“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” They’re the words of travel writer Paul Theroux, but any gardener will be able to relate to them. Now is the ideal time to take stock of your garden, prepare for spring and enjoy working outdoors while there’s still a refreshing chill in the air.

  Image via  Style Estate .

Image via Style Estate.

Even if your plants have become dormant this winter, there’s plenty you can be doing to make your outdoor area a more pleasant space to spend time in both the cooler and warmer months. When it comes to winter gardening, there are three ways to ensure you aren’t neglecting your outdoor space:

  1. Cosy up outdoor areas
  2. Give your space some TLC
  3. Prepare for spring and summer

Be inspired to get outside, even when it’s cold, with this guide.

Cosy up outdoor areas

  Use cushions, lighting and blankets to make an outdoor space more comfortable in winter. Image via  Blackbird .

Use cushions, lighting and blankets to make an outdoor space more comfortable in winter. Image via Blackbird.

If you haven’t spent a lot of time outdoors this winter, the top priority on your winter gardening list should be making your outdoor area cosier. There are a number of simple ways to warm up your outdoor space:

  • Add outdoor cushions and blankets to your furnishings
  • Move your seating to an area with more sunlight
  • Create warmth with the addition of a fire-pit, free-standing electric heater or built-in fireplace
  • Use extra lighting to create ambience and a feeling of warmth – consider string lights, lanterns and candles
  • Install shelter structures that will protect your space from wind (vergolas are a great solution, as they allow sun in during winter and provide shade in summer)

When creating an outdoor space, many people do most of the planning with just summer in mind. However, we recommend thinking about ways to season-proof your garden so you can enjoy it year-round.

Ways to do this include using retractable structures and deciduous shade covers that will keep you cool in summer and let sunlight through in winter, and putting heavy planters on wheels so you can easily move them as the seasons change.

Give your space some TLC

  When planning a built-in fireplace, think about where you will store your firewood too. Image via  Gardenista .

When planning a built-in fireplace, think about where you will store your firewood too. Image via Gardenista.

Nothing is more satisfying than spending a day getting outdoor jobs done – and winter is the perfect season for this, as it’s far more pleasant to get on top of those physically taxing jobs when the weather is cooler.

Things to get done in winter include:

  • Repot container plants
  • Transplant established plants and shrubs while they are dormant
  • Mulch your plants (this helps them retain warmth in winter)
  • Prune roses, frangipani, summer-flowering shrubs and tropical plants
  • Tackle larger landscaping jobs like paving, painting, general repairs, decking maintenance, installing outdoor art, fireplaces and water features, etc.

When it comes to planting, the warm climate in South-east Queensland means there is still a lot you can grow during the cool months. Edibles including silverbeet, cabbage, kale, carrots, lettuce, radish, peas and most herbs will continue to grow.

You can also get ready for the warmer months by planting spring vegetable seeds in pots and placing them in a warm protected area. Tomato, eggplant and capsicums are good plants to get started now.

If you want colour in your outdoor area, try camellias and azaleas for flowering at the start of winter. Gardenia, bottlebrush, may bush and jasmine will begin to flower in late winter and throughout spring.

Prepare for spring and summer

  Dreaming of summer already? Get ready for the warm months by designing your summer oasis in winter. Image via  HGTV .

Dreaming of summer already? Get ready for the warm months by designing your summer oasis in winter. Image via HGTV.

Spring/summer is prime time for relaxing outside, so it makes sense to do larger landscaping projects before the weather starts to warm up.

When planning design and landscaping for your space, we recommend starting with Pinterest as a source of inspiration. You should also consult with your local nursery on plants that will grow well in your area. If you require professional assistance with your landscaping, now is also the time to book this in before the spring/summer rush begins.

For design ideas, see these seven gardens that showcase why landscaping shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Winter reading: Small Spaces, Big Ideas – our complete guide to garden design. Download your free ebook now!


Rooftop gardens are the ultimate way to transform an urban area into a relaxing green space. If you have been thinking about utilising your rooftop, chances are these questions have crossed your mind.

 Image via  Inside Out .  Design:  William Dangar  Photography: Chris Warner 

Image via Inside Out.  Design: William Dangar Photography: Chris Warner 

1. How can I use my rooftop as a liveable space?

While rooftops present certain challenges, they also give you the opportunity to create an outdoor area for relaxing, entertaining and gardening. To turn a rooftop into a liveable space, the biggest issue you need to address is a lack of protection from the sun and wind, as too much exposure to the elements will really undermine your enjoyment of a space.

