It's probably fair to say that the days of the half gallon-quarter-acre-pavlova-paradise are pretty much over in our major towns and cities — at least in terms of section size.

However, that doesn't mean we don't enjoy outdoor living anymore. It's just that the modern version of "outdoors" needs to meet changing requirements and might be a balcony on an inner city apartment complex, a small patio, or a subdivided section in the suburbs with just enough room for a few vegetable plants.

Whatever your situation, that space needs to work hard as we embrace the great Kiwi lifestyle; eating, drinking, relaxing and entertaining outdoors.

Basically, we've come to regard our gardens, decks and balconies as outdoor rooms — essentially an extension of our homes.


Vertical gardens, where plants are grown up against a wall are a good way of maximising space and they look great although they do require devotion to watering.

Flower gardens aren't generally as popular as they used to be and the emphasis is very much on easy-care because few of us have the time for massive upkeep in terms of weeding, trimming, and nurturing plants these days.

The ones we choose to liven up our surroundings are often large, architectural species such as palms, and a number of New Zealand natives. Planting them in pots is wise if you move house a lot or are renting.

Adding outdoor features to an existing property will almost always increase its attraction and value, but the job needs to be done well, using quality materials.

Modern innovations are appearing all the time in products such as automatic louvre roofs, deck curtains and built-in fire pits and pizza ovens as well as complete outdoor kitchens.

Outdoor lighting has become very sophisticated and a quality speaker system can be found on most decks and patios these days.

Outdoor furniture is naturally a fast-growing area in sales. No longer is it simple and built only to be practical — these days you can find elaborate wicker dining and lounge suites that wouldn't be out of place inside the home. A word to the wise though: check if your household insurance covers outdoor furniture before splashing out, because some of this stuff is seriously expensive.

Pergolas, gazebos and arches and, of course, ponds and fountains provide further options for adding personality to your outdoor room and they can be as simple or as fancy as you like.

If you have some ideas for outdoor development, it would be worth making a visit to this week's Auckland Home Show. There you can not only compare landscaping products and seek expert advice but you will also find inspiration in terms of planting schemes plus luxury extras such as swimming and spa pools. There are loads of eco-options too, in terms of watering systems, natural stone materials, and even pest control.

Landscapers and garden designers will be getting very busy in the next few weeks so if you're planning a project, try and lock them in now, before it's too late.

• Auckland Home Show is at ASB Showgrounds today and tomorrow. It is open from 10am. will be at the event as an exhibitor.