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This overgrown, ivy-covered backyard once featured a chicken coop and a pond. And now?

Homeowners Emily and Will have a modern space absolutely ideal for entertaining.

Let’s just say, you’ll be wondering if it’s the same backyard because this garden makeover has created that much extra space!

In this Project Story you’ll discover:

  • The tonnes of effort required to prep (quite literally)

  • The full list of landscaping upgrades

  • Their advice for homeowners (involves hiring a tradie!)

  • Plus, the epic before and after photos.

Let’s get stuck into it!


Here’s a sneak peek: before (left) and after (right) | Photo: Alana Shinn

The Backyard “Was Overgrown, Cluttered And Unwieldy”

After spending some time in Emily and Will’s home, it’s clear this newly engaged couple don’t do things by halves. Emily begins to tell me how their vision for the space went from ‘garden tidy up’ to ‘complete backyard makeover’.

“We saw the impact of what we renovated inside, of it all coming together and thought — how good would it feel if we got it all done?” Emily says.


Christchurch Homeowners, Emily and Will | Photo: Alana Shinn

Digging Up A Hidden Gem

The previous property owners had lived there for 30 years, and Will says you could see how much time and effort they had put into it before it became overgrown.

“But we’re not green thumbs, so we wanted to strip it back and go minimalist with easy maintenance,” Will says.

When it comes to landscaping, Will jokes they’re pretty good at removing things — but that’s the extent of their skills.

It was time to find someone who was up for the challenge.

A home's value starts from the exterior

Ross from Grasshopper Landscapes, and before shots of the garden | Photo: Alana Shinn

“Ross Had Vision, And We Didn’t”

With seven trades chasing their job, Emily and Will carefully looked at profiles and reviews to try and find who they liked most.

“Ross stood out from the crowd — by a lot,” Will says, nodding his head slowly.

“He’s a nice guy, you know, he sees the planter box out the front and he’s already throwing some ideas out for what we could plant there,” Will says.

“We thought, firstly, this is a guy who can help us, you know, we don’t know what works, we’re first home buyers,” Will says.

“And secondly, he was so passionate, we knew we could trust him.”

Emily and Will found Ross and his ideas inspiring | Photo: Alana Shinn

Bringing Experience From 200 Acre Private Estates

Ross from Grasshopper Landscapes has been in the business of landscaping for a couple of decades now, here in New Zealand and over in the UK.

After voicing my curiosity for what kind of work he did overseas, Ross shared some stories, and one of them did not disappoint.

“I was once the groundskeeper for the Rothschild Estate,” Ross says, with a modest tone.

Fast forward to his time in Christchurch, he’s now got a team of seven great guys working with him.

Backyard Makeover

Rodrigo, the site foreman, taking back the overgrown ivy | Photo: Alana Shinn

A Tonne (Or Two) of Hard Prep Work

The state of the backyard meant heavy lifting for the first part of the job, and Will says those first few weekends were good bonding times with the old man.

“Dad and I removed just under a tonne of ivy,” Will says, and I try to visualise exactly what a tonne of ivy looks like.

“The ivy was so heavy because it had actually grown trunks, which Ross says is quite rare.”

“I don’t see that very often, it was a shocker,” Ross explains.

“We had taken at least a tonne of green waste out, and we took the garden all the way back to bare bones,” Ross says.

“Then we had two skips of dig out materials: concrete, old lawn and god knows how much soil,” Ross laughs.

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Backyard Makeover
Backyard Makeover
Backyard Makeover

Tonnes of green waste materials were removed | Photo: Alana Shinn

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Seeing The Backyard Come Together 

Emily, Will and Ross spent months planning and prepping the site, so when the visual progress all came together, Emily was excited.

“We put some stuff on social media, and everyone’s been loving that,” Emily says.

“We’re kind of the first out of our friend group to take on something like this, so they’ve all been invested in watching what we do, and kinda got a kick out of it as well,” Emily laughs.

