Landscaping Tips

A good new Hedging option for the Garden

As part of my job, I get to drive around alot of the waikato, auckland and tauranga regions,  and if I didnt know any better I would have thought that grisilinia broadway mint was about the only hedging plant avaliable on the market. It's certainly the biggest selling hedge on the market At the moment - I believe its because people like its  shiny lush green appearance, and reasonably low maintenance. I am certainly "over it "  because its everywhere - and like to offer my clients other good options.

MICHELIA FAIRY  WHITE - (the one shown in the photo) - is one of my  latest favourites, I am impressed with its looks - dark green clean foliage, not too vigorous ,  and its highly perfumed white flowers- the fragrance is impressive, and it makes a super dense hedge, perfect as a boundary hedge on a small urban section or lifestyle block where the winds are not super strong -  great  to screen out the neighbours, and fits in with everyones desire for a low maintenance hedge that looks great 12 months of the year.

Also out of  the same breeding stable is MICHELIA FAIRY BLUSH  and MICHELIA FAIRY  CREAM  also both great options, with the same positive attributes.

Plants for Dry Gardens

All the weather authorities tell us its going to be a very  long dry summer, and  i think if we were a betting person, then we would probably bet that 8 out of the next 10 years  we will probably  have similiar summers. We can therefore say its becoming the normal, and so if someone is  wanting to put in new gardens, then we should be  very mindful of this , as a landscaper i certainly am, when creating new gardens for my clients.Many towns and cities have severe water restrictions in place, by january and  alot of people living on lifestyle blocks rely only on rainwater filling the tanks, so water is  prescious  for them as well.

So i definitely recommend that homeowners use plants that can at least get by with a high tolerance to drying out, or needing minimal water requirements.

Ten plants that I like to use in such situations are;


The above are just a few of many good drought performing plants.Also you can help the plants to better cope by mulching all the gardens with a good thick layer of garden mulch , as this will certainly help keep the moisture in the soil, and keep the weed population down to a minimum, which is always handy.

Also the other big point is - get  your new gardens  planted  in the  autumn rather  than  waiting to the spring, because autumn is  natures favourite planting time - its still warm and wet, and then over the winter months nature will look after your plants for you, so by the time you get to the following early summer your plants will have a better established root system for coping with the dry summers.

I fully recommend that my clients start thinking about their new gardens in late feb/early march and then by early april they have made all the garden preparations, and decided on design and plants being used, so that as soon as the first autumn rains appear, they are in a position to get cracking and start planting.Your plants will certainly thank - you for this and get off to the very best start

Covering an Archway / Pergola

Attached is a photo of a beautiful specimen of WISTARIA SNOW SHOWERS covering an archway, over a pathway through the garden. A lot of people struggle with their wistarias, because of the great vigour they can have. If you are disciplined, and trim the branches back over the period of summer when they are most vigorous, then the wistaria are hard to beat as a pargola or archway specimen. There are at least 10 different varieties of wistaria avaliable, so lots of choice in flower colour and length of the actual flowers- the sinensis types are the first types to flower and have the shorter flower length, and the floribunda types of wistaria tend to have quite long flowers, so when building your archway, make sure you build it tall enough to accomodate the longer flower types if you intend to plant a floribunda type.

Other plants which i recommend for archways are; TRACHELOSPERMUM JASMINOIDES (star jasmine ) - this would undoubtably be the no 1 selling climber in n.z. , its a true 10/10 plant - small white starry flowers and the most delightful sweet  tropical fragrance all summer BOUGAINVILLEA SCARLET OHARA - fantastic for a frost free area - especially at the coast PANDOREA ROSEA  - a well balanced evergreen climber with  pink rosea flowers, not too vigorous.Likes a sunny warm position in the garden CLEMATIS PANICULATA - a  NZ native  evergreen  climber, with showy white flowers in spring, does well in shady cooler parts of the garden.

