Cool Landscapes


By Katie Costain and Ben Freeman

As the days get shorter and colder it is common for people to turn away from their gardens and landscapes, and focus instead on the interior of their homes.

What many people don’t realise is that the onset of winter is the perfect time to plan and get started on next year’s garden. With the coldest months still ahead, there is plenty of time to organise your landscape, carefully choosing the best plants, materials and design for your outdoor spaces.

Winter is the ideal time to review what has worked in your garden, and what hasn’t. Whether it’s a bare spot left behind after your spring bulbs died away, or a particular vegetable that no one ate. Maybe there’s something you loved growing, but it was in the wrong spot, or perhaps you utilised a small patio so frequently that it could be extended and turned into a feature of your garden.

The first and most crucial step  is to look over your landscape and take note of the things you like and dislike. As you look around, make a list of things you’d like to include or remove from your landscape.

What do you want from your garden? Are your plants growing in the right place? Have any of the plants struggled in their current position? Are there any that need to be replaced? Is there anything that can be added to make your garden easier and the outdoor spaces more enjoyable? Was there an issue you encountered again and again? Does your garden require an irrigation system?

Think of the big picture. Make the garden work for you. Want to harvest fresh herbs and veggies in your slippers? Consider relocating your vegetable garden from the back of your yard to right against the house. If something is getting in the way of you enjoying your garden to its fullest potential, then now is the time to evaluate how it’s really used. Be sure to note the level of sunlight your landscape receives, as well as any obstacles such as tree roots and anything else that would impact the shape and layout of your ideal garden.

The cooler months can be a hard time for gardens, especially with our cold snaps. Plant growth slows right down, and firmer ground and fewer fine days makes getting out and tending to your landscape  a difficult task.

Winter is the perfect season to plant and transplant any deciduous trees, shrubs or roses. We recommend having the planting spot dug out and prepared before you purchase the plant. That way you can put it straight in the ground, which is particularly important for bare-rooted trees and shrubs.

There are many things you can do to help your garden cope with the cooler months, so here’s a timely checklist for preparing your garden for winter:

  • Reduce watering – your plants require much less water when the temperature drops.
  • Frost protection – cold sensitive pot plants can be shifted indoors or into a sheltered spot under the eaves or next to a wall. For in-ground cold sensitive plants, now is the time to hammer a few stakes into the surrounding soil to support a frost cloth when the temperature drops overnight.
  • Transplant evergreen shrubs and trees in autumn and deciduous ones in winter.
  • Repair any broken features such as trellises, fences etc

Katie Costain and Ben Freeman are the directors of Billygoat Landscape Architecture (BGLA), based in Canterbury and Wellington. For more information, visit

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