One of the things I most like to do - and, unfortunately, it's not that easy - is to go back to houses and gardens I've built, owned, renovated, decorated or planted and see what's become of them five or 10 years down the track.
It's always a double-edged sword. At one house in Dunedin I was devastated that the new owners had demolished my prized bespoke kitchen and slotted in a desperately trendy grey and aubergine Formica replacement, even - and there are tears in my eyes as I relate this - ripping out the hand-carved puriri mug "tree" from whose gnarly bits hung a collection of asymmetric hand-thrown cups. Quelle horreur.
Conversely, the American couple that bought a particularly zany house we built to look like an old Kiwi barn stoked our egos by filling it with virtually the same furniture as we'd had and changing nothing apart from one feature wall, which they painted a very fetching lime green. Treasures.
Gardens are even better. First, new owners rarely yank out everything you've planted.
Second, the garden has a life of its own.
Even if almost nothing is done to it, when you visit it a few years later it will look very different from the day it was planted.
There are many lessons to be learned in taking a backward glance, and mine generally have to do with an embarrassing lack of knowledge about, or interest in, the behaviour of the plants I chose.
I was once a hard-landscaping enthusiast, far more interested in clever paving, walls, outdoor living pavilions, pergolas and courtyards.
Plants were things you either chucked into pots or pack-planted for instant effect.
It's not surprising, then, to note that the Kiwi barn house is now invisible from the road - quite an achievement considering the 1ha block had only one tree on it when we built there.
You'd think that would have taught me but it took a couple more gardens before I got it half figured out.
Today I'm still whacking the tops off palm trees that are blocking the sun and wondering whatever possessed me to grow a silk tree overhanging the white-shell terrace.
Last time I checked there were about 350,000 species of plants on the planet.
Considering that in our moderate climate we can grow 25 per cent of them, that's about 87,000 to choose from, you wouldn't think, then, it could be so difficult to get the right one in the right place.
The reality is that most professional landscapers tend to work with a vocabulary of only about 100. These tend to be the plants that they know do well in the area, that suit their particular style, and are fashionable. And no, it's not necessarily the landscapers who are slaves to fashion - more likely their clients.
You can look back on the gardens of the past 50 years in New Zealand and see the trends. We went botanically global in the 1960s and swooped on everything South African and Australian, hence the masses of leucodendrons, proteas, banksias and grevilleas in gardens of that time.
That was followed the next decade by enthusiasm for our own flora, with the slavish planting of natives. Walk around the areas developed at that time and you'll see grumpy garden owners trying to top their totara without the required approval.
In the 1980s, lots of us had more money than sense and, fuelled by too many holidays at Pacific resorts, we went mad on palms, a trend that continued for quite a few years after the money ran out.
Appropriately, we did austerity gardens next - riverstones and agaves, pebbles and paving, and carex where there was any soil left exposed.
And the past 10 years there's been a return to natives, but more knowledgeably and sensibly used than in the past.
Luckily the embarrassment of being confronted by your own errors of judgment is easily overcome by the pleasure of spreading trees, lush lawns, tall hedges, vine-covered pergolas and flower and vegetable gardens bursting with life.
The hard landscaping will have settled in too - the stone walls will be attractively relaxed (tumbledown) the timbers silvered and the paving - well, probably in need of a good seeing-to with the water blaster.
The good thing is, as our knowledge and our access to information through the internet increases, making good landscaping choices is so much easier.
And if something does go very wrong, you can always say: "Google made me do it."