Backyard Makeover
Backyard Makeover

A beautiful end result | Photo: Alana Shinn

The Job Details

The job moved fluidly through planning, stages and scope changes over those few months, but all up, it was a solid 14 day effort on the ground from Ross’ whole team.

With labour and materials, the job came in at around $15,000.

To give us an idea of the scope, Ross runs us through what they removed, and what they added.


  • Dug out and removed the pond

  • Removed a big tree, plus some small trees throughout the garden

  • Trimmed the remaining trees hanging halfway over into the lawn

  • Removed timber posts with ropes

  • Removed tube lights throughout the garden

  • Removed a lot of concrete

  • Removed heaps of soil

  • Removed loads of rotten timber

  • Ground out the stumps all the way along the garage

  • Removed vines of ivy (but left a little bit to come back and hide the fences).


  • Extended the deck with a step

  • Added planter boxes around the deck, and three at the back of the garden

  • Added pavers in front of the deck

  • Made a pathway to the back of the garden, clothesline and wood shed

  • Moved the shed, rebased it and made some improvements

  • Added garden edging all the way around

  • Put down a base course

  • Continued the base course down the driveway

  • Added stainless steel wires along fence (for the Jasmine)

  • Laid ready lawn.

Ross was happy to take on a multifaceted landscaping challenge and see his vision transpire.

“It was a really enjoyable job, and a pleasure working for them,” Ross says.

“Don’t get me wrong it was really tough on certain days, but all the guys said it was a great place to come and work,” Ross says.

Backyard Makeover
Backyard Makeover

The backyard now exudes quality | Photo: Alana Shinn

Here’s A List Of What Was Planted In The Backyard

Emily and Will knew they wanted a few citrus trees, but for everything else, they trusted Ross’ suggestions.

“Ross basically sent through a list of potential ideas and we sat one night and just Googled all of them,” Will laughs.

Ross’ recommendations:

  • Rose Bush: the scented kind which matures nicely

  • Helleborus: winter flowering

  • Hydrangeas: simply beautiful

  • Michelias: standard kind is the good kind

  • Corokia Hedge: green, not brown

  • Para Hebe: spring flowering

  • Pieris: good for cooler climates

  • Star Jasmine: Slow growing, but within a couple of years, it will train up the wires and look fantastic.

It’s a wrap! | Photo: Alana Shinn

What It Was Like Working With A Landscaper

Emily and Will loved the fact that Ross was a project manager for the entire job.

“He completely took the stress out of it; I can imagine it would have been stressful if we were trying to project manage it ourselves,” Emily says.

“There were different people coming in and doing different things, and Ross has that expertise across his team,” Will says.

“Builderscrack was great for us to find someone exactly like that,” Emily adds.

Ross and his team: Camilo (left) and Rodrigo, site foreman (right). | Photo: Alana Shinn

What Would They Do Differently In Hindsight?

It’s the juicy question everyone wants the answer to: ‘what would you have done differently?’

After a long pause, Emily and Will both look at each other, shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads.

“I can’t think of anything,” Emily says. Agreeing with the sentiment, Will adds:

“Isn’t that remarkable? I think it’s pretty remarkable to come to the end of a project and have that feeling.”

“It’s the space we’ve really always wanted — it’s perfect for entertaining and that’s what we were looking for,” Emily says.

“It’s modern, simple, clean and manageable,” Will says.

“Bring on the warmer weather” – Emily | Photo: Alana Shinn

The Finishing Touches

The only thing left to do for Emily and Will is buy some outdoor furniture and put the finishing touches on their planter boxes.

“We’ll take a stab at doing a bit of a veggie garden, and maybe an edible garden with cranberries and strawberries,” Emily says.

“We’ve got lots of friends who haven’t come round yet who are dying to see what we’ve done,” Emily says.

“So once we get some outdoor furniture set up, we’d love to have people around — just bring on the warmer weather.”

The Before and Afters

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Home improvements under $5000Backyard Makeover
BeforeBackyard Makeover

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Thank You

A huge thank you to our homeowners Emily and Will, and Ross and his whole team of landscapers — we’ve loved following you on your home improvement journey!

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