Those lucky enough to possess the talent to spot a dud, yet still detect a diamond in the rough, can swoop on opportunities that others overlook.
The willingness to roll up your sleeves – or the cash to pay someone else to do it – is essential to making design dreams a reality.
When John and Lorraine Brooke moved into their home 22 years ago, they weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
Confronted with paspalum grass up to their knees, ugly tree stumps, and a house that needed considerable TLC, the Howick couple were undeterred.
The residence quickly became a hot bed of renovation work and the sole focus of the Brookes’ weekends.
But after too many hours spent stuck indoors, Lorraine decided she needed a project to bring her out into the fresh air.
While John continued to tackle the home decorating, she resolved to break a habit of her lifetime and take on the garden.
Far from being green-fingered, Lorraine admits she used to loathe gardening and in the past happily left that pastime to her husband.
After clearing the paspalum and levelling the ground, the Brookes started off with potted colour and then moved on to more ambitious growing projects.
Walking up the driveway, rows of pretty flower beds catch the eye, encircled by keystone block retaining walls that John built.
To the left is a true tropical paradise complete with Washington palms and a fish pond with a storybook style bridge.
Earlier this year John and Lorraine’s garden scooped the prize for best overall garden in Manukau for 2010.
Its design and upkeep has been a joint effort for the couple, built on compromise to reflect their conflicting tastes.“He likes hibiscus and I hate hibiscus,” says Lorraine. “And I hate things that drop leaves.”
She prefers a manicured look, while “higgledy piggledy” is her description for her husband’s style. “He just jams everything in, but I like it a bit more formal,” says Lorraine. “I love the topiary look when it’s all turned into shapes.”
“I like both [looks], that’s why I let her get away with it,” chips in John, with a laugh. “Originally what made us buy the house was a beautiful, big pine tree. It was just like a Christmas tree.”
A wooden wishing well from Lorraine’s uncle is near the garden’s back corner, and brings a dose of romance and nostalgia to what is already a picturesque patch.
Rhododendrons, delicate roses, striking pansies and azaleas cry out for attention, while a veggie garden tucked around the back is a practical addition.
“I enjoy coming home and seeing it,” says John. “When you see the spring coming on and the brand new leaves coming up on the trees, it’s just glorious.”
He says perseverance and learning as you go has been the key to the couple’s success with the double section.