. Interestingly, she too painted and drew and was interested in native plants in particular – planting a native bush strip at her new home.

Gil learned by correspondence until she was twelve, escaping into the big farm vegetable garden whenever she could to avoid the housework. After that came a stint at Nga Tawa, a boarding school near Marton, where our patron Bev McConnell also went. The art classes must have been good as both proceeded to Canterbury Art School.

Pat, on the other hand, had left secondary school in Palmerston North before matriculating (there were certainly no art classes there) and soon found himself apprenticed to a hairdresser as his parents deemed this a safer path to a regular income than the life of an artist. At least it was creative. Pat enrolled in night classes and then gained entry to the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts as a non-diploma student - where of course he met Gil.

The couple lived overseas in London and briefly in Ibiza for several years from 1957 until the early 60s when they moved back home with their son Ben. In 1963 they moved into Windmill Rd and baby Tamsin arrived. Gil was then fully occupied looking after the children and her vegetable garden and fruit trees – well-trained by her mother to grow everything from cuttings.

Her photographic career began by chance in the 70s with an unexpected trip to Fiji: “I bought a camera at the airport and photographed the Pacific Arts Festival which was on at the time.” Such was her delight at having a camera in her hands again, she took a photography course at Elam.

Photographing gardens for a living took centre stage when Julian Matthews, editor of the New Zealand Gardener, saw one of her pictures and asked her to photograph gardens for the magazine in the early 90s. Her entrée into books had come a few years before via her friend Susan Firth who wanted to follow up her successful book on ferns with one on city gardens – instead of the usual big country garden theme. Gil had been using black and white so she had to learn about colour photography, travelling all around the country with Sue, discovering small gardens of interest. Before long she was plunged into a world of garden books for Godwit, Moa, Batemans and New Holland, among others.

Her interest in subtropicals was sparked by Noel Scotting of Whitford. “She was a lovely woman who had been to South America with Arno King and seen Roberto Burle Marx’s work.” From there she met plant collectors like Dick Endt and Russell Fransham who was then at Earthsea with his partner. A book for the Heroic Gardens Festival was soon inevitable, then one on the Ellerslie Flower Show – all of these interspersed with trips overseas with Julian to photograph gardens in England and America besides constantly trekking around NZ. More books followed throughout the 90s – many for Paul Bateman and also the Trinity Garden Festival.

Gil always says she likes the bigger picture – not close-ups – but concentrating on how things relate to each other. Being artistic, she particularly likes design and found an outlet for that in photographing Landscape, a book featuring top New Zealand designers, first published in 2005. It was followed by The Artful Gardener in 2008 – in some ways a compendium of some of her best work illustrating the theme of gardens as an art form, allowing the gardener to explore his or her creativity through a living, growing, ever-changing medium.

For someone who has been at the forefront of conflict so often throughout her life, Gil is remarkably tolerant of people with different viewpoints. She sums it up by saying “gardening people on the whole are really very nice – we just don’t talk politics!”

Summary of an interview by Rose Thodey, AGM, 17 June, 2015.


Trish Bartleet - Citation

Patricia Mary (Trish) Bartleet ● Garden Designer
GDSNZ Fellow


Trish Bartleet is one of New Zealand’s pioneer garden designers of the late 20th century. Trish grew up with a strong sense of fashion and design; she trained as a fashion buyer and then became an art teacher. Neither career quite fitted, and it was only when she returned from her OE in Europe that she settled on landscape as her genre.  She had always loved plants, and around 1985 she began designing gardens.  “Over time,” says Trish, “I realised that landscaping is quite a painterly sort of experience. Because of my interest in design in general I became fascinated by how plants can be used to create combinations of patterns and textures that lead to a visual reaction.”  Her architect husband Mal encouraged her in this, telling her that there were architects who would use someone like her.

In the mid 1980s, garden design education was in its infancy, and Trish became one of the first to sign up for the Certificate in Landscape Design course at Carrington Polytechnic.

But this was not enough to satisfy an ambitious young woman, and with her husband’s support Trish engaged in the extra-mural Diploma in Horticulture programme at Massey University, while still working as a garden designer and bringing up three children. During 1992-93, Trish and Mal built their house in Point Chevalier.  Trish designed their garden over a difficult site, with little soil and exposed to wind and sea – a testing template for any aspiring designer.

One of Trish’s first big breakthroughs was a legal contact who got her all the design work for Mobil stations.  She became experienced in the consent process, and is known for presenting very competently at town planning hearings.