The most effective way to overcome these issues is to create protected nocks within the large area. You can do this using built shade structures, small trees or hardy hedge varieties. This layer of protection will ensure that both you and your plants will be comfortable year round.

2. Can I have a grassed area on my rooftop?

Lawn is a wonderful addition to a rooftop garden, especially if you have children or pets. Given that rooftops are hot and windy spaces, artificial lawn is the most practical solution for this type of garden. It doesn’t require any maintenance and there are some fantastic options now available.

Artificial lawn can get hot in the sun, so have some kind of shade available such as a portable outdoor umbrella that you can pull out on hot days.

With an open grassed space, glass balustrades and low-set planting scheme, this rooftop garden in Sydney designed by Secret Gardens allows occupants to relax and appreciate the view. 

 Image via  Secret Gardens

Image via Secret Gardens

3. How can I introduce shade into a rooftop garden?

Fixed structures are the most realistic shade option for a rooftop garden. This is due to the sheer amount of wind that rooftops are exposed to. Ensure your shade structure is strong and fixed to the wall and floor.

Options for shade include pergolas or open structures that can be used for growing climbers. Only use an umbrella or a retractable awning if you have the discipline to put them away before heading indoors. Supplementary sources of shade include small trees and green walls.

In the planning phase, study the direction of the sun so you can position your shade structure and plants in a place where they will be most effective. If you’ve ever sat underneath a pergola that’s casting shade away from the sitting area, you will understand the importance of getting this right.

4. What plants can I grow on a rooftop?

Plants provide you with an escape from the surrounding urban environment, but you will need to choose hardy varieties. Plants suited to the sunny, windy conditions include:

  • Cypress varieties

  •  Indian hawthorn 'snow maiden’ and ‘oriental pearl'

  • Crassula varieties

  • Kalanchoe varieties

  • Westringias

  • Dragon trees

  • Aloe trees

  • Succulents

Cypress are ideal for using as a hedge to offer protection from the wind, while the remaining plants are suited to large pots, planters or a garden bed.

In this rooftop, raised garden beds have been planted with hardy plants and trees that are used for privacy and a supplementary source of shade. 

 Image via  Dezeen . Photography  Ross Honeysett

Image via Dezeen. Photography Ross Honeysett

5. Am I able to have a garden bed?

Yes, it is possible to grow your own garden in the sky! If you want grow your plants in a raised garden bed rather than pots, you will need to ensure that you have the right drainage in place and choose well-draining soil.

Where you place your garden is also important. If it isn’t sheltered in some way from the elements, choose hardy plants varieties.

6. How can I grow my own herbs and vegetables?

There are a number of ways you can turn your rooftop into a kitchen garden. You can build a raised garden or grow produce in pots or planters. Edibles require protection from the elements, so you will need to position them near some form of shelter. If you are using planters to grow your produce, a good idea is to put them on wheels so you can move them around.

This structure acts as a windbreak and source of shelter for the plants. Image via Pinterest.

7. How can I improve the aesthetic of a tiled or waterproof membrane floor?

The reality of creating a rooftop garden is that you will need to use industrial materials for waterproofing, but that doesn’t mean you need to live with this look. Use an outdoor rug as a simple way add personality or place floating deck platforms over the tiles.

8. I don’t want to carry cushions and other items back and forth between my home and the rooftop. What’s a solution for this?

To ensure you get maximum use from your rooftop garden, it’s a good idea to eliminate any barriers that will prevent you from heading outdoors, such as the issue of where to keep your outdoor items. The simplest soΩlution for this is to build bench seating into your space with storage underneath. That way you can keep items like cushions, barbecue tools and insect spray in one spot.

Bench seating is a great solution for a rooftop, as it’s durable and doesn’t take up as much space as individual chairs or an outdoor lounge.

9. What safety considerations do I need to make?

The primary safety consideration for a rooftop garden is its balustrades. If you want to make the most of your view, use glass balustrades to ensure the space still feels open. High balustrades also have a secondary benefit of protecting your plants from the wind. Check with your local council for guidelines on the legal height of balustrades in your state.

Discover more small-space garden design ideas by downloading your copy of Small Spaces, Big Ideas.


