Small City Garden Ideas – There is no doubting the complexity of designing a small garden. Everything can be taken in with one glance – there is no room to hide and no leeway for getting it wrong. But once you have travailed the minefield of hard landscaping you can look forward to filling your garden with exciting and colourful plant combinations.
Award-winning garden designer Kate Gould shares her expertise on making the most of a small city garden.
Small gardens are usually complicated spaces with surroundings that need to be taken into consideration. Much of my time is spent designing in areas where overhanging trees, high industrial walls, road noise and the occasional view of train tracks have to be kept in mind when thinking about how the planting should look, or more importantly what the planting should block.
Before you begin thinking about what plants you would like in your garden make a firm decision to harden your heart and only plant species that you know will thrive. I am as guilty as the rest for planting inappropriate plants in my own garden but when it comes to spending a client’s money I only select plants that I know can cope with the conditions on site!
When designing a planting scheme, always remember to consider: the direction your garden faces, the type of soil in your garden, whether wind will be an issue and how much gardening you are actually committed to doing.
Here’s my top tips on pulling a really effective plant scheme together:
1. Hide eyesores (ugly buildings, sheds, railway lines) with evergreens
Evergreens are absolutely not dull. They play a vital role in holding a planting scheme together and are hugely beneficial when there are ugly views to hide. Many work as well in containers as they do in the ground, given the right soil.
For sunny gardens try: Pittosporum tenuifolium or Pittosporum tobira if the garden is sheltered. Olea europaea, Nandina domestica, Laurus nobils, Dicksonia Antarctica and not forgetting climbing plants – Clematis armandii, Clematis flammula, Lonicera henryi all have interesting leaves as well as flowers and their rampant growth will mask a wall or fence in no time.
For shade: Fatsia japonica, Sarcococca confusa and Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’, which will support itself quite happily up a wall or fence. Camellia, Rhododendron and in partial shade Drimys Winteri is also lovely but will require some shelter.
2. Think ‘seasonal’
If Helleborus are planted for winter colour will I be able to see them from the house? Will I be able to detect the scent of a Sarcococca from the far corner of the garden or should I plant it closer to a door or window? – All important questions!
Smaller plants for sunny gardens: Lavendula ‘Hidcote’ is well behaved as are the smaller Hebe and Parahebe, grasses can add texture to small garden schemes so if you’re lucky enough to have some sunny spots in the garden Stipa tenuissima and Calamagrostis are worth considering, although the Stipa can be a little generous with its seeds and if you don’t like weeding then it’s not the plant for you.
For shady gardens: Epimedium (any, I haven’t found a duff one amongst them yet), Asplenium scolopendriium, Hosta ‘Halcyon’, Geranium phaeum, Dryopteris erythrosora, Liriope muscari, Pulmonaria ‘Cotton Cool’, Helleborus niger, Hydrangea petiolaris.
3. Can less mean more?
Often in smaller gardens less variety can have a bigger impact. Spend time planning your garden on paper, research the plants you want to use, know what conditions they require and how much care they will take and pare the scheme down until you are happy that you have just enough – any gardener will tell you it is always easy to add more!
Kate Gould is an award winning garden designer with more than a decade’s hands-on experience transforming gardens of all sizes. A regular exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show, Kate won a gold medal this year for her recycled Show Garden – The Wasteland.