Trish graduated from Massey in 1998, and almost immediately began visiting designed gardens overseas - a compulsion that has never left her. In 1998 she visited Californian gardens with Isabelle Green & Assocs, including Lotusland, Huntington, Simon Norton Museum Garden, Noguchi Sculpture Garden, followed by New York gardens;  in 1999 she visited Balinese gardens; in 2002 and since she has soaked up the avant garde at the Chaumont-sur-Loire Garden Festival, and in 2004 she visited UK gardens, including the Eden Project and Chelsea Flower Show;  in 2012 Trish made a pilgrimage to the architecture and gardens of Chicago. Add to this Australia, and Trish is a role model for the pursuit of professional development.  Travel, says Trish, inspires her.

Early influences upon Trish have been the work of the American minimalists – Peter Walker, Martha Schwartz, Topher Delaney, Dan Kiley, Luis Barragán and Roberto Burle Marx.

Architects whom Trish has worked with include Pete Bossley, Chris Fox, Pip Cheshire, Malcolm Taylor and of course Mal Bartleet.  She says she loves the stimulation of working in tandem with different architects.

Designs which Trish is noted for include the Brenda Higgins garden, the Gretchen Albrecht garden, the Rowley garden, the Bowker garden, the Cheshire and Gordon and White garden, and the Richmond Rd Primary School. Larger projects of hers can be found in the Bay of Islands, Auckland City, Muriwai, Piha, Taupo, and Geraldine.

Trish says that plants are the wild cards that can transform an outdoor space.  She draws upon the patterns and behaviour of nature.  For example a trip kayaking at the Abel Tasman National Park and seeing the nikaus at Punakaiki gave her particular inspiration.

It has been said that Trish’s gardens reveal a starting crossover of interior design concepts into the great outdoors.  For Trish, outside spaces offer more possibilities for provoking ongoing response than indoor spaces, because the exterior palette never stands still.

Trish has been described as the most original and confident garden designer in Auckland. She stretches the boundaries of perception, and extends her clients’ experience of space. Her gardens display a New Zealand identity although not consciously intended.  In 2005 Trish was an invited speaker at the NZ Landscape & Garden Design Conference, Auckland, when she fully matched a raft of distinguished overseas speakers.  Hearing Trish talk to her work that day, we all felt proud that here was a garden designer who ranked with the best in the world.

Read on the occasion of the award of Fellow on 5 June 2013

Michael Jones,

LifeMember, Garden Design Society of New Zealand


Xanthe White - Citation

Xanthe White ● Garden Designer
GDSNZ Fellow


Xanthe White is the first fellow to be honoured among the new wave of students emerging from Unitec’s Diploma in Landscape Design programme in 1997.It speaks volumes that already Xanthe’s career fully commends her for this, the highest award of the Society.

When Rose Thodey and Gil Hanly wrote their book, Landscape: Gardens by New Zealand’s Top Designers in 2005, Xanthe White had been an emerging name in garden design for barely two years, and so fell outside the scope of that survey.  This only serves to emphasise how comparatively recent is Xanthe’s place in the history of New Zealand garden design. 

Indeed Xanthe’s rise to prominence during the period 2003-2006 was meteoric, beginning in 2003 with her entry at the Ellerslie International Flower Show, which took Silver; and her engagement that year by TV One to host the show Ultimate Garden – and remember that she was still in her 20s. In 2004, Xanthe’s exquisite entry at Ellerslie – the Flixonase Garden – took multiple Supreme awards. 

The following year Ellerslie commissioned her ambitious work TheKiwi Garden: From Cultivation to Inspiration to fill the 1200m² great marquee – comprising a walk-through historical sequence of gardens from earliest Maori times to the present day. Xanthe’s team installed 20,000 plants and flowers of more than a thousand varieties in this insightful and evocative piece.  BBC TV covered the show, and shot a documentary for UK audiences, with a special focus on Xanthe. 

To complete this whirlwind three years, in 2006 Xanthe’s studio successfully bid for the commission to design the Tourism New Zealand exhibit at Chelsea. The piece, entitled 100% Pure New Zealand, was an evocation of Auckland’s West Coast, and the bush-to-beach concept traced the movement of water through the totara-clad hills to emerge over the black sands. This stunning entry won Silver-Gilt; 160,000 visitors came to the site, countless millions saw it on BBCTV, and Xanthe got to meet the Queen. Logistically the garden was a massive exercise, especially in procuring suitable plant stock so far removed from New Zealand, and Xanthe showed her ability to choose and manage the right people for the job. The BBC made four programmes on the garden, and Xanthe handled a raft of TV interviews. Suddenly she was being swept into the media on an international scale.

Let us then take a breath and follow Xanthe’s career a little more slowly. Xanthe has described her upbringing by her talented parents as filled with intelligent conversation about conservation and art, a love of nature and international travel. She has said in interview: “I think my childhood was the seed (to my career). I think I saw the world differently from my school friends. And then my parents had a close friend, Margaret Phillips, who introduced me to garden design – a real plantswoman.” 

