Some of the most beautiful and productive gardens aren’t limited to giant expanses of space. In fact, while smaller spaces do pose some interesting challenges for gardeners, the possibilities and creative expression forced by smaller gardens can lead to some pretty amazing creations. Making the most of a small garden isn’t as complicated and impossible as you might think. Even an inner-city balcony can become a beautiful and lush oasis. Here are some ideas that can help you make your small space into the garden of your dreams.
One very basic method of thought when designing and executing a garden in a small space is always considering the vertical- growing up, going vertically to create a new sense of size and dimension. In a small area, this will have the biggest impact. This can apply to ornamental and permanent landscapes, as well as growing for food. Even both together in the same area! Here are some ways to start thinking “up” with your small garden:
Take a good look at what vines can do for you. Vines growing on a trellis grow up, and grow fast. They can create wonderful screens and breaks, and are a great way to fill in the backdrop and bones of your small garden. And there are so many vines for every application and taste. For the permanent, perennial and shrub-filled garden, vines such as Hydrangea petiolaris (Climbing hydrangea), and Actinidia arguta (hardy kiwi) are wonderful choices. They vine up large trellis spaces and stay there- year after year offering beautiful flowers and with the kiwi, delicious fruit. Annual blooming choices such as Thunbergia alata (Black-eyed Susan vine) are fun to experiment with, and offer a tropical feel. For edible delicious choices, try a climbing cucumber or melon. Some may need a little help as the vine grows up a trellis, but occasionally tying to a scaffold here and there will do wonders for most, non-bushing varieties of vining annual veggies and fruit.
Become familiar with creative pruning! The Japanese have used it to create Bonsai- but you can use it to your advantage in a much simpler way with bigger trees and shrubs to fit perfectly into your small garden. Fruit trees can be pruned to fit snugly against a warm brick wall in a pruning technique called espalier. Branches are trained to remain against a wall in a controlled pattern, which over time can become quite beautiful. Fruit trees espalier pruned still produce abundant fruit, but in a very confined area. Apples, cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, citrus- they all respond well and beautifully to espalier. You can espalier other types of trees and shrubs as well. Willow is one very easy, fast growing tree can be pruned and shaped into any way you want. Bamboo can too.
Some other special considerations for smaller gardens include purchasing plant selections that have been bred to fit well into smaller spaces and into containers. Look for “dwarf” versions, as well as “compact”. For edibles, choose varieties that are bred specifically again, for cultivation in small spaces. Thankfully, there’s a lot to choose from today. For example, choose “bush” varieties of what normally vines, such as Table Queen Bush Acorn Squash. You can grow this squash very easily in a large container right on your patio, or in a small spot in the garden.
Your small garden can be just as productive and beautiful as any large garden. Maybe even more so! With some creative thinking and a will to give new methods of cultivation a try, you will make the most of your small garden!
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