Design tips for small gardens
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.