Urban greening is taking hold around the world, infusing cities with lush pockets of greenery. From sky gardens to vertical urban farms, designers are becoming increasingly creative as they seek to restore the balance of city living.

Globally, we are seeing a number of exciting responses to the challenge of integrating nature into the built environment. The innovative green spaces appearing in some of the world’s largest cities show us what’s possible for creating a future where urban hubs are not only more sustainable, but also designed to improve the wellbeing of residents.

Here are five urban greening trends emerging around the world.

1. Sky gardens

 Seoul Skygarden – image via  designboom , photography by Ossip van Duivenbode.

Seoul Skygarden – image via designboom, photography by Ossip van Duivenbode.

New York’s High Line may be the most famous example of a sky garden, but around the world there are a number of instances where urban spaces have been transformed into green public spaces. In Osaka, the Namba Parks shopping complex has an eight-level rooftop garden complete with waterfalls, ponds and a vegetable garden. And most recently, Seoul has opened its own Skygarden on an abandoned overpass, introducing 24,000 new plants to the cityscape.

2. Underground gardening

 Image via  ArchDaily

Image via ArchDaily

From sky gardens to those hidden underground, New York is destined to have the world’s first underground park when the Lowline opens in 2020. The underground garden looks at how we can use technology to make cities more liveable and will use a specially designed remote skylight to allow plants to grow underground. Similar to the High Line project, it will rejuvenate an unused space – this time, it’s a historic trolley terminal. If you are planning to visit New York, you can get a taste of what’s in store at the Lowline Lab, which is set up in an old warehouse.

3. Vertical farming

 Image via  Sasaki

Image via Sasaki

In countries like China, the availability of productive agricultural land is decreasing, leaving only way to go – up. The Sunqiao Shanghai precinct will be a 250-acre agricultural district with hydroponic vertical farms for growing produce. Small-scale agriculture is China’s primary farming method and this new development explores how this model can be replicated in an urban context. The precinct will also include walking trails, public plazas, a science museum and a digital amphitheatre.

4. Biophilic design

 Image via  Dezeen

Image via Dezeen

While biophilic design isn’t a new idea, it’s now becoming more ingrained in the way architects are designing homes. Houses wrapped around internal courtyards – like this one in Singapore – are a primary example of the ways that homes are being integrated with nature. These types of solutions are a smart response to the challenge of urban density, where large backyards are not always possible. At this family home, Chang Architects have integrated a rooftop garden and an impressive internal courtyard into its design.

5. Large-scale vertical gardening  

 Image via  Via Verde

Image via Via Verde

Where China is embracing vertical gardening for food production, Mexico is using it to fight pollution. In Mexico City, large vertical gardens have been installed on hundreds of motorway pillars to help clean the air. The gardens have also been found to reduce the stress levels of motorists and absorb traffic noise, and they’re also beautifying the city. They are part of a citizen-led intiative called Via Verde Project, which was established to address the city’s rising pollution levels.

Get inspired to green your own urban space with our free ebook, Small Spaces, Big Ideas.   


Plants instantly rejuvenate an indoor space. And provided you find the right spot for your indoor plants and resist the temptation to over water them, they are relatively easy to grow.


When it comes to growing indoor plants, there are two main tricks for success:

  1. Choose plants that are suitable for indoor environments

  2. Find the right position for each plant 

There are a variety of indoor plants, with some being easier to care for than others. In the guide below, we have included a number of low-maintenance plants that will be happy enough with minimal water and light. For the best chance of growing success, take note of the different spaces in your home, their aspect and the amount of light they receive each day. Then when you visit your local nursery, look for plants that suit the lighting conditions.

As you read this guide, you will notice that many of the plants have large, glossy leaves. That’s because plants suited to indoor conditions are typically found in shaded tropical environments. Flowering plants need plenty of sun, so it’s uncommon to find houseplants that produce flowers – and those that do are likely to flower less frequently or not at all.

From hanging plants with delicate leaves to those with large foliage and eye-catching geometric shapes, these ten indoor plants will suit any number of decorating schemes. 


Download your FREE A3 printable guide here!


Want more planting inspiration? Download our complete guide to small space gardening!


What’s the secret to getting the most out of your landscaping? Start planning early. During a build or renovation, landscaping is often an afterthought, but this limits what you can do with your outdoor space and can also increase the cost of elements such as drainage and fixed structures, which are far easier to install during construction.

