Summer living never looked better in this Tauranga garden

This Italian-inspired Tauranga garden has turned a serial renovator into a keen gardener!

The story

It may have taken almost two decades of successive, comprehensive home improvement projects to propel Donna Edge outdoors. But this serial renovator has now 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. 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.

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 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.

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.”

How to create a formal courtyard:

  • 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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