A native front garden gets an overhaul

This plain front yard is set to become a bee-friendly secret garden once gardens editor Carol Bucknell comes up with a plan of attack

Garden before photo

Dear Carol

We have just moved into our new home in New Plymouth. We have ideas buzzing around our heads about so many areas but need advice on the front yard. We back onto native bush and a stream and would love to carry on the native theme in the front. Although we have limited space we’d love to encourage insects, birds and bees. The area is straight off the lounge with a small deck. It is on the east side of the house, therefore the lower section of the bank wouldn’t get too much sun in the morning. We have great Taranaki soil, where most things can grow. The area is very sheltered and doesn’t get a lot of wind. We want it to be a pleasing area, where the doors can be opened up in summer from the lounge. Thanks for your help and ideas.



  1. Frame up
    Make a secret garden by framing two sides with pleached, evergreen trees. This will reduce the visual distraction of neighbouring houses and cars, and focus attention inside the garden.
  2. Soft touch
    Soften grey stone walls with a mix of flowering shrubs and perennials tolerant of the dry conditions in the stone wall. Plant in large groups of 3-5 plants.
  3. Bee friendly
    Attract bees with flowering annuals planted in generous blocks in the sunniest areas of the garden.
  4. Focal point
    Plant flowers and shrubs around the base of the existing standard flowering cherry to create a pretty focal point to be viewed from the living spaces.
  5. Keepsakes
    Retain the existing row of flowering prunus to provide spring blossom that will attract birds and bees.
  6. Baseline
    Plant a band of bright orange Libertia peregrinans along the base of the wall to create a better connection to the lawn.





1. Evergreen screen trees

Try horopito (Pseudowintera colorata), blue totara (Podocarpus totara ‘Matapouri Blue’), Olearia paniculata or Olearia lineata, fern pine (Podocarpus gracilior).


2. Shrubs and perennials for sunny areas

Coprosma repens, Coprosma virescens, hebes, miniature toetoe, New Zealand iris (Libertia peregrinans), Geranium ‘Pink Spice’, Marlborough Rock Daisy (Pachystegia insignis).


3. Shrubs and perennials for shady areas

Astelia banksii, rengarenga lily (Arthropodium cirratum), Libertia grandiflora, Muehlenbeckia astonii, prickly shield fern. (Polystichum vestitum), crown fern (Blechnum discolor).


4. Flowering plants to attract bees

Alyssum, bee balm, calendula, French marigold, hebe, forget-me-not, lobelia, rudbeckia, salvia, thyme.

Note: Most of the plants listed above are suitable for the conditions of this particular site, which is sheltered with good soil. 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.



Does an area of your garden need a revamp?

Gardens editor and landscape designer Carol Bucknell will come up with a plan for some lucky readers. All we need are photographs of your problem area, details of where you live, a site description (where north is, the soil type, whether your garden is exposed to wind or heat) and the style of garden you would like.

Send to: Case Study, Your Home and Garden, Bauer Media, Private Bag 92512, Wellesley Street, Auckland 1010, or email

We are unable to feature everyone’s garden in the magazine and online, however if you’d like some personal design advice, contact Carol on


Words by: Carol  Bucknell
Illustration by: Carol Bucknell

Create the home of your dreams with Shop Your Home and Garden