Five space-saving tips for the tiny, perfect garden of your dreams
Creating the garden of your dreams in a limited space can be both a blessing and a curse.
The blessing is the result: more colour, bounty and beneficial insect activity. The curse is the combination of limits — size, amount of sunlight, wind protection, for example — that a small space can present.
Our tips for creating a blessing:
Replace your lawn. Homeowners who are looking around their yards for space to plant a new garden should consider eliminating the lawn. A walk around your neighbourhood offers lessons on space conservation to the keen observer. We note that many front yards on a 20- or 30-foot lot in the city are often brimming with colourful flower and food plants, sans lawn area.
Lawns are useful for walking on, or as a filler where space can be afforded, though they offer very little in the way of ecological services to wildlife and retain relatively little stormwater. Plus there’s the additional shed space you can free up by getting rid of the lawnmower.
Grow up. Highrise residents only need look up at their buildings’ balconies to see how many are using fences, walls and trellises to support vertical gardens. While there are many vines that are self-clinging, like euonymus and Boston ivy, others twine — like trumpet vine (celestrus scandens), clematis, and even grapes.
Many plants lend themselves to being trained vertically. Tomatoes, for example, can grow up to three metres high when they are secured to a fence or other support with twine. Just make sure there is lots of sun for them to set fruit and produce a harvest. In a ground-based garden, a dwarf apple tree can be pruned in two dimensions against a sunny wall.
Container gardens. Raise the height of your garden and do less stooping, eliminate weeds and take full control of your soil by using a quality container mix. You will find that you plant more densely, and your containers are more productive per square metre than grade-level gardens.
A container also allows you to easily move plants for better sun, shade, rain and best artistic placement, as well as for overwintering indoors.
Note that raised beds and containers absorb the heat of sun earlier in the season and, as a result, your garden gets off to an earlier start.
Look for compact plants. Many plant species are available in smaller growing varieties. For instance, the dwarf lilac Korean Spice lilac, there’s dwarf burning bush and most of the new hybrid spireas are compact. Small-space veggies include cucumbers like the dwarf bush Spacemaster, and Sweet One Million tomatoes.
Trees that are not space-hogs include crabapples, Japanese Tree Lilac, flowering cherries and pears, and even most honey locust trees which produce a lovely, filtered shade and lend themselves to pruning.
Look over the selection of plants at your garden retailer and ask for “compact growing varieties.” A knowledgeable nursery staff member will steer you right.
Remember that you live there. Small yards can be filled with colour and greenery — but consider how you want to live out there. Carve out a place for sitting, eating and entertaining in your garden plan and, if it’s a ground-based garden, paths to access the corners. Encourage visitors to stroll through your creation even if you put them through only a handful of paces. A short walk through a friend’s garden stimulates all the senses and encourages deeper conversation.
Water. No garden is complete without a small water feature, even a container filled with water plants and a handful of goldfish. The effect is calming and has the ability to attract beneficial insect life and birds.