MEET KAREN who has created outdoor rooms to extend the living space of her cottage.

We really wanted the garden to reflect the era of our century-old cottage, but with a modern edge. To achieve this we chose quite traditional elements in the hard landscaping such as Hoggin paths edged in brick. I love the way the path’s creamy, gold-coloured pebble goes so well with the bricks. For the garden we wanted quite a structured mass planting of flowering shrubs. This is a lot easier to maintain than a traditional cottage-style garden and looks good all-year-round.

Outdoor Living Rooms

The garden developed over about a three-year period. We worked with designers from Bespoke Landscapes in the very beginning. This gave Trevor and I a plan to work towards We had a lot of help with the hard landscaping from Matt from The Plant People. The site has limited access and it would have taken years of wheel barrowing to achieve what he did in two-and-a-half weeks! We modified the plan when we built Shed 11, a guest suite in the garden.

Sun Catcher and Winter Warmer

The outdoor fireplace area is a lovely spot to catch the morning sun. It’s a very private courtyard area at the back of the house, which is also a great place to sit and enjoy a glass of red wine on a still evening. The boundary hedge is Mexican Alder, which is a great screen tree. It’s very fast growing and semi-deciduous so it gives the garden year-round privacy. It does require regular trimming to keep it under control. It’s underplanted with Corokia Geentys Green.

A Room With a View

Because the two-bedroom cottage is small, the garden gives us a beautiful, green outlook in the winter and a whole lot of extra living space in the summer. The box hedge Buxus microphylla Japonica is commonly known as Japanese box. We chose that because it gives a classic edge to the garden and is more disease resistant than the traditional English box It is surrounded by a mass planting of Dietes Grandiflora. The feature tree is a Weeping Cherry, chosen for its beautiful white blossom in spring.

Raised Beds of Incredible Edibles

Our potager garden was inspired by a visit to Italy. The pebbles are Waikato Gold, chosen for their soft creamy-gold colour. Again a classic look that works well with the era of the cottage and looks good with the old bricks that have been used to edge the garden along the border. The raised garden bed is a nice size for growing salad vegetables. We added the trellis screen for growing beans. It also gives additional privacy to front of the guesthouse. Other plants include standardised citrus and herbs.

The Perfect Spot for a Long Lunch

The sunny patio is a great spot for long lunches under the shade of the umbrella. The acid-washed exposed pebble aggregate concrete gives this space a more casual feel. The feature tree to the right is Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’ chosen for its deep burgundy leaves and branches and gorgeous pink blossoms in the spring. It’s a great tree for small garden. There was one in the garden of a villa we stayed at in Italy and I decided that I had to have one in my garden at home. The tree is underplanted with lavender and mondo grass. The hedge to the left of patio is Michelia Figo or Port Wine Magnolia. It’s a lush, green, tidy hedge that’s easy to maintain and it has deliciously fragrant flowers.

Holiday at Home in Shed 11

After a couple of years living in the cottage we decided it would be useful to have some extra room for when friends and family came to stay. We were happy with the size of our little home so we decided to build an 18sqm guest suite at the bottom of the garden. Shed 11, as we call it, gives us an extra bedroom and bathroom, when needed. It’s a great space that people seem to really love. We’ve even stayed the night out there! It’s like being on holiday at your own home.

The Gathering Place

The deck and pebbled area is a lovely space for guests to sit and soak up the sun. We have also used this area for summer parties. The double bed in Shed 11 folds up and this space can be instantly transformed into a garden bar. We’ve also hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for 12 with a pop-up gazebo over the deck and patio. It looks fabulous decorated with lots of battery-powered fairy lights. The hedge in front of Shed 11 is Camellia Setsugekka. It softens the front of the guest suite and as it grows it will give a bit of privacy from the main house.

Creating a Creative Space

When we were creating the garden I thought of it as a series of outdoor rooms and chose to decorate these spaces as you would for the interior of a home. I like to have art in the garden as it adds another layer of interest to an outdoor area. The LisaSarah corten steel plaque is by Auckland-based designer Lisa Turley. The feature tree is Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ or Weeping Silver Pear. I love the grey-green colour of the foliage. I bought the pumice and shell sculpture under the tree at the markets in Mangawhai while on holiday.

Layer Upon Layer

Layers add another interesting element to a garden. I like the different textures of the foliage that’s next to the Hoggin path leading to Shed 11. It’s edged with bricks that were recycled from the old patio area, which was where the fireplace is now. The main hedge is Michelia Figo, the lower hedge is Teucrium fruticans, and the garden is edged in Mondo grass. Hoggin paths are common in older properties in the south of England.