Home gardening in the 21st century is more varied, but less labour-intensive, than at any time before. Sections are generally small, and easy-care gardens are preferred by an increasingly urbanised population.
One of the most significant influences on home gardening since the 1970s has been the rise of garden centres, and the demise of specialist nursery gardens (for example, those growing only rhododendrons). Most home gardeners now purchase their plants and gardening supplies from a garden centre – usually large one-stop shops belonging to a national chain. They offer a range of plants, tools, landscaping materials and garden ornaments. Often they include a café and gift store.
Supply nurseries mass-produce a select group of plants that are sold throughout the country. This results in gardeners often growing the same kinds of plants, even though their garden settings may be quite different. Although garden centres have been instrumental in introducing new cultivars of hardy and easily propagated plants to the public, they have been less successful in ensuring that uncommon or difficult-to-grow plants are generally available.
Small sections and handkerchief-sized gardens are the norm for inner-city dwellings. Although some urban dwellers develop display gardens that can be viewed from the street, most urban gardens are designed as retreats, enclosed by high walls or barriers to protect them from public view. Lawns are often absent and large trees are uncommon. Courtyards or patios are common, as they provide a space for entertainment or general relaxation.
Landscaped gardens were once the preserve of wealthy estate owners, but now many busy urban dwellers can afford the services of a garden designer. New Zealanders are increasingly moving from do-it-yourself to do-it-for-me gardens, where a team of gardeners arrive on site and install mature plants and hard landscape features, such as paving and pergolas, within a few days. Companies can also be employed to maintain gardens.
In 2007 there were about 20 community gardens throughout the country. These communal gardens cater for people who want to grow vegetables and flowers but don’t have enough space. They also encourage community interaction.