Feature article

What’s exciting buyers about outdoor spaces this summer?

Outdoor living and garden trends for the season ahead

With the summer months upon us, it’s the perfect time to best showcase outdoor spaces. We asked a team of experts how to make the most of any kind of exterior.

Encourage a feeling of comfort

At a beautifully landscaped modern Masterton property currently for sale, the owners have brought the outside in with both the home’s interior and exterior design, says Tremains agent, Anna Keen.

Sam Moore of Considerate Design, was the landscape designer on the property. The home was built among an existing woodland, so that set the overarching theme of the project.

The Masterton home was designed as a very social garden with lots of areas for people to relax and talk, play games, have fires, take walks, and share meals, he says.

The landscape designer recommends encouraging comfort in a garden which shows buyers they’ll spend time in it and it also creates good connections with the house.

“An easily accessible area of mowed grass with a couple of comfy chairs can be as appealing as a highly landscaped and designed garden”, says Sam.

The trick to creating a calm, static space outside

If you want to market a home for its great indoor-outdoor living, it’s all about getting the access right, says Kerry Speirs, landscape designer with DIY Designs.

“Generous doors that flow directly into the outdoor space are essential for good indoor-outdoor flow,” she says.

Outside, concentrate on creating a nice, static space for dining or lounge, type furniture and tuck it into a corner away from traffic flow, she recommends. A big shade umbrella can give a sense of privacy - and there should be solid access underfoot to get to this, such as a connecting path or pavers through the lawn.

Make this space inviting by “greening” it up with planting, she suggests. Lightweight, large pots with small fruit trees are ideal when there’s no actual garden and Kerry likes a string of solar fairy lights for this space too to give a festive feel.

Garden troughs and water features are proving popular

If you’re helping vendors to prepare their homes and gardens for sale, Rebecca Wilson of Earthwork Landscape Architects recommends big pots and decent size shrubs, a dwarf cabbage tree, for instance.

If a home doesn’t have any significant plants, add a large grade tree in a corner, she says. At the cost of $600 to $1000 you can really change the feel of the space, she says.

“Have them at eye level or above for a bit more impact,” says the landscape architect.

Troughs with a row of plants in them are also very popular at the moment, adds Rebecca.

They’re a good way to separate a driveway, or a space and much cheaper than a screen or a fence. The trough might be lightweight concrete or wooden and should be 300ml or 400 ml wide.

People are also wanting to see water in their gardens, says Flourish principal garden designer, Sandra Batley. She’s seeing lots of ready-to-go plug-in water features in gardens..

And anything at the home which shows people enjoy eating outdoors is a plus, she adds. So, highlight features like a built-in BBQ, outdoor pizza oven or fire pit.

Indoor and outdoor design should be in sync

When it comes to landscaping and outdoor living trends for 2023, the main idea is to ensure that planting and materials used outside match the home’s architecture, says Claire Talbot, garden designer from Sculpt.

If a home is a villa at the front and more modern at the back, then the front garden should be more formal, in keeping with the villa architecture. The back garden can be more relaxed and personal.

At the front, Claire likes a distinct shape, something that can be clipped, or a mass of one thing, one colour, the same shade as a piece inside, perhaps.

The designer recommends having a special feature to set the home apart from others. For instance, an archway with wisteria or climbing rose around it so it cascades down. These features can signal one part of the garden leading into another.

Home buyers also respond well to seeing something in the garden that shows a seasonal change, says Claire. For instance, cherry blossom or forest pansy foliage, anything that shows colour and change.

Meanwhile, the latest trend with the ever popular vegetable garden is that veggie and fruit plants are now being more integrated into the main garden bed rather than sitting off on their own to one side.

A garden designed for the new, testing weather conditions

If vendors can show they’ve designed a garden that will weather climate change, buyers will be impressed. Claire is seeing more raised planters in Auckland to avoid plants sitting in cold, waterlogged soil.

At the other end of the spectrum, gardens are being designed to withstand drought and designers are recommending South African and Australian plants more and more.

“Look at the countries with the climate we’re moving towards,” suggests Claire.

Proteas and leucadendron plants both withstand the drought and heat, while the Australian bottlebrush is fine with wind, she says.

Low maintenance doesn’t have to mean compromise on impact

Back in the garden of the Masterton home, Sam Moore looked to enhance the feeling of comfort and woodland location via the planting too - without creating a heavy upkeep burden for the owners. The garden designer says that homeowners don’t want to take on high maintenance gardens but they love a soft leafy outlook. In this case, plants are used through the garden to help reduce maintenance, rather than mulch and chemicals, he says.

With the surrounding tall trees, he wanted to include plenty of lower form and structure in the flora. So he had Canadian Serviceberry planted, known for its beautiful spring flowers, summer fruits and autumnal colours, providing a pretty transition from the glade where the house sits, to the more dense woodland beyond.

The Whanganui-based garden designer planted Sibirica and Red Osier Dogwood to bulk up the large bank between the driveway and the garden, these plants known for their brightly coloured stems after they lose their leaves in winter.

“When they’re in leaf and you sit on the deck, it gives the impression of sitting among the treetops,” says Sam.