De­sign tips for small gar­dens

Go Gardening - - Design -


Don’t be in a rush. Do your re­search and visit other gar­dens to see what you like and what does well in the cli­mate. Talk to other gar­den­ers.

Once you’ve found what you like, look af­ter it! Don’t let plants get away on you and keep the in­tegrity of the gar­den.

Try not to do what ev­ery­one else does.

We are lucky in NZ to be able to com­bine na­tive with ex­otic plants and have so many plant va­ri­eties avail­able.

Don’t be afraid to get cut­tings from friends’ or neigh­bours’ gar­dens.

Scale is im­por­tant, although don’t be scared of us­ing over­sized pieces in a small space. Steer clear of tiny plants.


Cre­ate ar­eas of in­ter­est between gar­dens. Small side gar­dens or ac­cess ar­eas can be cre­ated into mag­i­cal spa­ces by giv­ing them at­ten­tion. Limit the colour pal­ette and the num­ber of va­ri­eties you use. For ex­am­ple, just have mondo grass or ferns and use dif­fer­ent plants than in the rest of the gar­den.

Change the feel as you go around the gar­den. Cre­ate dif­fer­ent aes­thet­ics by us­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of plants in the same colour, or group brightly coloured pots to­gether.

Treat the gar­den as ex­te­rior space. It’s an out­door room so dec­o­rate it!

Mix up the colours in your main gar­den. Try ma­roon or blue fo­liage with white or lime green with dark colours. Ad­ding a splash of colour adds fresh­ness.

Across town in Free­man’s Bay, Tr­ish Bartleet has de­signed a gar­den that visu­ally packs a punch. Tr­ish says the orig­i­nal gar­den was tra­di­tional, with a lawn front and back and a chil­dren’s play area. “But there was no or­der or co­he­sive­ness. It was a nice fam­ily gar­den without any im­pact or wow fac­tor.”

Tr­ish took on the re­design of the gar­den for the home’s owner, Sally Gordon, who is also a land­scape de­signer. The ques­tion of why a de­signer would need to em­ploy a gar­den de­signer has been asked more than once, as Tr­ish ex­plains.

“Of­ten gar­den de­sign­ers want a crit­i­cal anal­y­sis of our own gar­dens. Like any­one, we can be­come locked into a par­tic­u­lar de­sign di­rec­tion and we don’t see al­ter­na­tives very eas­ily. Sally couldn’t see the wood for the trees so I came on board to take a fresh look at the gar­den and see where we could take it.”

Tr­ish’s brief was to cre­ate a point of dif­fer­ence from other gar­dens and for it to have a unique feel. “Sally and I trav­elled to­gether to the US and had seen some in­cred­i­ble gar­dens. One in par­tic­u­lar, Lo­tus­land in Cal­i­for­nia, had some ex­cit­ing plant com­bi­na­tions and aes­thet­ics I de­cided to ref­er­ence in the gar­den. It was fan­tas­tic to have Sally as a client – she was open to ex­per­i­ment­ing with un­usual and out­ra­geous plant­ing.”

First to go at Sally’s place was the large front lawn, with Tr­ish re­mov­ing it com­pletely. The space was then di­vided into four ar­eas, with two be­com­ing veg­etable gar­dens and the oth­ers planted in huge drifts of Beau­carnea re­cur­vata, com­monly known as Pony­tail Palms, and sur­rounded by mass plant­ing of un­usual blue suc­cu­lent Senecio ser­pens, an­other dis­cov­ery Tr­ish made

at Lo­tus­land. Nikau palms, aloes and agaves also fea­ture heav­ily in the plant­ing scheme.

“The front part of the gar­den is the most out­ra­geous,” she says. “It is un­usual to have vegetables planted in a front gar­den but the east/nor-east ori­en­ta­tion is bet­ter than the west fac­ing gar­den at the back of the house, which gets too hot in the af­ter­noons. The plant­ing scheme is whim­si­cal and takes you out of the realm of nor­mal life. As a front en­try it makes you smile and you won­der what is go­ing on as you walk up the steps to­ward the house. It cer­tainly makes a state­ment.”

ABOVE AND RIGHT: Free­man’s Bay gar­den de­signed by Tr­ish Bartleet. PRE­VI­OUS PAGES: Re­muera gar­den de­signed by Tony Mur­rell.

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