Garden style

Garden makeover: Outdoor living


Dear Carol, I’m hoping for help with the main part of my garden. We’ve done a lot of work tidying up the area, but need some ideas to link the deck to the garden. There needs to be a paving or seating area. The deck faces east so is lovely in summer but almost sunless in winter. The garden doesn’t have any flow – there’s just a narrow brick path along the side of the house to the deck, so it’s not an attractive approach (and most people seem to come to the back door). One of the problems is the slight slope, but building it up would make access to the vegetable garden difficult. Should we widen the perimeter planting? We wanted to have a lawn for the children to play on, but the narrowness of the garden on the northern boundary feels a bit mean. The soil is good, and the area is relatively sheltered. An expert’s eye would be sincerely appreciated.



Suggested planting plan

  1. Spaced out Extend the outdoor living area by building a paved terrace alongside the deck.
  2. Be seated Widen the steps to link the deck to the new terrace and create extra seating.
  3. Grand opening Widen the entrance path from the back gate and plant troughs along its edge to improve the sense of arrival for visitors.
  4. Edible screen Plant a herbal or fruit hedge to shelter the southern boundary of the terrace.
  5. Cover up Train a fruiting climber to disguise the shed.
  6. Pretty please Curve the northern boundary outwards to balance the straight lines of the vegetable garden opposite. Plant a small, pretty tree as a focal point to be viewed from the terrace.

Note: Most of the plants listed above are suitable for the conditions of this particular site, which is east facing and in a colder part of the country. These plant suggestions are a guide only. Check them out at your local nursery and ask about their growth rate, height and spread, and whether they’re suitable for your garden’s conditions.

Planting options




Try rosemary, lavender, bay, blueberries, cherry guava (Psidium littorale) or feijoa (early ripening varieties).


Forest pansy


Try gooseberry, boysenberry or thornless blackberry.




Alchemilla mollis, azalea, bergenia, hydrangea, viburnum, camellia, rhododendron, daphne, fatsia, hosta, aucuba, Japanese anemone, mondo grass.




Try forest pansy (Cercis), crab apple, kowhai, prunus, weeping pear.


Words by: Carol Bucknell