If you are going to put a climber onto an archway, make time to give it some attention say every  2 - 3   months through the active growing seasons, and control where its growing, so that its going where you want to train it too, rather than just letting it ramble everywhere it wants, which tends to eventually lead to an overgrown tangled mass of branching.

Feed your climbers every September and March to keep it in top condition.

Container Gardening

When choosing a plant for putting in a pot on your patio/deck, make sure you select a plant thats going to be very happy being containerised- in other words having its roots restricted, and also it must be very forgiving about getting watered, because no matter how diligent you are at watering , there are going to be times when you wont get it watered as you planned, and the last thing you want is the plant turning up its toes with all the foliage suddenly going brown.

I so often see people putting plants into pots that are quite inappropiate, and its such a waste of money, and time because the plant is going to go backwards,because its just not the right subject for containers.

Ten  good performing plants that i like to use in container  gardening are:


When selecting a pot, get a size thats as big as appropiate , for the area you are wanting to put it.

Use only the very best quality potting mix, that contains water holding gel.

Feed all your  plants in pots 2 x per year - sept and april with a slow release fertiliser like osmocote , this will keep the plant in top condition.

When watering, give your plants  roots  a couple of thorough soakings a week, rather than lots of light sprinkles.

Bouganvilleas are Perfect in Warmer Climates

BOUGANVILLEAS are one of my favourite plants to use in warmer climates. They are reliable and will give you a full summer of an amazing floral display. They can be kept trimmed into any shape and a few key points to get the best results.

Feed BOUGANVILLEAS with rose or strawberry fertiliser which is very high in potash and contains less nitrogen. If you use a handful of ordinary fertiliser, you will get too much leaf growth and a whole lot less flower.

You must have excellent drainage as they detest having cold, waterlogged soil. Add sand/pumice to the soil – anything to help open up the air porosity. Water very occasionally, even over the hot summer months. Stressing them a bit will help reduce leaf growth and encourage more flowering type material on the plant.

Other tips when having BOUGANVILLEAS in your garden:

  • Place them where they get full sun; the more the better
  • The best varieties for pots and containers is any from the bambino series

After winter, prune back the main stems and any excess growth from last season. This will help you keep things in check, as far as size and shape goes. Give a small amount of fertiliser as indicated above.

Why Not Try a Water Feature?

A water feature can add a bit of excitement to a rather uninviting piece of garden. These two water features are in a narrow, dark piece of garden between two separate wings of a home. There's not much room to grow anything, so the placement of these water features has brought this part of the garden alive. We planted ASPLENIUM BULBIFERUM (hen and chicken ferns) on either side because they love the cool shady conditions, and the soft semi-pendulant fronds hang gracefully around the water features.

Once the ferns grow a bit more they will help soften the hard walls on each side, and our eyes will only be drawn to the bubbling water spilling over the urns. The low grass planted amongst the stones is ACORUS MINI GREEN - an excellent low-spreading grass that loves shade and stays very low to the ground, so it will perform very well and will eventually be under the larger fern fronds.   

Summer Garden Favourite

The attached photo taken in early January shows a beautiful display of white hydrangea blooms. This variety is called HYDRANGEA QUERCIFOLIA PEEWEE. The flowers are different to the traditional mop head types, because peewee blooms hang like a bunch of grapes, and when planted on mass they make a stunning feature. This variety performs very well, in sun or shade, and the foliage makes a beautiful display of autumn colours in the autumn. Peewee is not a big growing variety, maturing at around 75cm, so great for any size garden. Prune it in the middle of winter by cutting the framework back to a nice round ball.

HYDRANGEA PEEWEE is personally one of my favourite shrubs, because its so reliable for the modern garden with its great floral display and overall garden performance.

Create Space For a Hammock!!

Want to create a lovely space to hang a hammock among the trees?? - it's really easy!!

