March 27 2024 0Comment
Small Landscapes NZ

4 Plants to Make Small Landscapes Appear Larger in NZ


Have you ever wondered how to make your small garden space in New Zealand look larger and more inviting without a complete overhaul?

The right plant palette can do wonders for creating the illusion of a larger space. This article delves into the art of using specific plant selections to enhance the perception of depth and breadth in small landscapes.

Why is choosing the right plants important for small gardens? In constrained spaces, every plant choice must be deliberate, serving multiple purposes—including aesthetic appeal, functionality, spatial enhancement, and so forth. A wise man once told me that every plant should have at least 5 functions within a garden design.

Of course, there is a lot more to talk about with regards to making smaller spaces appear larger, including hardscape patterns, pathways, mirrors, small garden rooms, and more, but using these four plants is a great start.

A good plant palette can make a space appear larger.

Small Plants NZ

Understanding Garden Space Enhancement

The Selection Criteria

To achieve our goal, we will focus on plants that meet specific criteria:

  • Foliage Density: Opting for plants with fine foliage prevents the garden from feeling overcrowded.
    • Columnar Plants: Hedges, shrubs and trees with vertical growth patterns add height without consuming precious horizontal space.
    • Ground Covers: These help us add more green to spaces that would otherwise be filled with mulch (or even worse, uncovered soil).
    • Border Definition: Smaller plants for borders delineate spaces without the bulkiness of traditional hedges.

1. Fine Foliage – More Leaves in Less Space

Grey Box Westringia Westringia fruticosaWES04’ PBR

Description and Characteristics

Grey Box Westringia has a compact, bushy habit and fine, grey-green foliage. This resilient plant thrives in a variety of conditions including most soils, flooding and drought, making it a versatile choice for New Zealand gardens that may receive excess rainfall or have lots of drainage. It will only grow to a mature size of 45cm x 45cm.

Grey Box Westringia.

Westringia New Zealand

Benefits for Small Gardens

Its ability to maintain a neat, structured look without dominating the space makes it an ideal selection for adding depth without the visual weight. The fine foliage makes a space appear larger.

Practical Uses in the Landscape

Use Grey Box Westringia as a low-maintenance hedge or a standalone feature to introduce texture without overwhelming the garden’s scale. It provides a mid-sized plant within a garden.

2. Columnar Plants – Adding Height without Bulk

Slim Callistemon Callistemon viminalis ‘CV01’ PBR

Description and Characteristics

Slim Callistemon has a tall, narrow form and vibrant red flowers. Its upright growth habit ensures it adds vertical interest without encroaching much on garden real estate. It will grow to 3m high x 1.3m wide.

Slim Callistemon.

Callistemon NZ

Benefits for Small Gardens

By drawing the eye upwards, it creates a sense of height and scale, making the garden appear larger.

Practical Uses in the Landscape

Ideal as a striking feature plant or as a background hedge without the bulk. Its scale can hide a fence and give the impression that the green space extends further beyond that screen.

3. Ground Covers – The Low-Lying Beauties

Evergreen Baby Lomandra labillardierei ‘LM600’ PBR

Description and Characteristics

This robust ground cover offers lush, evergreen foliage year-round. Its compact size and resilience to foot traffic make it an excellent choice for filling gaps and softening edges.

Evergreen Baby Lomandra.

lomandra plant

Benefits for Small Gardens

Ground-covering plants can add greenery without taking up space – instead of mulch showing, we see plants. Evergreen Baby Lomandra is a great example, which helps create a seamless flow across the garden, enhancing the perception of a larger, unified space.

Practical Uses in the Landscape

Perfect for underplanting larger specimens or lining pathways, it contributes to a cohesive garden design without vertical interference. This plant will not spread, making it lower maintenance.

4. Smaller Border Plants – Defining Spaces Gracefully

Baby Bliss Dianella Dianella revoluta ‘DTN03’ PBR

Description and Characteristics

Baby Bliss Dianella is known for its slender, blue-green foliage and delicate flower spikes. It combines visual appeal with a compact growth habit.

Baby Bliss Dianella.

Dianella plants

Benefits for Small Gardens

It offers an elegant solution for defining garden boundaries and paths without sacrificing openness or crowding the landscape. Its flowers rise above the foliage to add interest without taking up too much space. Instead of using larger hedge plants to define pathways and borders, smaller plants like this can be used. Plus, the foliage looks beautiful when allowed to soften pathways.

Practical Uses in the Landscape

Use it to frame garden beds or as a refined edge along walkways, enhancing spatial perception through subtle definition.


The careful selection of plants like Grey Box Westringia, Slim Callistemon, Evergreen Baby Lomandra, and Baby Bliss Dianella can significantly alter the perceived dimensions of small gardens in New Zealand. Each plant brings unique qualities that, when strategically placed, contribute to a landscape that feels more expansive and inviting.

By embracing these planting strategies, you can transform your small garden into a seemingly larger, more enjoyable space.

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