Your Guide to Garden Design


Whatever your garden style preference, New Zealand offers an ideal climate for gardens and gardening enthusiasts. A New Zealand garden design expert can help you create a professional garden with a difference, with a service covering planning, sourcing plants, planting and landscaping. For the DIY gardener, there are plenty of garden design ideas to give you the well-planned garden of your dreams. If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out our ideas for garden landscape design in New Zealand:

Coastal garden design
Living on one of New Zealand’s coasts offers all the benefits of a relaxing sea view and access to the ocean and beach. Gardening in a coastal environment can be challenging, but it can be done! Here’s how:

  • Choose areas that are sheltered from prevailing winds – added protection from the wind can be gained by growing a hardy variety of hedge.
  • Grow hardy plants – a good bet are daisies, geraniums, wormwood and other silver foliage shrubs, olives, leucospernums, low-growing varieties of lavender, and succulents.
  • Make sure plants are well anchored while establishing their roots – try driftwood or stones on top of the soil when you’re planting, and stake young trees and shrubs.
  • Time your planting – avoid planting during the hot summer months.
  • Focus on soil health – use gypsum to break up clay soil, and add compost, manure and soil conditioners to make soil more nutrient rich.

Container gardens
The apartment lifestyle is a common one, particularly in urban areas and large cities, but living without a garden area doesn’t have to mean your gardening habits are frustrated. Potted plants and container plantings offer an easy garden design solution, adding colour to your balcony, patio or foyer area year round. They can also be placed in your outside garden area and shifted around during the year, making for a versatile gardening option. Follow these tips for successful container gardening:

  • Drainage – make sure your containers have drainage holes and add a small amount of gravel or shingle to the bottom (this will assist with drainage and will keep snails and slugs out).
  • Potting mix – fill your containers with quality potting mix (there are specially formulated container garden mixes available) and don’t fill right to the top: leave a gap for watering.
  • Plan planting – when planting, place the largest plants in first, then bulbs and finally smaller plants, such as succulents and perennials.
  • Feed plants regularly with liquid or granulated fertilizer.
  • Water plants regularly, but avoid leaving the plant sitting in water.
  • Choose the right plants – most plants can grow in a container, but avoid trees and shrubs, and choose those with flowers, foliage and colours that will enhance your garden design.
  • Added extras – pebbles, shells or small pieces of driftwood will add interest.

Formal garden design
If you find yourself with a reasonably large section of land, a formal garden may be the perfect choice. Just think of the magnificence of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles if you run short on inspiration! It may be wise to consult a professional New Zealand garden designer for this ambitious style of garden design; alternatively, create your own garden space with a formal look and feel:

    • Make a careful and detailed garden design – use well-defined lines, angular shapes and symmetrical balance.
    • Add extra features – pathways in formal gardens often lead to a feature point, such as a rose garden, fountain, topiary, pond, statue or sundial.
    • Add garden structures – seats, hedges, archways and gazebos all make good choices, but make sure the style of your garden is consistent.
    • Create pathways – decide on which ground-covering will suit your design. Bricks, stone and pebbles are just three of the many available options.
    • Keep your hedges, topiaries and lawns well maintained – this is essential in creating a successful formal look.

Herb garden designs
A herb garden will bring new zest and excitement to your cooking, with the taste of fresh, homegrown herbs. Growing herbs doesn’t require a great deal of space and can even be done in small containers on your patio, balcony or window sill. Here’s how to make a herb garden work for you:

  • Make your herb garden as small or large as you like – from a small window box to a large garden plot.
  • Plan the layout of your herb garden before you begin – what herbs do you want to grow? Think of the many uses you may have for herbs, such as enjoying a cup of mint tea, making your own pesto from basil and nuts, soaking in a bath with lavender, adding fresh oregano to your Italian cooking, or creating medicinal tinctures.
  • Make sure you maintain all herbs – try not to let plants go to seed or grow to a size which allows them to stop other plants from getting light. Replant annual herbs (such as coriander, basil and dill) each year. Perennial herbs (such as rosemary) can grow very large. Allow sufficient room for all to grow!
  • Begin with starter plants – an easy way to get your herb garden up and running is to purchase starter plants from your local nursery and plant them in the spring