The attached photo is such an area we created in our own garden. We used PRUNUS AWANUI (a variety of flowering cherry) planted as a grouping of 5 x trees because with a grouping it gives a natural umbrella from the sun, a lot more quickly than if we had only planted just 2 x trees. Also the grouping covers a reasonable area, which in turn gives us a bit more flixibility as to whether we want to be completely shaded from the sun, or if we want a little bit, we can tie the hammock on the outer reaches of the grouping. We like Awanui because it gives dappled light, protecting us from the harsh rays of the sun when relaxing and reading our book.

Under the grouping of trees we planted a large circle of OPHIOPOGEN JAPONICA(MONDO GRASS) - which acts like a beautiful lush green carpet. Mondo grass performs outstandingly well, under trees, and needs a trim every five years (feed 2 x per year to keep it looking in top condition). If we were to fall out of the hammock onto the mondo grass, it will not damage it, and will stand up to children lying on top of it, like a shag pile carpet.   

Dry Climate Feature Garden

This garden is a very good example of three plants brought together into one garden, and they are all great options for a very dry garden - all of these would work on a windy site, or near the coast.

The feature tree is a variety of OLIVE - grown as a beautiful topiary specimen - like the shape of a mushroom on a stem. If you plan on replicating an olive in your garden to look something like the one in the photo, you must be prepared to get out with your clippers every few months over the growing season and trim regularly, because olive trees can be quite vigorous growers in our New Zealand climate. The olives can handle low levels of moisture very well - hence why there is a lot growing naturally in Italy, Greece, and South of France - but if they get into a climate that does provide good moisture, then they are off, and new growth comes rapidly. The olive also makes a great specimen feature tree in a pot/container even if its roots get rather crowded, it will last very well, for a very long time. To keep it in top condition feed 2 x per year, with a low nitrogen fertiliser.

We have a variety of DAYLILY in the centre, and surrounding the garden is a hedge of TEUCRIUM FRUTICANS - a silver foliaged hedging plant, that performs outstandingly well, in hot dry climates with strong winds- this plant doesn’t like wet feet - in fact it will curl up its toes very quickly if it stands in waterlogged soil over the winter months. I personally think the hedge can look great and perform quite well, but I wouldn’t put such a plant in my garden, because it just grows too fast over the summer months - you can be out trimming the long new shoots every 3 weeks if you want to keep it looking like the one in the photo.

An Eye-Catching Feature Garden

The STAR JASMINE in the photo is kept clipped as a low hedge and so makes an amazing border to the garden, and is kept at 40cm high x 30cm wide. Behind it we have a taller growing variety of HEMEROCALLIS HYBRID (daylily), which is just about to burst into a mass of summer blooms.

The hedge at the back is MICHELIA GRACIPES - this is a top variety for hedging your property and hiding an ugly wooden fence. The M.Gracipes is an evergreen shrub, which responds beautifully to trimming, and the clear white flowers give the most desirable fragrance to this urban garden in late winter early spring.

The feature clipped specimen at the back of the garden is a WEEPING SILVER PEAR grown on a standard (the owner of this property has done a super job, on trimming).


Double Hedges

Like in the attached photo, Camellia Setsugekka is the taller hedge at the back, and in front there is the beautifully contrasting foliage colour and texture of Buxus Koreana. I like using this variety of buxus because it naturally wants to stay extremely bushy (hardly any trimming is needed to keep this variety in shape and looking smart). Camellia setsugekka would be the biggest selling flowering hedge in N.Z. and I think rightly so, it’s one of the best varieties on the market - masses of single flowers in autumn winter and the petals even drop cleanly so you’re not left with big brown mushy flowers on the bush. It’s a great variety for use to block out the wind or pleaching, for screening out the neighbours.


