Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gardening in Small Spaces

Having a big garden doesn’t mean that you have a great garden. I have seen many large gardens that are so cluttered with plant material, it makes you feel like you are in a confined space. On the other hand, I have seen balcony gardens tastefully planted, giving the illusion of space in a well defined area. In many cases, more is not always better, especially if time is a constraint. Plants and containers that are properly placed in a small space will do more to accentuate the area, giving the illusion of open expanses. With a balcony, terrace or small patio, getting the most out of the space depends on good design and proper planting. If you are limited with time, a low maintenance approach will probably serve your needs better. Increasing the hardscape materials such as water features, incorporating low maintenance plants and ground covers, will make your limited time in your small garden more enjoyable. If you are an avid plant collector, your direction should be of small, rock garden plants that will be size proportionate to your space. Either way, gardening needs to be an enjoyable past time, not a chore that needs to be taken care of on a weekly basis.


When planning your garden, be it small or large, you need to do your homework. All too often we fall into the trap of impulse buying at our local garden or home center, and we come home scratching our heads as to where to plant our flowering beauty. We end up planting our new arrival in a location that is not optimum for the plant, and it ends up in the garbage, dashing our hopes for a spectacular garden. Allot some time periods during a day to see what conditions are in your garden. Is there sun, shade or both, dependent on the time of day? When sitting in your garden, notice not only the space you are in, but also the space surrounding the garden. Is there an air conditioning unit that takes away from your serenity? Is your neighbor’s property unappealing? Sit down and make a list of all these items, then hit the web or your local library to do some research. Successful gardening is more about putting the right plant in the right place than some outlandish gardening philosophy. The most common mistake I have seen in home landscapes is that they have plants that have outgrown the area they were originally planted. A good example is the over planted weeping cherry tree planted within ten feet of the corner of a house. Within five years the tree needs to be removed - a waste of time and money.


No matter the size of your garden, your taste will influence the design of the garden. There are two major categories, formal and informal. Formal incorporates clean, crisp straight lines and has a sense of order. Gardens such as knot gardens, formal herb gardens, and rose gardens fall into this category. The most well known informal garden is the cottage garden, where the plants are not planted in strict rows, but are instead planted in flowing movements through the garden. This type can also include gardens such as wildlife, woodland and bright beds and borders. No matter what the style of garden you choose, make sure you choose it for yourself. Having a garden that reflects your tastes will only increase your interest and increase your time spent out in the garden.

Focal points

Focal points for the garden are an essential part of the design, no matter what the size of the garden. They can focus your eyes from a less appealing part of your garden to a more favorable one. Examples of focal points include birdbaths, sundials, statues and plants that are more vertical than those surrounding it. An arch or entranceway to your garden is the focal point, telling you where to enter and exit. Last but not least, water features such as small fountains or ponds can be considered double focal points; not only do they draw your eyes, but also your ears with the sound of running water.

With these few basic ideas concerning gardening in small spaces, you can begin the process of sculpting a boring or bland space into one of enjoyment and pride.