Tag Archives: landscape gardening

Small garden design: a case study in a miniature work of art

If you’ve been accustomed to having a large garden and have now downsized your living space with a garden area that looks to be about the size of a postage stamp by comparison, you needn’t feel depressed as Shona Malcolm from Barmekin Groundcare explains! The same is true if you are an apartment or condo dweller, with little space in which to plant. Small garden design is an art. You might find such a project analogous to an ornately painted cloisonné bracelet or vase of great detail, or a small ivory carving. In the case of the small garden design, you can create a jewel in your small garden space that will be the envy of the neighborhood, as well as being low maintenance. Small is beautiful! Let’s take a look at ways you can maximize the visual impact of that small garden space.
Exposure to light is a major consideration of the small garden design. The usual situation in a small garden is that it’s shady, due to surrounding buildings. A shade garden can be one of the loveliest, so don’t despair. If your garden area is sunny, you have more choices of plants which will thrive, but there’s no shortage of shade loving plants. When planning your small garden design, choose plants that thrive in the exposure you can provide.
Let’s take the shady situation first. As a rule of thumb, large-leaved plants do well in shade. Some examples are hostas, of which there are many varieties and which look spectacular in a mix. Begonias are another great choice for the shady, small garden. Brilliantly colored flowers, such as fuchsias, lobelia and cyclamens offer color for three seasons in the shady small garden design. Many plants which thrive in shady areas are tidy plants, which, while not taking up a great deal of space, make up for their small size in visual impact.
If your small garden enjoys a southern exposure, there are dozens of annuals and perennials you can plant. When you’re designing a garden in a small space, it’s best to group plants of the same type together. This planting strategy allows you to make a miniature work of art, with just a few plants, simulating a field of flowers in appearance. Depending on the size of your garden, try for at least five plants of the same type in each grouping. Plant the tallest plants at the back and stage them down as you reach the pathway or perimeter of the garden.
Remember, too, that you can create illusions with color. For example, in a long, narrow garden, a planting of pale blue phlox near your entry will appear to be farther away from the street or approach to your home. White, on the other hand, jumps to the forefront.
There are other techniques which can make your small garden design feel lush and magical. Using hanging plants adds another dimension. Ferns, fuchsias, begonias and campanula add an exotic, tropical and full feel to your little garden. Grouping pots together on a porch or entryway is another effective technique. As the seasons change, you simply replace summer’s display with some Mums for fall, followed by poinsettias in winter.
Trellises and espaliers are another option for the small garden design. If you have the right climate and exposure, you can grow a pear tree on a wall, training the branches such that the tree flattens along the espalier as it grows. In many ways, a small garden is a blessing!