Natural Shading Over Summer Patio

These days, the sun is too strong and burning to sit out in it completely for a midday lunch. Most homes these days have at least a small outdoor patio/living area, with a table and chairs, so that the family and friends can dine outdoors. Any area like this needs shading, whether it’s from a large outdoor umbrella, or shade sail. If these two options seem a bit boring or unimaginative, then you could make yourself a naturally living shade-cover, like in the attached photo. This is an example of an ornamental grapevine, growing over a good strong pergola once the growth has covered the frame - which it would within 2 years with a bit of TLC. I like deciduous climbers because they are in leaf exactly at the time the sun gets some heat in it. The leaves drop off in the autumn, and will then let the sunlight into the patio area over the cooler winter months, which is when you do want some extra sunlight and warmth. You could have a fruiting grape variety over your pergola if you wanted, but if you don’t cover the grapes the birds will certainly get into the fruit, and apart from dropping half eaten grapes over the table, they tend to peck and eat the fruit still on the vine. The only way to stop this is to cover the entire vine with bird netting, and this is not that great to look at, especially in your outdoor living/entertaining room. You will need to prune back the vine quite hard each year so that it stays close to the outside edges of the pergola, and apart from some light summer pruning, this is a really low maintenance natural summer umbrella. This pergola has a wrought iron candelabra with candles attached hanging from the pergola over the centre of the table, making it a really inviting outdoor area. If you want to also bring a natural tropical fragrance to the patio area, grow another deciduous climber called mandevilla suaveolens (absolutely stunning white flowers (they do really have that tropical summer fragrance). Because it’s a rather light climber, you can let it grow up the same pole or climbing frame as the ornamental grape, and once at the top of the frame let them grow and intertwine, so that they are basically all mixed up together.

Magnificent Maple

The smaller growing maples generally make great pot specimens, and they don’t mind being rootbound. The only issue is keeping the water up to them over the hot dry summer months. You can see in the photo that the plant is at the moment in a considerably smaller plastic pot, and I am about to pot it on, into the larger ornamental ceramic pot. I will buy potting mix with the water holding gel, , as I find this is very beneficial for any plants going into containers. Also put a deep plastic saucer under the pot, and this will act like a water reservoir, from which the maple will draw the water up as it’s needed.

Maples look just stunning in the spring with their delicate new soft lacy growth, and then they create the most beautiful autumn foliage display as well. Maples detest strong winds, on their new leaves in spring, so a sheltered position is advisable. There are literally dozens and dozens of maple varieties, one to suit everyone’s size, shape and colour requirements.

Low maintenance garden featuring three plant varieties

It only has 3 x varieties of plants - the hedge is MICHELIA FIGO (Port Wine Magnolia) that has been pleached (the bottom branching taken off the main stem) up to a height of 60cm, and underneath we have planted a groundcover grade of TRACHELOSPERMUM JASMINOIDES (Star Jasmine) and are keeping that trimmed at 30cm high. The star jasmine grows beautifully in the shade of the hedge and across the lawn next to the house in the photo. We can see it growing just as well in the full sun. I rate the star jasmine as a true 10/10 performer in the garden.

The pleached Michelia has been allowed to get to 2.0 metres high and is kept trimmed at this height, giving the owners better privacy from their close neighbours because the wooden fence is only 1.5m high. In the front of the garden is the maroon foliage of LOROPETALUM BURGANDY- this plant is exceptionally attractive with its foliage being the same colour as a red Shiraz wine. If you left this plant untrimmed you would expect it to get to around 1.0 m x 1.0 m wide, but in this case its been kept clipped at 30cm high - making a magnificent groundcover.

Planting into a pot can give extra needed height to feature plants

When you have a plant thats a bit short in height to be a feature in the garden, I find its very useful to plant it in a pot to get you the extra height – as we can see in the photo with this Raphiolepis umbellata topiary standard. If this plant was growing straight in the ground, it wouldn't look so impressive. The stem is only about 40cm high, but putting it in the pot raises the whole specimen up by another 60cm. This plant has rooted through the holes in the bottom and into the surrounding soil, hence it never dries out and will carry on living happily.

« Previous | 1 | 2 | 3 | Next »
Graeme Burton - Landscaper - Rukuhia Homestead, RD2, Ohaupo 3882
Website by WebSpring: web design NZ | Links