Xanthe then entered Unitec and while there got a job through Student Job Search in a little garden. “Somehow,” says Xanthe, “what Margaret had been talking about fell into place.  In landscape design you have this wonderful collision point between culture and nature that is quite unique. I love this collision - the tensions, and the dialogue between how we value the two, and finding ways for people to live comfortably with both.” Since that eureka moment, Xanthe’s focus has never wavered. 

Xanthe first named her Auckland-based practice Earthroom Landscapes, a design and maintenance business with two or three staff, and then around 2005-2006 she formed her present company Xanthe White Design. Even bringing up two small children did not deter her, and she has written, “In the early years I worked from home or took Sophie and her brother with me to the studio and nursery and to meet clients.” Xanthe has been a role model for many.

It has been said that Xanthe does put in the long hours, but that she is quick to give credit to those who contribute to the success of the studio, such as her long-time project manager, administrator and researcher Fiona Henderson. 

Any survey of Xanthe’s career would have to begin with the public segment of her oeuvre, that is to say her show gardens, her writing, and her TV work. In this, Xanthe has more than satisfied two of the criteria for the award of Fellow, namely to have achieved “public acclaim” and to have “raised the profile of the industry”.  

Xanthe has become prominent in many significant garden shows, where she is now a household name, with awards too numerous to list here in their entirety.  These include two appearances at Chelsea, the second of which was in 2011 when she won Silver for the Garden of Great Maples, achieved with no hard landscaping.  That garden extolled the beauty and versatility of Japanese maples for her client, Waikato-based exporter Tandara. 

In contrasting style, Xanthe’s harder edged inner-city garden at Ellerslie 2012 received the Supreme Construction Award, the judges declaring the standard “as close to perfection as is possible in an exhibition garden”. 

With her reputation going before her, Xanthe has since been invited to shows in SE Asia, and accolades have followed – including Best Design Award at Nagasaki (2012) for her Garden of World Peace, and Silver for her garden Perspectives in the Fantasy Garden category in the Singapore Garden Festival 2014.  

Closer to home, in Nov 2015 Xanthe created a sculptural landscape entitled Impermanence on the coastal walkway for the Taranaki Garden Spectacular, installed by community workers from the Department of Corrections and volunteers. She never remains still, and has been invited to return to the Singapore festival later this year.

Turning to screen media, Xanthe presented the TV3 show Groundforce from 1998 to 2001, appeared in the TV3 breakfast show Sunrise in 2009/2010, and as noted hosted TV3’s Ultimate Garden in 2003.

Turning to print media and education, Xanthe has had a fortnightly column in the NZ Listener, has been a regular columnist in the NZ Gardener, and a columnist in Taste Magazine. Xanthe has written two books, Organic Vegetable Gardening (2009) in which she seeks to demystify organics; and The Natural Garden (2012) in which she explores her signature style of dynamic plant-based garden design; and a third book is underway about the value of soil. With her gift for communication, Xanthe has tutored at Dalton’s School of Gardening since 2011. Given a platform, Xanthe will champion the traditional but too often overlooked values of seasonal change and the place of flowers, which are a pedigree of our profession.

Xanthe’s career in private garden design is less well documented than her public exhibition and media work. Among her best private gardens would be those that were opened to public view in the Auckland Garden DesignFest in 2013 and 2015, demonstrating what has become her signature – the poetic use of plant material.  Indeed a keen observer of her work has said that perhaps Xanthe’s most particular achievement has been “putting a voice out there for romance in gardens”.

Not unusually Xanthe’s gardens are a conscious collaboration with the client, which speaks highly of her relationship skills. For someone who has been described as “just downright nice”, could we expect otherwise? Xanthe has enjoyed a long working relationship with Dalton’s Landscape Supplies, and notably was co-designer with Judith Dalton in the creation of Dalton’s Plantation, effectively a public garden. Xanthe’s range continues to expand, with a current brief involving a significant heritage garden at Pukeiti.

In what we might call community-based work, Xanthe has worked on landscape masterplans for two schools, with the challenge of one being decile 1 and the other decile 10.  More prominently perhaps, with her speciality in sustainable garden design, Xanthe was selected for the Reconstruction Team brought together to assist with rebuilding Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake.

Xanthe is an inspired, dedicated and courageous designer, educationalist, and public voice within the industry. Her events-based work is already becoming a legacy for the profession. Xanthe lives her ideology, standing tall as an advocate for a greener world, and in her own words “letting people choose to have more wilderness in their lives”. At the same time Xanthe longs to design more public space, so that her gardens can be “full of people”. She has written: “Gardens should affect our wellness, our memories, and our relationship with place.”  Xanthe also argues for the portability of our skills, believing that we are good enough to share our work and world view in, and with, other nations. We salute a visionary young woman.

Prepared by Michael Jones, Life Member

Read on the occasion of the award of Fellow on 8 June 2016

By Jill Rice, Chair, Garden Design Society of New Zealand