Courtyard gardens
This style of garden design is ideal for a small section or a limited outdoor space; the limitations of space need not impact on the visual delights of your garden. Choose a style and make your courtyard garden a personalised space for relaxation or retreat:

  • Exotic – using exotic plants and textured foliage can make your garden have a bold, striking look. Plants that are large-leafed, with a strong form or bold colour, are ideal. Choose from myostodium, hellebores, hostas, daylilies, arthropodium, puka, scleranthus, astelia, palms, acanthus and others.
  • Formal – a formal design offers a stylish and contemporary aesthetic, often with a touch of minimalism. For a formal garden, create plantings and landscaping using straight lines and symmetrical layout. It will help if you have a feature, such as a fountain, seat, statue or topiary, to which the eye (and the garden wanderer) are drawn. Limit the number of plant types you use; this will create a dramatic effect and can make it easier to maintain your garden.
  • European – the Italian or Mediterranean garden can be a welcome respite from your daily life. An important element bringing warmth to your space will be terracotta tiles, pots, planters and feature sculptures. Add bright coloured pots or urns, with cacti or colourful succulents for a vibrant feel. Keep lines simple, but feel free to add curves, geometric shapes and other bold features.

Kiwi gardens
Living in New Zealand, we have a unique range of plants at our (green) fingertips, so a garden full of native plantings is a great idea for lush garden space. At the same time, a native New Zealand garden will provide a welcoming habitat for native New Zealand bird life. Talk to an NZ garden designer or bring some kiwiana to your garden space:

  • Choose plants that are suited to your environment – an exposed area, coastal garden and a dry environment all have differing needs.
  • Native trees – trees add another dimension to a garden and are available in a wide variety of forms and sizes. Choose from native cabbage tree, lancewood, pohutukawa, lacebark or other species.
  • Native shrubs – a large variety of shrubs are available, most of which are evergreen, giving your garden a constant source of foliage, texture and colour. Varieties include Marlborough daisy, koromiko, native scented broom and pepperwood.
  • Native ferns – ground and tree ferns offer a unique element to any garden design. The black tree fern is a common bush fern which can be planted in groups, the slightly smaller silver fern has a striking silvery-white colour on the underside of the fern, while the crown fern is a versatile option which can adapt to a wide range of settings.
  • Native grasses – varieties of grass and flax provide a hardy planting for all gardens, regardless of conditions. Choose from bush flax, toetoe grass, native flax or snow tussock grass.

Japanese garden design
While some Japanese gardens are designed for strolling (featuring rare or interesting plant specimens) others invite quiet contemplation. Either way, if you are drawn to the simplicity and meditative aesthetic of a Japanese inspired garden, try incorporating these garden design ideas into your planning:

  • Water features – traditionally, these should appear to be part of the natural surroundings.
  • Rocks and stones – these can be used to good effect in garden paths, bridges and walkways.
  • A stone lantern – this is symbolic of male fire energy and will complement the female energies of water features in the garden.
  • Green plants – usually minimal in terms of colour, Japanese gardens place any colourful flowers near the garden’s entrance and keep to predominantly green plants.
  • Dry landscape features – this Japanese garden design style is easily recognizable by a lack of water features, few plants and the use of carefully raked pebbles, gravel or sand.

Garden design software
There are a number of garden design software packages available for the serious gardener. These tools will let you plan your own garden design in detail before stepping foot in a nursery. They feature bird’s eye view planning tools, encyclopedias of plants, climatic information for your region, garden feature ideas and template garden designs. Some software even lets you view your garden in different seasons and see the changes in your garden over a number of years.