design without trees will often seem flat, lacking an important
upright structural dimension. Indigenous New Zealand trees
have provided a backbone for many impressive planting designs;
not surprising considering their range of forms and unique
from outside New Zealand are familiar with our native Cordyline
australis (cabbage tree or ti kouka) which makes a striking
architectural statement in many gardens. You might think it
too common for your planting design, but like so many other
native plants it grows so happily in the harshest of environments
you'd need a good reason not to consider it as a garden plant.
very striking young leaves, Pseudopanax crassifolius
(horoeka or lancewood) has instant impact. A tree endemic
to New Zealand (native to NZ only) with prehistoric foliage
that speaks for itself!
NZ endemic tree is Metrosideros excelsa (NZ Christmas
tree or pohutukawa). The red flowers are stunning in summer
and an excellent nectar source for visiting birds and insects.
For those who lack space for a 15m fully grown specimen I
have often included the more shrubby species and cultivars
in garden planting plans.
of mine Hoheria populnea (lacebark or houhere) can
make a fine small specimen tree. It also makes a dense informal
boundary hedge covered in starry white flowers in late summer.
sub-tropical dimension to your planting design with Meryta
sinclairii (puka). A small compact tree with very bold
the largest group of native New Zealand plants - the variety
available for use in your planting design is enormous.
of NZ shrubs are evergreen (retaining at least some leaves
all year round), so if trees provide the back-bone to your
design, the shrubby under planting can bring it all together
with foliage textures and colours, plus vibrant flower and
insignis (Marlborough daisy) is smothered with white daisy-like
flowers in summer. Even the autumn seed-heads can look awesome
on a sunny June day.
divaricata (weeping matipou) is a classic example of a
divaricating shrub. This plant form is unique to native NZ
flora, forming a characteristic weeping tangled mesh of branches
- looks great planted beside contrasting lush foliage plants.
salicifolia (koromiko) is just one of a huge selection
of native Hebe shrubs bursting into flower in summer. If you
add on all the new cultivar varieties bred by dedicated NZ
nurserymen I could almost be tempted to fill a garden design
with nothing else!
odorata (NZ native scented broom, maukoro) smells great,
flowers for ages and is smothered in insects. That will help
attract a great array of wildlife back into the garden.
colorata 'Red Leopard' (pepper wood) has amazing evergreen
foliage. I am keen to include cultivated NZ native plant forms
in my planting designs - after all, they're just carefully
selected natural variants of native plants. Although for purist
clients I am willing to relent this habit!
tree ferns and ground ferns make up a very distinctive part
of the NZ native flora and no planting design would be complete
form a trunk - hence their name - and look great planted in
groups. The commonest native bush tree fern is Cyathea
medullaris (black tree fern, mamaku). It can reach 20m
smaller is Cyathea dealbata (silver fern or ponga)
a beautiful fern with striking silvery-white frond undersides
- this plant is New Zealand's national emblem.
fibrosa is a smaller, slow growing variety that suits
garden planting schemes with more limited space.
are many ground ferns which are invaluable for adding soft
foliage textures to your planting design, under planting shrubs
and trees, or as ground cover. Blechnum discolor (crown
fern) is a versatile native fern and a favourite of mine in
garden planting designs. The unfurling fronds look especially
Native Grass / Flax
grasses and flax-like plants are very versatile must-haves
for any NZ native garden. Whether dry or wet, sunny or shady
there's a NZ grass that will grow well and look great.
fragrans (bush flax or kakaha) is a common forest-floor
NZ native with great architectural bold foliage. A definite
asset for your planting plan as ground cover, under planting
trees or combining with other grasses and ferns. You can't
miss the bright orange autumn berries on female plants.
native plant for providing shelter or height at the back of
a planting design is Cortaderia richardii (toetoe cutty
grass). I just love the contrast of fluffy, waving flowers
against the harsh, drooping leaves.
Phormium tenax (New Zealand Flax) is now commonly cultivated
throughout the world. If the species is too common for you,
it would be hard to dislike the myriad of different coloured
cultivar varieties now available. Great as specimen plants
in your garden design, or combined with other native grasses
peregrinans (New Zealand iris) fits especially well into
a garden plan where conditions are harsh or soil is poor -
those orange leaves look even more vivid when the plant is
flavicans (snow tussock grass) I love planting this one
in long swathes, watching the flowers cascade onto a path
or over a wall.