The Blue Mountains has cemented its place at the leading edge of landscape design, after Now & Zen Landscapes won two gold awards at the industry’s most prestigious awards earlier this month [Nov 8].
All NSW & ACT Landscape Industry Awards were for work completed in the Blue Mountains by a completely local team.
Headed by master landscaper Shannon Decker, Now & Zen Landscapes took out best in category and gold for Residential Construction $100,000 to $150,000 for work on a property in Sublime Point Rd, Leura.
It also brought home bronze awards in the residential construction section ($100,000 to $150,000 category) for projects at Leura and Wentworth Falls and $150,000 to $300,000 for a Leslie Rd, Glenbrook property.
The highest accolades in the industry, the annual TLA Landscape Excellence Awards recognise innovation, creativity and outstanding craftsmanship in landscape construction, design and maintenance residential and commercial sectors.
Sublime Point Rd, Leura, property owners Jane and Alan Cooper, who have commissioned Now & Zen for garden design and maintenance work for more than a decade, said they were “thrilled with the final result and the attention to detail’’ and not surprised their new outdoor living area and kitchen won the top award.
“We wanted to have a beautiful and functional outdoor area that blended with the modern lines of the house design and the water feature.’’
The Now & Zen design gave the space a modern feel and made the most of the magnificent view over the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
Committed to excellence, Mr Decker said he was proud to continue the tradition of landscaping excellence the likes of Danish-born Paul Sorensen who created renowned Blue Mountains gardens such as Everglades and Leuralla.
“It’s nice to swap our cargo pants for a bag of fruit now and then and celebrate the collective achievements of our industry.
“I was stoked to win these awards, but I was even more excited at the number of talented people in our industry, including here in the Blue Mountains, doing some truly outstanding work, which pushes us all to reach higher standards.
“It’s such an exciting time for landscaping, with new technology and products coming out all the time and property owners who embrace sustainability, water-saving designs and drought resistant gardens yet without compromise on beauty.
“I’m especially excited that regional landscaping has been recognised and the possibilities that presents to landscapers in some of the nation’s most significant rural and country areas, where the scope of design can be greatly magnified by the scale of the landscape.”
Now & Zen (derived from the common saying “now and then’’) has operated in the Blue Mountains for 20 years supporting sustainability and resourcefulness and is the yardstick for the highest end bespoke garden market in the Nepean valley, Greater Blue Mountains and Central West.
Mr Decker himself is the local industry authority, recently headhunted by one of Australia’s oldest recognised training organisations, The Management Edge (TME), to run its NSW and broad horticultural training program working with employers and was recently invited to sit with the board of directors of The landscape Association, given his cohesion with metropolitan and regional areas and passion for training.
As well as an 80-acre property at Mt Victoria where concrete and soil is recycled and green waste composted, Mr Decker has built an off-the-grid ironstone and iron bark house and he and his family recently opened The Source bulk foods store focusing on zero waste shopping with an old charm shopping experience.
By Ellen Hill for Now & Zen Landscapes Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
CRUISING the tree-lined avenues of Wentworth Falls, the vibrant rhododendron gardens of Blackheath and the heritage properties of Leura encased by drystone walls, Shannon Decker envisages his own garden designs a century from now.
“I can see the moss and lichens on the stones, how tall the trees will grow and where their canopies will span to a hundred years from now,’’ he says.
“When I drive around and I see a beautiful copper beech tree planted 80 years ago I am so thankful to the forefather who planted it for us.
“Likewise, what we’re planting today is for people to enjoy in the future.’’
Inspired by Danish garden designer Paul Sorensen, whose work can be seen throughout the upper Blue Mountains, and Edna Walling whose garden designs are renowned around the Dandenong area of Victoria, Shannon was grateful that “plenty of people have had that vision up here in the Mountains’’.
“A hundred years ago, fifty years ago even, properties were bigger, materials were cheaper, the stone was readily available and labour was much more affordable.
“Stunning gardens also evolved because people had time, valued quality and the architecture, design, engineering and craftsmanship of the pioneers was second to none, with a lot of those skills applied to the gardens.’’
Shannon acquired an appreciation for quality during his apprenticeship as a teenager working on upmarket estates in The Hills district, landscaping properties to complement the mega mansions constructed by premium builders.
The boy larrikin who left school at age 14 on the brink of expulsion now heads a multi-million dollar business incorporating landscaping and garden design, a civil division, a recycling and composting property and an organic bulk food store.
Now living at Wentworth Falls, he was introduced to Blue Mountains life during a break from landscaping while he managed the Lapstone Hotel between 1997 and `99.
Now & Zen Landscapes (derived from the common saying
now and then’’) was established the year heneeded to step up’’. In 1999 he bought a house at Lawson, his then fiancé became pregnant and their son was born.
With only a few other such businesses in the Mountains at the time, Shannon’s drive to succeed and the work ethic his parents instilled in him, the business was an immediate success:
“In 2000, my second year of business, my turnover was the same as it is today.’’
Now & Zen has maintained that strength and market share during the past 20 years
Just 22, he had four vehicles and a skid steer machine, an acreage property and a landscape supply yard at Blaxland.
Then in 2005, Shannon’s life underwent personal challenges and he lost everything, moved to
Wollongong and commuted to a part-time TAFE teaching job at Richmond.
Now & Zen lay dormant.
“But we had 15 years of trading history in the Mountains and the phone didn’t stop ringing, so after a while I’d say `No worries, I’ll do it’. I just made it happen.’’
After two years shuffling between Wollongong, Leura and Richmond, Shannon moved back to the Mountains in 2012.
Seven years later in a local industry that now sustains more than 20 landscaping businesses, Now & Zen Landscapes is the yardstick of the highest end market in the Greater Blue Mountains and Central West where projects are limited only by imagination.
“Although we consider ourselves to be at the peak of our game, we’re surrounded by other great landscape companies who keep us on our toes and keep raising the benchmark, which is wonderful for the area.’’
Shannon himself is the local industry authority, responsible for the education and training of the next generation in landscaping.
He was recently headhunted by one of Australia’s oldest recognised training organisations, The Management Edge (TME), to run its NSW and Victoria landscape training program working with employers.
Using as examples the master landscapers of the past, the bedrock of Decker’s Now & Zen Landscapes business is enduring quality, timeless beauty and sustainability, principals he hoped to pass on through TME and his own apprentices.
Garden design has given me a creative outlet, it’s an expression of me,’’ he says.It’s a timeless piece of art.’’
While skills were being lost generally through quick builds and cheap alternatives, master landscapers such as Now & Zen created and maintained bespoke gardens to a long-term vision featuring individual pieces created by artisans, stonemasons and expert gardeners.
Shannon also owns an 80-acre property at Mt Victoria, where concrete is recycled and green waste composted, which provided a solution to expensive transport and tipping costs.
Shannon has constructed an off-the-grid ironstone and iron bark house, and Shannon and his family will soon open an organic zero waste bulk food store in late February in Katoomba.
“But underlying it all is the soil we stand on and being grounded to the earth.’’