Before & After

New design for a garden with a view beyond


When you inherit a garden that is overgrown, doesn't meet your requirements, and no longer makes the most of the site and surrounding environment, then often the best thing to do is to start again. However, if you can, save some or all existing trees to give your new garden an 'established' look.


New design for a garden with a view beyond


The posts in the photo are part of a veranda in front of the client's living room. Prior to removing most plants, the existing garden obscured a lovely view to the rural landscape beyond the fence line. The white arrow next to the tree on the right indicates the place where the two boundary fences meet to make a 1200 corner.




The awkward angle of the boundary lines can be disguised by a circular border with shrubs that just reach to the top of the fence, and lower growing plants in the foreground. The circle is accentuated with a strong edge of predominantly Arthropodium cirratum (rengarenga lily) or another plant with strap-shaped foliage, and some highlights of grass-like plants like Lomandra longifolia 'Tanika'. Arthropodium cirratum may get damaged by moderate frosts, but generally bounces back in spring with a gorgeous display of delicate white flowers.

The shrubs in the background will be competing with the two large established trees and thus will need to cope with partial shade and quite dry conditions. Aucuba japonica (Japanese laurel) with its large, glossy leaves is an excellent choice for such conditions. For a more colourful version, try one of the variegated cultivars with yellow and green foliage. Dichroa versicolor is also suitable for a spot in partial shade. This is an evergreen plant that produces blue hydrangea-like flowers.

Additional colour accents can be introduced for example with Rosa 'The Fairy', an easy-care and very forgiving rose. Plants with flowers arranged in long spikes contrast well with Rosa 'Tha Fairy'. Ordinary foxgloves (Digitalis) would be ideal, were it not for the fact that they self-seed readily and are poisonous to lifestock. Astilbes, Eucomis comosa (pineapple lily) and hostas are more suitable alternatives for the shady areas, and penstemons for the sunny spots.

The space in front of the living room is turned into an area that is a little bit more intimate than other parts of the section with a hedge of Griselinia littoralis (kapuka, broadleaf), planted perpendicular to the house. Plantings in a small border in front of the hedge soften this green wall by directing the view towards the ground surface, and link with the rest of the garden.

The scene is finished off with a planting strip against the house in line with the hard surface beneath the veranda. By repeating colours and types of plants used elsewhere, even this small area can contribute to an overall sense of coherence.

Please note: not all plants recommended here are frost-hardy. If you live in a frost-prone area, try to find plants that look similar in colour and/or texture, but can handle low winter temperatures.