When building or renovating your home, there is a lot to think about and it makes sense that you may want to put landscaping on the back-burner. But while there is a lot we can achieve after a build or renovation, you will get the best design results when your landscaping is integrated into your initial planning. By consulting a professional landscaper before finalising your building plans, we can help you realise the full potential of your outdoor area and offer suggestions on how to maximise your use of the space.

Landscape design involves a number of practical considerations that must be accounted for, including:

  • Drainage

  • Access for construction

  • Aspect of the outdoor area

  • Creating flow between indoor and outdoor spaces

The process is often far more complex than you may have anticipated, but with good planning you can achieve outdoor bliss. The nature of these requirements also means that when your landscaping is integrated with the construction process, your budget will go further.

From indoor courtyards to striking entrance gardens and enhanced natural views, these seven spaces show you what’s possible when you plan your indoor and outdoor spaces in unison. 

1. Form and function

 Concrete House by  Auhaus Architecture . Image via  desire to inspire .

Concrete House by Auhaus Architecture. Image via desire to inspire.

Every garden has requirements such as drainage, soil quality and access to taps and power points. It is far easier to have these issues addressed during construction rather than calling in tradespeople again when you are ready to install your outdoor area. This is especially important in small spaces such as this one, where restricted access can be a costly challenge to address after a building project is complete.

2. Indoor/outdoor connection

 Image via  Decorfacil

Image via Decorfacil

Integrated indoor/outdoor living is a great way to enjoy your leisure time at home and fully reap the benefits of increased contact with nature. To achieve a space such as this, planning must be done before construction, as courtyards can pose the greatest logistical challenges in terms of access (especially if you are planning a feature such as the plunge pool pictured above).

In this space, the indoor area integrates seamlessly with the outdoor space, with details such as level flooring, material selection and the open kitchen all adding to the cohesive flow between the two spaces. At the planning stage, order materials for indoor and outdoor spaces at the same time. This is cheaper and will ensure there are no discrepancies in colour and patterning, as your materials such as tiles will be coming from the same batch.

3. Natural lighting and views

 Image via  archiproducts

Image via archiproducts

This home is a clever example of what can be achieved even when outdoor space is limited. By planning the vertical garden at the same time as the rest of the home, the designers were able to integrate floor-to-ceiling windows into the kitchen to maximise natural light and provide an eye-catching view out to the garden. So even though the overall outdoor area is limited, the occupants are still making the most of the space. On a practical level, allowing more natural light into the home will reduce the lighting costs for the home, while vertical gardens such as this one are great for absorbing noise from the city or neighbours.

4. Rooftop gardens

 Image and design by  Marco Carini

Image and design by Marco Carini

A habitable rooftop garden or green roof needs to be designed in the planning stage of a build or renovation, as these spaces have a number of extra considerations including structural support and waterproofing. You will also need to understand how much weight your rooftop can accommodate and if your plans need to be submitted to council, it is easiest to have this done at the same time as the rest of your building approvals. 

5. Internal courtyards

 Image and design by  William Dangar

Image and design by William Dangar

Have you considered an internal courtyard? When outdoor space is limited, an internal courtyard becomes a relaxing central living hub. They are also an ideal solution for allowing more natural light into your home and increasing your exposure to nature. To get the planning of an internal courtyard right, you need to consider any overhead voids, planting and drainage. These spaces add value and impact, and can also make your home more energy efficient by allowing more natural light inside. 

6. Entrance gardens

This striking entrance is a great example of a challenging outdoor space. Not only do entrance gardens have practical elements such as driveways and paths that need to be considered, but this landscape design also had to overcome the challenges of an uneven site. When a space needs to be built up, it’s not always possible to incorporate a lot of greenery and this home is a great example of alternatives such as water features, which still foster a sense of connection with the outdoors.

7. Plunge pools and water features

 Image via  My Pool Guide

Image via My Pool Guide

Even in a small space, it is possible to enjoy your own private pool. Accessing small spaces to install a plunge pool and the necessary drainage can be difficult and should be planned prior to construction. In this space, the pool has been cleverly raised, which limits excavation costs and makes installation easier. Similar considerations should be made for ponds or large water features.

Explore 45 pages of garden design ideas by downloading your free ebook, Small Spaces, Big Ideas.

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