An Italian inspired garden in Tauranga

This Italian-inspired Tauranga garden has turned its interior-loving owners into green-fingered fanatics.

Italian garden

Above: Landscaper Penelope Clark came up with a plan for the garden to include pretty seating areas and lush planting.


It has taken almost two decades of successive, comprehensive home improvement projects to propel Donna Edge outdoors. The serial renovator has long favoured interior design over landscaping. Gardening has been an annoyance to her; a distraction from the work of transforming a humble urban cottage into a stylish family home.
Now, with every room preened and polished, she has turned her talents to outside areas. What’s more, the Tauranga retailer is surprised to find she likes the task. Donna is loving afternoons in the garden and a little earth beneath her fingernails.

Donna and her husband Stephen had talked for years of seriously tackling their somewhat overgrown, sloping, wedge-shaped section. He envisaged plenty of native trees to attract bird life while she dreamed of topiaries and a European-influenced courtyard. He wanted a pond, she wanted flowers for the house and foliage for the floristry and giftware space she shares with a friend. They both agreed that any existing trees should not be removed unnecessarily.

They couldn’t imagine how it might all work together until landscaper Penelope Clark produced a plan that delivered everything they wanted. There were plenty of extras, too, like a second pond for Stephen, several contemplative seating areas and a trellis picture window that offers a tempting glimpse of the garden from the front door. True to her brief, Penelope pruned rather than culled the existing rhododendrons and an oversized gardenia that Donna says is at least 25 years old. The landscaper also suggested planting fig, lemon and feijoa to create a tiny orchard around existing mandarin and grapefruit trees.

Italian deck and entertaining

Above: Flynn the corgi supervises Donna and daughter Alex, who sit back and enjoy the sunny courtyard, with its cluster of potted topiaries and different outdoor dining options.


Instantly inspired, the Edges set to work digging, planting, buying and hauling. Mounds of rocks were delivered, including larger pieces that had been carefully hand-picked on the quarry site by Stephen and Penelope. Donna’s initial nightmare visions of a barren 1970s rockery have been assuaged by Tauranga’s climate and fertile soil, which has sent plants clambering up, around and over hard landscaping features.

Stephen, meanwhile, embraced the rock pile. He hired a cement mixer and roped in daughter Bella’s partner Sean to pave an overgrown dirt track, using the same crazy paving pattern that features at their front door.
Stephen added garden lighting and constructed decking and fencing. He, Donna and Bella wheeled barrow loads of grey pebbles into the courtyard area and it was “poor old Stephen” who dragged three-metre-high thuja trees through the section to give Donna her desired Italianate backdrop.

Italian concrete

Above: Syzygium ‘Tom Thumb’ topiary sits in a black urn and a trellis picture window frames one of the ponds.


Donna has added to her urn collection – “urns happen to be one of my vices… along with linen and glassware” – and filled pots with clipped buxus orbs. Bay trees, rosemary and lavender will all be trimmed into neat forms as they grow.

The Edges have plenty of seating options and dinner is frequently enjoyed outside on summer evenings that are scented with frangipani, gardenia and the star jasmine that is beginning to clamber over the pergola. Often, one spouse will weed or trim while the other sits and chats after work. “We both enjoy it now,” says Donna. “After all, when you’ve gone to so much effort, you don’t want things to die on you.”

Outdoor table setting

Above: The faux concrete table, surrounded by rattan chairs, is light enough to be moved and ideal for long Italian-style lunches



Link indoor areas; Install French doors for a seamless flow to outdoor living and seating. A strategically placed mirror can bring the outdoors in.

Use containers; preferably of varying shapes, textures, materials and sizes. These lend themselves to structured topiaries to create a formal feel.

Add structures; Pergolas can create an air of permanence and define an area.

Choose furniture; such as metal pieces, rattan chairs and concrete that lend an Italian air to outdoor living spaces.

Keep it private; Utilise trellis panelling – or other materials that match existing garden structures – to screen neighbours in urban properties.

Words by: Sue Hoffart
Photography by: Angela Keoghan


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